“I read the news today, oh boy.”
— John Lennon
We lost Bill McCurdy this week to COVID-19. It happened very quickly.
It is hard to accept that I won’t be seeing the familiar image of Bill McCurdy at the Oboler Library where we met, years ago. He was that white-mustached man with the plaid shirt and fedora, always carrying a book, usually by an obscure philosopher. Bill was a philosopher, himself, and taught the discipline at Idaho State University. He was knowledgeable about the world’s religions from Christianity to Buddhism, and seriously evaluated some belief systems before he ultimately settled on the Greek Orthodox Church. (I know Bill felt Pope Francis was too liberal.) He never identified himself as a Democrat or Republican, but it didn’t take any great effort to see Bill was politically conservative.
I suspect Bill saw liberals like myself as misguided but silly people, well-meaning but sad and out of touch. Bill was also a gifted mathematician, widely traveled, and he had strong connections to Japan.
There was so much more.
It was stimulating to talk to Bill McCurdy about any topic even though we rarely agreed about anything. That was part of the fun. We did share a conviction that the Beatles were one of the most creative rock groups in the history of popular music. Bill had studied some of my secular heroes like French writer Albert Camus, so he was definitely ready for any debate, always with a touch of humor.
“But, Bill, don’t you know there is no God and religion is the opiate of the people?”
There would be a long sigh.
“My God — another Marxist cliché.”
I often understand people better by the movies they are passionate about. Bill loved Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” about two 17th-century Portuguese missionaries, Father Sebastian Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver), searching Japan to find their missing mentor (Liam Neeson). While there, they minister to the Christian villagers worshipping in secret. If caught by feudal lords or ruling samurai, they must renounce their faith or face an agonizing death. The ending of the film raises questions about what choices a person of faith must make when facing potential martyrdom, and are the Japanese samurai simply protecting their country from Christian missionaries?
The film received mixed reviews but it provided insight into Bill’s strong personal beliefs. I should add, Bill was also passionate about the Beatles’ film, “A Hard Day’s Night.”
What is sad to consider is that Bill McCurdy was one of the smartest men I have ever known, but regarding science and the pandemic, he had a strange resistance to the vaccine. I don’t know for sure if he finally decided to get vaccinated, but Bill McCurdy did lose his life to COVID-19 with many years of productive life as a writer ahead of him. William “Bill” McCurdy was something of a renaissance man, a kind man with so much to offer.
For all of us, his passing is a tragic waste.
Michael Corrigan graduated from San Francisco State with a Master of Arts degree in English and creative writing. He was active in theater and attended the American Film Institute. He retired from Idaho State University as an instructor of English and speech communications. He has written several books, including “Confessions of a Shanty Irishman,” “Mulligan” and “These Precious Hours.” NPR broadcast his play for two readers: “Letters from Rebecca.”