Dad, me, and cousin Deirdre. Christmastime at our house, 1970
The name of the webpage is in honor of my Dad, Frank Roach, MD (1925-1986), a husband and father, a Psychiatrist and VA physician, who served in the US Navy during the Korean War [Panmunjong; Echo Company field hospital supporting USMC; Bronze Star with “V”]. He and Mom (Fran) fielded a rollocking household of seven kids and maintained a vibrant group of close friends, one of whom wrote this poem (see below) in remembrance of Dad after his death [lung cancer].
When I was a kid in the 1970’s it was a moment in history of tremendous societal change. There were intense and large scale problems to be addressed (cold war-nuclear holocaust, civil rights, and women’s rights, to name three). And while there were protests of every variety going on in the streets outside, my parent’s social and family groups managed to share ideas and discuss matters [usually] without the same rancor and vitriol that was implicit to the bigger stage back then (and interestingly, today). Yes, that family + social group spanned the political spectrum: Fran left home to work for the Young Christian Workers (YCW) encouraging women to unionize, and she stood somewhere to the left of Joan Baez; her brother my Uncle Tim (God rest his soul) a former Jesuit priest, held a set of political beliefs somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan; Frank, he was harder to characterize, not fitting into any particular schema, but took each issue on independently.
The example Fran & Frank set is fundamentally important for today’s audience, and the goal of this webpage, the books, and the podcasts is to share it: a lifelong commitment to learning and open discussion; a dogged search for meaning and truth; acceptance of individuals and their differences; an ability to reframe intractable arguments and convert them into solvable problems; inclusion of lessons from history, philosophy, religion, science, and the humanities into everyday discourse; a profound sense of irony, with an abiding sense of humor; and quiet humility.
Today’s dialogue is actually worse then that of the 1970’s, and I believe that’s because it is being hijacked –whether you’re in North America or Europe or Australia or the Middle East or elsewhere. Hijacked by whom? It’s difficult to pinpoint; my answer is actually, “by what?”
The invention of the internet is something as profound for humanity as Prometheus’ discovery of fire, and over time will be just as transformative. It’s a worldwide neural network, a communal brain for the globe, and more importantly a psyche for the entire globe (see blogpost dated May 21, 2022).
As a species we have not figured out how to handle the internet, and we’re being burnt by the new discovery: in the West the invention is controlling us and as a consequence we’re hyper-polarized and fractious and have lost contact with (a) the truth, and (b) our sensibilities; whereas in the East they (the Chinese Communist Party) are controlling it, commandeering the internet + artificial intelligence + ubiquitous surveillance + big data, as a comprehensive mechanism for domination of their citizens’ every waking moment (ref: China’s “social credit system”).
I don’t have a fix for any of it. And getting back to our hometown Chicago, I don’t know how to fix that, either. Nor, in fact, has anyone has asked me to. Nevertheless, small and insignificant as I am, I would like to do my best to try. “But how?” I ask myself. “How to do something useful with however much time I have in which to try?”
I developed an idea: I’m going to use the internet, too. Thank you for joining. Hang on for the ride.
“Remembering Frank Exchanges”
Remembering Frank exchanges in a room
Got kitchen-lovely in an amber dance
Of light and ice –a golden circumstance
Predictable as laughter, soft as doom–
I drink to him who could not suffer gloom
In others lest his own supply perchance
Diminish. Wasn’t his a rascal glance
That promised laughter even from the tomb?
I feel his blessing still, a kind of grace
That helps the eye remember holding joy,
Not only in the glass but in the boy
Who winked behind that melancholy face.
A small unfairness gives my heart a stir:
He stays the same; I slip from where we were
–Chris FitzGerald; March 12, 1996