Tuesday, November 23, 2021

52 with Cornel and Stanley, a Bonfire and Friends

We need peace beauty and justice... need it. U and I are gonna change it.


Scenes form a week in the life with the sexiest man alive and other adventures. 
Friends through time on a quiet night in Brooklyn. 
Erik R McGregor by Mel and ATimothy Lunceford-Stevens

Mom and the leaves.

52 with Cornell and Stanley, a Bonfire and Friends

Wednesday was 52.

An odd in the middle of the week birthday, we had a party scheduled for Saturday, something between rocking 50 and covid quiet 51 celebrations.

In between it all, teaching and writing filled the week, meetings at Barbes, greetings, ups and downs, hopes and union meetings. 

Ideas about music and sound, Bowie and New Order and on and on and on, made their way through the days. 

Each day, threads of my life, as an educator, social worker and a writer, appeared, bubbling through my mind, the internet, on and on.  

Michael Pelias, who was organizing a zoom conference for Stanley Aronowitz, sent me an email: 

“I took the liberty of adding your names to a small group of Stanley's friends to give a three to five minute homage to his presence in your lives. You will be sent a link for a special ZOOM room and this will happen at 3 p.m. on Friday. You are by no means obligated but I thought you may want the space to say your piece and peace...In solidarity…” 

The Friday conference was named:

“Carry It On: The Radical Imagination Past and Present.”

I’d have to juggle some things to make it. 

I’d be on a panel on friendships. 

Tom, another former student, talked about C Wright Mills and the often random intersections between history and personal biography we’d seen in Stanley’s writing and increasingly my own. Mills’ point, of course, was that our individual lives are transformed by larger social forces. We are not by ourselves. Each of Stanley’s books included both social theory and explorations of the dynamics of his life story as a union organizer and educator, a reader and theorist. 

Before I jumped on, I found myself in a zoom room with one of Stanley’s former students, Cornell West, who was keynoting the whole thing.

There the philosopher was, hanging out, with his camera on, chatting away. 

When Stanley died in August, West tweeted out:

“We just lost one of my dearest brothers & friends, the inimitable Stanley Aronowitz! He was one of the few great public intellectuals of his generation!... I loved him deeply & I shall never forget him!”

I find myself chatting away with West about his 1991 work, The Ethical Dimensions of Marxist Thought, pulling it off my bookshelf for a minute. 

Like Mills, West’s book points us toward an ethical approach to engagement, connecting personal biography and larger social forces, personal philosophy and praxis:

“A wholesale critical inventory of ourselves and our communities of struggle is neither self indulgent autobiography nor self righteous reminiscence.  Rather, it is a historical situating and locating of our choices, sufferings, anxieties and efforts in light of the circumscribed options and alternatives available to us.  We all are born into and build on circumstances, traditions and situations not of our own choosing; yet we do make certain choices that constitute who we are and how we live in light of these fluid circumstances, tradition, and situations…”

We can’t do anything if we are afraid of dying, said Stanley over and over again, reminding us of the symphonies he lived, the lives we shape, when we join a picket line, the ways our lives can feel like symphonies, his favorite, Shostakovich symphony 10. 

Tim lurched for breath during my visit Saturday. 

Sitting up,Tim is full of stories, recalling old doctors and fights and struggles through time. Keep on visiting if you can.

On the way out, Mel told me about the Trans Day of Remembrance memorial down the street, names of lives weatpasted on the wall. 

We need peace, beauty and justice... need it, said the stranger at Sheridan Square. 

You and I are gonna change it.

I sat in the park, thinking about Bob and all the people he met in this same park, the lives that are impacted, Jim Eigo and Tim and Mel, who I was sitting with earlier, and the twenty four years since I met them that first weekend in New York.

Friends swarmed by the apartment later that night, eating lentils and gumbo with me.

The next morning, I swung by Judson for service. 

The Rt. Beatitude Bishop Zachary G. Jones was preaching about the love running through us. 

Ancient Testimony 1 John 4: 7-8, “let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”

Modern Testimony Essex Hemphill's 'In the Life'. 

“Do not feel shame for how I live. I chose this tribe of warriors and outlaws. Do not feel you failed some test of motherhood. My life has borne fruit no woman could have given me anyway”

Later in the day, we had more gumbo. The thinking about the messages from Jones and West rumbled through my head, thoughts of the fall, the throughlines between West’s ethical engagement and Jones’ beatitudes, the storylines moving through our lives.

Mom was still around for a morning omelet.

Later that night she appeared in a dream, receding into the distance, here and there, showing me the trees in the yard, another year passing.

Benjamin Heim Shepard's 52nd birthday celebration at Casa Shepard #RebelFriends
© Erik McGregor - erikrivas@hotmail.com - 917-225-8963


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