This Is What I Think.
I was raised by two decent, ethical members of the anointed “Greatest Generation.” Born prior to the onset of the Great Depression, both of my parents grew up in one of our nation’s bleakest periods; passing along to my siblings and myself a sense of frugality, responsibility and the shame of wastefulness. Their generation matured through personal sacrifice during the most horrific war in history; exuding the ideals of hard work and self-restraint, along with a thoughtful regard for other people and the future.
Being people of faith, my parents continued to sacrifice financially by sending all of their children to parochial schools for twelve years. Unlike the public institutions, our education included Christian studies with the central figure being the Prince of Peace. My twelve years of Catholic education began shortly before Dr. King delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech in Washington D.C. and concluded not long after the fall of Saigon ending the Vietnam War. Throughout those dozen years of my youth, I was challenged to observe and contemplate the world events that unfolded before me; relating them within the context of the secular and spiritual education I was engaged in at the time.
In the thirty years since those twelve core years of education, I have explored other religions, different perspectives of history & society and various forms of artistic expression. Most of the college level education I’ve completed has had a decidedly heavy emphasis on the natural sciences: the real world. All the while I tried to keep abreast of current world & domestic affairs. Within a couple of years after leaving that Catholic high school, I disassociated myself with any organized religion and have continued to do so to this day. This did not mean, however, I exorcised virtue from my life. I’ve always connected to the essence of the words of Thomas Jefferson in that infamous letter to the Danbury Baptists where he wrote “that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God.”
Whether your perspective comes from scientific objectivity or a sacred spirituality, I believe that the greatest asset of man is his intellect: that which has given us the ability to observe, to learn and to become aware. A brain: that which has given us the capability to think, to wonder and to explore. A mind: that which gives us the possibility of understanding, humility and compassion. Cerebral superiority: that which has allowed man “dominion over the earth,” and the true nature of “in His image.”
Whether you call it divine intervention or a simple twist of fate, I believe that I was fortunate to have been born, raised and educated in a country where I was free to nourish my mind with a galaxy of subjects and ideas. Topics with an infinite number of opinions and points of view…however enlightening or bizarre those ideas may be. My good fortune has filled me with limitless curiosity and fostered a fierce sense of independence: how American!
What a potent combination: an intellect capable of absorbing vast amounts of information set within the boundaries of a nation that is known the world over for its openness and freedom.
It is said that knowledge is freedom, knowledge empowers, and knowledge leads to wisdom; an end which can direct us to common sense and thoughtful perspective or arrogance and unreasonable actions. I believe our great hope is that each one of us will employ this intellectually empowering freedom of information, knowledge and wisdom to be used for good intentions, just like the Man from Nazareth.
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