10,000 things: Andrew Hensel lives (on Twitter)
We were graduate students together at The University of Waterloo in Canada in 1986-88. I met him on my first day there and we spent many hours together on a daily basis over the next 2.5 years. I don’t want to try to say too much about him now. It occurred to me a few days ago that I might post a few stories here. We did lots of crazy things. At one point I had wanted to write something titled “100 things to a Hensel” and I made a bunch of notes, but it went no further.
I wrote about him in my Ph.D. acknowledgments in 1995:
Andrew Hensel, with whom I shared so much of my two and a half years at Waterloo, was the most original and creative person I have ever known well. Together, we dismantled the world and rebuilt it on our own crazy terms. We lived life at a million miles an hour and there was nothing like it. Five years ago, Andrew killed himself. There have been few days since then that I have not thought of him and the time we spent together.
I still think about him frequently. Today I was remembering one of his many, many oddball projects (most of which went unfinished), which he called “10,000 things”. It was to be a list of 10,000 things that he thought of. By the time he started sending them to me we had both dropped out of Waterloo. He was back in Australia and I was in Munich.
He only sent me 300 of the to-be 10,000. Of course I still have them. They’re all very short. At the risk of being thought macabre I’ve decided to bring Andrew back a very little and post them to Twitter, chosen at random, one a day. You can follow adhensel to get just a glimpse of his mind. The first tweet, people being planted into earth, is already up.
There are at least half a dozen twitterers who knew Andrew, including one who knew him probably better than anybody. Once in a while I get email from someone who finds my online mentions of him. Invariably they also found him extraordinary.
What would Andrew have made of Twitter? I have no doubt at all that he’d have immediately dismissed it as “weak”. That was one of his favorite adjectives. Almost everything was weak. It’s a small miracle to me to partly bring him back to life 18 years after he died, by posting just some of his 10,000 things to Twitter.
And… my apologies to anyone who knew Andrew and who finds this upsetting.