THERE IS MORE IN HEAVEN AND EARTH THAN IS DREAMT OF IN OUR PHILOSOPHIES.
Even as a seven year old kid, I was both overwhelmed and fascinated by the immense mystery of life. How to love and be loved? Who was this God I kept hearing about? What’s with this dying business? What is Hell, and how do I stay out of it? What is going on here? It seemed that everyone around me knew the answers to these questions. Everyone except me.
I couldn’t even figure out the “why” of school, which made it an absolute bore. The only road that seemed to offer answers and safety was the Catholic Religion, so I jumped in with both feet: altar boy, Catholic High School, Catholic College (Providence), finally ending up at 19 as a Dominican monk.
This chapter lasted for five years. The God I was learning about in classes seemed harsh, brittle, and aggressively masculine. The divinity riding the waves of Gregorian Chant in the choir seemed warm and feminine. Finally the tension between the two experiences snapped, and at 24 I returned to the secular world.
I had always been a decent piano player, and so I immediately returned to the world of jazz. The change from a religious cloister to playing an after-hours gig in the inner city of Detroit was serious culture shock. Music, however, remained a good friend for the next 40 years, giving me far more than I gave, and seeing me through some dark times. There are a few posts on this blog about my romance with music.
Still filled with questions, I decided to pursue a degree in Philosophy, completing a Ph.D. at the University of Toronto, followed by an NEH grant at the University of Michigan. I spent the next 27 years teaching Philosophy at St. Michael’s College in Vermont, learning just how much I didn’t know.
Trained as an Aristotelian, my Platonist heart sought warmer pastures, and I soon discovered the riches of Eastern Philosophy, following the lead of Alan Watts, Joseph Campbell, and Ram Dass. I became a student of meditation in both the Zen and Yoga traditions. Taking early retirement in my mid-fifties, I expanded my teaching into Eastern Philosophies at Kansai Gaidai University just outside Kyoto, developing a love affair with Japanese history and culture. Quite a few blog posts are about my many years in Japan. I also felt a pull toward Hispanic language and culture, spending three years teaching in Puebla, Mexico, and I now continue to pursue my language studies yearly in Spain.
All this philosophy and meditation was a shade “airy,” so I got my feet on the ground by learning how to fly, and became a flight instructor and charter pilot for about ten years. There are a few posts on this blog sharing some flying adventures.
What all this amounts to is a guy in his mid-seventies still carrying around that seven year old’s mind, now not so frightened but filled with wonder and gratitude for what Georgia O’Keeffe calls “the livingness of life.” I love travel, having driven a car and flown a small plane coast to coast in the US, and visited 25 countries from Russia to Cambodia to Nepal. I met the love of my life in my mid-40’s, and we have just celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary. Carolyn is a psychotherapist, and I still keep her very busy. We have three children between us (one daughter died a few years ago) and 8 grandchildren.
I still don’t know what is going on in this buzzing, booming world, but now I do my best to follow Rumi’s advice to “let the beauty we love be what we do.” On this blog, I want to share some reflections and poetry that express the wonder and gratitude I feel, aware that I am neither thinking nor writing alone. I feel constantly inspired by many precious friends calling across time and space, from Plato and Lao Tzu to Buber and Camus, as well as by the rich ongoing dialogue with my family and friends in all parts of the world and the blogosphere.
Finally, here are a few of the people I most love: