Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Borrowed" from my son's blog - Happy Father's Day!

Since I was a teenager, my dad shared philosophy with me. Plato, Aristotle, Leibniz, Hume, Kant, Heidegger, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, Sartre, Teilhard de Chardin. These were the strange names that he talked about like distant relatives. Nothing made me happier than listening to his stories about the essence of acorns, the world of monads, the skeptic that watched the school girl walk home, or the husband and wife that lied to the Gestapo to protect the young family hiding in their basement. If there were two themes that dominated his stories they were morality and free will. His test of every philosophical system was whether it allowed for free will. Leibniz’s monads, he explained, so densely packed the world that they left no room for free will. The question of morality for my dad necessarily began with free will. If we weren’t free, then our choices meant nothing, and in my dad’s view, our choices meant everything.

When I think of my dad, I think of his hands and his smile. His choices are etched into his hands. I picture my dad stretching out his hands at the gates of heaven, and St. Peter bursting into happy tears at the stories written across those gruff, human paws. Come in, St. Peter says. Come in you maniac. And his smile. Uncertainty, anguish, and despair are words that philosophers use to describe the emotions that accompany a belief in free will. In a world in which man is truly free, his choices take on a greater responsibility. According to Sartre, “A man who commits himself, and who realizes that he is not only the individual that he chooses to be, but also a legislator choosing at the same time what humanity as a whole should be, cannot help but be aware of his own full and profound responsibility.” My dad’s answer to his own profound responsibility, to the dizziness of his freedom, is a smile. His smile portrays kindness, confidence, faith in the future, and an acknowledgment of the absurd. It’s a smile that gives us solace that such a man is a legislator for all of humanity.
from his blog 'Hillside Airstrip'

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