The view out my window seems a little darker this morning, and it's not just dismal clouds crowding out the sun in a grey swollen sky or the rain they're so very close to bringing. There is a quite a bit less light in the world today, for I learned last evening that Malcolm McGregor Barnum, Jr., a man that many of us here loved, is gone.
Gregor, as he was forever known, was Seventh Generation's first Director of Corporate Consciousness, but that tells us next to nothing about what we and the world have lost.
I met Gregor years ago and began working with him closely in 2005 when this blog was just a fever dream in one of his notebooks. I remember clearly the first time he called. It was out of the blue, and though we barely knew each other, Gregor spoke as if we always had. He was excited about the potential of this new thing called social media to create community and engineer change. He wanted to know if I'd to come along for the ride. How could I say no to that much energy and enthusiasm bursting out of my phone?
So it was that I got to know Gregor well, a gift I will be forever grateful that the universe deigned to share.
He was a mad man, a wild man, a sweet man, a brilliant man, and a magnificently beautiful one, too. To be in a room with Gregor was to be joyfully carried away to a place of hope and possibility that prior to my knowing him, I'd dared not believe in. That's something Gregor would have no part of, for among all those here who hope so deeply and believe so strongly, Gregor hoped and believed more than any.
He knew there was a better way, and he was absolutely certain he and we would find it, and in doing so, come together to build the utopia he forever held out for all of us to see.
He had a million schemes and dreams to get us there, all of them wild and wonderful and just crazy enough to work. At the same time, he was grounded in deep wisdom and the unfathomable amounts of knowledge his extraordinary mind absorbed like it was oxygen. Gregor ate books for breakfast that I would never dare to pick up. He loved revolutionary evolutionary thinking, and the farther out on the vanguard it was, the better he liked it. Sometimes I'd have conversations with him, and it would be all I could do just to hang on as he'd weave Buckminster Fuller, biomimicry, No Country for Old Men, and systems thinking into a single idea that left me in awe. Gregor was so far out on the cutting edge that the cutting edge was in his rear-view mirror. All you could do was follow or get out of the way.
When it came to our passions, we shared a love for Australian shepherds, a high-energy breed of herding dog that it takes some dedication to raise. Unbeknownst to either of us, we both ended up with puppies from the same litter. So we always carved a little time in our discussions to compare notes and laugh about the antics of our clearly insane canine companions.
I think Gregor liked Aussies because they were a bit like him. A little untamed, perhaps occasionally misunderstood, and always wholly unwilling to accept any authority that wasn't deserved. Like Dogberry and Rowen (his and mine), Gregor had a fiercely intelligent gleam in his eyes but a certain impish glint, too. It always told me that while Gregor was unflinchingly serious about changing the world, he wouldn't mind at all if he could find a way to stick it to the man and cause a little mischief along the way.
Now that twinkle is extinguished, but the void it leaves behind is tempered by the joy and faith he gave us, by the fun we had together, and by the many memories he was gracious enough to leave behind. I will miss White Rhino (the nom de plume he chose for his blog posts) like a brother, a friend, and a mentor because he was all of those things to me. We have lost a great one, and all I can think to do is ask that you join me tonight in raising a glass to the sky filled with the hope that his spirit has at last found the place in the sun he sought for us all. Oh, what I would give to see the smile on his face when he arrives.
The Inkslinger has written about environmental issues for over 20 years and is a freelance writer for some of America's most iconoclastic companies and non-profits. His true loves include nature, music of the Americana/rock and roll variety, interior design, books, old things, good stories, pagan rituals, and his wife of 24 years, with whom he lives in an undisclosed chemical-free rural Vermont location along with his teenage daughter and two infinitely hilarious Australian shepherds!