Wednesday, February 15, 2006
In loving memory of munch2, my best friend: Benjamin John Walter (1978-2005)
I lost my dear best friend of over eight years -- Benjamin J. Walter-- December 21, 2005 very suddenly. I think of him everyday. If one's love can be quantified and correlated to the number of pet names one has for another... he had at least 25. My favorite being "munch2" -- short for munchkin, a pet name that he gained when he did this cute imitation of the munchkins from the Wizard of Oz -- "we're from the munchkin land, munchkin land, munchkin land..."
I remember the first time I met the Munch2 in '97 during my fall semester as a senior at Wellesley College (see Ben with the copper hair in the photo here at my graduation with my best gal pal Grace on the left). I tiptoed into my first MIT class "Communicating in Cyberspace" (a web design and communications class), sitting down at a computer to his right. I stared at the black computer screen, unsure how to log in. I looked over to my left and saw Munch2's radiant young, sweet, baby face with a brilliant copper crop of hair typing rapidly at the keyboard and grinning transfixed enthusiastically at his screen. I asked him what he was doing and he quickly replied "mudding"-- without looking away from his computer. I had no idea what that meant. I then timidly asked him if he could get me set up on my machine. He helped me and then returned to his computer. The following week after insisting that my best gal pal Grace Song join me in cross-registering at MIT for that class, I met up with Munch2 again. Both Grace and I picked him to be our project partner without knowing that the other did so as well. Munch2 became our project partner for a MBTI-based personality test web edutainment site called "Electronic Age Metamorphosis." It remains one of our favorite projects that stood the test of time, a project that I know that Munch2 was very proud of as well. Munch2 was a precocious sophomore, a student that even older MIT students in our class would turn to for solutions. He had a delightful British accent and his raw genius abilities deceived me into thinking he was a senior as well. I was always touched by the way Munch2 used to be turn to listen to us and his whole face and ears seemed to turn out in such an open and accepting way. He had a 5000 watt smile that was so genuine and charmingly innocent and the most radiant copper hair. Once when Grace and I fought on the project, Munch2 was the peacemaker, teaching us forgiveness.
I heard the devastating news on Xmas and have been heartbroken and stunned. Feels very unreal. He was one of my best friends ever since '97, inspiring and supportive especially after our years in college. We dated for 2.5 years, a true first love found only when the heart is open and idealistic still.
Munch2 had such a beautiful heart, a rare multi-talented brilliance that was clear even among the most intellectually gifted (e.g. 5.0/5.0 at MIT!), a passionate curiosity, ingenious nature, a child-like idealistic quality, and he always believed in people's potential for greatness. His gentle and witty sense of humor was charmingly delightful and creatively expressed in conversations and in his thoughtful emails. He inspired me to think entrepreneurially and supported me in my efforts for greater artistic achievements. He was my creative North Star who I turned to when I felt lost creatively or worthless and seeking the light of his kind encouragement and unconditional faith in my creative, intellectual and artistic potential. A mellow hippie with a poetic spirit, he introduced me to zen buddhism ideas, oranges, browns and neutral colors, peppermint oils, henna tattos, hemp beaded necklaces, baggy cargo pants with over six pockets, Moby's porcelain song and the Grateful dead, Christmas lights for room decorations year-round, and Pablo Neruda's poetry. He made terms like "psyched" seem cool. He was also a visionary genius imagining the future, someone who could challenge others to think bigger ideas, connect cyberspaces in novel ways. I admired him more than probably anyone else among my peers. He was the brightest constellation among my galaxy of friends... he had so much potential. He could make me cry and laugh at the same time.
(James Blunt song "One of the Brightest Stars" I like to dedicate to dear Ben here)
Munch2 lived an exciting life of adventures and travel... A lifetime of achievements in a short time especially in the last years although I always dreamed of watching him grow and reach his potential. I wanted to see his metamorphosis. I imagine that he would have written a couple novels of his adventures as an expat; taught at universities like his parents who are brilliant professors, consulted at top firms as a world-renown entrepreneur and thought leader; married later in life; had two children; fallen in love with more countries (munch2 was most recently enfatuated with China, previously with the US although originally from the UK); and contributed more to non-profits. We would have continued to collaborate on personal web-based art projects and professional consulting projects. We were sure to have resurrected our project "Metamorphosis" in flash with more complex animations and ideas, perhaps winning an industry design and technology award. Maybe we would have lived in Cambridge area again... we would have shared a lifetime of conversations and found ourselves at last. He was a pioneer and a beautiful, poetic artist of life... A timeless person for all the ages. As his parents or his friends said of him very poetically, "There is something meteoric about his life-dazzling, but fleeting" -- I agree... he lit the universe of my life like a streak of vivid orange light, a flash across the the dark and silent heavens. Alas, how swiftly the light passed yet how long we will marvel at his legacy, the inspiration of legends, a snapshot of our imaginations. I will miss him dearly.
Much love to you and happy cyberspacing, dear munch2.
- Janet Si-Ming Lee