160: Culture Shock, September, 2021
The year was 1953. I was 11 years old.
We had just moved from the suburbs of Boston to Grandpa and Grandma’s farm outside Stony Ridge, Ohio. My father had died two years before. Mom moved us back to the family home largely to provide her three sons with the “male influence” of her three farmer brothers. (In 1953 “male influence” was still considered a good thing.) She built a house to the south of the barn, the house in which my brothers and I would grow up.
Our move from New England to the…
159: A guest essay by my son, Matt. (8/28/’21)
Please knock it off about Afghanistan. Say thanks to the women and men who served. Acknowledge the sadness of the situation and do not belittle yourself and your country in recriminations.
Twenty years ago, America struck a blow against Al-Qaeda and denied a safe base of operations to the Taliban. Then we stuck around and tried to help. During these past 20 years, we earnestly attempted to advance the nation insofar as we could figure out how to do so and now we have moved on. It is not…
“Hi, Grandpa. What ya doin’?”
“Just sitting here on the deck looking out at the Bay.”
“What ya lookin at?”
“Grandpa, you can’t see memories.”
“I can, Punkin. I look out and see the Bay the way
it used to be.”
“Hasn’t the Bay always been this way?”
“No, when I was your age it was a different place altogether.
I would sit here with my grandfather in Adirondack chairs he built and just soak up the Bay.”
The air was so clear you could almost taste it, none of
the diesel smell we have now. …
Save Our Bay
Poverty sucks! It literally diminishes our ability to be ourselves, to do the right thing. It compromises opportunities for education; for a healthy diet; for medical care; for employment; even for longevity. This should come as no surprise to us Mainers. At $55,602 our beloved State of Maine ranks 36th in per capita income. One of the consequences of our relative poverty is that we are more easily taken advantage of, more easily exploited.
Over 40 years ago, when I was an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Maine, a student of mine asked if…
152, Ockham’s Razor
There is an ancient principle of reasoning called “Ockham’s Razor” named after the philosopher/logician, William of Ockham, (1287 -1347). Simply stated, it maintains that “entities ought not be multiplied beyond necessity”; more straight-forwardly: the simplest explanation is usually the right one.
I have always suspected that Ockham cribbed this revelation from his mother, since we all naturally use the “Principle of Parsimony” in our daily lives. One might imagine a young William racing home after crossing an old bridge excitingly explaining to his mother that there was a huge troll groaning under the bridge. …
The year was 1777, over 243 years ago. Maine was still a part of Massachusetts and would remain so for another 43 years. Perhaps the most distinguished citizen of our then-combined state was John Adams. His, more than any other, was the clarion call for independence. He took that call to Philadelphia and pushed, prodded, cajoled his colleagues in the Continental Congress into declaring independence.
Among his responsibilities, John was chair of the Board of War. As such he kept a close eye on the war effort. …
The nineteenth century Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, challenges himself: “Hast thou uttered the definite message quite definitely, and if I have not done so, what then”?
Soren was speaking about Christianity, but I am hearing patriotism.
Patriotism takes various forms in different times and places. Two hundred and forty-four years ago it convened in Philadelphia; a hundred and fifty years ago it marched to free the slaves; 100 years ago it gathered under the banner of woman’s suffrage; in 1964 it was civil rights; more recently it has been LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage. …
There’s an old joke:
An elderly woman has died in a small Maine town. Friends and neighbors come for her funeral. Afterward the mourners join the 90-some year old widower on his rickety half mile walk to the cemetery at the edge of town. Burial complete, they are slowly walking back with the feeble old widower. A young girl strikes up a conversation with the grieving gentleman: “Gee, mister,” she says, “it’s hardly worth your walking back to town.”
And so it is: we know our own mortality, but do not talk about it in polite conversation. The little girl…
I don’t understand life — the hummingbird at our feeder, the urchins in our Bay, the pine pumping sap fifty feet high to support a bald eagle — it is all a full-of-wonders mystery to me. And yet, as Susan struggles for breath I find myself reflecting more and more on life: what it is, and what it might be to loose it. Not being a biologist or a physician my thoughts are unencumbered by knowledge, just the reflections of an old man.
The first image that comes to mind is Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” on the ceiling of the…
A Lesson in Patience
As a young man I used to marvel at the time it took my elders to accomplish a task. Patient, deliberate, thoughtful: they proceeded slowly while I flitted through the chore. But, of course, they got the job “done right” while I was typically condemned to re-doing it. Now I am such an elder. I hope I have learned something in the interim.
Take this present project — building a new kitchen table — as an example. Recently completed, I am tempted to say the project began over a year ago. But that would not be…