By Jim Kaminecki
On a sunny Chicago summer afternoon about 9 years ago, I left my office on Jackson Boulevard and went to Kramer's for lunch. Kramer’s Health Foods on South Wabash Avenue is a health and wellness store with a small upstairs restaurant, where I picked up a copy of The Monthly Aspectarian magazine. I saw an advertisement for a movie and discussion of the book The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell.
It might have been that night, or later the following week; I stayed late at work one evening, to attend the event at Dearborn Station on Polk Street. There were at least 200-300 books on the shelves around the room, all of which were for sale. There was an old computer and desk, an ‘on its last legs’ mini-refrigerator, 30 folding chairs, and a movie screen/projector.There were seven people in the room, including me, and the event coordinator, Kasia Szumal. In fact, I thought the man in the back row was an attendee, until he started the discussion after the movie.
That man was Walter Perschke, and it was a modest yet comfortable setting. Unknown to everyone but himself, he had big plans for the future. We continued doing things together; either personally attending events, or volunteering to help at them. Sometimes there were only three people in attendance at the presentations; sometimes there were 30 or more. The size of the crowd never mattered; Walter always showed the same level of enthusiasm. It wasn’t until I had worked with him for four years that he started to put some of those big plans into action. He would go on to buy and build the Spiritual Learning Center. He purchased The Monthly Aspectarian magazine, and become the Publisher for Conscious Community Magazine, its new name. He purchased and operated Crystal River Gifts, in South Elgin. He acquired a 50-acre property near Indianapolis, for what was to become Camp Infinity, with the idea of hosting children’s events, music festivals, and educational retreats. Walter always liked to say that people appreciated being part of something larger than themselves. I couldn’t agree more, and it was fun and a privilege to be a part of those plans.
We shared many common interests; economics, a hot cup of coffee, competitive running, entrepreneurship, coins, history, a love of Chicago, collectibles, small government, travel, trading, books, investing, education, and spirituality vs. religion. Many of these topics would come up while grabbing a slice of pizza or chicken parmesan at Falco’s together after an event. I can’t say that we solved the problems of the world during those weekly hour-long discussions, yet I can say that whatever the topic, we both enjoyed the time talking about them. One specific discussion comes to mind that took place not long after we both attended Freedom Fest in Las Vegas, an event put together by Walter’s long-time friend Mark Skousen. It was a discussion about economics, as I was working on plans to position myself and my clients for the changing market conditions. He had long ago left the world of investing, yet I valued his opinion. It was not only valued because it was his, and also because I had great respect for his former professor at the University of Chicago, Dr. Milton Friedman. Walter told me he had to unlearn most of what he had learned at that institution, in order to be successful over the years. It was his way of saying that the path of the past may not serve me in the future. As a former professor, he did not often give exact answers, but instead liked to point you in the right direction, and let you figure it out on your own. Or, ever the fan of the Socratic method of teaching, he would answer a question with another question to drive your own insights.
About a year ago, Walter and I drove to Indianapolis to attend a Body Mind Spirit Expo conference. He had two speaking engagements there. One of the topics was ‘Living Your Dream,’ and during that hour-long presentation, he shared some tips with the audience that had helped him along the way. More importantly, for a person who had been a history professor, a numismatic expert, a floor trader, a business owner, a world traveler, and someone who paid a world record price for a single coin in 1979; he absolutely felt that of all of his experiences, he was living his own personal dream with the work he was currently engaged in.
Unfortunately, time did not work in favor of all of his ideas, and some did not reach fulfillment. For these things he built, the goal is to continue what he started, and keep moving them forward. Until his last days, I almost had not given thought to the idea that he might not pull through. It seemed that there was nothing that he could not accomplish, when he set his mind to doing it. It was a short conversation with his son Adam that brought the new reality to light as he discussed the prognosis.
On Wednesday, May 18th, I stopped by the hospital to visit him in the evening, and then went to a martial arts class. After I arrived at class, my student Kristen and I struck up a conversation. It was a continuation of the previous day’s discussion about the two five-pound dumbbells I gave her in order to help her work on her arm and shoulder strength. She hadn’t found the time to use them, so my suggestion was to start multi-tasking, by listening to an audiobook at the same time, since she is busy finishing her Master’s degree.
She mentioned that she had taken yesterday’s suggestion to heart, and had started in the morning.
“Which book did you decide to listen to?” I asked.
“A book by Joseph Campbell,” she replied.
“The Power of Myth?!” I asked.
“Yes!” she responded.
My chapter in Walter’s journey began and ended with The Power of Myth. There is a new chapter that follows, and we will all turn the pages knowing we are better off having had him as a part of our own journey.
Jim Kaminecki is a holistic health and wellness advocate; a lifelong learner; a sand volleyball, swimming, and skiing enthusiast; an amateur photographer; a career, investment, and business consultant; a music aficionado; a Shaolin Kung Fu, Qi Gong, and Tai Chi practitioner and occasional instructor.