Memoirs

Memoirs and Personal Photos

Introduction, October 2020:

Here are narratives about my own life, from as far back as I remember to present. They overlap the family history essays somewhat. There are also some sidebar essays (posted as blog posts) about various special interests along the way, or things I’ve concluded about the world.

I realize there’s not likely much of an audience for these memoirs, even among my relatives. At the same time, I would have been interested in such stories about my ancestors — but aside from my father’s photo slides, I have no clue, no documents or narratives, of what their lives were like, my father’s, my mother’s, my uncle’s, my grandparents’ — what they thought, what the world was like in 1950 or 1900. So even if no one cares about me, perhaps my relatives, or anyone else who finds this site, will find the photos and essays here of some interest.

(Still in progress, Fall 2020)

(Some photos are included in the essays and sidebars. There will sets of photosets from my own life since 1980 as well.)

After writing these essays and posts in 2020, during the first year of the pandemic, I’ve drawn two conclusions:

  1. First, that the early experiences that shaped my life came early on, and came almost entirely independent of any direction my parents (in particular my father) tried to impart. I think about that when I reflect on the notion of having a child. I suppose that most parents want to instill their children with their own values, as a way of preserving them; in effect, to create as-close-as-possible duplicates, since they know they’re not immortal except through their descendants. It works sometimes, half the time, I’d guess; but the other half the time children diverge or rebel in one way or another, because they discover things their parents did not know, or simply to establish themselves as independent people and not merely copies of their parents. So I’ve long realized that you can’t direct a child’s interests or beliefs; at best you can expose them to as many options as one can, and hope that…something strikes. Something that gives their own life passion and self-purpose.
  2. Second, more philosophically, acknowledging the contingencies of events that results in one’s adult life and beliefs, realizing how easily things might have gone differently, undermines the illusion of destiny or purpose or goal, and instead helps to appreciate the world as it is. Life is not predestined. Values and beliefs are contingent on circumstances. We do the best we can with the circumstances we’re dealt; the measure of a person is to what extent they blithely accept their childhood circumstances, or become open to the world and learn that there’s more to that world than their parents and ancestors realized. This is the arc of human history, at least for the few who can do this.

Two Quotes:

  1. “A child is born into a world of phenomena all equal in their power to enslave. It sniffs—it sucks—it strokes its eyes over the whole uncountable range. Suddenly one strikes. Why? Moments snap together like magnets forged in a chain of shackles. Why? I can trace them, I can even with time pull them apart again. But why at the start were they ever magnetized at all. Why those particular moments of experience and no others, I do not know! And nor does ANY BODY ELSE!” – Richard Dysart, the psychiatrist in Peter Shaffer’s play and film “Equus”.
  2. “A man’s work is nothing but the slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.” – Albert Camus