(My aim is to write a bit about my friendship with Ken Warren, and these thoughts are additionally targeted to capture some resonant musings about the nature of friends, friendship, and, other related topics.)
My close friend from Vermont, Bob Buckeye, told me during a phone call in 1992, ‘Since you’re stuck in Cleveland for the moment you should look up Ken Warren, the director of the Lakewood Public Library.’
(Bob Buckeye was from Lakewood and, in fact, had been a football star at Lakewood High School in the late fifties. I met him after moving to Middlebury in 1976. He was the Abernathy Special Collections librarian at Middlebury College. Yet his connection with Ken was mostly established by both men being in the community of scholars and poets and publishers gathered around: the projective verse of poet Charles Olson, the Black Mountain ideal, Gloucester poetics, and the post-romantic sweep of New England literary experiments, pragmatics, and a distinctive American mythopoetics.)
A Heart of the Matter
I first walked into the Lakewood Public Library sometime in 1993. My twin brother, Timothy, a poet, had ended his own life in early March. At the time, I was helping manage a coffee house, and I warded off my depression by spending almost all my free time in the many libraries in northeastern Ohio.
As a library rat, I would evaluate a library’s usefulness as a matter of closely checking out its collection of music, philosophy, psychology, religion, science, history, biography, and, then go further by also checking out whether anthropology and sociology had been given a coherent location. One acid test I used was to learn if the local cataloging was enslaved by the Library of Congress’s sometimes mistaken descriptions captured in their controlling master record.
Lakewood Public Library was the most intoxicating library I ever walked into. Its collection was full of unusual volumes. I spoke to Bob Buckeye about this and he simply told me, “It is Ken’s collection.”
I did not meet Ken until the fall of 2004. I do not know why I didn’t look him up. Actually, it would have been commonsense at anytime between 2000-2004 to send him a letter and a resume. I did not do so. Bob Buckeye called me up and asked me if I would like to come over to Lakewood and have drinks with Ken and him.
We had drinks at an Irish pub a block away from the library. As we walked toward it, Bob told me ‘Ken really knows his Jung.’
I leaned toward Ken, and told him, “Know me as Jamesian.”
I have during the course of my life twice spontaneously engaged a stranger in what Star Trek describes as a mind meld. This was one of those times. Ken and I basically shut Bob out as we discovered our shared affinity for the Analytical Psychology, and, the phenomenological turn in anthropology. Plus, there was at Ken’s hand a practical opportunity; and so he explained to us his vision for his library playing a much more intentional and active role in supporting what he called new transmissions for the sake of enriching civic experience.
At the time, Judith Buerkel, my original partner in squareONE: experiential toolmakers, was in the last phase of her terminal illness. We had closed down our working partnership in 1999. Nevertheless, I had maintained the squareONE web site. After our initial meeting, and over the next few weeks, Ken began to send me emails about what he was reading on my web site. He may the only person who read my entire web site.
Our relationship took off over the matter of The Lakewood Observer project, although over the next year or so, I only recall meeting with him one-on-one a handful of times. Yet, we met one on one in an amazingly prolix manner by way of email. Not only were there the copious project emails shared among the small group of advisors, but there were tens of emails sent back and forth between the two of us, for the purpose of sustaining our unique circuit, (his terms.)
(Coincidentally, my scholarly interest in serendipity was inspired by my designing a “Boasian” style survey and training ‘street anthropologists’ to survey the community as it presented itself in its natural flow. The singular question the survey was designed to address was: What brought you to Lakewood? )
In late 2005, Ken hired me to work in the technology department at LPL. He told me to work with my supervisor to use my chops to carry forward (something like) an active anthropological thrust and use it to implicate experience, community, and civic knowledge. (Italics are Ken’s terms.) To this I would fold in action learning. As well, I was given close to free reign to program and present experiential learning in the library and do so under its auspices. He and I both knew we were onto a new vision of experience and the library.
By July, eight months into the best job I ever had, my little engine that could jumped the tracks. I resigned in August. The precipitating drama and aftermath led to a falling out between us. Later, Ken retired from LPL at the end of 2008.
On December 2, 2009, after we had had no contact for a little over three years, I received the following email:
I read your Palin post.
I would suggest the paranoia you notice in Palin and around her is a
pathology of the feeling function, wildly amplified through both her
own extraversion and the media. The coincidentia oppositorum hinges on
her hustle bump feel with the brainy Obama.
Love is the only word that mattered in this reconnecting email, busted into my in-box from out of nowhere. This email restarted our friendship. It turned out his wanting me to know about an impression of his–evoked by my blog post–was a simple key, and it was a key able to turn the lock and open back the door.
I responded in kind. We dove back into each other. In this final phase of our friendship, it soon became exponentially expanded by our mutual willingness to sustain and deepen it based in the most essential simple glorious fact of our communion, that the high communion worth being drawn through, and becoming devoted to, is the one founded in love.
Ken and I never explicitly noted this core basis for our befriending togetherness beyond simple shared affirmations and confirmations. Yet, it was the prime script. The closest we ever came to acknowledging it by way of discussing it took place early on in the first year after we had met one another, when we discussed the flux of narcissistic aspiration, woundedness, healing grace, love, and, love as action, while we worked over a book we both had read, Transformations of Narcissism in Self-Realization by A. H. Almaas.
In early 2010, we forgave each other without reanalyzing and endorsing any narrative about the messy events of the summer of 2006. We knew without speaking of it about the reparative function of our communion.
All the sundry details of our Emersonian dialogs are absolutely secondary to the fact of our befriending communion. We both happen to base our relations in love. What followed was merely the dance set in motion as the response to our reed song.
A thin, bright
If it fades,
Coleman Barks, version of Rumi
We both were anchored to this essential beingdoing. And, as it was with Ken, and as it remains with me, this is the foundational rock of our relationships. and of our relating. In Ken’s case, this informed tens of relationships.
This love basis is mediated by its contexts, duties, unknowns, and its aspects which are shadowed, if not completely hidden..