On July 23 and 24 of 1984, Ivan Illich, at the invitation of Arthur Johnson, PhD, President of the University of Maine, spoke at the Augusta and Orono campuses of the university. One of the major focuses of his discussions was water and its multidimensional nature as spiritual force, domestic necessity, and cleansing agent.
Following the presentation in Orono, Ivan and ten of his friends joined Robert and Anne Marie Quin and ten of their friends at the Vickers-Quin home at 72 West Broadway in Bangor. It was a joyous occasion with surf and turf (Maine lobsters and roast beef) as the entrées de jour. Conversation was high-spirited and congenial as two groups of newly-acquainted people shared their experiences and thoughtful insights in the light of Ivan's writings.
Ivan’s mastery of many languages is well known. It is also true that he was able to communicate on many levels within a language, on this particular evening, English. Some guests held doctorates in, e.g., Engineering, Philosophy, Theology and Education; some were farmers, teachers, gardeners and entrepreneurs. One was Father D. Joseph Manship of Bangor, who was about to undertake a four-year program at the Jungian Institute in Zurich, Switzerland. Ivan was able to converse easily with every person at the table and to create an atmosphere of conviviality and friendliness throughout the three-hour meal.
What sheer delight to have hosted such an extraordinary person, one who had been influencing my thoughts, graduate studies and teaching for the previous eleven years, and who would, through his writings, continue to have great impact on my work during the following decades, including now.
The following day, Ivan traveled to Chicago where he addressed pre-medical students and medical school faculty at several Chicago universities; one of these students was our son, Christopher, who was then a pre-med student, majoring in Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. Chris called that night to discuss with me the abstract nature of the human body, which Ivan had introduced during the Chicago seminars.
Oh, happy memory!!
Last year, we wrote briefly about Illich's visit to Maine.
Anyone with a memory of Ivan Illich, or of encountering or engaging with his work, is hereby invited to post a comment on this site, or even to write it up more formally for publication here. We've always thought that an oral history of Illich, who was, after all, such a remarkable person, would be an excellent idea, though we also tend to think he would have preferred to be remembered not for his personality and certainly not for his celebrity but for his work. The time is now, of course, to collect memories and observations, while the people who knew Illich best are still with us. What do you think?