Gary Justis

Gary Justis
Bloomington, Illinois, US
April 04
Gary Justis has worked primarily in the area of kinetic sculpture for the last 34 years. He lived and worked in Chicago from 1977 to 1999. He currently resides in Bloomington Illinois, where he teaches and writes stories about his actual experiences. (please take a look at his "Sculpture" link for more info)


OCTOBER 26, 2011 10:19PM

Letter to an Extraordinary Young Man

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Greg and Katie 2ab

Greg Justis, Katie Justis, and Deborah Hartmann, on the occasion of Greg and Katie’s Wedding, October 22, 2011, Louisville, KY

        photo by Gary Justis



Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Bloomington, Illinois


Dear Greg,

Please consider several things:


 With time, you will come to know that missing portions of your own memories and thoughts is a crime the maturing body commits in secret. Waves of uncertainty sweep away the crisp thought forms of youth. There is the unavoidable shroud…it is the province of time and flesh. It forms the adored man.

 Sometimes you might discover the world has turned a notch without letting you know, and getting together with folks, especially the ones younger than you, is like water on hot oil—exciting, annoying, joyous and slightly injurious. It may seem at times that no one…absolutely no one is listening. They are all talking at once, and it appears nothing is comprehended. They love you, but they require change and movement.

 You may encounter ranting, single-minded people . Some are students nearly overdosed on caffeine or other things, or sincere folks who are unaware of boundaries and simply cannot comprehend the time and scheduling issues of working folks. They have time.

 Still others are grappling for some worn out scraps of self respect while they mirror their past speeches where they go on and on endlessly, not hearing other voices, getting in your face, making points that will never be modified by any other point of view or ideas, holding their rage in their head, located somewhere between the top of their skull, extending down to just above the thorax. They are afraid.



You must make a pact with yourself. It must be humble and secret. If it were not private, and you reminded others of your personal pact, you would eventually be ignored. You would not be able to nod to strangers, pet their dogs, or pat the shoulders of acquaintances in social groups. You would die unnoticed, without a whisper of a chance of drawing attention. Your possessions would pass away. Your house would dry and shrink. The skin on your face would crack, and after becoming dust, the pigments would blow away. Your manuscripts would be used for kindling. Your book collection would be dispersed, with image-seekers indiscriminately ripping out page after page of illustrations and photographs.

This would all be regrettable…so you still have to make a secret pact with yourself.

Make it your mission to know people, their hopes and subtle foundations of personal happiness. Sit with them when they grieve. Love their children as if they were yours. Hold their hands as they face tragedy and hardship. Hold back the promise of need and isolation they will inevitably feel, and after their tribulations and solemn tasks have ended, guide them and carefully deliver them home….

Embrace relationships where the other person earnestly comes to know the answer to three questions about you:


What are you passionate about?

What is your work?

What did you do during the 90’s and early 2000’s?


Any person who claims a relationship with you will know these three answers. The questions are ones you might know the answers to for almost everyone you have met and become close with.  With some closer friends, you might know more answers, which you can gently consider and hold in your heart…

There are ample intervals where you may hold your beloved’s hand. Be wise in listening to her ideas, and in the good works you will do together.

It’s okay to float from time to time, looking up at the sky. There are enormous clouds there, and the stars, either invisible or brilliant, look back at us…


With love and admiration,

Uncle Gary




Greg and Katie1 

the couple

Greg and Katie’s Wedding, October 22, 2011, Louisville, KY

        photos by Gary Justis




In June of 2006 I lost my big brother, Greg Justis Sr. He was the husband of Janice Justis and father to Greg Justis Jr. and Riley Justis.

Greg Jr. writes about his father in his eloquent essay, “Pieces.”

Watching this young man mature through these last few years has been a joy. He is astonishingly gifted, and he is fortunate to have found an equally gifted mate in Katie.

“We are so many little pieces, you and I…”

from Pieces, by Greg Justis Jr.


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When I posted the top photo on facebook this morning, Greg left this comment:

"I *adore* the movement in this photograph - at once backward and forward - giving due regard & thanks to things passed, walking joyously towards things to come. Lovely. ♥"

He truly is extraordinary....
i had a bunch of stuff all ready to say, and then i read your comment.

so *now* i'll say: yes, he truly is and so are you and so is she, in those absolutely gorgeous pink shoes and stunning dress. beauty abounds in that photograph and your family, uncle gary.
Thank you Candace. They are lovely...
Gary ~ congratulations to the great looking and happy newlyweds and I would add that not many in the world have such a considerate and thoughtful uncle as you are!
Thank you John, they are a very talented pair of young people, with a bright future.
Gary---This is wisdom. It's one I will copy out and read again. I could not imagine a better gift. Thanks for helping me be a better Uncle--because I got to read this.
Well of course.

Pride and hope understood.
Beautiful, beautiful . . . I read this to my wife last night, and we both smiled . . . . the wisdom and love in this piece is palpable. Thanks for sharing it with us . . .
I enjoy seeing people looking like they are having fun at their weddings. This looks like a good one, and a lovely letter to top it off.
stars, either invisible or brilliant ~

spread out, looking back, looking forward, at us

Thanks, Gary
Beautiful. Such wonderful words to share. I loved the pictures too.
Thanks everyone...I hope to catch up w all of you soon!
Best wishes to the lovely couple.
Thanks Roger…I hope this will make me a better Uncle as well. There are so many issues in a family that sometimes need to be addressed, more often need to be let go….

Also, thanks, he favors the brilliance of his father…

Owl, Lovely to see you come around! I’m honored.

Keri, it was a wedding of such good vibes. Everyone was hypnotized by the beauty of the bride and groom, along with the gorgeous setting.

Catch, You are welcome and thank you!

Sheila….Hello! I’m glad you liked the words and images….

Miguela, thanks and all the best to you!
Greg hit the nail on the head with that photograph. I couldn't quite figure out why it worked so well for me, until I read his comment and then, a-ha!

The advice, wow. It was slightly depressing, I must confess. Or sobering is a better word for it. Yes, sobering. It spoke of you, the writer, as well as your hopes for a family member.

"holding their rage in their head, located somewhere between the top of their skull, extending down to just above the thorax."

That's some serious business.

I liked that you found it pertinent that people know your history from the last decade or two. Scary part, I'm not sure if I know my history during that time. I say that somewhat seriously; if people ask me where I was in 2005, I'd struggle with it, for instance. Sometimes time seems like a big blur to me. I thought I was turning 44 this birthday and I'm actually turning 45. I thought, how the hell did I mess that up?

But yes, I agree. People must know your history, even if they are new in your life. I recently had to part ways with a kind person in my life and on our last day together, I felt the need to reveal some of the biggest secrets of my life, as if to say, "This is me, this is who I am. A trainwreck, a shooting star and everything in between." But somehow I felt it was a gift; a way to say here is my history before you go. So you know who I am.
this is the kind of post for now that we need to strike against

gary, come on
Thanks saved the piece and you saved part of me as well.

When I reflect on all the time I neglected to spend with my nephews, it makes me wonder if I really have anything to offer them other than simply loving them. I know there are a few harsh things in this piece, but life is harsh and you know that better than most folks. Gregory knows the heartache of losing a father before his time. His dad died at a critical time for a young son, yet Greg has moved forward, making choices that a man of his intellect and talents needs to make. He is possibly one of the smartest men I know. He is tender, fair, and original in his thinking. He is fortunate to have found the same qualities in his bride, Katie. He will generate a profound and successful history to overlay the triumphs and setbacks of his early years and young adulthood.

Thank you for your thoughtful, kind and supportive comment.
Ume, I am not addressing public policy with this post. This is a personal perspective on the importance of being kind and self-critical. I support the occupy movement and its non-violent agenda...wholly.

Personal relationships are not social movements....I've never known a "job creator" who gave a damn about any details concerning my life. ....You come on....
Ah, okay, I see. I understand better. A potent topic and I can feel its power.

Your nephew is lucky, Gary. And its especially comforting and rewarding to have a relative around who simply knew of his father. I mean, obviously someone of your capacity provides so much more than that, but as someone who has lost their parents, when I'm around relatives or people who knew them, I could fall apart in front of them sometimes, in gratitude and understanding. A shared experience. A shared bond.

In the same breath, its often hard when so few of my close friends and loves know nothing of my parents. Its like they didn't exist. And even stories, well, they're just stories now.