I was reviewing one of my old journals this morning and re-read an early entry from when I was studying abroad in Dubrovnik, Croatia. The entry was a time when I learned more about a man named Seth Vidal by chance. Reading this entry again the week before Fedora Appreciation Week motivated me to share it and add to the stream of stories surrounding his life and passing.
The entry is lifted out of my journal with minimum edits. I thought about fully revising it or updating it before publishing. Many parts I would write in a different way now, but I decided to let it be. It reflects my perspective at that particular moment and time at 19 years old. It is more personal than other posts I’ve published and maybe it’s a little uncomfortable for me to share, but I felt like it was worth doing anyways.
Picking up the pen to write in this is always difficult because it feels like there’s too much to say. Part of the problem is that I don’t write frequently enough, which I’ll try to improve. Not everything worth saying needs to be publicly lambasted.
I left the apartment for coffee after again reading the story of Seth Vidal, a founding developer of YUM and a one-time Fedora superstar. Seth was killed in a hit-and-run accident while cycling in 2013.
What strikes me so much about Seth isn’t just the work or code he left behind, but his legacy. There is no shortage of blog posts dedicated in his memory, with many written by folks I see regularly in Fedora. He is held in a high respect and regard not only because of his work, but how he worked with people. He was clearly a sincere friend of many in the community and always knew how to use and share his brilliance to bring out the same brilliance of those he worked with. He wasn’t afraid to speak his mind, but he always did so courteously and in a way where there was a next step or improvement. As one memoir quoted him as saying with a cocked head and a smile, “Are you sure that’s what you want to do? Because I’m pretty sure it’s not.”
It’s odd for me to read about Seth and how connected to him I feel, despite his death occurring well before I was anywhere near where I am now. Maybe it’s because I, like [thousands] of others, use his software. But more likely is because I see the type of impact and legacy is something I wish to share. Not having so many people write memoirs of my passing, but more about how many lives, communities, and people he touched. I see a man you could approach with anything, whether he knew you or not, and he would give you his honest opinion to help drive or motivate you to success. It may not be what you want to hear, but it will be what you need to hear. Again, delivery of that message is critical, and Seth seemed to be pretty good at it.
I may not know Seth, nor will I ever, but his legacy gives me a strong reminder about what I hold important and how I want to carry out my presence in the projects I’m involved with. If more people want more Seth Vidal’s in the world, then we need to [understand] his values, compare them to our own, and build those values into our own being. This is part of the idea of actively shaping and adapting our values, and never settling with the way we are because we think we know these things. If the mind is open and willing, we are always learning, and thus, always changing.
In summary? Seth’s light fades out and burns into embers, but it never dies. His legacy will always be there, for friends to remember and strangers to learn from. Amidst all of this panicked writing I have to do after DevConf and FOSDEM, Seth’s legacy levels me and reminds me of what’s important. Sometimes what’s really important is logging off and going for a bike ride, or a coffee with notebook and pen, or sharing precious time with loved ones. Seth, you may be gone and have no memory of me, but I have your memory, and I hope you are with me too.
Justin W. Flory