To Vera (and anyone else who might want to listen in)

I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a blog since I abandoned Finding My College, a blog that was the outgrowth of my interest and insights into the world of higher ed. Yet I found it was an exhaustible subject. Eventually, I had nothing more to say. So I ended that blog (although, undoubtedly, I will have more to say about colleges and higher ed given my interest in the topic).

So why another blog? Mainly, because a little girl has come into my life: my granddaughter Vera (as in veritas, not veer). I’m sure she’ll be just fine without hearing anything I have to say. She is luckier than many kids: she has two incredibly smart, loving parents. Still, I’d like her to know me and hear some of my stories — some of the things I’ve experienced and learned and unlearned over the years. Yet there is no guarantee I’ll be around to tell those stories when she’s old enough to hear them.

One thing I’ve come to appreciate is how each day is highly contingent. Hence, deferral of anything entails risk. My granddaughter’s infancy is a stark reminder of that, as is the speed at which her father and my son traversed the years.

I’d also like to provide some pushback to all the false ideologies, distorted histories and opinions masquerading as facts that will rain down on her throughout her life. Propaganda is a force stronger than many people appreciate, as is the power of the crowd. None of us is without bias and prejudice. Yet some are more pernicious than others. They thrive on darkness. Shining the light on them exposes the cracks in their apparent solidity. I come to this blog with flashlight in hand.

Perhaps my reflections will help Vera (and others) avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made. Perhaps they will help give her a sense of identity and belonging (roots!). On occasion, perhaps they will make her laugh. And you as well.

I have no illusions about anything I have to say. I have no special wisdom or insights about life or the world that haven’t already been shared by others who are far smarter and wiser than I. But I do have a unique set of experiences, values and perspectives.

So why the title “Things I Think.” I suppose it’s because that’s the boldest claim I could make without extensive caveats. With the passing of years has come the realization that I know a lot less than I thought I did. In younger years, whites and blacks dominated my life’s palette; today, it’s mostly if not entirely shades of grey. I wouldn’t be so presumptuous to claim I truly know anything. As Descartes concluded, the only thing about which we can truly be sure is our experience.

One thing I’m not trying to do is convince anyone of anything, including Vera. I want my granddaughter to make up her own mind, to become her own person as she discerns how to live her life. It may be the only thing that is truly hers. It’s no easy task to live one’s life as you choose; it’s much easier to live the life others would have you live. I hope Vera lives her own life.

That’s my hope for my students, too. I have no desire to tell them what to think or what beliefs or ideologies to embrace. But I do desire to help them wrestle with the questions. And to test conventional wisdom and be skeptical of others’ claims (including mine). Moreover, I hope to expose some ideologies and -isms for what they are. And, above all, I hope to help others to fear less — to become more courageous and daring.

To what end? Happiness, I suppose. After all, that’s what every one wants. Yet perhaps there is more to it than that. (More on that later.)

Enough said. That’s what this blog will be about. If you have something to add or rebut, you’re welcome to comment on any post. If I offend you, please know it was not my intent. But if it was the result, get over it. Neither your opinions nor mine mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things.

Finally, a word about the cover photo. It’s an image of one of my favorite places on earth: the Grand Tetons. I’ll have more to say about that later.

Vera’s Granddad

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