Richard H. Barker, Idyllwild’s foremost philosopher, died Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, at home, surrounded by people who loved and revered him. Barker, author of the books “Transcending Evolution” and “Steering Evolution,” posited that we are all born with an unlimited capacity for love, compassion and empathy that we somehow lose along the way, not just toward others, also toward ourselves. But Rick also strongly believed that these are qualities that can be reclaimed, and that reclaiming them will lead us to happier selves. This philosophy made him a popular and beloved figure in Idyllwild, not only because he was an excellent writer and a deep thinker, but because of his seemingly endless capacity for love, compassion and empathy.
The Jan. 23, celebration of his life was attended by his mother, Wendy Barker of Yuma, Arizona; his daughter, Chloe Barker of Seattle, Washington; his dog, Stavros, named after a Dostoyevsky character (Rick loved Russian literature); and dozens of friends. Many expressed how their lives had been deeply touched by this intense, gregarious and vulnerable individual — some were tearful, some were joyful, all were heartfelt.
Shortly before he died, Richard told me (Eduardo Santiago), “Idyllwild changed me. Before I moved up here I was moody and withdrawn, a loner. Here, for some weird reason, I wanted to be involved in life, involved in the community. I have a hell of a time staying home.” And for this he was grateful.
In addition to his writing and presentations, Rick was on the ICC board, wrote occasionally for the Town Crier, was a founding member of the How To Be Human group, and shared a meal every month with the Science Lunch Club.
Top of his agenda was the dog park. Rick was not only a daily presence at the dog park, he also was its champion. He once donated a truckload of wood chips to cover the dusty ground, and just three weeks ago, sick as he was, he singlehandedly dug out a small drainage ditch to keep the park from flooding during the upcoming storms.
Shortly after his passing, musician David Dapeer captured the essence of our mutual friend: “Rick taught me that Love is not an act, not a gesture, not an emotion – it is all of these, but a Way as well. It is a faith, a belief, a hope, a prayer, a song of the soul. He taught me that malice has no fault; it is a lesson paired with love and forgiveness that I had (have) to learn. He taught me that I, that Anyone, can be stronger – all we need to do is try, that’s the first step. He taught me that I can forgive anyone of anything, including myself. He taught me that all this pain [is] temporary – but love is forever if it’s true to the bones. He taught me the name of God.”
Here’s a paradox Rick would have loved: Idyllwild will be greatly diminished by his absence, but enhanced beyond measure for his having been here.