About Timothy Lynch
By Ellen Reiss
Welcome. We’re here to honor the life—the tremendously useful, important, and also happy life—of Timothy Lynch, a life that ended tragically three weeks ago when he died of a massive heart attack.
Various people will speak from this platform this afternoon; and then we’ll see and hear, through a video, Timothy himself singing, acting, and speaking.
Who a person is depends on what he loves. And I want to say some things about what Timothy loved. The thing he loved most in this world is Aesthetic Realism, the great education founded by the philosopher and poet Eli Siegel.
Timothy loved unions, passionately. And as he described to many people in this room and elsewhere, it was through his study of Aesthetic Realism that he came to love unions and want to be a union organizer. I’ll quote him now, speaking about himself—in a bio he wrote for the Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company website. (He’s writing about himself in the third person, as “he,” but these are Timothy’s words:)
Timothy Lynch is an actor and a labor leader. He is President of Teamsters Local 1205, which represents working men and women throughout metropolitan New York. A union official for more than 25 years, he has spoken publicly about Aesthetic Realism as the education most needed by every actor, every union official, everyone who wants to understand the U.S. economy, every human being.
He’s grateful to have learned that art and life are really inseparable. The justice that makes for good acting—justice to lines, a character, the playwright’s intent—is deeply the same as the justice all people deserve, and that includes economic justice.
Timothy Lynch’s love for Aesthetic Realism was a tremendous oneness of the impersonal and personal. That is: he saw its principles as true—logically, clarifyingly true—about all people and things; and also it affected his own life in the very deepest ways, changed his life magnificently. He came to his high opinion of it through the most careful and skeptical intellectual looking; and he had the courage—also pleasure—to stick to that opinion before it became popular.
Timothy would want me to tell you that at the time he began to study Aesthetic Realism, he was tormented and ashamed about the way he saw love. He wanted to be able to truly love a woman—instead of having triumphs and power over people and using them to adore just himself. Through his study of Aesthetic Realism, the change he longed for happened, thrillingly, in a way that took in all of him, and he saw that fact as a cause for eternal celebration. I am grateful to have been a beneficiary big-time.
Timothy loved learning this principle: The constant fight in every human being is between the desire to respect the world and people, and the desire to have contempt for them. He studied that fight in himself. And he loved seeing that profit economics arises from contempt, the desire to lessen others as a means of aggrandizing oneself; and that unions have been the largest force in behalf of economic respect for people—for having people be seen with dignity on the job, and for their getting what’s rightfully theirs.
I love the way he was as a labor leader, and I am joined by many, many others. As a union president, he fought passionately to make people’s lives better; and his intensity about this was always together with thought. Everyone—from workers to bosses to the bosses’ union-busting lawyers—knew he was sincere and wouldn’t back down. He would not and could not do his work half-heartedly or in a half-baked way. And so he was various bosses’ worst nightmare. And I am so proud of that!
One of the things I know Timothy would want me to say is something he spoke about often: Before he began to study Aesthetic Realism, while he could affect people with his liveliness and charm, he felt very much that he was not sincere—often what he showed was not what he felt inside. That’s what most people feel about themselves. But it changed in Timothy in a huge way. And as he described, a big reason why was his seeing the honesty of Eli Siegel: as Timothy read hundreds of instances of Mr. Siegel’s writing and heard in classes hundreds of recorded lectures by him on subjects from economics to poetry to love and more, he met a person who never had a false note in his voice, who always wanted to see and keep seeing, who never buttered anyone or watered down the truth in order to be liked. And this made Timothy feel, as it has made me and others feel, that sincerity is really possible in this world, and makes a person strong and beautiful.
As I mention the things Timothy Lynch loved most, I include religion. Timothy considered himself religious, and he was. He despised the fakery about religion that’s so much around: the using religion as a substitute for being fair to people. He was a Catholic, though he didn’t see attending church as necessary. And because he felt each particular faith should be a means of valuing all true feeling, when anyone asked what religion he was he would say, “I’m every religion!”
He knew the New Testament deeply, loved Jesus Christ, and saw him as a union man. Here are three of the biblical statements Timothy cared for enormously, and saw as representing what unions are about:
• Matthew 25:40—about the fact that the way you treat other people, including workers, is how you are treating God: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
• Luke 18:22—Jesus’s statement to a rich man: “Sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor.”
• Acts 2:44-45: “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; / And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.”
Then, there is the subject of humor. Timothy loved comedy, and was one of the funniest people I ever met, both as an actor and person. He liked describing how he changed in this field: he stopped going after a cruel humor that could make the recipient feel worthless and low, and his comedy became instead freer, wilder, keener—in behalf of humanity and the world.
When you love something very much, you hate what tries to hurt it. Timothy Lynch was terrifically furious at two things. One is the hideous campaign to destroy unions, engaged in by fascist politicians, their media cohorts, and some of the richest people in America: the campaign to kill, through legislation and lying propaganda, what can enable people to live with economic dignity.
His other enormous anger, even larger, was at the attempt of various people to kill Aesthetic Realism—also through lies, some of the filthiest ever uttered. He saw that the two uglinesses came from the same thing: the fury of narrow, selfish individuals at the respect for people and reality which both unions and Aesthetic Realism make for.
Timothy loved singing and acting. He loved working with the great Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company, and we’ll see examples of that work in a while. He loved the Company’s basis, this principle: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.” The idea that all art, in its technique, has what people want in our intimate lives and in how a nation is owned, thrilled him. He considered it the greatest idea in human history, and I agree.
Timothy Lynch was one of the happiest, most courageous people ever. I loved being married to him. It was an honor and pleasure to try every day to understand him better, and I intend to continue. I look forward to doing so now through the people who will speak next.
A Mighty Force for Justice
By Matthew D’Amico
I am honored to speak about a person I love and respect very much, my friend and colleague Timothy Lynch. We were colleagues in the labor movement. Timothy encouraged my life greatly, including in my work as a political coordinator for the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA). And we were colleagues studying Aesthetic Realism in the mighty professional classes for consultants and associates taught by Ellen Reiss.
I first met Timothy almost 25 years ago and I can remember it like it was yesterday. He was a powerhouse of energy and happiness as we talked about current events, politics, and his work at the time as an organizer with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union in New York City. He had a passion that I was struck by and felt was new, because of what he was learning from Aesthetic Realism about the power of ethics. His good-natured intensity was, I am grateful to say, a criticism of my desire to be cool, which I saw as strong but which really made me unsure. Timothy showed me that a man’s strength came from how much feeling he wanted to have for people and things, how much he wanted to know what a person felt—a school bus driver, a factory worker, or a fellow union official.
I believe Timothy Lynch is one of the most important labor leaders in the history of the American union movement. What made him so important is the oneness he had of passion and great knowledge. His success as labor leader, which includes numerous victorious organizing campaigns, and some of the best negotiated contracts for workers in various industries, was, as he himself said, due centrally to his Aesthetic Realism education. He learned, and tested, and inquired, and saw as true what Eli Siegel showed in 1970: that an economic system based on using the labor and needs of people for someone else’s private profit had failed and would never recover, because it was unethical and had ill will for humanity. Timothy cared very much for the following sentence of Mr. Siegel:
There will be no economic recovery in the world until economics itself, the making of money, the having of jobs, becomes ethical; is based on good will rather than on the ill will which has been predominant for centuries.
He was learning, as I am, that unions are aesthetic: they put together the opposites of one and many. I remember when Timothy and I appeared together on Vic Fusco’s radio show, Labor Lines. Timothy spoke about the fact that a union is strong because of the way it makes those opposites one, and he used the example of a pencil. A single pencil by itself can easily be broken in two. But take a handful of pencils together and try and break them and you can’t. He said: This is what unions are about—one person is strong through joining together with others.
Timothy Lynch talked the talk and walked the walk. He was happy and proud fighting for justice, thinking about what a person deserved. He embodied these sentences written by Ellen Reiss in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known:
[Unions] are based on the beautiful, respectful, ethical idea that “My power is inseparable from my wanting—and fighting for—others to get what they deserve. The way I’ll take care of myself, the way I’ll flourish, is by making sure he and she and they are treated justly!”
And this is what you felt when you were in the presence of Timothy, whether he was talking to you one on one or singing “Solidarity Forever!” with the Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company to thousands of Teamsters in Las Vegas. Every time I heard Timothy sing and comment on the meaning of what he was singing, including at CSEA conferences, I would get goose bumps, and my heart would pound, and I had a sense of what persons who fought in the American and French revolutions felt as they were about to charge into battle fighting for a better world.
I could say much more about my friend and brother. I wish I weren’t up here. I wish I were in an audience hearing him sing “Joe Hill,” explaining its important meaning for all of us. His conviction about what he learned—which was in him as he talked to working men and women, sat across the table from an intransigent owner, or spoke to other union leaders—is what made Timothy Lynch a mighty force for justice and ethics in this world.
A Statement by Timothy Lynch
Having organized many workers and studied labor history, I have seen that Eli Siegel understood what other economists and historians have not. He explained that the central matter in economics is ethical: the fight throughout history is not the class struggle; it’s the fight between respect for people and contempt for people.
Mr. Siegel showed that the desire for contempt—to make oneself more by lessening someone else—is the only reason why there is poverty in this world.
Contempt is what has a person see another in terms of money for oneself—not in terms of who that other person is and what he or she deserves. I’ve seen many people who were maimed or diseased because of the contempt that Mr. Siegel showed is at the basis of profit economics. I know men whose fingers were severed on table saws because the boss didn’t want the flow of profit slowed down by safety mechanisms. I know workers whose lungs are damaged from years of inhaling dust because employers didn’t want to lose profit by remedying the hazardous conditions. Mr. Siegel was clear early, and all his life: jobs should be for usefulness, not for profit.
In many lectures he gave, he showed that unions have been one of the biggest opponents to contempt, and forces for respect, in world history—because unions have insisted, with power and often beautiful rudeness: These are people, not mechanisms for someone’s profit! A statement I love and believe needs to be known by everyone is this, by Mr. Siegel:
The most important thing in industry is the person who does the industry, which is the worker....Labor is the only source of wealth. There is no other source, except land, the raw material....Every bit of capital that exists was made by labor, just as everything that is consumed is.
Because of Eli Siegel’s conviction and clarity about justice, people come to feel that being just to others is the same as taking care of yourself! I’ve seen this—and it’s the most hopeful news in the world.