Dad, me, and cousin Deirdre. Christmastime at our house, 1970
Our parents tried to instill in us a variety of traits. If they were more or less successful in that effort, it is for others to judge. But it was important, at a minimum, that they tried.
The goal of the books, podcasts and webpage is to share the family ethic. In a nutshell this was to maintain a lifelong commitment to learning and open discussion; engage in dogged searches for meaning and truth; accept individuals and their differences; reframe intractable arguments and convert them into solvable problems; incorporate lessons from history, philosophy, religion, science and the humanities into everyday discourse; and –really, it’s only life– never to take ourselves too seriously.
As kids in the 1970’s we grew up amidst tremendous societal change in response to intense and large-scale problems: cold war-nuclear holocaust, civil rights, and women’s rights, to name just three. While protests of every variety transpired in the streets, my parent’s social and family groups managed to discuss matters and share ideas [usually] without the same rancor and vitriol implicit to the bigger stage.
That family + social group spanned the political spectrum: Frannie (Mom), who as an 18-year old left home to work for the Young Christian Workers (YCW) encouraging women to unionize, 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; my Dad, Frank (for whom the webpage is named after), he did not fit into any particular schema rather he took each issue on independently.
Today’s dialogue is probably worse than that of the 1970’s and my personal belief is it is being hijacked –whether you’re in North America or Europe or Australia or the Middle East or elsewhere. Hijacked by whom? Difficult to pinpoint. My response 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 significantly 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 severely 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
Frank Roach, MD (1925-1986), a husband and father, a Psychiatrist and VA physician, 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 above) in remembrance of Dad after his death [lung cancer].
Fran Roach, alive and well, is seen in the photo below. She raised all seven of us and is a force of nature all her own. Classy and funny and smart and kind, strict in her own way, she’s an amazing women who raised three amazing daughters and four of us so-so sons.