Category 2. Personal Perspectives/Faith

Carpe Diem

Over the last year, deaths, dooms and chronic, debilitating conditions have overtaken people close to me in unprecedented profusion. In previous decades such banes had come rarely and one at a time, this year in a flood. Some were the nearly inevitable results of age, others wholly shocking.

We spend most of our lives half-consciously averting our eyes from our eventual fates. Mortality is something we want to understand in only the driest, most intellectualized sense – we keep it at arm’s length. Internalization of its meaning comes later, if at all.

Men, in particular, tend to get into a groove in their twenties, then more or less ignore changes in their bodies for the next forty years or so...

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Not Done Yet

Every now and then when I hear time’s winged chariot hurrying near I feel the need to write about personal matters. Self-indulgent, I know, but a compulsion. Today is one of those days.

I went out for a group ride this morning and was totally destroyed in, and by, the fast portion of the ride. With about a third of a mile to go in the three or four mile section that the local morning ride group races every day, I was spit out by the peloton of faster riders, unable to accelerate to the speed of the final sprint. Not only was I not in the hunt for victory, I was roadkill. They waited for me after the finish line – a well-established ritual that is meant to be kind but feels a little humiliating to the vanquished, as I now know.

The morning ride’s rituals have been set for nearly thirty ...

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A Disagreement Among Friends

In recent months, I have become friends with a man I met through one of my book clubs. He’s a bit older than I am, and a fellow of whom, after he joined the group, I very quickly got the sense that we have a great deal in common. A relatively recent retiree, still active on many fronts, his career path has led to both all corners of the planet and leadership positions in diverse industries. Not only are his manners and bearing beyond reproach, they seem grounded in a considered and considerate nature.

Notwithstanding our shared affinities, I am pretty sure that his politics and mine are diametrically opposed. I‘m guessing that he knows of our political differences, too, but we’ve both let the topic be...

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Letter to a Progressive Minister

First, thank you for the beautiful job you did christening my grandson. You have a wonderful manner and that part of the service was as warm and inspiring as was his parents’ splendid wedding ceremony last year.

Unfortunately, I came away from your sermon thinking that the call to action that you clearly hoped would provide inspiration to your flock was instead a manifestation of the very narrow-mindedness and unwillingness to put yourself into the shoes of others that ails our society.

The implication was clear that you believe that Trump’s supporters showed bigotry or ignorance or both. With righteous anger, you preached to your own choir. For the reasons detailed below, I differ.

***

To begin, the litany of alleged Trump sins that you cited was beneath you.

For example, you stated a...

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Under a Steel-Gray Sky

Two days ago I slipped in some mud while carrying my kayak up a hill. I caught myself, but in doing so I seem to have hurt something deep in my right shoulder. Since then the right side of my torso has ached.

This morning, at the suggestion of my Beloved Spouse, I went outside to sit in the hot tub by our pool. I am not really a hot tub guy – I have probably used it a dozen times in as many years – but she thought the heat and bubble jets might help lessen my shoulder pain.

So I sat in the steaming water under a steel-gray sky; to my surprise, my thoughts turned to an old friend.

***

Doug and I went to boarding school together. We got to know each other through rowing; he was a big, athletic guy – a gentle giant. Though we were two years apart, we became fast friends.

For we were n...

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A Loss

A wonderful man died yesterday.

Forty years ago, when I was in eleventh grade, I got word that one of my older sisters, who was then in college, was dating a classmate of hers who had gone to the same boarding school that I was attending. I was told that he had been the undefeated captain of the squash team at my school, just as he was at their college, so I ambled over to the gym to take a look at his pictures on the wall.

The face that stared down at me from the wall was exotic. He was Pakistani and had wild hair (it was the mid seventies). He looked a little crazy to me. At that moment I certainly would not have guessed that after a long, star-crossed romance he and my sister would marry and live in London.

He was raised mostly in the US, attended our finest schools, worked for our most...

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The Internet, Life as We Know It, and Christmas

The Internet is a tool of astonishing power, but it is not an unmixed blessing.

Its dangers were prefigured with amazing prescience in the 1940s by Tolkien’s palantir. Like a palantir, the web exerts a powerful draw by offering us the ability to see whatever we wish; but, also as when using a palantir, we are watched as well as watchers: the web tracks us and subtly guides what we see. It gives us the illusion of control, while denying us the reality of physical human contact. Its world is a shadow of our own.

The Internet is a two dimensional world, but we live in three dimensions (or rather, four, including the great limiter, time)...

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Other People

Each of us begins by seeing himself as the star of a privately viewed movie – and we really root for the main character. Our Hero bestrides the world like a colossus; indeed, it is too much so: one of his weaknesses is that all too often he misses the importance of the bit players. After all, they are the stars in different movies, of which he can see only small snippets.

Some young people see themselves as being in romantic comedies, waiting for the perfect partner to reveal him or herself...

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