Paul Bingman was a fixture in the Portland Tech Community. If by fixture one means the largest person in the room who was constantly moving around talking to everyone. Yet, I’m clear that the tech community was only one of the many communities he belonged to.
He passed away Sunday, April 3. Our community will never be the same.
Paul was the extrovert in a community of introverts. On the facebook page, Friends of Paul Bingman many people are commenting about how he was the first person they met when they moved to Portland, or entered the Portland tech community, and the like. It’s not a coincidence. Paul was someone who would come up to you and introduce himself. He would say something funny and engaging. Usually something smarter than you could respond to immediately.
Paul was part of so many different communities. Whether it was the tech community, the Jungians, the film community or some amorphous spiritual community (at least amorphous to me), he was central and involved. His beloved VW vanagan was constantly in use transporting equipment to one event or another–because he was always helping (unless the vanagan was awaiting a part–which might take months to find). I heard hints of other communities involving music, railroads etc. He was truly a renaissance man.
Paul was a tech geek who took spirituality seriously. He loved to ask questions about Judaism. In asking, he was seeking knowledge, listening with neither acceptance of truth, nor rejection of spiritual truth, but hearing it was true to me (or someone). He would challenge the ideas presented, not implying they were silly, but trying to understand how they worked. As I think about it, he would have made a fabulous rabbinic scholar, chasing down ideas and debates, some of which were simply about the intellectual pleasure of the debate, some of which had great practical implications, and usually with a few incisive puns thrown in.
I’ve had a little trouble figuring out how to write about Paul. A serious tech geek, he was never quite satisfied with the forms of communications we had available. Sure, there was twitter, email, texting and the like. But I can just hear his response to the suggestion that one communicate by those tools: “Though, you know…” proceeding to tell us how smoke signals were actually a much more elegant solution, and could be practical if the world was just slightly different (and better).
But I lack Paul’s engineering creativity. So I write a blog post, and announce it via facebook and twitter, and hope that Paul will forgive me that it isn’t funnier or cleverer. And know that he is in a place of peace, disturbed only by crazy engineering a fabulous puns.