About Me


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.

bros 1

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:

Ipad tutorial.

20 thoughts on “About Me

  1. Sarrah J. Woods

    I am thrilled to have found your blog. It’s exactly the sort of blog I really want to read. Lately when I browse through my WordPress “Reader” of blogs I follow, I find myself feeling disappointed by the lack of depth, and I have to remind myself that blogs aren’t where I need to go for depth, anyway. So your blog is a really pleasant surprise!

    That dynamic, naturally, reflects my own blogging journey. For a while I was posting daily, light posts that I thought were what blog readers wanted to see—in other words, I sold out myself and what I really wanted, which was and has always been depth, reflection, and realness. I’ve begun changing my blog now to fit better with who I am. Anyway, sorry to pour all this on you. Thanks for listening. 🙂

    I can’t wait to read the rest of your posts!

    – Sarrah

    Liked by 2 people

    1. jhanagan2014 Post author

      Hi Sarrah. I’m pleased to meet you. First, please feel free to “pour it all out.” I, too, am new at this blogging scene, and like you I am trying to find my way. There are a lot of folks out there who are looking for substance, but many more, I think, looking for shorter inspiration. There’s nothing wrong with that–in fact a lot right–but I just think it takes time to find the smaller group. So far, I have been impressed with the people I have met in the blogosphere, and find the discussions fascinating. I did write a post entitled Shoddy Virtues that not may people “liked” but it was a line of thought I really wanted to work through. You might enjoy it.
      At any rate, I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about finding a good fit between your blog and your deeper self.


      1. Sarrah J. Woods

        Thank you for your kind thoughts! And you’re absolutely right that there’s nothing wrong with wanting shorter, lighter inspiration. I feel bad now for implying that there was! I was speaking for only my own journey, which generally is a process of coming into myself in continually new ways.
        Thanks again, and like I said, I look forward to reading your posts more.


  2. jhanagan2014 Post author

    Oh Sarrah, I was not being at all critical when I mentioned that some folks value shorter, lighter pieces. Please don’t feel bad. I was probably talking more to myself than to you, in trying to leave room for all kinds of engagement in the world. I just posted a long, 2000+ word essay on my front page, and will be interested to see how many people have the time and energy to read it.
    I love the image you use of coming into ourselves in continaully new ways. As Rumi says, there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
    My best to you,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jhanagan2014 Post author

      Thank you, Kurt. I am sure you are aware how much I admire your contributions on your blog. We share some loves: nature, family, travel, and food. I am especially knocked out by your photography. During my piloting years, I flew for a guy who worked for National Geographic. We would be flying over, say, Stowe Vermont at dawn, and it was pretty. But then he would say “bring the smoke from the chimneys into foreground and let the village fade to background” and the world would change. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to travel through life with those eyes–and you have them too. I so enjoy the view.
      As luck would have it, as you were reading my bio, I was re-writing it. Lots of the same info, but a different feel, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. M. Talmage Moorehead

    Wow! What an amazing contrast to my life, largely spent in a tiny room looking through a microscope. And yet I was just like you as a child, pondering the big picture, and like you, I remain at heart the same person I was as a child.

    Kudos on your amazing life! Next lifetime I’ll do things your way. 🙂


  4. Hariod Brawn

    Hoping that yourself and Caroline are well John, and that your absence from the blogging scene is simply due to you both having more interesting things to do in life.

    With all best wishes, Hariod.


  5. jhanagan2014 Post author

    Thank you for your kind note, Hariod. Since returning from Italy I have been wrestling with the unexpectedly open skies of retirement. I have been finding myself in a place that is either too deep or too shallow for words. I don’t know which. But I have been thinking and talking a lot with Carolyn, and maybe some of these ideas will ask to be seen in the light (I love the Spanish for giving birth: dar la luz).
    I trust all is well with you., John

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Night Worms | Infinity Dots

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