Archive for Work and Adventure

In Search of Heroes

My wife thinks I write too much about the past. She’s concerned that it dates me and worries that readers will think I’m old and out of touch. I agree with her that it’s important to live in the present, messy as that present is, but the past gives us context and offers us lessons for the present.

In times of stress I often find solace in books, and last week’s news cycle drove me into a new translation of The Odyssey. I’ve tried it before; in 1996 I listened to Robert Fagels’ version on tape but couldn’t finish it. The new translation by Emily Wilson is a fluid retelling of the saga that breathes a contemporary feel into the ancient story without damaging its classical roots. It’s full of brave warriors, damsels in distress, dangerous ogres, duplicitous enemies, faithless gods, raging storms and at its center an action hero working his way home from the Trojan War. I was immediately sucked in. read more

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Running Rapids and Reading Obits…

I feel blessed with friends who are smart, up to date, and engaged in the world, but I’m bothered by a recent phenomenon. Increasingly, M and I find our conversations with friends begin with an organ recital – what hurts, new ailments, what needs to be replaced, good home remedies, doctors’ appointments, and physical therapy magicians – before we move on to the nation’s health.

We also talk about scanning newspaper obituaries for friends and the names of notable people we admire. This wasn’t the new normal until about a year ago. Now it is. Last Sunday, for the second week in a row, the long form obituaries in the New York Times’ were all of people in our decade of life. I immediately went to the Social Security Administration’s life expectancy calculator to see how long I have. read more

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A Friendship in Black and White

In 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and Congress passed the Civil Rights Act. A year later the Voting Rights Act and Great Society legislation followed. Schools in the South were being integrated. It was the Summer of Love in San Francisco. It was the year I graduated from law school at UC Berkeley. I truly believed we were entering the post-racial era.

Flash back 20 years to 1945; I was an eight year old 3rd grader at Isaac I. Stevens Elementary. America was fighting WWII on two fronts. Gas and sugar were rationed and Ted Williams was flying Marine F4U’s in the Pacific theater. read more

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The Sale of Indulgences

In 1517, this cranky professor of moral theology was so upset by corruption within the reigning power structure that he risked everything to challenge it. Martin Luther’s complaint exposed the corrupt Papal practice of selling indulgences in exchange for the absolution of sins. When his complaint went uncorrected he nailed his objections (95 Theses) to the door of the Cathedral at Wittenberg, leading ultimately to the Protestant Reformation.

Oh please… Martin Luther, please come back. We need you. read more

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Is Your Luck Holding?

If you’re here, reading this article, your luck is probably holding, but not everyone is so fortunate. Have you met or do you know a refugee?

Sure, the guy who mows your lawn or the woman who changes your sheets may be an undocumented worker – an “illegal” – but they’re probably not refugees. Neither are the guys who hang out in the Home Depot parking lot looking for odd jobs or the dishwasher at your local Mexican restaurant, but there are real refugees among us; Iraqi and Afghan interpreters who helped America fight its Middle Eastern wars, people from Honduras who fled murderous death squads, and girls from Asia or Central America who escaped their human traffickers. I count several Vietnamese who fled their country after the fall of Saigon as friends. These are all people who meet or met the definition of “refugee,” but today I’m thinking about the fresh-in-their-skins variety like those fleeing Myanmar, Syria, or Afghanistan–people on the run without homes to go back to. Up to the minute refugees.  read more

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