Welcome to Weekend Philosopher

I stay busy with a day job and active family. This is my second personal blog, because I found my first one skewing to political and business issues, and I wished to reserve a place for short stories and essays on religion, family, and small town life. I hope you'll enjoy what you find here.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hello Again

This is just a quick post to say that I'm back in business with this blog. It's been too long and there's been a lot going in my life, work, and family, so I haven't kept up with this the way I would have liked. Life is like that. Blink and months go by. In any case, it's good to be back. I'll be posting regularly here from now on.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Homeless People Start Tweeting in New Awareness Initiative

Homeless People Start Tweeting in New Awareness Initiative
Hat tip to Mashable. For three interns at an advertising agency, the challenge to do something good led to an initiative to increase all our awareness of the lives of homeless people. Here's hoping their effort will build compassion for those living outside most of our comfort zone. To follow the lives of the homeless, go to Twitter, @unheardinNY.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Where's God?

This is the kind of month that has me asking where or if there is a God.

My mind attacked me last week, the worst episode of mania followed by depression that I've had in years.  I've been so stable that I'd forgotten how bad it can be.  It's not good when you're in an apartment on the 22nd floor and the step out the window looks enticing.  But I've fought through worse before, and will get through this.

But one thing my condition always makes me question is whether there really is a supernatural being who cares anything about what goes on here on earth.  It's not that I question the existence of God, just the idea that we Christians have that he somehow cares about our little lives. 

I have the same reaction to several other things that have happened in the past couple of weeks, things that have hit close to home.

A girl in our small town, Phylicia Barnes, went missing the day after Christmas.  She was just 16, and disappeared while visiting her family in Baltimore for the holidays, stepped out to get something to eat, apparently, and vanished.  She was a senior at my childrens' school. The school has rallied around, even held a prayer vigil. 

My oldest son, who is a talented actor and was in acting class with her, didn't participate in the vigil.  I asked him why and he said such things are designed to make us feel better, but he didn't believe they helped her.  I have to say I agree with him.

I see what happens to people, on the small and the large scale, and I can't help but question the purpose.  The answer is the answer God gave to Job, who are you to question me? In essence, there is no purpose. Sorry, that's an unsatisfactory answer.

My daughter, though, offered a sweet prayer for her this morning in church.  And I couldn't help but hope her faith somehow made a difference--some kind of difference that is beyond my ken.

We say our little praryers, but the world remains a place in which an innocent 16-year-old is consigned to an uncertain, but horrifyingly uncertain, fate; where my wife's mother, a devout and kind woman, is left to her last years suffering from diabetes and Alzheimers and Parkinson's and my kind friend from church battles cancer, and I--who am not a good person as they are good people--battle with my own mind to find and cling to the blessings I have.

Would it be better--I know it would be easier, certainly--just to embrace the notion that there is no God?  That God is a fairy tale we tell ouselves to fill the awesome, frightening emptiness of the universe.  But perhaps its my upbringing.  I can't go that far. And somehow, I see that as a coward's way out.

I can only say that the answers I have found are unsatisfactory, entirely unsatisfactory, and I am left clinging to the fragile frayed thread of an old faith and turning to those I love for comfort, knowing I deserve none.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The joys of parenthood

Just a quick one before working on the novel in between rushing kids everywhere. I'm hoping to have at least enough to show an agent by the end of the year.

Today is another parenting day for me, as Rachel heads into work. So, parenting, cleaning and writing all should keep me plenty busy.

So far, it's meant an unexpected Burger King run because, I'm told, "There's nothing good to eat in this house," a war of wills over cleaning rooms, and a screaming-bloody-murder accident involving an injured toe. Parenthood, it's just so much fun!

Here's hoping for a little more restfulness and focus so I can at least concentrate on the novel for a little while. I feel that deadline looming harder every day. Hopefully, I'll have some of it to share here within the next week.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday Blech

I come to this today not really knowing quite what to write. This weekend is to be dedicated to work on the novel, for me.

For Rachel, it was Black Friday. She had the fun of getting up at 2:30 a.m. to go off to work on Black Friday. What fun! It's something I confess I don't understand, this urge to go shopping at 4 in the morning. To me, it sucks the joy out of the holidays.

It's good that the shoppers were out in force, I suppose. I'm all for consumers getting the economy going again. Of course, I do wonder why folks are so eager to get to the mall with so many people out of work. Still, it's good.

But whatever floats your boat, I guess. If you like camping in a parking lot overnight to get that must-have plasma TV, more power to you. I myself will stick to online shopping and last-minute sales, or maybe I'll do some shopping in New York when I'm there.

I do have to say that the older I get, the less of a charge I get out of Christmas shopping, and Christmas presents. The more I look forward to the contemplative moments of Christmas Eve, the singing of Christmas carols by imperfect voices, and the gathering of the family Christmas day. 

Those are the presents I care about.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thoughts of Thanks

Once again, I've fallen down on the job. It's been too long since I posted, and I'll try to rectify that in the coming months. My only excuse is that I've been very busy.

Today is Thanksgiving, and the list of things for which I'm grateful is very, very long.

I'm grateful first for my beautiful wife, Rachel, who has lived with my ups and downs for more than 20 years, has weathered my storms, reared three fantastic children, and kept our family going. I'm grateful for her love, her strength, and her support. I lucked out as a very young man into making the best decision of my life.

I'm grateful for my parents, my children, my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Today we'll have four generations at our Thanksgiving table, and for that I'm profoundly grateful. I'm especially grateful that in the week before Thanksgiving, I was able to spend time with my cousin Sherry. It's been too long since I've seen her and all my other cousins. My love goes out to all of you.

The other day, my friend Mike Soraghan came down to see me and we were able to spend a few hours together, just chatting and eating barbecue. I'm grateful for Mike, and for all my friends. I have been blessed with very good friends in my life, and I can only hope that I'm deserving of that friendship.

I'm grateful that my job took me in the past week to spend time with 30 amazing young people from around the world who are going to do great good in the future through their entrepreneurial endeavors. And I'm grateful to Kevin Langley of the Entrepreneurs Organization for asking me to act as a judge in the Global Student Entrepreneurs Award finals. These young entrepreneurs' energy was a renewal for me, and I look forward to the great things they'll do in the future. You can check out the video here to see a little bit about the program. I'm grateful that I have a job in this economy, and that I not only have a job, but one in which I get to tell stories of people who are changing the world, hopefully for the better. For a few of those stories, click here.

The other morning, whisps of mist hugged the ground, low on the fields near my house, and deer stood at the edge of a field of corn stubble, near the bare branches of a wood stand. I'm grateful that sights like that are common in my corner of the world. And I'm grateful for the smell of fallen leaves, and the multi-colored carpet of leaves that cover my yard, though I know this weekend will mean raking. Then, I'll be grateful that at least my youngest son is still young enough to dive into leaf piles.

Finally, I'm grateful that I live in the United States, a nation that despite its many problems and challenges of the moment, and its many inequities, is still a place where opportunity abounds, and where I am able to practice my craft in freedom.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The magic fades slowly from trick or treating

I’ve been doing this for fourteen years or so, and the time is drawing nigh when I will no longer have the privilege.

I’m talking, of course, about going out in a quiet neighborhood, in the dark of a fall night, with a small child or children in tow, walking through the rustling first fallen leaves of the season and up to the doors of the relative strangers in my neighborhood and watching as my children ask for candy.

It goes in an arc, this time.  First, there was my 17-year-old. I took him out as soon as he could toddle on his own, at three or so. 

I used to race home from work to our neighborhood, which was already crowded with little witches and ghosts and Star Wars Storm Troopers as I pulled in. I remember one such occasion in particular, when my son was determined to be a dragon and his mother worked for what seemed like weeks to make him the perfect dragon costume.  And another year, the perfect panther costume. He greeted me excited and ready to go.

But we could only go in one direction, because the year before, some neighbors had set up the perfect Halloween display, complete with a demon emerging from a trapdoor in the ground.  And my son was so frightened, he wouldn’t let me lead him toward that house, no matter how often I explained to him that it was make believe.

And then my oldest and I were joined by an irrepressible presence, the human whirlwind who is my daughter.  She seemed to know everyone in the neighborhood.  She greeted them by name. She possessed the night and the turf like a queen collecting her tributes.

I remember one particular Halloween, we approached a house tucked back in a small stand of woods. The lady who lived there clearly had the spirit of Halloween.  We approached her front door on wooden ramps across ravines. The woman had decorated her front door with cobwebs and a cauldron, and was costumed herself as a witch. “You’re a beautiful witch,” my daughter told her.

Somewhere in those years, my eldest dropped out, replaced by my youngest. My eldest decided he wanted to wander with his friends instead of his old man, embracing the freedom of wandering at night, the first taste of which comes on Halloween for so many of us.

And I noticed something about my little town. So many people seemed to pile in cars and troll the neighborhoods, driving from house to house instead of walking the streets, covering as much ground as they could and collecting as much candy as they could.  Call me a purist or a conservative, but that never appealed to me.

But in any case, I continued to take my brood-minus-one.  And then my daughter dropped out, alternating between years when she thought she was too old, and times when she went to other neighborhoods herself with her own friends.

Now, it’s down to me and my nine-year-old.  We went out and wandered the streets, leaves and acorns crunching underfoot. We were out less than an hour and he was ready to come home. His legs were hurting. His mask hurt his face.  Next year, he'll be ten and I can feel the magic fading.

I’ll get maybe another year of trick-or-treating out of him, maybe none, and then he’ll be on to other things.  This phase will be over. Fourteen years. It doesn't seem so long. It seems like yesterday.