I was talking with Matthew Kalman (founder of London Integral Circle) and the conversation took a strange turn:
Matthew: “Russ Volckmann getting a group of people together to discuss Integral Leadership … and I think you would make a good participant”
Keith: “Russ who?”
Matthew: “The publisher of Integral Leadership Review.”
Keith: “Publisher of what?”
And therein ended my first introduction to Russ. As an integral newbie, interested in the application of AQAL in the business world I made contact by email with Russ and he graciously invited me to join the group. We met on Friday afternoons for two hours; were scattered across the globe; at a maximum were 16 people on average 13; and very, very eclectic from many different backgrounds. Russ’s mastery, or at least one of them was to hold and encourage the energy.
Russ and I were as different as chalk and cheese. He was an out and out extrovert; I was an in and in introvert. He practiced modesty and claimed that he knew very little about Integral; I practiced a form of BS pretending I knew more than I did. My preference was to listen, analyze and adapt my stance moving forward. We were both great fans of Ken Wilber, appreciated his writing yet were skeptical of some of his theories. My great appreciation of Russ grew from the way he would track input and with about ten minutes to go would say something like, “… and what does our friend from England have to think about this?” Which was my entry to summarize what I thought I heard.
Clearly, we clicked at a deeper level and with him living in Monterey CA and me living in London England our chance to meet, let alone interact was difficult. Yet he would call every two weeks or so and we would talk for an hour about everything and anything. He would always ask how my day had gone and I would bitch and moan. About halfway through my monologue he would say, “I’m just sitting here watching the whales breach in Monterey Bay.” My day was reset.
He would share a great deal about his life; his father’s exploits in world war two; his time at WestPoint military academy; his teaching; and whatever took his fancy. He claimed to be a green practitioner looking at yellow. In truth, he was so much more. We didn’t always agree on everything but we both respected that one of the things that the Integral model encouraged was that agreeing wasn’t important. Listening was fundamental as it provided you with the insights you need to reconsider your position and to adapt and change. I grew a lot in our relationship and Russ became the older brother I never had.
On a trip to California, I was forced by the US Customs and Immigration Service to make plans to marry my US fiancée (long story). Russ came our wedding in New York which was almost his last major trip out of California/Arizona. Personally, I feel he was really here to see the guitarist Les Paul perform. I followed his lead and saw the great man play myself and am forever grateful.
Over the years I was an advisory member to ILR. Russ had a book to publish and couldn’t interest any major publisher, so he learnt how to compile a book himself and self-publish. This led to many enquiries and the formation of Integral Publishers. His attitude was that the mainstream publishers don’t understand what the authors are trying to say … but that is not a reason not to be published. Over the years we have published a number of great authors with a range of books that deserve to be read.
About 4.5 years ago, he broke the news to us. He had been diagnosed with Colon Cancer. His expert doctors told him that his path was: Surgery; Chemo; Radiation … and he might survive for eighteen months. He said, “No.” With that one word he was raised in my esteem to the highest level. He followed his own path and took some “crazy” treatments yet he tripled his expected lifespan. For much of his time left with us, you would hardly know that he was sick.
Russ Volckmann was a very special man and I shall be eternally grateful for the wisdom and love that he shared with me. I hope that I was able to have small impact on his life as well. He is gone but will not be forgotten. Because of the path he trod, the world we live in today is just that little bit higher on its adaptive path. Rest in peace brother.