Some reflections on an old friend who has floated downriver…
Benjamin Franklin said, “Let all Men know thee, but no man know thee thoroughly: Men freely ford that see the shallows.” No one ever knew Charles thoroughly, but no one ever suspected shallows. With Charles it was deep rapids leading to better waters.
I wish I could remember exactly when I first met Charles, but it was sometime around 1990. After that I couldn’t remember when he didn’t seem to be everywhere. Charles had an impish smile and demeanour that seemed to imply he was always up to something. And he always was.
Charles Ross introduced me to the Real Time Club. I remember attending an extremely heated dinner discussion at the National Liberal Club. Charles leant over and began to apologise for some of the language. I shot back, “if it’s always like this, please sign me up”. And he did.
Over the years I “freely forded”. Charles swept me up in his plans for European Institute of Quantum Computing with the Bank of England and a quantum encryption trial, for the Finance Caucus working with the Department of Trade & Industry, the Mind, Brain and Computing Caucus of the Real Time Club initiating the Brain-Mind Forum. Once in a while he got swept up in a project of mine from Z/Yen, the City, or Long Finance.
Charles knew how to put energy behind good ideas, writing papers, arranging events, submitting proposals, and connecting people. He may not have always known precisely where he was going or what was ‘the best next step’, but he sure knew how to keep going. Many successful initiatives owe their success to his ability to accelerate activity when most needed.
For some people, Charles brought Don Quixote and windmills to mind. Despite being an iconoclast, he was often too trusting in the institutions of the nation fulfilling their mandates. He wanted to improve the world, and assumed that everyone shared that goal, even bureaucrats. I liked the way he kept a child’s openness, a youth’s concern, and a wise man’s acceptance.
What to take from the life of a man such as Charles? For me, he exemplified the examined life. Charles kept his commitment to positive change, his enthusiasm for people, and his sense of humour because he always kept his sense of wonder and curiosity. Charles followed Seneca the Younger’s motto, “As long as you live, keep learning how to live.