I was at Burning Man 2022 when I heard that my dear friend Peter was, initially, in critical condition. I learned later that evening that he had passed away. In the midst of a difficult exodus full of logistics and dust storms, I kept finding myself with tears in my eyes, in a state of shock and disbelief that such a light in the world as Peter had gone out. I was grateful to learn the news while surrounded by friends and people who loved Peter. Our impromptu vigil at the Temple on Friday night was heartwarming and healing.
I first met Peter back in 2009, and we ended up living together at the 1355 shortly after that year’s Burn. In the decade+ that I’ve known him, Peter has been much more than a friend. He has been a collaborator, a mentor, and a source of inspiration. He introduced me to good coffee. I have learned about the Bay area’s best bike rides by riding them with Peter. He showed me all the best dumpling restaurants. I learned about giving what you can from him, and made a commitment to donate a percentage of my income thanks to his example. Peter helped to bring me and my last long-term partner together – a relationship that lasted 4 years. He taught me about jasmine green pearls, and toast with a generous amount of butter. I cannot count the number of evenings we spent talking over the problems of the world, and how I would always learn something from him, shift my perspective just a little bit. He taught me that it’s possible to reason about the world.
I last saw Peter about two weeks ago, when he came over to hang out while we prepared for Burning Man. Inspired by one of our projects, he tried, as usual, to wrangle us into making another one on the spot. That evening, in my dining room over Vietnamese food, I complained about the difficulty of fundraising for a climate startup I’ve been involved with. Though Peter has already introduced me to three potential investors over the last few months, he said to me, “I will work harder for you.” This may be one of the last things he said to me, and perfectly sums up his generosity and his unwavering enthusiasm.
As I reflect on my relationship with Peter, I can’t help but feel that I took his presence for granted. He was just such a pillar, a constant of the world, always available for dinner or a chat. I don’t think I’ve ever told him just how much I appreciated him. His passing is a reminder to me, to take every chance I get to share my appreciation with the people in my life.
Peter’s passing also leaves a hole in the world. Who is going to make sure AI is on our side? Who will take a stand for privacy and security? Who will bring people together to solve seemly-intractable problems? Where will all the quirky ideas come from?
I think the best way that I can honor Peter’s memory is to take on some of the work he has left behind. I want to throw one extra dinner party. I want to go on one more extravagant bike ride, which is nothing more than an excuse to stop for coffee and banana bread. Most of all, I want to remain engaged and enthusiastic in the world. If I’ve learned anything from Peter, it’s that any problem is solvable though reason and cooperation.
Peter, I will miss you always.