Some weeks before his death, Tyler Carlisle ’15 conversed all night with two friends in his apartment in the Taft. They ascended to the roof to watch the sunrise, each in silent prayer. Tyler then asked that, if he were to die in war as an officer in the U.S. Army, his friends recognize the men he commanded in his eulogy.
Tyler never had those men. But if he had, and if they had emulated the character of the man leading them, they would’ve merited the acknowledgement.
So Tyler’s friends from Yale, his vision of America, and his aspiration to a kind of classical political leadership will have to suffice. What follows is an encomium to a great American and a true friend, taken from his companions and his country many years too early.
Of prime importance to Tyler was hospitality, and he was a managing partner of each community he joined. His place in the Taft Apartments was available to anyone willing to accept his camaraderie and a drink. Evenings out often concluded on his couch, but he also hosted what might seem like other people’s events. Last year, for instance, some folks decided they’d like to celebrate the first night of Chanukah. Tyler was a New England WASP, but did his best to sing “dreidel dreidel,” nursing, with cheer and homemade remedies, those with excessive holiday spirits. I never saw Tyler uncomfortable in a place, and he must have thought belonging was a feeling he should work to extend to everyone.
This combination of paternity and fraternity was something Tyler learned in part from his time as an Eagle Scout, and it manifested perhaps most profoundly in his patriotism. Tyler’s family has been here for a while, and his America was not simply a refuge for the persecuted, but an aspiration toward excellence. He longed for a United States in which leaders could engage in the best of faith, because they knew each other as the best of men. As a conservative, Tyler thought that creating such a country started with the family, the local church and the small town — all best embodied, of course, in his own Manchester, New Hampshire. But despite his high goals, he had none of the demagoguery or appetite common in today’s politics. He viewed his intellectual opponents not as challenges or irrelevances, but first as partners. And while Tyler had opinions about political matters, he was mostly interested in a particular style of leadership. He hated the arrogance of elites who thought they could re-engineer society. His experiences in an intimate New England town, and the debate organization to which we both belonged, convinced him that in its highest form, politics is about making better men. Tyler understood that to lead someone, you first need to know him as a man. This ultimate interest in the familiar inspired him to talk frequently about the sort of father he wished to be.
Tyler’s commitment to America was more than intellectual — he wanted to defend his country in battle, and received an offer from the United States Army to attend Officer Candidate School after graduation. During his final semester, he drilled himself physically and mentally to prepare. He never concealed the connection between his commitment to soldiery and his desire to enter politics; fighting in wars and then debating in the Senate were, to Tyler, what the exemplary citizen did. And because he thought America was not just his country, but the best country, there was no contradiction to him between the citizen and the gentleman.
Faith, among other things, prompted Tyler’s reverence for his friends and patriotic piety. He came to Yale as a boisterous atheist, but returned to Christianity before he graduated. Though many of his friends were philosophical Catholics, Tyler retained from his Protestant tradition a personal relationship with Jesus, and advised his Christian friends to do the same. Tyler was a mere Christian, of winsome and humble faith, never obsessed with what C. S. Lewis termed “cleverness shot forth on God’s behalf.”
Perhaps it was his personal relationship with Jesus that made Tyler’s outlook fundamentally optimistic. He believed man was fallen, but he loved people all the same — mostly he stressed that man’s possibilities equaled his effort, discipline and hope. He never indulged in radicalism. Tyler’s vision of his and his country’s future were too ambitious to permit such immaturity.
We’ll all feast together again soon, my friend — your place, as is traditional. Farewell.
Cole Aronson is a sophomore in Calhoun College. His columns usually run on Mondays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .