Among other things, Gregor was obsessed with an obscure device called the trimtab, the tiny piece of an aircraft’s rudder which plays a disproportionately large role in keeping a plane in the air. He’d bring up the trimtab not just as an excuse to channel one of his favorite mentors, Buckminster Fuller (“Bucky”), but also to give us hope that no matter how small and insignificant we may feel in our work, we all have the potential for outsized impact.
In all his madness and endless circus of exciting activity, like helping to found B Corp and help set the gold standard for corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports, he always found time to ask how I was during our weekly calls and meetings. The question was never a formality, and it was sacrilege to get down to business without covering our personal state of affairs, not to mention the state of world affairs. Sometimes we never made it to the official agenda.
“When my son was diagnosed with autism i began to see the world of specialness in people,” he explains in this interview, talking about some of the defining moments of his life. Here’s a beautiful video Gregor made sharing some moments with his son, Sean, last summer.
On one occasion, I made the mistake of replying to Gregor’s “how are you doing — no, no, how are you REALLY doing?” questions by admitting that I was feeling somewhat overwhelmed.
“What’s this BS about everyone being so busy!?” he yelped (more out of intellectual exasperation than actual frustration). “People keep telling me about their plates being so damn full. Since when was all of our life supposed to fit on a plate? Our lives are like airports, man. You just gotta make it flow — some things coming, others going, all at once. There is no plate — you just gotta be air traffic control.”
Gregor was the only student and philosopher of the world I’ve every truly met — constantly suspending judgement and evaluating the large, complex systems we find ourselves negotiating every day. He was never so wrapped up in it all that he couldn’t observe and question it, but never so removed that he couldn’t feel its pulse or disguise himself as a mere mortal when necessary.
Some people walk through a grocery store and see products, price tags, or dinner. Gregor saw a tangled mess of supply chains, ethics, morals, and the future of civilization. It’s this kind of questioning and thinking that helped Seventh Generation design some of the most rigorous supply chain management and sustainability standards (and reporting) in the corporate world.
Gregor battled the ordinary… in pursuit of greater truths, trying to cut through “the constructs that just don’t work” … illusions of authority … to help us all design a better world.
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.
I take some comfort in hearing Gregor’s inspiring, curious, brilliant voice in this recorded conversation with Duke Stump as they deconstruct the worlds of marketing and corporate responsibility as we know it. Find yourself a nice perch and give it a listen.
Here’s my favorite riff in that interview from Gregor —
Bucky used to say one of the least used resources on the planet is all of this human consciousness that’s getting wasted in these very confined… these boxes we keep creating… there is a Phoenix happening. you ain’t gonna find it in the media. You gotta go and walk these communities and look into their eyes
There’s so much potential and possibility in all the broken people frm the old economy that are getting lifted in this phoenix feeling
UPDATE: Also see Jeffrey Hollender’s tribute to Gregor here on his blog.