Sometimes the slightest things change the directions of our lives, the merest breath of a circumstance, a random moment that connects like a meteorite striking the earth. Lives have swiveled and changed direction on the strength of a chance remark.

― Bryce Courtenay

While mathematicians speak of probability, theologians of predestination and gamblers of luck, I’m more inclined to believe that chance shapes our lives’ direction. Probability can be used to determine the chances of something occurring, but in order to do so, the odds of an event occurring must first be formulated. Predestination requires a belief that God controls events and preordained salvation. Luck, which can be good, bad or blind, attributes success or failure to random chance rather than one’s own efforts. Chance is viewed as the absence of any causal events that can be predicted, understood, or controlled, in other words chance events are random and purely accidental. Chance blindsides me.

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Friends, Romans, Republicans

“We witnessed today the damage that can result when men in power and responsibility refuse to acknowledge the truth.” “We saw bloodshed because a demagogue chose to spread falsehoods, and sew distrust of his own fellow Americans. Let’s not abet such deception.”

Senator Pat Toomey

Following the failed Trump coup, the great Republican “lavabo” has begun. It is quite frankly embarrassing to watch the same men and women who allowed perpetuation of a lie, outdo Pontius Pilate in an attempt to escape censure for enabling the magical thinking of a president determined, at any cost, to bully his way into a second term in office. Unfortunately, there is not a soap strong enough to clean hands that allowed

Continue reading “Friends, Romans, Republicans”

Silence and Solitude

“We live in a world starved for solitude and silence and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.”

C.S. Lewis

Rain here generally beats rhythmically as it bounces on the roofs and pavement that stop its fall, but on occasion gusting winds morph its pleasant tattoo into an insistent pounding that’s certainly capable of waking the living, if not the dead. While not quite dead, I am a light sleeper and it seems that at some point in my life I have really angered Morpheus. He has refused to intercede on my behalf, so, I’ve moved from bed to desk in hopes that some worthy thought will be scribed before first light rises. Unfortunately, concentration is uneasy, and, so, as I often do when stymied, I start to play with words. It’s far simpler than counting sheep and since I’m given to free association, the game, as Sherlock would say, is afoot – at least until the sun rises. What falls from the sky? Other than rain of a tympanic nature there is snow and it, of course, falls without a whisper. Snow is silent.

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Bespoke Lives

Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.

Anne Sweeney

I’ve added another word to the figurative hopper I keep for words that intrigue me. My rather eclectic collection began in a teacher’s lounge following delivery of a folder to a British visitor whose desk, no more than a table, had been temporarily set up in there. I had been made hall monitor for the day and got to wear the coveted arm band that set me apart from others wandering through the building. It was a hard won responsibility and I was quite proud of myself and the speed with which I did my job. I was also thrilled to be the one who got to make this particular delivery. I had never been in Continue reading “Bespoke Lives”

O Holy Night

Each time I passed one of the Gallo Christmas trees I had to smile. I remember a time when the world and I were very very young and Stan Freberg’s, “Green Christmas,” was included in the holiday programming of The Midnight Special, a weekly radio broadcast from the University of Chicago. Freberg was known for his topical satire and “Green Christmas” had one chorus that remains a mind-sticker half a century after it was written.

We wish you a merry Christmas,
We wish you a merry Christmas,
We wish you a merry Christmas,
And please buy our beer!

As it happens, Gallo is a beer that is widely sold in Guatemala and the company donates decorated trees to communities throughout the country. What makes them unusual is they are all topped with a rooster, the corporate logo, rather than an angel or star. Freberg, obviously, was a visionary satirist.

Today is Christmas Eve and we are heading to the Mayan village of Continue reading “O Holy Night”


Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what you do.
― Tim Keller

I hope your Thanksgiving will be spent with family and friends creating memories that one day will be shared at tables in places that can’t even be imagined now. I also hope that in the course of that busy day, you’ll have momentary thoughts of absent friends who once occupied places at your table and in your heart. Memory is a strange master and we tend to magnify its weight as we get older. I’m of an age where remembrance glows with the brightness of a nova and I’ve learned to surrender to its light. I view memory as a scrapbook whose pages turn when fleeting thoughts trigger reflections of times and places that I’ve known. This year that scrapbook has taken me back to a celebration held in a basement when I was four years old.

My early years were spent in a planned community of townhouses
that were built around  central courtyards. Continue reading “Thanksgivings”


“Every society needs heroes. And every society has them. The reason we don’t often see them is because we don’t bother to look.

There are two kinds of heroes. Heroes who shine in the face of great adversity, who perform an amazing feat in a difficult situation. And heroes who live among us, who do their work unceremoniously, unnoticed by many of us, but who make a difference in the lives of others.

Heroes are selfless people who perform extraordinary acts. The mark of heroes is not necessarily the result of their action, but what they are willing to do for others and for their chosen cause. Even if they fail, their determination lives on for others to follow. The glory lies not in the achievement, but in the sacrifice.”

― Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Continue reading “Heroes”

Scarlet Robes and Sandra’s Crayons

Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like.

Will Rogers

Have you ever heard of The Diderot Effect? The principle is named after the French philosopher, Denis Diderot, who, until 1765, lived his life in poverty. In order to provide a dowry for his daughter Diderot sold his library for a significant sum to Catherine the Great of Russia. He used a small portion of
Continue reading “Scarlet Robes and Sandra’s Crayons”

Days of Our Lives

Our lives are but specks of dust falling through the fingers of time. Like sands of the hourglass, so are the days of our lives. — Socrates

While some may not realize it, the words of Socrates have, for the last half century century, been used as the introduction to a daytime soap opera. No disrespect intended, but the poor man must be rolling in his grave.  He’s been credited with articulating the fundamentals of Continue reading “Days of Our Lives”

Slack Tide

There’s a moment sailors call slack tide. When the tide is neither coming in nor going out, and the water is perfectly still. It’s a moment frozen in time, when all is calm and peaceful. The only downside to it is that it passes so quickly. As much as we might like things to be suspended in time, they never are.

Mariners and fishermen have more detailed and scientific explanations of slack tides, but the version I learned as child is the one I’ve internalized and refuse to release. I must admit the south side of Chicago and spring smelt runs are unlikely places to learn about tides and slack water, but that’s where I first heard of them. I thought of slack tides today while walking through Old Town, Florence. Like many others, I’m pulled like iron to a magnet by the strength and serenity of water and Continue reading “Slack Tide”

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