It's a fictional streetscape we wander, here, a metropolis whose buildings, boulevards, and back alleys are in a constant state of flux. This is every place, and yet, no place at all - a city of dreams and a dream of a city.

Here, we explore the life and work of Ivan Illich and his circle of collaborators. There's no comprehensive index to the articles published, but we invite you to use the Search box, to the left, and to explore the Archive links that appear at the bottom of each page. Comments are welcomed.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Recalling Illich

A Canadian website called Philia, A Dialogue of Caring Citizenship, makes available an essay recalling a warm and surprising encounter with Ivan Illich. The author is Sam Sullivan, the mayor of Vancouver until 2008, who visited Illich at the home of Jerry Brown, then mayor of Oakland, Calif. He writes good:

Toward the end of the three days I asked some of [Illich's] devotees if I could ask him for a photo together. Most thought this was a bad idea. One said, “You have seduced the seducer. He loves you and I wouldn’t push that relationship any further.” Another said that perhaps his feelings about technology might be the reason he has rarely been photographed. I was disappointed and it probably showed. As we were saying goodbye, Ivan insisted I tell him what was on my mind. After a moment’s hesitation I blurted out, “Ivan, I really wanted to ask you if it would be too much ... or maybe I shouldn’t ask ... or – really, Ivan, what I really want is, could we have a picture together?”

His eyes brightened and he said, “Of course!” But he wanted a good backdrop. ...

Illich used the old Greek Philia to describe the kind of neighborly friendship and truth-seeking that he advocated as the best antidote to the modern world's disabling professions and disembodying systems. We take it to mean conviviality, as Illich famously used that word, and then some.

"We believe there are countless opportunities to enable people who have been isolated and marginalized to flourish in dignity and take their place as full citizens," the Philia site states. "In fact, we are confident that welcoming their diverse contributions is the principal catalyst for nurturing vibrant communities for all of us.

"We are inspired by a range of thinkers and activists who are examining how changes in society reflect on culture and history. We're collecting stories of a new way of living to provide glimpses of a better future. And we're developing consensus among influential leaders in society about how we can shape more vibrant, hospitable and resilient communities."

Sullivan maintains his own site here.

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Santa Rosa, California, United States
Writer, photographer, music fan; father and husband living in northern Calif.