In later years, Pete liked to wear colorful socks. A Canadian living in Denmark and teaching at a quirky quasi-bohemian school, he was a tad eccentric. And a tad eccentric are just my style.
You see Denmark, at least in my reckoning and as a rule, is pretty square. Think of geometric interiors (rectangles, squares, and so on), of cool colors (blond hardwood floors, bright bluish whites, chrome handles), of rule following (one rarely sees someone cross the street until the signs indicate that it’s legal to do so), of flat farmland, of social democracy, and more.
To give you a visual, Pete’s uniform might look something like this: a pair of monochromatic Nike sneakers, a pair of dark skinny jeans, a dark or light t-shirt, a gray cardigan–and throw in some playful socks. He had mirth in spades.
In fact, Pete was both order and spillover, synthesis and levity, theater and analysis. He moved, as he himself pointed out, like a dancer, he used his hands as extensions of his words, he had an air of the theatrical, and yet, like a genuine philosopher, he also cared about getting clear about the big ideas of our time. He dreamed, for instance, of being a member of a new model eco-village, one that would demonstrate how to use regenerative techniques to live in harmony with nature. He was geeky but he wasn’t just geeky.
But that dream of a regenerative community was just the start since on top of “infrastructure” would need to be something like a community that actually made good on the promise of human flourishing within the context of Epicurean friendship. It would need to braid together the best of tradition with the best of innovation. Its leftist political and ecological infrastructure would provide the foundation for its meaning-laden superstructure.
At the heart of Pete’s vision of a good life, I see now, was true friendship. A true friend, the Classical Athenians held, was philia: caring for that one, for each one for his or her own sake. In all true friendship, therefore, there is magnanimity as well as–to bring in the yogis and the Buddhists–sympathetic joy. It was not enough to be egalitarian in spirit. One also needed to be able to hold another’s hair back as she, wrenching with sickness, vomited in the toilet.
Pete, a true friend to others and to me, was big-hearted: he wished others well and, over 10 years at Kaospilots, helped many to flourish. Following Pete’s example, may we all be learn to be friends to one another.