The Undecided Philosopher

The ideas and rants of a former philosopher and a present-day geek....Enjoy!

Monday, June 20, 2005

The True Joy of Father's Day...

Over the last few years, I believe that I have matured significantly. Gone are the days when I looked to the next major or minor holiday, longing for the materialistic riches that came with such a day. Generally, I am pretty laid back about such things in my old age. Yet, as a father, I now qualify for that traditional day in June when tie sales go through the roof and the Craftsman section of Sears becomes crowded with giddy children and confused mothers. And my son, along with his grandmother, made a pilgrimage to that world of all things tools in search of a present for dad.

For anyone who knows me, one of my greatest weaknesses is my love of tools; more specifically, my love of Craftsman tools. I don't know if it is the bold red and black colors that just exude manliness, or if I simply cannot stand the thought of not having the right tool at the right time. Either way, I never turn down an opportunity to bag a toy from the Craftsman section of my local Sears. My mother and my son know this all too well, so when I finally settled down to open my present from my son, I discovered a very cool flashlight and an even cooler shop clock emblazoned with that logo that I know and love so dearly. Yet, during that moment of pure tool bliss, I realized that I wasn't really happy because of the new toys in my lap. My true joy came from watching my son.

I discovered that the true joy of Father's day is a joy only a father can appreciate. It is the joy and happiness that pours from a son when he gives a gift to his father. It is the brightness in his eyes as he shows you all the parts of the card he made for you. It is the anticipation in his face as he watches you open the gift he so carefully picked out. Father's day is not about getting gifts or special dinners or watching golf uninterrupted from a cozy recliner. Father's day is a time to step back and enjoy your children, to bask in their love, and realize all the joy they represent in your life. As I sit here in my office and look up at the clock I opened on Father's day, I don't see that logo I once cherished so much. I see the face of my son as he watched me open it and the hug he gave me as he said, "Happy Father's Day...I love you."

Thursday, June 16, 2005

My return from the mini-vacation...

First of all, allow me to apologize for my absence over the past several days, but I have been enjoying a long overdue and much needed four day weekend. Over the weekend, which included Monday and Tuesday, I celebrated my 29th birthday and enjoyed a ton of great quality time with my son. We spent time with the rest of our family, went to see "Madagascar" (review to follow soon), had a fantastic birthday dinner with Nana and Sissy and Jeremy, went book hunting at Mr. Kay's, and, on Tuesday, snuck off to the links for a relaxing round of golf. The events of Tuesday are my focus this morning.

One of my greatest joys over the past six years is watching my son grow and develop and mark those timeless milestones in his life. From his first tee-ball game to his first day of school, this last year has been filled with many tremendously memorable events. Tuesday morning ranks very high on that list for this proud father. At 10:30 am, on Tuesday, June 14th, 2005 at Warriors Path Golf Course, Michael David walked into his first clubhouse and signed in for his first round of golf.

This being his first adventure around the golf course Michael decided he preferred to watch versus trying to play, so with his camera in hand, he and I picked up our golf cart, loaded my clubs (with a reserve putter in case Michael changed his mind), and headed to the first tee. Michael was bursting with excitement as he took picture after picture of his new green surroundings.

He even managed to seek a pic of his dad teeing off on hole #1. We rode from hole to hole, Michael asking questions and watching and listening and even holding the flag from green to green. We both were beginning to tire as we made the turn at number 9, so I parked the cart and we headed into the 19th Green for some hot dogs and chips before starting the back nine. Refueled and refreshed by our Gatorade, we quickly finished our round. By the end of the day, Michael was giving his own golf advice, suggesting that I should try to hit the ball closer to the flag, and even cheering on the rare occasion I did.

As we packed up the car and headed back to the house, I asked my son what he liked best about golf. He proclaimed that he loved everything about the day, but especially riding in the cart with his dad. Never has a prouder and happier father smiled back at his son.

Friday, June 10, 2005

What it takes to be President...

While driving between appointments today, I was listening to "Imus in the Morning", humored by Don Imus and his mind numbing simplicity while waiting for my morning dose of actual news and current events coverage. At some point during the show, Don welcomed former Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle, a man known for his liberal tendencies and his devotion to, if not support by, the common working American. Barnicle and Imus eventually stumbled onto the topic of John Kerry's transcript and his 76 grade average from Yale. Barnicle mused that if Kerry had only revealed his transcript during the election, his C average would have bought him enough votes to take the White House. It was at this point that my blood pressure took over and forced me to change the station.

I know that everyone likes to boil down the election of 2004 as the Elite versus the Common Man or Smart versus Stupid. That kind of logic is both simplistic and naive. This was an election about war and fear and leadership, and Americans elected the man they felt was most qualified to keep this country safe and defeat the evils that are encroaching on our doorstep. Yet, I am still drawn back to the idea of mediocrity being the key to votes in our country.

I, like every other parent in the world, have faced the question "why do I have to go to school?", and like every other parent I have answered with "because school is need to study and do well to make it in this world...., etc." What sometimes follows this statement is something along the lines of " hard, get good grades, and maybe you can be President someday." Now, that being said, what does it tell today's youth if we make that statement and then follow it by voting for the man or woman who is most mediocre, most common place, most average, like most of us.

I am not naive. I know that leadership is much more than simply good grades, or the use of big words, or the best image. But is it too much to want our leader, in fact, the most powerful person the world, to be a little more than average. Do we not want that person to be the most of a strong student....zthe person who paid attention in history and civics....the person who (forgive the brashness) made more A's than D's?

The story of Kerry's grades and the fact that the President did slightly better at Yale than his opponent leads us to several disturbing points. One, we entered into an election that gave us two candidates, neither of which earned their way into an Ivy League school and neither of which reaped its benefits. Granted, they networked and made friends and were hockey player and cheerleaders, but they missed the world class professors, the wealth of knowledge shoved before them, and the hard work that comes with the honing of said knowledge.

Second, we were misled by a candidate and his machine, which convinced the world that he was brilliant and his competitor wasn't. The Kerry campaign was an image juggernaut, churning out the idea that John Kerry was an intellectual on par with the brightest of his generation. So much for the desire for substance.

Third, we were given the President, a man who embraced and leveraged his image as the college goof ball. He slid through the educational process and he was proud. He was average, one of te people, the epitome of the common man. President Bush, at a commencement speech in 2001, addressed a group of Ivy Leaguers and stated (I am paraphrasing, but basically accurate) " the honor graduates with your gold tassels, I applaud your efforts. To the C graduates, I stand before you as the promise, some day you too can become president." Yes, his statement was greeted with chuckles and funloving laughter, but it was also honored with genuine applause. The latter reaction is what truly disturbs me.

I know that the presidency is a team, that the president is a leader of men and women pulled together to give him the best possible advice. I know that no one person can be a master at every discipline nor can that same one person be expected to fully grasp and navigate every difficult situation alone. But is it too much to ask for our leaders to be more rounded, to have achieved in school before they achieved in the political arena. I personally want a leader who cannot only build a team of intellectuals to guide him or her, I want that leader to be able to jump in and join them. I want a leader who can do the math in his or her head. I want a leader who knows his or her way around a library as well as a keg party. I don't think that is too much to ask.

In reality, no one honestly believes that President Bush or Senator Kerry went to Yale on their own merits, nor were they there to hone their trivia skills. They entered that school as a product of money and family history, with the intention of adding to a resume that would lead to greatness later on in life. Our system failed us, but only if you believe the cream should rise to the top. The political machine has a way of determining what it wants to show up on top most of the time. The election of 2004 produced a winner, but I don't believe either side really won.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The calm before the 30th year...

I believe it fair to say that each of us recognizes certain birthdays as milestones in the journey that is our life. These milestones vary a little bit from person to person, and from male to female. As a male, I must bow to that particular perspective.

Growing up, I remember my 13th birthday, the day when I woke up and faced the world no longer as a child, but instead as a teenager. Realistically, this was a pretty silly moment, akin to those ego-driven periods with your parents when you demanded to be introduced by your half age ".....I'm 5 1/2 Dad, not 5...sheesh."

Next came my 16th year which was marked more by the angst of my mother than by any actual change in my persona. I am of course referring to my first vehicle, my cherished 1976 Datsun pick-up truck, affectionately known as the "Little Hustler". Freedom was the name of the game and I had just declared myself Grand Master. Little did I know that my mom had the ability to rewrite the rules of said game through the siphoning of gas money.

The next couple of milestones are the most obvious. My 18th birthday brought about my declaration of adulthood, and my 21st birthday brought about my declaration of debauchery. Granted, I did not drink to any great extent and I certainly didn't devolve into a mindless drunken slob, but, darn it, I was legally afforded that opportunity and I was proud.

Then of course there is my 25th birthday. This was a particularly anti-climatic event in which great anticipation was squashed by the reality that nothing really happens. As most guys know who pay their own car insurance, one's 25th birthday is supposed to be that magical moment in which the chains of oppression are lifted and the auto insurance industry finally recognizes that you can safety drive a car. In all reality, I believe the annual reduction of $5.18 I received was just enough for me to buy those socks I needed to keep my presumed lead foot warm in those cold Tennessee nights.

After year 25, milestones begin to appear in 10 year increments. 30, then 40, then 50, and so on. This brings me to the point of today's idle rant. On Monday, I will celebrate my 29th birthday. How should one react while dwelling in the abyss that is the deadzone between milestones? Should I celebrate the fact that I am not quite 30? Sure I cower under my bed fearing for the 365th day to come? Should I simply ignore it like I did numbers 26, 27, and 28? I am undecided at this point.

So far my instincts tell me to enjoy the fact that I am still in my 20's....enjoy the fact that I have made it this far without major catastrophe....enjoy the fact that I and my family are healthy....and above all, enjoy the fact that dinner will be comped. All in all, it has been a good 29 years. I don't seem to dread year 29 plus day one. Then again, I haven't had dinner yet.

The first of many rants...

First of all, for anyone reading this blog, your anger toward its content or your praise of its witty genius should be focused on Rob H., my friend of many years, a blogger of some renown, and the reason for my registration. Rob, I am indebted.

Secondly, let me begin by stating that I fully intend to cover volumes of information in this blog, none of which will I guarantee anyone will find relevant or interesting. It will, however, be from my perspective and influenced by my life and thoughts and whatever creative muse that overwhelms me at any moment.

I am writing tonight simply because I am awake. At 1 AM, I am awake simply because I am employed. My company has a problem at one of its many sites, people need answers, and those same people have my phone number. Strange how that always seems to work out don't you think. There is a uniquely fulfilling joy to being able to assist in these moments, yet I am unsure why it exists. I am convinced that much of the human psyche is driven by this subtle desire to be needed and, therefore, to a degree, irreplaceable. Then again, I may just simply be sleep deprived.

I hope all who stumble upon these writings enjoy.