Category 2. Personal Perspectives/Faith

Small Miracles

Have you ever considered what an absolute miracle it is that you exist?

I don’t mean that life exists – I accept that when the right molecules are present with, oh I don’t know, electricity and the right atmospheric circumstances, the process that leads to life becomes a possibility, so if all those elements are present at enough times on enough planets, it’ll happen – I mean you, the person who is reading this blog post. You know, the one with particular (and, unless you are an identical twin, unique) DNA, who was raised in circumstances that only you know about, many of which were effectively random, and who is probably just now wondering: where’s he going with this? You.

Even ignoring the particulars, up to and including the innumerable times when your life might have ended ...

Read More

An Experience and Some Thoughts

The days are short.

This morning it was dark when the Beloved Spouse and I arose; we had eaten our breakfasts in artificial light before we could tell that the sky was clear. The sun didn’t come over the ridge to our east until about 7:20.

It was unseasonably warm – nearly 60 – so I decided to go out in my kayak for what I’m fairly sure was the last paddle of the season. When I got down to the water, I was greeted by a sight that looked remarkably like the photograph atop this page*. The air over the cove was clear and still, but there was a wall of fog over the river just past Goose Island. I could barely make out a bluff on the far side of the river.

After I paddled out into the river and fog I found that visibility was only a few hundred yards; I couldn’t see the town of Essex until...

Read More

A Conversation with a Young Lady

Last night, prior to a board meeting, the trustees of Harlem Academy met with the school’s soon-to-be-graduating eighth grade class. The marvelous young lady with whom I spoke at some length will be heading off to a school in Massachusetts next year; she hopes to become a physician some day.

She asked me to explain why I work with this school, and why on a voluntary basis. Her attitude was one of genuine, polite curiosity.

I told her that the idea that everybody should have a chance to accomplish important things is one of the noblest characteristics of our country – it’s one of the values that bring us together. We are a nation of strivers, and fervent believers in merit.

Harlem Academy provides bright young people from underprivileged, inner-city backgrounds with a truly first class e...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

A Grand Day

A little over thirty years ago, while my wife was in labor with our first child, my in-laws sat in the hospital’s waiting room for seemingly endless hours. Every so often I would go downstairs to inform them about the slow increases in the tempo of the contractions that were leading us toward the big event. My father-in-law greeted my every appearance with nervous pacing; I had the confidence of youth.

I spent most of that day with my wife, feeling largely extraneous to a process that had its own rhythm. Oh I could provide her with moral support, but the reality was that my role was minimal. Mother nature had taken charge; my wife’s body was doing the work.

Eventually, our older daughter arrived in a crescendo of pain and excitement that is like no other experience in life.

***

I used to j...

Read More

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...

Read More

Older People

The following four posts focus on the wisdom that can come with age:

 Give and Ye Shall Receive (originally posted 2/25/13)

This past weekend, I went to my mother’s 86th birthday party. I will use the occasion of her birthday to spell out some thoughts on giving.

My mother is a remarkable woman. Had you been present at the celebration, or seen her in her assisted living residence, you likely would have been startled at the sheer number of adoring friends she has; it has ever been thus.

She worked in publishing in the early ‘50s to help put my dad, who had fought in World War II and attended college thereafter, through law school...

Read More

Parenthood

Becoming a parent is a profoundly transformative experience. Being a parent is unsettling – permanently, but in a (mostly) good way.

Parenthood is life’s most interesting, frustrating and rewarding challenge – and the source of endless worry about things we can’t, and in many cases shouldn’t want to, control.

Love is far too simple a term for the bundles of interwoven emotions that make up the links between parents and children. Every describable emotion plays a part in such bonds, but for most parents, an affection like no other is the predominant strand. Right from the start, children command emotional loyalties greater than the ones shared with spouses, siblings and even parents. We know that they are the future.

The first gift that our children give us is the certain knowledge that we...

Read More

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)...

Read More