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Sunday, August 31, 2014

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CJN staffer really was a renaissance man

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TORONTO — It’s almost trite to call anyone who is even remotely interesting a renaissance man (or woman).

But I and my colleagues at The Canadian Jewish News had the good luck to actually know such a person.

In the confines of the newspaper office, Eric Layman, LEFT, who died suddenly last week, was a sales representative, writer and proofreader at The CJN, where he had worked since 1974.

Outside, in what he probably considered the “real world,” he was a poet, a creator of science fiction worlds, a thinker, a teacher and a songwriter.

ALL I NEED OF HEAVEN

 

I’ll know life’s joys to overflow;
         far sooner flames than rust. 
Before I go, I’ll share what I know,
         though the womb reclaim my dust. 
 
         I’ll leave a little joy behind me;
                  this is my final wish. 
         This is all I need of heaven,
                  and no post-mortem bliss. 
 
Let the words I write, inspire,
         blades in freedom’s hand,
birds of bright desire,
         and rain to a greening land. 
 
         I’ll leave the world a little freer;
                  this is my final wish. 
         This is all I need of heaven,
                  and no post-mortem bliss. 
In flesh and wind and weather,
         in sinew, blood and stone,
I’m meshed with the world together,
         yet one to myself alone. 
 
         I shall return where I came from;
                  my destiny is this. 
         This is all I need of heaven,
                  and no post-mortem bliss. 
 
In the wombs of stars compounded,
         the elements burn and birth. 
As our galaxy’s wheel swings round,
         we shall return from earth. 
 
         From stardust back to stardust,
                  our destiny is this. 
         This is all we need of heaven,
                  and no post-mortem bliss. 

 Eric Layman, 2007

 

He would arrive at the office – to which he often bicycled in all kinds of weather – dressed in either a beret, set at a jaunty angle, or a squashed hat and a long scarf.

Eric was one of those people who always had something to talk about. Current events. The language he invented  for his Star Trek-inspired stories – complete with pronunciation, grammar and sociological justification. The poetry workshops and readings that he both attended and gave. His relationships.

He wanted to know all he could about the history of things and people and places and religions.

But it would be wrong to suggest that Eric was only interested in his own pursuits. He wanted to know all about other peoples’ experiences – the good things and the bad. And he remembered things you told him long after you said them.

When a friend once asked him to come to visit her classes of special needs children, he quickly agreed. They adored him and kept asking when he was coming back.

In many ways, Eric was a throwback to hippie times in the 1960s, when he used to sell his poetry on the streets of Yorkville. Not for him the suit and tie, or the downtown condo. Oh, he lived downtown all right – in an apartment in the heart of Kensington Market.

Every so often, he and I would be  scolded for getting so engrossed in a conversation that we would disturb the people around us.

It will be quieter in the CJN offices now. He will be missed.

 

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