Harvey

My first contact with Harvey was at a workshop in 1977, in a working-class support group. He asked us what we liked and what had been hard about being working-class, and at the end of it he had me say, "It's great to be a worker!" I felt an electric shock go through me, and I shot up my hand into what unintentionally looked like a Nazi salute. Harvey said very gently, "No, Ed, a fist." Then he sang a verse of "Solidarity Forever" to me, and I remember thinking my life would never be the same again.

At another workshop I picked Harvey up at the airport and he bounced off the flight wearing a jumpsuit and a big Basque beret, tilted at a rakish angle. I said something like, "That's quite a hat!" He replied in a pleased voice, "I'm so glad you like it!" Then I offered to carry his suitcase, and he said, "That's okay, I'm used to it." I insisted and could barely lift it.

Although he had difficulties with his memory in later years, he always remembered an early thunderstorm experience I'd had and would often use it when counseling me. After talking to him once at a workshop, I was walking away and I heard in a deep, quiet, rumbling voice, "The thunder speaks." When I turned around, Harvey was smiling. I cracked up1 laughing. Another time when I called him in a tizzy2 about something in my life, he said, "Let me see if I can say this so you can hear it. There was only one lightning bolt, not ten thousand. You're all right, and your inherent all-rightness isn't changed by how frazzled3 you may feel trying to dodge ten thousand non-existent lightning bolts all the time."

In 1986 at a peace activists' workshop, Harvey led the whole group of about a hundred people in singing, whistling, and humming "Stars and Stripes Forever," a U.S. patriotic march written by John Philip Sousa. It was great fun, but at the end of it an older man stood up and started complaining about it. Initially I had negative thoughts toward this, but then Harvey stopped everything and listened thoroughly to the man for a long time. He was Native American. Harvey was very respectful and worked out that an apology was appropriate and gave it. He also kept working with the man until it was all right with him for us to continue singing and taking pride in the United States, as long as the apology was there, too.

After another workshop I was driving him and a couple of other people back to the airport. He asked each of us what was the best validation we had ever received. When it was his turn, he told of a time he was giving an introductory lecture in England. After he had finished the lecture, an old Scottish woman, very working-class, came up to him and said something like, "I didn't know what to expect from this lecture, but there you stood, common as dirt, and I knew I could trust you." He said that he loved the expression "common as dirt."

During a creativity time at a workshop he said he had decided that there were not multiple human languages but actually only one big language with many pieces to it. He told us that every time he visited a new country where RC was developing he would learn a song in that country's language. He then sang all the songs he'd learned (it took about twenty minutes) -- from "Dong Fang Hong" ("The East Is Red" in Chinese) to "Waltzing Matilda."

Once at a workshop someone asked him whom to look to for leadership, and he told Nathaniel Hawthorne's story, "The Great Stone Face," about a great outcropping of granite in the New Hampshire mountains that looked like a man's face. A young man had a great desire to find the man whom that rock looked like, for he thought he would be the wisest man in the world. The young man searched all over the world for this man, without success, and became increasingly discouraged. One day when he was old and wrinkled, he looked in a mirror. There, in the mirror looking back at him, was the great stone face. It was his own face. Harvey started to cry.

In the winter of 1999 I developed a physical problem that was painful and scary. I called Harvey, and he said, "All right, let's see. Your mind is focusing on the distress. You need something to do, to sink your teeth into, that's more interesting than the distress." He told me to memorize the Lowell poem, "The Vision of Sir Launfal," and he quoted, from memory, the beginning to me:

"Over his keys the musing organist
Beginning doubtfully and far away
First lets his fingers wander as they list
And builds a bridge from Dreamland for his lay.
Then, as the touch of his loved instrument
Gives hopes and fervor, nearer draws his theme,
First guessed by faint auroral flushes sent
Along the wavering vistas of his dream."

I started crying, since I am a pianist.

I have almost completed memorizing it. I regret that I didn't get the chance to recite it to him before he died. I'll close with my favorite part, dedicated to him:

"Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how,
Everything is happy now.
Everything is upward striving.
'Tis as easy now for the heart to be true
As for grass to be green, and skies to be blue.
'Tis the natural way of living."

"Who knows whither the clouds have fled?
In the unscarred heaven they leave no wake,
The eyes forget the tears they have shed,
And the heart forgets its sorrow and ache.
The soul partakes of the season's youth
And the sulphurous rifts of passion and woe
Lie deep in a silence pure and smooth
Like burnt-out craters healed with snow."

Ed Rejuney
Chevy Chase, Maryland, USA


1 Cracked up means began to laugh hard.
2 A tizzy is a highly excited and distracted state of mind.
3 Frazzled means upset.

 


Last modified: 2016-08-22 02:11:22-07