The smile that played around the corners of his face.
Contained, ironic, watchful, both living and observing himself living, a double consciousness.
That deep singing voice, surprising.
He was always thinking.
At Sam’s funeral the Rabbi said it was the universal aspects of Judaism that appealed to Sam. And there’s a Greek myth he would have liked. Probably he knew it. He was an excellent reader, he read by analogy. He appreciated scholarship and wanted to know how we know what we know.
In Book Two of The Iliad, Homer mentions the story of Philoctetes, a Greek hero who “lay on an island, wracked with pain.” Philoctetes had “a terrible wound,” Homer tells us. It’s a myth older than Homer and exists in a number of iterations. After Homer, Sophocles tells the story in his great tragedy, Philoctetes. His hero has the terrible wound, but he also has a unique excellence, namely his unsurpassed ability as an archer. Philoctetes has inherited the bow and arrows of Heracles, and the Fates decree that these tools of war are necessary to a Greek victory at Troy. So Philoctetes, isolated on his island and nursing his awful wound, is at the same time powerful and necessary to his community.
Sam would quickly have understood the analogy of extraordinary power struggling with extraordinary vulnerability, his amazing mind and his awful illness. So, he would have said, it is with me. To a less extreme, so it is with us all, the wound and the bow. Sam might have smiled.