Memoirs of an Ordinary American Catholic as a Young Man

(Random thoughts and memories of an ordinary American Catholic through age 31 with later effects, selectively arranged, mostly written in the early years of the third millennium at age 61)

 

 

 

Prologue

 

1.       During one climactic moment in the month of March in the year of my Lord, one thousand nine hundred forty one, I came into existence.  Nine months later, on December 24, I was born. 

 

2.       I was born into a world at war.  A brutal war that killed over fifty million human beings and maimed countless others.  A war that killed civilians, innocent children and their mothers, displacing families, destroying homes, schools, churches and other vestiges of civilization.  While millions suffered and died, I was loved and cared for by my mother and father.  I was warm in my crib, thousands of miles from the death and destruction, safe in my parents’ Illinois apartment, safe in the heartland of the United States of America.

 

3.       Years later in October 1999 as I was sorting through my parents’ belongings with one of my cousins, we came across my christening outfit, neatly folded and stored in a trunk by my mother.  “How loved you were,” said Margie to me with tears in her eyes.  Yes, my parents loved me, and this was a blessing.  I was further blessed because I grew up in the United States at the height of her power with unparalleled opportunities to education, science and technology, the freedom to access ideas, information, material possessions and the pleasures of a comfortable life.  Another blessing was my baptism as a Christian on April 19, 1942 by the Roman Catholic Church, opening the spiritual gifts of Jesus Christ and God’s graces for holiness.  This triple blessing has influenced my entire life and continues to affect my thoughts and daily actions.

 

4.       I was an only child.  My father was a lithographer, and my mother a homemaker.  When I was ten years old, they purchased a new two bedroom brick house in the Chicago suburb of Westchester, Illinois.  My dad was a man of few words, and my mother did most of the raising of me.  Both were very honest and instilled in me the importance of truth and getting a good education.  For my education, they sent me to the local public schools.  In the early grades we began the day with the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States of America and the singing of a patriotic song, the National Anthem, God Bless America, or My Country ‘Tis of Thee, which was my favorite.  In the later grades, the singing stopped, but the Pledge continued, and the schools made it clear that I was growing up in the greatest country in the world.  I had numerous cousins, aunts and uncles on both sides of the family who came over to our house and who we visited.  During these visits, the men usually played poker at the kitchen table and smoked cigars, while the children watched them; and the women sat in the living room and talked, while the children listened to their conversations.  Other times, everyone, men, women, and children joined in a card game called “Thirty One”, playing for nickels.   My dad and uncles were Union men and voted the Democratic ticket.  My mother was generally silent when it came to politics, but I had a hunch she pulled the Republican handle when they fielded a candidate who she thought was better.  I had a happy childhood, and the four years I spent in high school (1955 –1959) were filled with fun and the excitement of learning.

 

5.       During my sophomore year in high school, my plane geometry teacher presented the Pythagorean Theorem.  It was late in the day and the class was anxious to leave for the upcoming Memorial Day holiday.  Miss Schick did not have time to prove the theorem, but merely explained what it said and described it as one of the most important results in geometry.  Then she casually said, “As extra homework credit, try proving this theorem over the holiday” and gave the class a smile.  My life was about to change.

 

6.       At home, I drew a right triangle and decided to inscribe a circle.  I connected several lines to the center of the circle and played around in my mind with the resulting geometrical figures.  Suddenly, I had an idea on how a proof might be constructed.  I wrote a series of equations, involving the areas of the figures.  It seemed obvious that out of those equations, the basic formula of the Pythagorean Theorem ought to fall.  I spent hours trying to demonstrate my insight, and I was finally rewarded.  My idea had been correct, and I had proven the theorem!  The intellectual satisfaction of working through this proof filled me with wonder.  I had never considered a career in mathematics, thinking that I was going to be an announcer on the radio, but my proof of the Pythagorean Theorem put events into motion that altered my childhood ideas.  Miss Schick, after reviewing my homework, told me she had never seen the Pythagorean Theorem proved the way I had done it, and none of the textbooks had my proof.  I was excited to think that I might have discovered an original proof.   

 

7.       As a child, I did not like visiting my maternal grandmother (my paternal grandmother had died before I was born), but I had no choice in the matter because my parents would not leave me at home alone and so I went with them.  The three of us sat with Grandma in her living room.  Dad and I were generally silent, while my grandmother spoke in Slovak and broken English and my mother responded in English and broken Slovak.  I was bored and could not wait to leave.  At the end of the visit, I would dutifully get up and kiss Grandma on the cheek.  This simple task was a chore for me because my grandmother was old and didn’t look nice and sometimes had an unpleasant odor about her.  After the kiss, she would smile, pat my hand and say “my little one” or its equivalent in Slovak.  Then the memorable visit happened where everything was transformed. 

 

8.       The entire visit was a repeat of prior boring trips, except the outcome was different.  This time when I kissed Grandma, tears of happiness glistened in her eyes and her old hand embraced my young hand with passion.  “My little one” she said.  Sensing her love and recognizing that I had caused it triggered a euphoric sense of joy within me.  Every fiber of my body trembled and reverberated with compassion and a love that I had never felt before.  With my presence and a simple kiss, I had made her happy!  In the past, I had not enjoyed visiting her and found the goodbye kiss unpleasant, but this time I had been surprised and deeply moved by her response.  The joy that I had done something good for my Grandma stayed with me for hours, and in some way, has never left me.      

 

9.       In the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, I was struggling with the concept of God and His role in the world.  I was confused.  I had been reading different books on mathematics and science, and it seemed that many of the men I admired were indifferent to God.  The scientist I admired most, Albert Einstein, said that God did not play dice with the universe, yet it seemed that quantum mechanics was generally accepted.  I kept putting questions to God, asking Him if Einstein was correct or not, and if God did care about the world and its people, then why did He remain hidden?   One day, I was seated on a chair in my room, skimming a science book, and mentally asking God these kinds of questions.  Suddenly, I turned a page, and there a black and white photograph of Albert Einstein with large expressive eyes stared back at me.  Instantaneously, my mind registered answers to the questions I had been asking.  I was so startled by the simultaneous appearance of Einstein’s photograph and the answers I had received, I screamed out loud and fell off my chair to the floor on my knees.  I was trembling.  My mind did not have the capacity to understand the answers to the questions I was asking.  Moreover, not only was I limited in being able to understand but so was Albert Einstein!  And so was every other human.  No person had a mind capable of fully understanding the answers to those questions.  Einstein was wrong because God, in some way, did play dice with the universe because randomness was an essential part of the construct, but He also cared about people, and the greatest human mind could not fully comprehend that paradox.  That is the insight I had that summer day, long ago, when I was literally knocked out of my chair.

 

10.   Whenever I thought or meditated about what I should do with my life, I never had any insights about a specific career, livelihood or vocation.  However, it came to me over time that I was free, by God’s grace, to do and to live anyway I wished, but whatever path I took, God and His commandants had to be at the center of how I lived.  Following God’s commandants meant acknowledging Him, treating other people as I wanted them to treat me, and avoiding sin.  Although its effects may not be immediately apparent, I came to understand that sin is harmful to people because it is a rejection of God’s love for us and that many sinners wind up not only doing evil but loving evil.

 

11.   I loved to reason and took delight in solving math problems and reading books on science and history.  Therefore, it was natural for me to have entered the college at the University of Chicago in September 1959 as a freshman.  That autumn, the University hosted a Darwin Centennial, marking the 100th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species.  Many famous biologists came to the campus for lectures.  I had not read Darwin’s book before, but did so as part of freshman biology and became so engrossed that I wound up taking a course that following spring on the “Philosophical Implications of Evolution”.   My respect for Darwin and his observations as to how nature might work has only grown with the years since my undergraduate days, but I reject Darwinian justifications for evils such as social inequality, war, the extermination of people deemed inferior by elitists, and attempts to re-create human nature.  Darwin’s demeanor of patiently stating facts and observations and allowing truth and understanding to unfold with time is what impresses me.  Today the growth of data along with refinements of Darwin’s theory through related disciplines such as genetics has led to the acceptance of evolution among most people who have studied the subject.  Of course, the work of science is never finished, and I expect surprises as we learn more about the different mechanisms of evolution and their underlying mathematics.  The scientific method, the importance of keeping an open mind in the search for truth, the free exchange of ideas, and allowing time to validate or modify concepts are some of the hallmarks of Western Civilization and its many great Universities.  I believe the American people have encouraged these ideals, and this has helped our nation to prosper. 

 

12.   The death of my uncle Joseph, on my mother’s side, at age 64 in February 1972 caused me to re-evaluate my career.  I had been teaching calculus and differential equations in the evening division of the Illinois Institute of Technology, working on a Ph.D. in mathematics, reading, writing, traveling and generally living a life of leisure.  Although pure mathematics was an intellectual pleasure, I sensed it was a dead end for me, as were my other intellectual pursuits.  Eventually I wanted to get married, have children and to raise them without worrying about money.  I knew about the actuarial profession, and its solid, albeit specialized, mathematical training.  What bothered me was that, at least initially, I had to work for a company, either an insurance company or a consulting firm.  I decided to “grin and bear it” and began looking for an actuarial job.  I was to be pleasantly surprised.

 

13.   In May 1972, I flew to New York City and a job interview with the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.  When I walked through their buildings at One Madison Avenue, I thought I had come home.  I sensed that I belonged in New York and that the Metropolitan, a large mutual life insurance company, was a good fit for me.  I accepted their job offer, loaded my Buick Skylark with my belongings, said goodbye to my family and friends in Chicago, and drove east.  I have never regretted my decision. 

 

14.   On November 10, 1972, I went to the Belmont Hotel in Manhattan for a Friday evening dance sponsored by the Catholic Alumni Club of New York.  As I entered the ballroom, somewhat late for the dance had already started, I stopped and surveyed the scene in front of me.  Over a hundred people were seated at tables along the sides of the room, while another 50 or so were dancing in the middle of the room.  I noticed a red headed girl seated at one of the tables, talking to a girl with black hair.  I went to the bar, ordered a seven and seven, nodded hello to a couple of people I knew, and circled the floor.  I could not keep my eyes off the red head.  A vision of beauty and loveliness I thought, remembering James Joyce’s description of the girl in the stream who had captured Stephen Dedalus’s imagination.  I went over to the red head, introduced myself, and asked if I could sit down.  Her name was Nora.  The other girl was her sister, Delia.  The three of us spent the entire evening talking, and I got Nora’s telephone number at the end of the night.  As she walked out of the hotel, Nora told her sister that she had just met her future husband.   I didn’t hear about her prescience until after we were married.

 

15.   Nora and I had four children, and I was present in the delivery room when each baby was born.  The birth of a child, a new creation, and the first cries and breaths of air from the baby, was a transforming event, changing our lives forever.  To me the process that begins with coitus and ends with the birth of a baby is the prototypical life experience, governed by randomness and physical laws, linking God’s Providence with nature and the actions of people.

 

16.   In August 1996 physical and mental deterioration in my parents led to my daily involvement in their lives.  Eventually I moved them from the Chicago area where they had lived their entire lives to an apartment five blocks from my home in Brooklyn, New York.  It was during this difficult period of time, which continues to this day, that memories of my past surfaced and led to this written record.   

 

17.   On September 11, 2001, religious Muslim terrorists attacked the United States of America and killed about 3,000 individuals.  Their jihad or struggle to do God’s will is very different from my experiences.  I have struggled to understand, to learn, to find truth, to do good deeds, and to avoid hurting other people or myself.  I have struggled against mindless belief on one hand and a skepticism that paralyzes on the other in an attempt to lead a good life.  I have struggled against passions such as arrogant pride, self-righteous anger, and self-consuming lust.  Violence or evil done in God’s name or for some “great or noble cause” or because a person wills it, all of these are part of human history.  But the prayer, “deliver us from evil”, and rational thought which struggles against all ignorance are also part of our human experience and continue to offer hope.

 

18.   On Saturday afternoons in the mid-1990’s, I helped at our parish’s food pantry.  Working out of the rectory basement, every week we distributed a bag of groceries to anyone who needed assistance.  On one occasion, I noticed a sign that the room where the food was stored was also used to host Alcoholics Anonymous meetings on weeknights.  Later, outside, in the school playground, as I walked home, fathers gathered with their sons for a Boy Scout outing.  Two Eucharist ministers came out of the church on their way to visit the sick, while inside the church Father Farrell prepared to hear confessions.  Everywhere, around Holy Name of Jesus Church in Brooklyn, New York, the Good News of the gospel was manifest, made visible through the actions of people and their deeds.

 

19.   Everywhere the blessings of scientific thought, carefully validated and nurtured and then applied to helping people, can be seen.  From medical technology which saves lives and reduces needless suffering to modern communications which educates, informs and entertains to the myriad of consumer products and foods which make lives more comfortable and healthier to free markets which allow goods and services to flow, the positive effects of a rational understanding of the world are clear.

 

20.   In the February 2002 issue of Scientific American, a columnist quoted a famous scientist who observed that the universe has properties consistent with blind, pitiless indifference.  I disagree because when I observe our planet I note that there are approximately 6.3 billion possible counterexamples. 

 

21.   I have often taken consolation in the thought that two truths cannot contradict each other.  Is it possible, however, for two approaches to understanding, which are incompatible with each other, both to be valid?   Reason tells me no and at least one will be modified to conform to the other.   My insights suggest that the answer is yes if each approach applies to different areas of human understanding and contains “singularities”, places where reason can not go, where there is no explanation other than that the “singularity” is there.  

 

 

Years through Early Adolescence and Their Later Effects

 

22.   During my mother’s pregnancy, historic events unfolded in America and in the world.  In March 1941, Franklin Roosevelt began his third term as President.  The Lend-Lease Bill, which empowered the President to disregard American neutrality provisions and to ship food and arms to nations fighting the Axis without a formal declaration of war, passed the House and the Senate and was signed by the President into law.  Later, at a crowded dinner of White House correspondents, President Roosevelt said, “I remember, a quarter of a century ago . . . that the German Government received solemn assurances from their representatives that the people of America were disunited; that they cared more for peace at any price than for the preservation of ideals and freedom. . . . Let not dictators of Europe or Asia doubt our unanimity now. . . . May it be said of us in the days to come that our children and our children’s children rise up and call us blessed.”  The United States of America was on the path to war, but the actual event that triggered our entry was nine months away.

 

23.   In 1941, American scientists, members of the American Philosophical Society, viewed the first clear picture of a molecule, photographed with the newly developed electron microscope.  The molecular and atomic nature of matter was now firmly established.   Science and its handmaid, technology, were providing people with the tools and understanding to reshape the world.  Caution concerning the impact of scientific advances, especially in the area of atomic power, was expressed by Vannevar Bush, Chairman of the National Defense Research Committee.  “I hope they never succeed in tapping atomic power,” said Bush.  “It will be a hell of a thing for civilization.”

 

24.   In 1941, Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, a leading American Protestant theologian in his book, The Nature and Destiny of Man, Volume 1 voiced a similar but more general concern.  Reversing his prior views, Dr. Niebuhr now downplayed the optimistic and rationalistic trend of Christian liberalism and looked at the basic sinfulness of mankind.  The events in history, especially from 1920 to 1940, made him realize that optimism about the goodness of man was untenable.

 

25.   Throughout 1941, Americans watched the events in the world and debated the right course of action for the United States.  Isolationism was strong in America, and many did not want the country involved in the Asian or European wars.  The House of Representatives considered a bill to extend the service of draftees in the Army.  The vote to extend service for draftees, taken in August, passed 203 to 202 with 27 congressmen not voting.  The vote of one congressman changed the outcome of the draft extension bill.  I speculate about the various forces and chance events that impacted each vote and how history might have been changed if a single vote had been cast the other way that summer day.  If the draft extension bill had failed to pass, most of the half-trained U.S. Army would have dissolved as draftees and guardsmen went home.  The nation would have had to start from scratch to build and train another army.   Within four months the entire nation realized that America needed those draftees when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and other American facilities in the Pacific on December 7 and December 8, 1941.

 

26.   It was in this general milieu of war and insecurity that my parents, John and Katherine, brought me to St Frances of Rome Church in Cicero Illinois to be baptized.  My sponsors were Aunt Margaret, the fraternal twin of my mother, and her husband, Joseph.  There was no doubt in the teachings of the Church, that mankind was sinful and that a person needed to be baptized.  The war and the horrors reported daily made this teaching manifest.  My parents, however, were not churchgoers.  My father had never been baptized and found the ritual of Church life unnatural, having been raised without any formal religion but within a Protestant cultural framework.  He did believe in God and later in life did allow my mother to baptize him.  My mother, who had been raised a Catholic, stopped attending mass as a young woman.  She could not believe that the consecrated bread given at mass was the body and blood of Christ.  She did not see any benefits in confessing her sins to a priest.  She believed Jesus had been crucified, suffered and died, but could not believe that because of His sacrifice, Christians would someday be resurrected.  She routinely dismissed many priests and “holy rollers” who sat in churches as hypocrites.  Yet she believed in God and the prayers she directed to God through the Blessed Virgin.  She told me throughout her life the times God had answered her prayers after she called on the Blessed Mother.  Perhaps this is why my mother decided to have me baptized that Sunday in April 1942, and my father agreed.

 

27.   During my early years, my parents lived in an apartment on 16th Street and 59th Court in Cicero, Illinois, a small city that borders Chicago.  I only vaguely remember the flat.  From the outside you walked up one flight and then turned to your right.  The apartment stretched along 59th Court parallel to an empty corner lot.  From our windows, I saw the bungalows across the street on 59th Court and the corner of 16th Street, which was a busy street with traffic.  One short block to the south on 59th Court my maternal grandmother, Katerina, lived alone in her house.  My maternal grandfather, Stefan, had died in 1939, leaving his wife and four grown children: Steve; the twins, Margaret and my mother, Katherine; and the youngest, Charles.  The three eldest children had all married.  Aunt Margaret and Uncle Joseph had two girls, Joyce born in 1939 and Margie born seven months before me in 1941.  They lived only a few blocks from us in Cicero, and we saw them frequently along with Grandma.  We did not see the eldest brother Steve, his wife and two children very often, while Charles, who was single, joined the army and was a paratrooper in Europe.  Both of my maternal grandparents had come to United States around the turn of the nineteenth century from what became Czechoslovakia and which was then part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire of Franz Joseph.  When someone asked about our ethnic background, we responded Czechoslovakian even though our last name was not Czechoslovakian.  The area of Cicero in which we lived was predominately a neighborhood of first and second generation Czechs and Slovaks.

 

28.   My father’s side of the family was larger than my mother’s.  Dad was number eight of nine children, five girls and four boys, born to Ignac and Anna.  Anna came to the United States in 1891 as a young girl from Bohemia.  She died in 1940, leaving my grandfather who lived in his two-family house in Cicero with one of his children, Josephine, her husband, Art, and their daughter, my cousin Eileen.  Another daughter, Ann, her husband, Al, and their son, Donald, occupied the other flat.  Grandfather had moved his family from South Wilmington, Illinois in the 1920s.  He had arrived in this country in 1893 from Croatia as a teen-ager with two of his cousins and had settled in South Wilmington, which was 50 miles southwest of Chicago, to do strip mining.  In time, he moved to Chicago in order to find better work for himself and his sons; and then in 1923 he moved to Cicero, which was only seven miles from downtown Chicago.  His oldest daughter, Bessie, had married and settled in Morris, Illinois with her husband to raise four children, but the rest of Grandfather’s children moved with him and initially lived in the western suburbs of Chicago.  All of them married and each of them had children, giving Grandfather 16 grandchildren.  My father married my mother on November 4, 1939 and like four of his siblings, my father had only one child.

 

29.   The fact that I was an only child never came into my thoughts as I grew from childhood into adolescence.  It was only later when I was in college and then out working with people that I realized that I had missed something important in my formative years; namely, the special and continual interactions that siblings have as they grow into adolescents and then adults.  My mother told me her kidneys had been hurt in delivering me, and afterwards she could not urinate and was kept for some time in the hospital.  When released the doctor told her that it wouldn’t be wise for her to have another baby, and so I was by myself without any brothers or sisters.  As a happy child I made friends easily throughout school, but there was a certain level of intellectual and human intimacy, mainly through speech and shared experiences, which I found difficult and impossible to achieve.  Either correctly or incorrectly, I attributed that to the fact I was an only child.  Because of peer loneliness, I created out of my toy animals an entire melange of imaginary characters to play with and which I called my family, and I gave each a name and a distinct personality.  My five favorites were Pumpkin Face, Cute Kitty, Julius Caesar Dithers (after the cartoon character), Panda Bear and Panda Doll.  If I had trouble in some interaction with one of my classmates at school, I came home and interacted with my family of stuffed animals.  I controlled that situation and generally preferred the world I had created to the real world.  Later as I realized what had happened, I tried to come out of myself and to be more aware of real people in human situations.  My unscientific observations noted that individuals who came from families of four children seemed to be on balance the best adjusted to deal with the problems of the real world in a positive manner.

 

30.   As I look back to my very early years, I remember some of the events, some of the images that are part of me today because of conscious memory.  In most instances, it is difficult to date these memories, which ones occurred in what order and exactly how old I was when they happened.  One memory, perhaps the earliest, if not, certainly one of the earliest, can be dated with a high degree of precision.  It was early 1945 and I was age three years and two months.  I was with my mother in our apartment, and Grandma came to our door, having walked the one block from her house, and handed my mother a telegram that she had just received.  She could not read English.  My mother read the message and screamed, blurting out anguished words in Slovak to Grandma.  Then the two women began crying, standing by the kitchen door, while I watched in fear and confusion to see my mother and grandmother in their distress.  Then I understood the terrible news – my Uncle Charles had been killed in the war, in Luxembourg, on February 8, 1945.

 

31.   A few years later, my mother told me how he died.  Although Uncle Charles was a paratrooper, he was on the ground that day when he went to the aid of a wounded soldier.  As he moved toward his friend, my uncle stepped on a land mine.  The United States of America awarded him a Purple Heart attached to a certificate.  They hung on my grandmother’s wall up to her death in December 1960 when my mother took them.  I found them in a water-damaged trunk in my mother’s basement in 1999.  I polished the Purple Heart and restored the certificate the best I could, and they now hang on my wall.

 

32.   Another early memory, which I can date by holiday but not by year, was the stuffed bunny I received one Easter.  I was asleep and awoke Easter morning to see the bunny in my crib resting against the slat railing.  What a wonderful surprise!  I shouted in delight at the shock of having received this gift and stood up in my bed.  My mother came over, and we hugged over the crib railing.  She kissed me and told me she loved me, and I added another toy animal to my family.

 

33.   Another surprise memory that I have of my crib happened when I was a little older.  It started out as traumatic or frightening but because of a thought or special insight that ran through my mind moments after the incident, I was able to remain calm and the event to my knowledge was inconsequential and did no subsequent harm.  I awoke to find blood on my right forefinger and on my penis.  I screamed and my mother ran into the room and wiped the blood away.  She said something like, “It will be all right honey; I told you to stop playing with your pee-wee.”  It was at that moment that the thought crossed my mind that it wasn’t blood but ketchup that had been wiped away.  My mother had been trying to stop me from playing with my penis which I used to flick back and forth from my right leg to my left leg and back again, side to side.  It was just like my mother, trying to get me to do the proper thing, to come up with some silly idea like ketchup to reinforce her admonitions.  Fortunately, I had the insight to notice that it had been ketchup and not blood because from that moment I was no longer upset.  Of course, I kept my future penis flicking private, certainly away from the eyes of my mother.  Another possible consequence of this event was that for years I ate hot dogs only with mustard, never with ketchup.

 

34.   A third memory is my mother singing a song to me at night before I fell asleep. 

“There’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover

Tomorrow, just you wait and see.

There’ll be love and laughter and peace ever after

Tomorrow, when the world is free.

The shepherd will tend his sheep.

The valley will bloom again

And Jimmy will go to sleep

In his own little room again.”

Later I learned that this song, “The White Cliffs of Dover,” was forever linked with World War II and the heroic struggle of the English people against Hitler’s onslaught.  As a child all of this was beyond my understanding.  I called it the “Bluebird song” and I liked the melody and the words, and the fact that my mother would sing it to me.  Years later, I sang the “Bluebird song” to my children.

 

35.   A fourth memory that I have which involved my crib occurred one afternoon when I was in for a nap but not sleeping.  The landlady had stopped by to collect the monthly rent, and she and my mother were talking while drinking a cup of coffee in the kitchen.  My mother had put our cat in the bathroom and closed the door, hiding the pet from our landlady who had forbidden tenants from having any pets in her apartment building.  On this day, the cat started meowing in the bathroom.  Worried that the landlady would hear the cat’s crying, I stood up in the crib and began loudly meowing myself, rattling the sides of the crib.  After the landlady left my mother came into the room, laughing at what I had done and praising my actions – how clever I had been to deflect attention from the real cat!  The next month before the landlady came for her visit my mother hid the cat in the bedroom closet.  This time I was asleep, but my mother told me that after the landlady collected her rent and drank her coffee she asked to use our bathroom.  She was definitely suspicious, but my mother had outwitted her because there was no evidence of our cat in the bathroom.  Nevertheless, my mother worried that she could not continue her deception, and since she did not want to lose the apartment, she gave away our cat.

 

36.   Another burning memory, the event of which happened before I entered kindergarten and probably when I was age four occurred in our kitchen.  I was seated on the floor next to the stove, playing with my toys and found a book of matches.  My father was seated at the kitchen table reading the newspaper.  I lit a match and surprised by the flame dropped it on the flesh of my left leg an inch below the shorts I was wearing.  I screamed as the flame scorched my skin.  My father threw himself from his chair onto the floor and smothered the flame.  The burn on my leg was small; half the size of an American dime, but it did not go away, leaving a mark.

 

37.   It must have been the spring or summer of 1946 when my mother told me I was going to start kindergarten in the fall. I was only four and a half years old but eligible to start school that autumn because of my December birth date.  My mother decided to enroll me at St. Frances of Rome, which was only one block from our apartment.  I remember the day we registered.  We walked a few steps along 16th street to Austin Boulevard and then turned north for about half a block.  There in the middle of the block was a bungalow house with an empty lot next to it.  The house served as a convent to the nuns who taught at St. Frances.  My mother rang the doorbell, and the black robe of the nun who answered the door startled me.  We were ushered inside and sat in a small room waiting for the principal.  Black robed nuns kept walking back and forth in the hallway.  I was frightened by their appearance and wanted to get out of there.  The principal, another black robed nun, came and spoke to my mother, and they filled out some papers.  The principal asked me a few questions.  I remember her face, an oval bordered by a black outside, white inside hood.  She seemed pleasant and smiled at me.  I answered her but kept wondering why she was dressed in black and why she was hooded.  I was relieved when we finally left the house.  I did not say anything to my mother, but I really did not want to go school.

 

38.   The first week or so of kindergarten went well.  There were many boys and girls, and the half-day went quickly.  A thin-faced nun kept yelling at several of the kids, but happily she ignored me because I probably listened to and did what she wanted.  During one indoor recess, the school had a fire drill and then a chance event changed my life.  The class was drinking milk from glass bottles when the fire alarm went off.  Frightened by the sound, one of the girls dropped her bottle and chocolate milk spilled across the classroom floor.  The nun started screaming at the girl for the accident and said the class could not leave the room before the spilled milk was cleaned off the floor.  The fire alarm kept ringing and ringing, and the girl was crying hysterically as she tried to wipe the floor.  The nun kept berating her, “If we all burn to death, it will be your fault.”  With that most of the class started crying and screaming including myself.  I knew what it felt like to be burned, and I certainly didn’t want to die.  I’m not sure what happened then.  I guess I blotted the rest of the nightmare out of my mind.

 

39.   The next morning I ran a fever, and my mother kept me home from school.  I had not told her about the disastrous fire drill, and the nun yelling that we were all going to be burned to death.  By noon, the fever had passed, and I was up playing with my stuffed animals.  The next day the same thing happened, I had a morning fever and my mother kept me home from school, and in the afternoon, I was back to normal.  When I ran a fever on the morning of the third day, my mother called our doctor.  Dr. Kluzak was puzzled, but the link between my morning fevers and school was obvious.  I am not certain how they found out about the fire drill, perhaps I even told them although I don’t remember doing so.  In any event, my mother acted swiftly and removed me from St. Frances of Rome, enrolling me in the local public school, Burnham.  My morning fevers went away.

 

40.   A few years later, my mother told me that some of the neighbors had criticized her for taking me out of Catholic school.  For some, this was wrong and she was jeopardizing my spiritual upbringing by having me schooled with non-believers in a public school.  However, my mother had acted out of common sense and love for my well being.  Whenever I hear stories of ex-Catholics that left the Faith because they were scarred by Catholic schools in the pre-Vatican II era, I think I might have been one of those if my mother had not acted.  It was not the first or the last time that another person’s love for me changed or transformed my life.  My prayer is for mothers everywhere to use their loving instincts and have the courage to protect their children, especially from negative influences in the classroom.

 

41.   The neighbors who criticized my mother for removing me from Catholic school were correct in one way, however.  Because my parents did not attend mass or outwardly practice Catholicism and because the public school did not teach any religion, I grew up ignorant of religion in general and of Christianity in particular.  Some public school children of the Catholic Faith went to a special class one day a week in the afternoon at St. Frances after regular classes were finished to learn about their Faith, but my parents did not send me to that class.  I remember when my cousin Margie, who was my age, was making her first Communion that something special was happening to her, but I didn’t understand what.  One day she came to visit us dressed all in white, and she gave me a gift.  It was a three inch white plastic statue of the child Jesus with outstretched arms.  I came to understand that she was worried about me because I was not going to receive Jesus in Holy Communion.  I put the plastic statue of the child Jesus with the outstretched arms on my bedroom dresser.  Fifty years later I still have it there, a reminder of my cousin’s innocent love for my spiritual well being.

 

42.   Years later when I was in college, the plastic Jesus was accidentally knocked off my shelf onto the floor.  My roommate, David, who told me he was an atheist, picked it up and handed it to me.  “Here is your idol,” he said half jokingly, half seriously.  At that time I was an extremely private person and kept my thoughts and beliefs to myself, and thus I said nothing about the gift my cousin had given me.  I was also taken aback by David’s comment and wondered if he really thought that I worshipped a three-inch piece of plastic.  Later, I had an insight through a dream sequence in which I had died and was being buried.  The plastic Jesus was placed in my coffin as a sign of my Christian faith.  Eons later, after cataclysms and time had erased most traces of Western civilization, archeologists opened my coffin and finding the plastic Jesus concluded that here was evidence that American Christians, circa 1960 A.D., worshipped idols.  Scholarly papers and copious lectures on this latest understanding of Western civilization swept academia and inspired young minds to even greater discoveries about their past.

 

43.   Another early memory was when I wanted to get out of my highchair I would raise my hands into the air and say “Down.”   My father would pick me up out of the chair, holding me in his arms, “You mean up, I am picking you up,” he would say.  Of course, he would then put me down on the floor, which is what I meant because I wanted to go from the chair down to the floor.  Nevertheless, words that describe direction, up or down, north or south, top or bottom, right or left, east or west, have always caused me problems, and I have to think in order to communicate properly.  To this day, if I am not careful, I might say, “Let us go up to the bookstore” although I am on 23rd Street in Manhattan and the intended bookstore is down five blocks south on 18th Street.  I wonder if this imprecise communication has had any significant impact on my life?

 

44.   When I was first introduced to fractions in grammar school, the teacher began by giving us basic terminology.  The numerator was the top half of the fraction, and the bottom half was called the denominator.  How could I remember this and not inadvertently mix up the top and bottom numbers?  I knew there was a college called Notre Dame that was always mentioned in the sports section of the newspaper, and thus I used the letters ND as an acronym, which I repeated to myself in order to remember which came first.  Notre (Numerator) came first and was on top followed by Dame (Denominator) on the bottom, and in this way I was able to keep the numerator and denominator straight in my mind and to prosper in early arithmetic. 

 

45.   I am not exactly certain when I started to read the daily newspaper, but it started with the comics and moved to the cartoons in the sports section.   My father would bring home the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Herald American.  When Babe Ruth died in August 1948, there was a drawing of him going off into the sunset, which made a big impression on me because my father told me he was the greatest ball player of all times and here he was dead and honored in the paper.  Whenever sports teams played, there would be cartoons depicting the struggle both before and after the event.  For example, if the Chicago Bears were playing the Detroit Lions, the cartoonist would draw a furious bear clawing at a snapping lion, and then once the outcome of the event was known, a second cartoon would show the victorious animal on top of the defeated one.  I thought these drawings were wonderful, and I came to know all the caricatures of the various baseball and football teams.  My favorite cartoon drawing was that of the Cleveland Indians, which was, of course, an Indian.  Interestingly, in football, my favorite was the drawing of the Ohio State Buckeye, which was a kid on a bicycle where the cartoonist had drawn the bike as the word “OhiO” with the O’s in Ohio representing the wheels of the bicycle.  Thus, although I lived in Illinois, my original favorite baseball and college football teams were the Cleveland Indians and the Ohio State Buckeyes.  I was disappointed when my parents refused my request to move to Ohio.

 

46.   The summer of 1954 was glorious.  The Cleveland Indians dominated the American League and won the pennant with a record 111 victories.  I knew by name all the players on that great team: Feller, Lemon, Garcia, Wynn, Hegan, Doby, Easter, and my favorite, the third baseman, Al Rosen.  Listening to the All-Star Game on the radio that summer when Rosen hit two home runs was a joy.  What a shock then that autumn when the Giants beat the Indians four straight games in the World Series!  I was in the eighth grade; and during class, my science teacher, who was a New York Giants’ fan, turned on the radio.  The class sat and listened to the World Series as he talked about the physics of curve balls.  The name of Dusty Rhodes still causes me to say “Oh no”, remembering his home runs for the Giants and the mighty Indians, my heroes, going down to defeat.

 

47.   One of the facts I learned later about my Indian heroes was that a couple of them were black, and Al Rosen was Jewish.  Having rooted for these guys when they were just names, how could I now be prejudiced against them for their skin color or their religion?  I was lucky to have come to baseball after the game had been integrated.  Thus, I did not have to overcome the bias that separate baseball leagues caused for many of my father’s generation.  God Bless the United States of America for a system of government that allows social growth and then the Americans who acted to change baseball and eventually the country.

 

48.   It was after the 1954 World Series that I began to pay closer attention to local Chicago sports.  One factor in this change was that I could not get Cleveland radio or television, and although the sports pages of the Tribune gave me the box scores of the Indians, it wasn’t the same as listening to the game on radio.  Another factor was that my dad was a Chicago Cub fan, and he took me to Wrigley Field a couple of times.  The Cubs were generally a pathetic team, but they were local, and being a National League team, they didn’t compete against the Indians.  Slowly, I started to follow them.  When Ernie Banks arrived and turned into a star, my interest increased, and I became a Cub fan.  When I moved to New York in 1972, my allegiance to the Cubs did not move.  Modern communications makes following them easy, and their national following and the aura surrounding Wrigley Field has grown since my adolescence.  My four children, growing up in Brooklyn, became New York Mets fans and often ask me when I am going to switch my allegiance from the Cubs.  I tell them that I will switch to the Mets once the Cubs win the World Series, which elicits groans of “Never”.

 

49.   One of my memories from Burnham grammar school was an assignment to write a poem about an animal.  I picked a cat but had trouble composing a poem.  At lunch, which I ate at home, I mentioned to my mother that I couldn’t think of any words to write a poem.  She gave me some words and that afternoon I turned my mother’s poem into the teacher.   She read it and quickly asked me if the poem was mine, and sheepishly, I told her that my mother had done the work.  The teacher spoke to my mother and from then on, through all my school days, my mother never did another assignment for me.

 

50.   Another memory from Burnham was my teacher talking about a possible war between the United States and the Soviet Union.  This may have been late 1949 after the Soviets exploded their atomic bomb, and the school started preparing for where we were to hide if warned about an attack on Chicago, but that is speculation because I don’t remember why this classroom discussion took place.   I know I wasn’t frightened probably because the teacher didn’t seem to be afraid.  I only recall the incident because one of my classmates asked if the Russians had red skin, which I thought was an amusing question, and it stayed with me.  The teacher explained that the Russians although they were called “Reds” did not have red skin but looked just like us.

 

51.   I only remember one unpleasant experience at Burnham grammar school and that involved a big, heavy kid who was a bully.  He went around the playground, lifting smaller kids off the ground and holding them up against the school building.  He did it to me a couple of times.  I told my mother who went to the school, and the incidents stopped.  It was not the last time in my life, however, that I had to deal with a bully.

 

52.   A few years later, I was probably about 12 years old, and on this particular summer day, I was playing baseball in an empty lot with a number of kids, including some of my friends.  One of the players was a boy who I hardly knew but who had been very nasty to me in the past and always seemed to want to fight.  I usually ignored him or ran away.  On this day, he kept constantly taunting me, and I finally agreed to fight him.  In the middle of the ball field, the two of us started punching at each other while the rest of the kids circled us and watched, keeping a safe distance.  At one point, I landed a hard right on the bully’s jaw that sent his head snapping back.  The sound of the blow brought a shout from the crowd.  The two of us stepped back from each other.  The bully was surprised that I was fighting him and that I had just landed the best punch.  I was wheezing hard, a full-blown asthma attack was starting, and then I began to cry.  The other kids came between us, and the fight was over.  The bully never bothered me again.

 

53.   I learned from this incident to defuse situations before they became confrontational to the point of violence, and fortunately, I never had to physically confront a bully again.   When I read history, I found that the United States had also learned from World War II that appeasement was an eventual road to conflict.  Dealing with individuals who have tendencies to bully others physically, emotionally, or intellectually is a delicate balance, and every situation is different with its unique characteristics but a firm and consistent approach toward the bully has worked for me.

 

54.   I don’t ever remember my mother spanking me.  Once I made a tongue at her when she wasn’t looking and was caught when she suddenly turned around.  She washed my mouth out with soap, and I stopped making tongues.  My father slapped me once.  I was about ten, whining and crying over something for several minutes, and he lost patience with me.  I was so surprised that I stopped crying.  Nora doesn’t ever remember being spanked.  Not surprisingly, we, in turn, never spanked or hit any of our children.

 

55.   I don’t remember my paternal grandfather even though I have a photograph of him, but another early memory that I can date is his death on Sunday, March 14, 1948.  My father went to visit him in the hospital and didn’t come home that Saturday night.  He returned early the following morning and told my mother that Grandfather had died.  My father had been with him the entire time, and I remember my mother saying that he had done the right thing, staying with Grandfather in his final moments.

 

56.   53 years later, on March 6, 2001, my father died in his bed in his apartment, one month short of his ninetieth birthday, and I was by his side.  Dad had Alzheimer ’s disease or “some disease in that family”as one doctor told me.  The “big A”, another doctor’s name for the disease, disabled Dad and left him flat on his back.  I became involved with taking care of him in August 1996 after my mother fell and broke her hip.  At that time he was still walking and doing most things for himself.  In his last year, he was bedridden and did not recognize me.  Every night when I came to visit him, he would look up at me from his bed and ask, “Now who is this?”   Many times he thought I was Emil, one of his cousins, back 60 years ago.   Once he told me that he couldn’t believe I was Philip, his son, because Philip was a small boy.  One month before his death, he asked me who he was.  I told him his name.  “Oh, yes,” he replied, smiling.  Months earlier, during one of his more cogent moments, I asked him if he was saying his prayers.  “Yes,” he replied “and one of these days the good Lord is going to come and take me.”  To the very end he seemed to recognize my voice even if he did not know that it was the voice of his son, and I believe he heard the final, “I love you.”

 

57.   One of the first movies I remember seeing was Walt Disney’s Bambi.  The scene that made a lasting impression on me was not the death of Bambi’s mother by hunters which has often been written about, but a subsequent scene where the orphan Bambi, frightened and confused, is consoled by his father figure, the Great Prince of the Forest.  The appearance of the Great Prince and his soothing deep voice filled me with awe, and although I could not formulate it at the time, I hoped that life was like that and that there would always be someone to help when it was truly needed.

 

58.    My father’s family was large, and I never saw the entire family together in one place at one time.  Annual Labor Day picnics in South Wilmington at the house of my two great uncles was the one occasion that usually brought many of my aunts, uncles, and cousins together.  The gatherings were festive with softball, card playing, a pig roasting, kegs of beer, soft drinks and watermelon.  Uncle Ed played the concertina.  Although not the oldest of the siblings, it was my Aunt Emma and her husband, Al, who kept in touch with each family member and relayed news as to what was happening.  I always enjoyed visiting them because they were always friendly, open and made me feel welcomed.  Dad was always relaxed and most talkative around Aunt Emma.  He had had a happy childhood, growing up with eight supportive siblings.  Now, however, the children and grandchildren of Ignac and Anna did not see each other that often.   My father’s sister, Lillian, and her husband and three children had settled in California, and subsequently two of my other cousins went there to live, followed by my Aunt Ann, and her husband, Al.  Over time the remaining siblings and their children, who in turn married and started their own families, had less and less contact with each other.    

 

59.   I have physically moved to a new residence eight times in my life.  The first time was in late 1950 when my parents moved to another apartment in Cicero, and I transferred from Burnham grammar school to Goodwin grammar school.  I was in the middle of the fourth grade, and I hated leaving Burnham.  We had a reading class where students could read to the class, and everyday I volunteered.  I had books, which I had received as birthday gifts, published by the Disney Company, and they were filled with wonderful stories involving Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto, and the entire galaxy of Disney characters.  The class enjoyed having me read to them because they too loved the Disney characters, and I was very happy being the star of the class.  Unfortunately, Goodwin’s fourth grade teacher did not allow students to read aloud in class.  Instead, she read The Tales of Robin Hood to us.  I enjoyed Robin and his band of merry men, but I was disappointed that I had lost my audience.

 

60.   Another reason that I was disappointed about moving was that I had to leave my block on 16th Street and 59th Court and the neighborhood I knew.  Right up the block, my friend Jean lived and her family had a television.  They would let me come over and watch Howdy Doody or some of the Western cowboy shows that I loved.  Four short blocks away was the Town Movie Theater, and my Dad took me there to watch the picture shows on Saturday afternoons.  There were usually two complete picture shows with cartoons between the movies, plus previews of coming attractions and a newsreel at the beginning so we would spend the entire afternoon at the theater.  I remember sitting in the Town  Theater with Dad watching Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein (1948).   I was frightened, on the verge of tears, when I saw him laughing and the thought struck me that this was make believe and my fear went away.  I liked Westerns and disliked gangster movies.  I recognized that Westerns were make believe or at least happened in the past and that no one could get hurt in that way anymore, while gangster movies were too close to reality and many of them bothered me.  Another movie that upset me was The Snake Pit (1948), a story about mental illness, which I recognized as real and terrible.  Dad’s favorite actor was Randolph Scott, and his favorite movie was The Gunfighter (1950) with Gregory Peck.  He had seen the movie before he took me to see it, and he discussed the story with me before the movie started.  The movie was not in color but had a special sepia tint to it.  I didn’t particularly like it because the Gunfighter dies at the end.  I preferred the Technicolor westerns of Roy Rogers that looked better and had happy endings.  Anyway, our trips to the Town Theater stopped when we moved out of the neighborhood.

 

61.   I transferred into Goodwin’s fourth grade after the school year had already begun.  I didn’t know any of the kids, and none of them lived close to my apartment building so I did not have any friends my age when I came home from school.  I withdrew more into myself and the imaginary world I had created.  I would line up my stuffed animals and make “movies” for them.  I had a collection of toy cowboys and Indians and would devise stories, which I would act out using the figures.  Roy Rogers was my favorite cowboy.  I had seen many of his films at the Town Theater, and sometime during this period, Dad took me to see Roy, Dale Evans, Trigger, and the Sons of the Pioneers when they appeared live at the Chicago Amphitheater.  All of this helped to fuel my imagination, and my stories became more elaborate, and my movies more involved. 

 

62.   It was 1950 and 1951 and the Korean War was being fought, and when I looked in the paper, I saw maps of North and South Korea with the territory occupied by each side marked.  At first, the North Koreans took all of South Korea except for Pusan in the southeast.  There the Americans and South Koreans held and then rapidly began pushing the enemy back.  The allied forces crossed the 38th parallel, took the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, and pushed toward the Yalu River, which was the Chinese border.  Then the Chinese entered the battle and, in turn, pushed the Allies back almost to the 38th parallel and the original boundaries of the two countries.  I was completely fascinated by the maps and how rapidly they changed.  Somehow I never thought of the individual men dying in battle, only the overall sweep of the action.  I started making war movies for my stuffed animal family.  I didn’t have enough toy soldiers so I took decks of playing cards.  The black spades and clubs became the allies and the red hearts and diamonds represented the communists.  My battles took place over the bedrooms and living room of my parents’ apartment.  I moved freely from my movies, which were made up stories to talk to my stuffed animals, which somehow to me in my imagination were more real than the toy figures and cards.  I don’t know what my parents thought about this because I don’t remember them ever saying anything even though I talked incessantly out loud during my stories.

 

63.   I believe it was in February and March of 1951 that I added another activity to my playtime.  I had started following Illinois high school basketball in the Chicago Tribune.  Long before the NCAA college basketball tournament gained fame, the Illinois high school basketball tournament had its own “Sweet Sixteen” which crowned the state champion.  I was fascinated by the regional and sectional pairings that led the winning teams to the Sweet Sixteen brackets.  Morton high school, which was a few short blocks from my parents’ apartment, had a very good team, and this added to the local excitement.  I decided to construct my own tournament.  The teams that I imagined were not high schools but represented cities and countries throughout the world.  I went to a map of the world, which had become familiar to me because of my interest in the Korean War, and made up teams.  I paired the teams in regional and sectional brackets and determined the winners by flipping coins.  I pretended that my imaginary family played on the team representing the United States, which I called the Ohio team.  When Ohio played, I didn’t flip coins.  Instead I would broadcast their games, and Ohio always won.  The championship game that first year was Ohio versus Reykjavik, and my favorite, Pumpkin Face, scored the winning basket.

 

64.   My parents’ new apartment was on 25th Street in Cicero near Ridgeland Boulevard, which was the western boundary of the town.  On 22nd Street or Cermak Road (the street was named for the late mayor of Chicago who had been assassinated while riding in an open car with then President-Elect Roosevelt), there were two movie theaters, the Olympic and the Berwyn.  Both were within walking distance of our apartment, and my mother would take me and pick me up, allowing me to go into the show by myself on Saturday afternoons, which was usually packed with kids like myself.  If I saw a pirate movie, I came home and made up my own pirate story.  The Disney movie, Treasure Island (1950), based on the Robert Louis Stevenson novel made an impression on me, and I easily identified with the protagonist, a boy roughly my own age.  The movies I created had human characters, and I was performing these stories for my stuffed animal family.  As director, I took as my stage name, Phil Lip.  It bothered me that I didn’t have real humans acting in my movies so I invented something in my mind which I called ALMA (Automated Live Movie Action).  The idea was that ALMA would generate human characters, who would then act out their parts.  From then on, all the movies I produced and directed for my family were done in my mind using ALMA.

 

65.   During this time, my parents did not own a television and so the radio provided a source of entertainment and imagination.  I listened to a whole host of shows: Jack Benny, Our Miss Brooks, Duffy’s Tavern, the Shadow, You Bet Your Life and my favorite, Fibber McGee and Molly.  On school nights, I was in bed by 9 o’clock, but I used to lie there with the radio on, waiting for Fibber to open his closet.  About this time, I began to notice the prominence of New York City in radio broadcasts.  Many of the quiz and entertainment shows originated in New York.  Duffy’s Tavern was somewhere on 23rd Street in Manhattan.  In 1951, the Dodgers and Giants had a great pennant race, and I heard about the deciding home run that evening on the radio.  And, of course, the New York Yankees eventually won everything.  One evening, I was lying in bed listening to a show and an individual arrived in the studio out of breath saying he had been stuck in the Holland Tunnel and that’s why he was late.  There was a lot of laughter and excitement.  A deep longing came over me, and I thought as I drifted off to sleep that I wanted to see the Holland Tunnel, that I wanted to see New York City and be part of where all this was happening.

 

66.   In the spring of 1972, two of my colleagues at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Dave and Mary Ellen, gave me a going away party.  I had taken the actuarial job at the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York City, located at One Madison Avenue, on the corner of 23rd Street.  Everyone wished me the best, but some apprehension was expressed about cities in general, and New York, in particular.  With the growth of suburbs, most cities had been declining for years, and New York was no exception.  I didn’t worry about this.  Cities might go through periods of decline, but experience showed they came back.  Moreover, I felt comfortable in cities, and when I visited New York and Metropolitan Life for my job interview, it was clear to me that this was the right place for me.

 

67.   When I started work at the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company on July 10, 1972, I was told it had 18,000 employees working in buildings surrounding One Madison Avenue and Madison Square Park.  Within months, the company announced a major decentralization across the United States, and one of the new locations was the western suburbs of Chicago from where I had just come.  For the moment, the actuaries were staying in New York.  I was always in favor of geographical centralization and a functional decentralization and thus opposed moves out of Manhattan, but of course I didn’t have any say or influence in the matter.  When I retired in 2002 from Metropolitan Life or MetLife as they are now known, the company had less than 1,000 employees working in Manhattan, and their future location was in doubt.  Over the years, MetLife had moved thousands of employees to places like Aurora, Tampa, Bridgewater, Hauppauge, and Long Island City in various attempts to cut expenses and become more efficient.  I spent nearly two and one-half years working in Bridgewater, New Jersey, but happily for me, I worked over 27 years in the One Madison Avenue buildings in the heart of New York City where I had first arrived and wanted to be.

 

  1. Near the end of my career at MetLife, a new Chief Executive Officer was named.  At the dinner honoring his appointment, as 600 MetLife officers and their spouses and guests raised champagne glasses for a toast, a company attorney who I knew looked at me and asked, “Would you buy a used car from him?”  I had never worked with the new CEO, did not know his character, and thus was unable to offer an answer.  Soon thereafter I saw the way the he ran the company and officer meetings and observed that he came across as an intellectual bully.  Perhaps he was frightened by his new responsibilities or perhaps the Board of Directors thought the company needed a new leader with that type of personality, but I was disappointed with him and came to answer the lawyer’s question with a negative.  I was also disappointed that the Board didn’t act the way my experience indicated they should have acted in dealing with a bully, but apparently they were satisfied with his other characteristics and his leadership.  In the United States, we elect our representatives and leaders, but interlocking Boards of Directors appoint corporate heads who run their organizations with little regard to democratic principles.  To me it is a paradox that the nation continues to thrive under this system of appointing corporate leaders.  Of course, capitalism eventually weeds out companies that are not properly run but sometimes at a terrible cost to employees and stockholders.   

 

  1. There were two fifth grade classes at Goodwin grammar school, and our instruction was kept separate except for physical education when the two classes were combined but then separated by sex.  The boys usually played softball outside on the playground when weather permitted and basketball and volleyball inside during the winter.  I am not sure what the girls did.  In softball, the teams were by class, and my fifth grade class always lost to the other fifth grade.  My team seemed to have only one very good player, Wayne, while the other class was loaded with baseball stars.  Wayne was our lead off hitter and more importantly our pitcher, and as the school year went on, he got better and kept the games close.  Nevertheless, I don’t ever remember us winning a softball game during the regular season.  Somehow, the last game of the season was called the championship game.  Everybody was talking about it, the girls came out to watch us, and our teachers brought candy and cake to celebrate the last game.  My team was losing by one run as we came to bat during the final half inning.  I was the worse player in my class, and as such, played a deep right field and batted last.  I don’t remember ever catching a ball although not many balls, if any, were ever hit to where I was assigned as a fielder.  More significantly, I don’t ever remember getting a hit.  But in this last half inning of the championship game, with my team down by one run, no one on base, and everyone screaming, I managed to hit a ground ball, and when the third baseman had trouble fielding it, I made it safely to first base.  Wayne then came up and hit a two run homer that won the game for us.  Suddenly, I was one of the heroes.  Everyone was slapping me on the back, my teacher was giving me candy, and the physical education coach was saying how important my hit was to keep the inning alive.  The other team could not believe they had lost the most important game of the season to a team not their equal.  That day I personally experienced all the platitudes so often stated about baseball and life: Always give your best, never give up, when the going gets tough the tough get going, it isn’t over before it’s over, pick yourself up and keep going, life is full of surprises.  Most of those sayings I heard later in life, but because of my experiences that day, I knew they were true.

 

  1. It was about this time that I started to formulate one of the guiding principles of how I was to live my life.  Some of my Goodwin classmates were telling “dirty” jokes on the playground.  Upon reflection, I decided not to repeat the stories to others.  I thought the stories were wrong and, therefore, it would be wrong for me to tell them to others.  The wrong stopped with me.  I am not certain why I thought this.  Up to that point in my life, I had no formal religious training, never went to church, and can not recall praying except over meals on holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas when my parents gathered with their siblings and families.  Later in my life as I learned about Christianity it became clear that this principle was consistent and integral with the teachings of the Savior.  The Lord’s Prayer says “lead us not into temptation” and “deliver us from evil.”  Therefore, whenever wrong or evil comes to us, we are not to spread it to others because they should be free from temptation and evil.  Once I started to pray, I began expressing this principle in my prayers, asking God not only to keep evil from me but also the strength not to spread it.  “God, let me be a good influence on everyone; a bad influence on no one,” has been a constant and frequent prayer of mine.  The notion that a wrong should stop and not be transmitted is also rational although I don’t believe that is why I first came to this principle.  Rather, like many moral concepts that I came to understand later in life; my conscience determined my actions before I understood.

 

  1. Many individuals that I know agree that a wrong should not be perpetuated.  One of the difficulties with my guiding principle comes in finding agreement with what is right and what is wrong because in the United States of America there is not a moral consensus on many issues.   On some moral issues, I have not changed my view my entire life.  On others, however, I have changed my mind, sometimes more than once, oscillating back and forth over the years, maintaining one position for a long period and then changing, maintaining the opposite position for a long period and then changing my mind again.  On these types of issues, I sometimes wished that observations and inference could lead to a definitive conclusion, but these issues by their nature generally are not in the purview of science and fall naturally under the domain of religion or ethics where honest men continue to disagree.  Some of these issues have been resolved for me suddenly when an unrelated event gave me an unexpected insight.  Others remain unresolved, and I simultaneously hold both, waiting for the observation, event, or thought that will force a resolution.  Another challenge to the principle of not transmitting a wrong is the ease with which I can rationalize a wrong into a right especially if money, fame, or pleasure is involved.

 

  1. In 1950, my parents bought their first automobile.  It was a green Studebaker with a “bullet” front.  My mother said she doesn’t ever remember my father running except the day he got the new car, and then he literally ran along the sidewalk to complete its registration.  The Studebaker made a change in our lives because it made us more mobile.  Within a year of moving into our apartment on 25th Street, my parents were again on the move, driving west to look at new houses.  The village of Westchester Illinois about 14 miles west of downtown Chicago and about 7 miles west of our Cicero apartment was being developed for people with middle class incomes who wanted to own their own house away from the city.  The houses had a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, two bedrooms, a full basement and a separate garage, all situated on lots 50 feet wide with plenty of space in front and back and on the sides.  Like many of the housing developments that started in the early years after World War II, the exterior and layout of the houses were uniform, which allowed for quick and efficient construction.  My parents purchased one of these houses as it was being built.

 

  1. One spring evening as I was in bed ready to go to sleep, having just turned off the radio, my father came into my room.  He said he been out to see the new house, which was now complete, and it looked very nice.  He also said that he had passed a ball field and that there were many kids my age playing.  He said I was going to like the new house and neighborhood, and I was going to be happy and make many friends.  His prediction proved correct, but what I recall about this memory was my surprise at Dad coming into my bedroom to talk to me before I went to sleep.  He had never done that before and so the new house, neighborhood and friends all became more important in my imagination.  In retrospect, my father went to work every day and strove to deliver a good life to his family.  He was 18 years old when the Great Depression started, 30 years old when bombs fell on Pearl Harbor and had lived through times when comfort and security were clearly in peril.  The new car and new house were material symbols that he and the United States had come through those evils.  And so that spring evening in 1952, he let me know that he cared for me, that he wanted me to be happy, that he wanted a better life for his family and had seen evidence that it was going to happen.  We moved to Westchester that June.

 

  1. The streets, sidewalks, lights and sewers in Westchester Illinois were constructed in the 1920’s.  The developers were several Chicago industrialists who envisioned an upscale suburban community.  Streets were named after places in England such as Canterbury and Balmoral.  Unfortunately, the Great Depression put an end to this dream, and for twenty years, the land lay vacant among miles of named but empty streets.  Then after World War II, builders with more modest dreams began constructing houses for the middle class.  When I moved from Cicero to Balmoral Avenue in Westchester in June 1952, the village had acres of pristine untouched Illinois prairie.  Pheasants, raccoons, and other wildlife could be seen by merely walking a few blocks from my house.  At the age ten I was the oldest kid on my side of the block, but across the street and over, there were families with boys of my age, and I soon had a group of friends.  We played outside and every day was an adventure, exploring our new neighborhood and meeting new kids.  That summer I stopped playing with my stuffed animals, but I continued to make up stories and movies, which I acted out using my toy cowboy figures and decks of cards, and I continued to broadcast imaginary basketball games.

 

  1. As I grew older, I went out for walks along the streets of Westchester.  When I came to the intersection of two streets, I sometimes flipped a coin three times to determine which way I would walk.  The first toss determined turning right or turning left at the intersection; the second toss determined walking straight ahead or turning around and going back; and the third toss determined which one of the first two I would follow.  In this way I made random walks through the village of Westchester.

 

  1. In September 1952, I entered the sixth grade at the George F. Nixon public grammar school in Westchester.  The school was about six blocks from my house, and I walked there every day.  My teacher’s name was Miss Gay, and there were about 20 students in my class and an equal number in the other sixth grade class.  There was not much difference in teaching methods between Nixon and Goodwin, and I felt comfortable in the new school.  I also knew a few of the kids in my class from my summer adventures.  One of the students I met that year was Ray, and the following year, I met Jim who was a student in the other class.  With time, the three of us became good friends and that friendship has lasted over fifty years and continues today.

 

  1. In the autumn of 1952, the country was in the middle of a presidential election.  President Truman decided he was not running for reelection, and the Democrats nominated Adlai E. Stevenson who had been governor of my home state, Illinois.  My Dad and all my uncles on both sides of the family were union men and supported Stevenson and the Democratic ticket; however, they were worried that General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Republican candidate, was going to win the election.  As I watched them play cards, I heard them say that the greatest Presidents since Washington and Lincoln were Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman.  Now after twenty years of greatness, the sad and worried consensus was that the country was about to do something stupid and elect a Republican, the party responsible for the economic disaster of the Great Depression.  I was fascinated by the upcoming election and decided to take a poll of my parents’ neighbors to see whom they wanted for President.  My parents stopped me.  People vote in secret when they enter the voting booth, my mother explained, and many of them would not care to reveal their preference to a neighbor.  We had to respect their privacy.  I listened to my mother and stopped questioning the neighbors.  Interestingly, a few days before the election, Miss Gay took her own poll of my class.  By a show of hands, whom would we vote for if we were old enough to vote?  Out of loyalty to my family, I raised my hand when Miss Gay called Stevenson’s name and was surprised to see only three other hands.  Sixteen hands went flying for Eisenhower, and I knew the Republicans were clearly in the majority in my classroom.  On Election Day, they were in the majority almost everywhere; Stevenson did not even carry his home state of Illinois, and Eisenhower easily won the presidency.

 

  1. That autumn I had my first asthma attack.  At first, my parents did not realize that it was asthma although they were suspicious because they had seen my maternal grandfather struggle with the ailment as an adult.  All I knew was that I could not catch my breath; I was wheezing and gasping for air and forced to sit or to lie down.  My mother quickly took me to a doctor in the neighborhood, Dr. Tosney, who officially diagnosed the disease.  He gave me an injection of some medicine that restored my normal breathing.  With subsequent attacks, he told us that any strenuous physical activity was bad for me and wrote a letter to the school that my participation in physical education or gym class had to be restricted.  That winter when the boys played basketball, I stood on the sidelines and watched or quietly, without running, shot free throws by myself at a side basket.

 

  1. On my way to and from school every day, I walked by the Divine Infant of Jesus Roman Catholic Church.  I am not certain of the circumstances although I believe that my mother encouraged me, but for whatever reason, I started going to Sunday Mass at Divine Infant of Jesus.  Mass was in Latin, and I did not understand the language or the ritual, but the sermons were in English, and I liked the overall atmosphere of going to church.  My mother bought me a Manual of Catholic Devotions, which included the words said at Mass, both in Latin on the left side of the page and in English on the right side of the page, and hence I was able to follow and better understand what was happening.  Thus, starting sometime in 1953, every Sunday morning I would leave my father reading the newspaper and my mother listening to the radio, and I would walk to Church and attend Mass by myself.  Before the Gospel was read, the priest and most of the people using their right thumbs would make a sign of the cross on their foreheads, a second sign of the cross of their lips, and a third sign of the cross on their hearts.  Someone told me that this was a promise made by the individual that he would never deny the Gospel in his head or with his mouth or in his heart.  I felt I could not make that promise because I was interested in truth, and if the Gospel words proved false, I would deny them.  During mass, I did not take Communion because I knew that I needed to take a class and prepare myself in order to receive.

 

  1. The pastor of Divine Infant was Father Charles Langan, and he lovingly watched over his flock.  Every Sunday before his sermon, he asked the people to kneel, and we said a prayer to the Holy Spirit.  “O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, thus instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant us by the same Holy Spirit to love and to relish what is right and just and always to enjoy His consolations through Christ, Our Lord.  Amen.”  The church was crowded, filled with people of all ages but mostly young couples with children.  I recognized some of the men from the neighborhood, seeing them on weekday mornings as they walked to the bus on their way to work or in the evening as they returned home.  I admired these men, who like my father went to work every day, maintained a home, and raised a family.

 

  1. Nixon had a basketball team that played other grammar school teams from the neighboring suburbs.  When I was in the seventh grade the basketball coach asked me if I wanted to be part of the team by keeping their score book and records.  I said yes, and consequently during games I sat on the bench and kept track of shots, free throws and fouls.  Of course, I was not the official scorer, but many times, the coach needed information quickly and turned to me as the “manager” for the facts.  Especially at the end of the game, the coach would ask about shooting percentages, and so over time, I developed a facility with numbers and percentages and certain patterns were obvious.  For example, if a kid made 4 out of 9 free throws, I knew his percentage was 44.4% without having to do the division.

 

  1. About this time, grown-ups would often ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Of course, what they were really asking was what were my plans to earn a living, what was I interested in doing; but the phrase “what I wanted to be” always caused me to chuckle, as if I wasn’t yet a being!  In any case, I started telling people that I wanted to be a radio announcer.  I was still “broadcasting” my imaginary worldwide sweet sixteen basketball tournaments, and I thought that would probably be a good life in the real world, watching sports and announcing games to fans.

 

  1. In the sixth and seventh grades, I continued to listen to adventure shows such as The Lone Ranger and Sky King on the radio, and my Dad or the father of one of my friends would drive a group of us to see a movie.  There were three movies from around this time that influenced me.  The first, The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952), opened my mind to the possibility that miracles were real events in the world.  The second, Invaders from Mars (1953), with its stylish nightmare look and outer space aliens capturing human minds frightened me and opened questions of other life in the universe.  The third, The Mississippi Gambler (1953), was the first film where the lead actress, in this case Piper Laurie, caught my eye not as a character in the story but as a pretty woman with red hair.

 

  1. With the start of the seventh grade in September 1953, I no longer had one teacher teaching all my subjects.  Rather, my class moved from room to room and from teacher to teacher depending on the subject.  For example, that year I had Miss Kennedy for English and Mrs. Hartley for mathematics.  Miss Kennedy had been in the Women’s Army Core stationed in Japan during the early part of the Korean War.  She told us that she had developed cancer, and the Army had to amputate one of her toes.  If any person ever came close to stepping on her feet, she was going to hit that person with her fist so walk carefully and stay away!  During English class, she taught us Japanese; I can still count to ten in Japanese and remember how to say some of the higher numbers from the basic ten.

 

  1. After I graduated from grammar school and entered high school, I returned to Nixon for a Halloween open house.  Miss Kennedy was there and warmly greeted me.  She spoke to me at length about high school and wished me the very best.  I was somewhat surprised because when I was a student she always seemed somewhat aloof but now I was seeing her, not as my teacher, but as a human being.  This one on one chance meeting changed my opinion of her, allowing me to empathize with her position as a teacher.  Almost rhetorically, I asked Miss Kennedy how she was doing, and she matter-of-factly replied that she should have let the doctors amputate her entire leg.  Soon thereafter, she died of cancer, and the Westchester School Board named the new school at the other end of town after her.

 

  1. In mathematics, Mrs. Hartley taught us about the basic geometric figures, and the formulas to calculate their perimeters and areas.  When she discussed the circle, she defined the Greek letter, pi, as the ratio of the circumference of the circle to its diameter.  She explained that this ratio was constant, the same for all circles, and was a number that went on forever, which she wrote as 3.14159..., and which could be approximated by the ratio 22 divided by 7.  I was greatly bothered by her definition and raised my hand.  I could not believe that the ratio of circumference to diameter was the same for small circles and large circles.  Mrs. Hartley explained that the circumference was proportional to the diameter; if you doubled the diameter you doubled the circumference and the ratio stayed fixed.  “But why would the circumference necessarily double?” I responded, unconvinced.  At this point, about one-third of the class was agreeing with me, another third was saying that it was obvious that the ratio was constant, while the other third of the class didn’t seem to care.  Mrs. Hartley said we would do an experiment.  She formed four teams, and each team drew on the blackboard a circle of a different size with a chalk compass.  With a flexible tape measure, we then measured the circumference and diameter of each circle and calculated the four ratios.  Sure enough, they all came in around 3.1, including my very large circle which took up a whole blackboard panel.  The class seemed convinced, and Mrs. Hartley was pleased, but I remained skeptical.  I could not find the right words for my objection, and thus I remained silent.  Later, upon reflection, it came to me: we had shown it true for four specific circles but not for all circles.  But how could you expect to show it for all circles?

 

  1. Nearly fifty years later, I was talking to Mrs. Hartley on the telephone, and I asked her if she remembered this classroom incident.  She didn’t, but still being a math teacher, although retired, she asked me if I now understood why the ratio was the same for all circles.  When I hesitated, she explained it the same way she had that day in the classroom, “the circumference is proportional to the diameter and thus the ratio is fixed.”   I didn’t want to go into details as to how thinking about this problem had led me to a better understanding of mathematical proof, textbooks that went into non-Euclidean geometry, and an ongoing philosophical questioning of mathematics and its relationship to reality, and so I agreed with her.  She knows that I had a successful career applying mathematics and that she had a role in my early development.  Thank you, Mrs. Hartley and to all my teachers who took time, whether it was to draw circles of various sizes, or who tried to explain an idea.

 

  1. One summer day, when I was twelve and between the seventh and eighth grades, I went over to Kaz’s house to play.  Kaz was one of my friends, in my class at Nixon school and one of the first kids I met when we moved to Westchester.  He had a younger sister, Claire, who was called Peony; and on this particular day, Kaz wasn’t home, and Peony came out of the house carrying a chess set.  “Last night, my uncle taught Kaz and me a new game.  Would you like to learn how to play?” she asked, and I quickly agreed.  Thus, on that summer morning I sat on a lawn under a shade tree and learned the rules of a game that would become a lifelong hobby.  Chess captured my imagination that morning and would hold it in varying degrees with each passing year.  I loved the way the pieces moved and the various combinations that were possible.  I bought a chess set, which contained a booklet on the rules and how to record games using chess notation.  That summer and the next, Kaz, Peony, other friends and I played the game many times.  I recorded a couple of my games and started to save the results.  It was clear that I liked chess better than any of my friends liked the game.

 

  1. Siegbert Tarrasch (1862-1934), the German chess master and teacher wrote the words that not only explain my fascination with chess but also with other intellectual pursuits.  “Chess is a form of intellectual productiveness, therein lies its peculiar charm.  Intellectual productiveness is one of the greatest joys – if not the greatest one – of human existence.  It is not everyone who can write a play, or build a bridge, or even make a good joke.  But in chess everyone can, everyone must, be intellectually productive and so can share in this select delight.  I have always a slight feeling of pity for the man who has no knowledge of chess, just as I would pity the man who has remained ignorant of love.  Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make men happy.”  These words are true for me, and the concept of intellectual productiveness triggering happiness resonates with me, whether I am playing chess, solving a problem in mathematics, writing a computer program, constructing a video, or completing a work project.  In chess, intellectual productiveness comes about because the game is so delicately balanced between the white and black pieces that it takes a considerable amount of imagination and thought to formulate an effective plan that will improve your position relative to your opponent’s plan for his position; and when you implement a plan, the mind naturally experiences happiness at your creation.

 

  1. In 1954, my parents bought a television.  I did not view it that much and don’t remember the first programs I regularly watched, but I do remember seeing the Davy Crockett episodes on Walt Disney and singing the Ballad of Davy Crockett theme song with my classmates.  I remember speculating with Kaz as to whether Disney would actually kill Davy at the Alamo or change history and let him escape.  Disney was true to history, but didn’t actually show Davy’s death, allowing the hero to stand tall, swinging his musket as the Mexican troops swarmed in and the film ended.

 

  1. In 1970, I attended a Mathematical Association of America meeting in San Antonio and visited the Alamo, a symbol of the Texan War of Independence.  I was disappointed with what had happened to its location, as the Mission was surrounded, not by Mexican troops, but by ugly looking commercial enterprises.  However, inside the nearby San Antonio cathedral, a shrine to the men who died at the Alamo restored the presence of that earlier time and made everything right.  Dozens of flickering candles, burning in memory of men who died in that battle 134 years earlier and the thought of their deaths brought tears to my eyes.

 

  1. When we moved to Westchester, my mother bought a cat, and we named him Elmer.  He was mainly black in color with touches of white and a distinctive white V-shaped patch across the bridge of his nose between his two eyes.  My mother let him run free in our back yard.  Behind our house were high weeds and abandoned railroad tracks that ran for miles parallel to our front street, Balmoral Avenue.  One day Elmer went into the weeds and came out with a mouse.  On the back lawn, he played with the mouse, picking him up in his mouth and putting him down on the ground, while stopping him from running away by holding his tail with his paw.  Eventually we distracted Elmer and got rid of the mouse.  Unfortunately, a few days later Elmer became ill and before my parents could take him to a veterinarian, he died.  My father and I buried him in a box in the back yard next to the garage.  My mother bought another black and white cat with a similar V-shaped patch and we named him Buttons.  My mother kept Buttons on a leash when he was outside so that he could not catch mice and their diseases.  She also said she had him “fixed” so that he would not want to roam after female cats.  However, as time passed, it became clear that Buttons had not been neutered.  He would grab his blanket with his mouth and front paws and purring, rub his penis against the blanket.  Being raised in an urban environment away from farm animals and the ways of nature, this was an eye opener for me.  My mother saw what was happening and said the blanket was his girl friend.

 

  1. One day, Buttons attacked my mother, jumping on her back and scratching her.  I heard her scream and ran into the kitchen in time to see Buttons, snarling, jump a second time from the floor onto her back.  I opened the basement door which was next to the kitchen, grabbed the cat which was now on my mother’s back for a third time, and threw Buttons down the stairs into the basement.  He landed on his feet and looked up the basement stairs at me.  Then, he started running up the stairs.  I closed the basement door before he reached me.  My mother had several scratches on her back but otherwise was not hurt.  She could not understand why the cat had become wild and attacked her.  I thought it might have something to do with the fact that Buttons hadn’t been neutered and couldn’t roam free according to his nature, being locked up all day in the house, but I did not offer an opinion.  When my father came home from work and heard about the attack, he said we had to get rid of the cat; and the next day, he and my mother took Buttons, who was now back to normal behavior, to the local animal shelter and left him there. 

 

  1. Forty-five years later, when my mother was disabled and spent her entire day laying in bed, thinking, and struggling with dementia, she said to me that she regretted mistreating the cat.  At this point she could not tell me which cat she had mistreated, whether it was Buttons or Elmer or the cat we had when I was five years old; nor could she say exactly how she had mistreated the pet, but these thoughts bothered her.  I tried to comfort her, telling her that she would not be mean to a cat now and all of that was behind her.

 

  1. My mother had other thoughts that gnawed at her conscience, and these involved people.  She said she had been nasty to her father when he didn’t go to work because of his asthma.  She resented him sitting around the house, thought he was lazy, and said things to him that she now regretted.  She also regretted the way she sometimes treated my father, yelling at him and nagging about small things.  I told her that she had been a good wife to my father; she had taken care of him, waiting on him daily, making certain that he took care of himself in appearance and that he saw a doctor when necessary, adding years to his life.  She regretted washing my mouth out with soap.  I told her to think about the good things she had done and to forget the bad.  She said she could not control her thoughts, that they kept occurring, appearing before her, reminding her of what had happened.  She was sorry for what happened but in her mind that didn’t change the reality that they had actually occurred.

 

  1. I asked her if she wanted to see a priest.  She had not received communion or the sacrament of penance in years and would not start now.  She thought most priests were hypocrites, pretending to be something they were not; however, she did not say no when I explained that there would be no confession, no communion, only prayers.  Thus, shortly after my father died, a parish priest came and administered the sacrament, Anointing of the Sick, to my mother.  During the sacrament my mother blessed herself and said the “Our Father” out loud and then spoke briefly with the priest.  This wasn’t exactly Lord Marchmain of Brideshead Revisited on his deathbed acknowledging God, but it was an external affirmation of what my mother always said and believed about God.  The interior transformation that Charles Ryder experienced when Lord Marchmain made the sign of the cross had already happened within me years before; and the difficulties of age and dementia in my parents became for me a special grace that allowed personal sacrifices on my part in order to help them.

 

  1. Subsequently, my mother became more and more quiet, alone in her thoughts.  On some days, she had short-term memory problems, and on other days, she recalled the past.  She was not interested in listening to the radio, looking at the TV or newspaper, and she had no concept of time, whether it was summer or winter, 3 P.M. or 3 A.M.   “My mind is always working,” she frequently said to me, and “Everything is going to be all right,” as she sat upright in her bed.  When I described over the telephone my mother’s situation to my cousin Margie, she replied, having gone through a similar situation with her mother, “I think of it as purgatory on earth.  When Auntie Kate dies, I think she is going straight to heaven.”  As I sat with my mother every day and the months passed, I took comfort in the words of my cousin.

 

  1. According to my mother, her father, my maternal grandfather, suffered from asthma most of his life, and the medicines he took and the doctors he saw did not help him.  In October 1939, a few days before my parents were to be married, Grandfather died when his heart gave out during one of his attacks.  The wedding was postponed and didn’t take place until November 4, 1939.  My parents were married in a Presbyterian Church, the arrangements having been made by Aunt Emma, my father’s sister.  My mother had tried to be married at St. Frances of Rome, but she told me that the priest she spoke to would not marry them because my father was not a Catholic.  

 

  1. When Dr. Tosney treated me for asthma, he had me take a series of allergy tests.  They showed I was highly allergic to ragweed, feathers, fur, and animal hair.  My mother got rid of my pillow, which was made of feathers and substituted a plastic pillow.  My winter coat had a fur collar and so my mother bought me a different winter coat.  She moved Elmer and then Buttons into the basement and generally didn’t allow the cats upstairs where we lived.  There was nothing she could do about the ragweed, which grew wild on the Illinois prairies; however, the builders were rapidly converting Westchester into a town of homes, leaving few empty lots.  Looking over my report cards, I was absent 15 and ½ days in the sixth grade, 25 days in the seventh grade, 10 days in the eighth grade (albeit statistics for the final report period were not recorded on my card), and only 1 day my freshman year in high school.  Fortunately, asthma medicine, restricted physical education, and being aware of my allergies brought my asthma under control.  Unlike my grandfather’s situation, my adulthood was free of asthma attacks.

 

  1. In June 1955, I graduated from Nixon and that September I entered Proviso Township High School.  One of the big differences between high school and grammar school was homework.  Except for special projects, Nixon gave us study periods and assignments that could be done without taking books home.  That wasn’t possible in high school, and every night I brought all my books home and did assignments.  I don’t remember doing that at all during grammar school.  In high school, I started my homework immediately after supper and continued until I was satisfied that I had done my best in understanding and completing the assignments.  Sunday through Thursday nights, I did not watch television, but listened to music on the radio, as I poured over the books.  During the first report period, I was one of the few kids in my homeroom that made the honor roll.  Proviso used a numerical marking system where “1” was the highest mark or excellent, “2” good, “3” medium, “4” poor and various letters for failing students.  Four subjects were taken by freshman, and to make the honor roll a student needed a total of seven points or less.  That first marking period I had a “1” in English and General Science and a “2” in Algebra and French for a total of 6 points.  In the second marking period I received straight “1s”, and from then on “1s” with an occasional “2” became the standard for me.  I never failed to make the honor roll in high school.  In spite of my excellent grades, I was not a brilliant student, but the discipline of sitting down every weekday night and doing all my assignments made my academic success.  Moreover, I enjoyed studying and achieved satisfaction in reasoning, learning, and understanding.

 

  1. When the freshman class entered Proviso Township High School in September 1955, the school had an assembly for the incoming students, which numbered over 1000 kids, and various teachers and counselors spoke to us.  One of the speakers passed on some advice.  He said early impressions were very important and tended to be reinforced.  Teachers evaluated students and once a reputation was known, whether it was good or bad, that initial evaluation tended to hold during the four years of high school.  I took his advice to heart, not only for high school, but also for situations in life in general.  It has served me well, and it is one few pieces of advice I gave to each of my four children as they entered high school.

 

  1. I didn’t care that much for algebra, which I took my freshman year of high school, but in my sophomore year, I took plane Euclidean geometry, which I loved.  Here were definitions and postulates, which were taken as givens, which led to theorems that were proved.  Statements in the proof were listed on the left side of a sheet of paper, and the reasons for the validity of the statements on the right side of the paper.  There was no doubt or uncertainty at each step because you either had a reason for the statement or you didn’t.  The last true statement was a statement of the theorem and once proved could be used in proving subsequent theorems.  Thus, the entire edifice of plane Euclidean geometry was constructed and demonstrated in a beautiful and elegant manner. 

 

  1. At this point in my life, it became clear to me how painfully slow I was as a thinker.  I generally understood what I was reading and what my teachers said in the classroom, but I noticed relative to many other kids that I was slow in reasoning or drawing conclusions.  I had to go step by step in a very mechanical way to figure out what others found immediately obvious.  I hoped that when I became an adult that I could reason as quickly as other people.  Contrary to my slow step by step approach to understanding, I would, on rare occasions, have an insight into some situation.  Some of these insights came suddenly, like flashes of lightning before a storm, and usually involved my emotions.  Other insights came inexplicably when suddenly I understood a situation or knew something was true and yet could not explain how I came to that conclusion.  Both of these types of insights were very different from the proofs I learned to do in plane geometry where I could demonstrate the conclusion with certainty based on the givens.  Some of these insights I have already described such as the euphoric joy that swept over my being when I understood that my presence had made Grandma happy, or the day I turned a page of a book and simultaneously saw a photograph of Albert Einstein and had thoughts that pushed me to the floor, shaking and trembling.

 

  1. A few years later, I was doing computer programming in machine language, writing algorithms to handle some basic processing.  The logic was broken up into detailed finite steps.  This is exactly the way I reason, I thought to myself.  By then, the speed of my thinking had improved to the point where I could omit almost all of the basic steps and arrive at the conclusion in a timely manner similar to other people.   I now felt and thought as a human, and I wondered if some future computer could ever become self-aware like me.

 

  1. Proviso Township High School was in Maywood, which was two towns northeast of Westchester.  I took a Chicago Transit Authority bus that serviced the suburbs to school.  The bus stop was only one block from my house and went by the high school in a trip that took roughly 20 minutes.  My friend, Jim, used to come over to my house in the morning, and we rode the bus together.  We didn’t have any classes together or any teachers in common, but our personalities complimented each other; and like me, Jim was an only child and therefore didn’t have any siblings to interact with.  Jim was very outgoing, talked quickly, and was always lively, pleasant and happy.  I was more reticent and listened as much as I talked; I certainly kept most of my inner thoughts private but contributed to the daily conversations about what was going on in our lives.  Many times after school the two of us would play Ping-Pong, either in his basement or mine.  He was a very good player, and I gave him many challenging games, but I could never beat him, endlessly losing 21-19 or 22-20.  From November through March was basketball season, and I continued what I had started in grammar school and was a basketball manager for the team, keeping their statistics and records.  Eventually Jim also became a manager for the Proviso basketball team.  Joe Hartley, who was the husband of my grammar school math teacher, was the varsity basketball coach at Proviso High School.  Many times, Beryl and Joe Hartley, who did not have any children, would invite Jim and me and other friends over to their house to talk or to play card games.

 

  1. Another friend of mine from Nixon school was Ray, who also was an only child.  He had an effervescent personality that complemented mine, and he didn’t clash with Jim, and so the three of us hung around together, doing various activities as a group.  He joined Jim and me on the morning bus ride to school.  We would tease each other, sometimes about girls, sometimes about religion, sometimes about anything of current interest.  With girls, Jim would pick out a girl he thought was particularly homely, and say, “There, Phil, there she is, that’s the girl for you.”  He even went so far in my presence, to run up to one Miss Homely and say to her, pointing to me, “There he is, he is interested in you.”  Of course, he couldn’t keep a straight face, and I kept shaking my head, “No” and thus Miss Homely knew she was being made fun of for her looks.  The second time Jim tried that routine, Miss Homely let him have it.  He was an idiot and stop making fun of her.  Jim was surprised, he didn’t realize he was hurting her feelings; he was just having fun with me.  However, her outburst did stop his public antics although in private he continued to pair me up with some highly unattractive girls.  With religion, Jim and Ray were Protestants, and they knew I went to Catholic mass on Sunday.  “Why do you go over there?  Who talks in Latin?” they started to tease.  I stopped them with a humorous story about four kids who were bragging about their religions.  The Lutheran kid said his church was started by Martin Luther in 1517; the Methodist kid said his church was started by John Wesley in 1738; the Mormon kid said his church was started by Joseph Smith in 1830; but the Roman Catholic kid said his church was started by Jesus Christ in 33.  

 

  1. Another activity that I got involved in was the Proviso Chess Team.  A team representing the school played against other high schools.  Moreover, one of the seniors, Sparky, had started a chess club, which was independent of the high school and which met on Friday nights in his parents’ basement and played matches against other chess clubs in the Chicago area.  This club known as the Crown Castle Chess Club consisted of not only Proviso high school students, but also adults.  Sparky invited me to join his Chess Club, which I did.  I found that I was able to hold my own against many of the players, but the Club’s best players beat me rather easily.  With the high school chess team, I had considerable success.  In 1957, I won third place in the individual Greater Suburban Chess League tournament, and Proviso’s team was League Champion.  In 1958, I won second place in the individual tournament, and Proviso’s team took second place.  Another school activity that involved me was the Proviso library where I filed returned books and kept track of students who took their study time in the library.  My English course had introduced the classics, books by Alexander Dumas, Charles Dickens, and James Fenimore Cooper.  I spent hours reading these books.

 

  1. In the autumn of 1956, I started my sophomore year at Proviso.  Besides Euclidean plane geometry, my subjects were second year English, second year French, and zoology.  My zoology teacher was Mr. Bolt, and he refused to teach evolution.  He held the Bible in front of the class and said this was how humans had been created.  The zoology textbook we used mentioned the Theory of Evolution only once, in passing, and so I had no understanding of what this theory was except it generated controversy about the origins of mankind because it contradicted Genesis.  Three years later when I entered college and took biology I found myself way behind the understanding curve as to what was accepted.  One of the amazing things to me in college was that the kids that had come out of Roman Catholic high schools had been taught evolution, but my public school education had omitted the topic.

 

  1. That autumn, my desire to be a radio announcer was reinforced.  WGN radio (720 AM, Chicago) had hired a new disk jockey, Wally Phillips, and I found him wonderfully crazy and very funny.  What a great occupation, I thought.  If I could do that and also broadcast basketball games, then I would be making people happy and enjoying life.

 

  1. All this activity in the classroom, with homework, with basketball, with chess, and a widening circle of friends meant the end of my pretend worlds.  Why would I make up a Sweet Sixteen basketball tournament when I was a member of an actual team that might someday play in the real tournament?  Why would I make up action stories for toy soldiers and cards when I was reading stories that were more sophisticated and better than anything that I had imagined?  Intellectually childhood had gradually passed, leaving me with wonderful memories and a new excitement of discovering the real world.  I had passed from childhood through puberty into adolescence without any trauma, but by my sophomore year, I had developed a crush on one of the prettiest girls at Proviso, N., a girl who was always surrounded by boys.  I couldn’t say anything to Ray or Jim because I would never hear the end of it.  My chess player friends never talked about girls.  Half the basketball team was probably in love with N. so that was no good.  My parents were never a consideration.  I had talked to N. a couple of times, and twice she actually approached me, but I was tongue tied and blushing.  Although I was somewhat shy around them that never happened with any of the other girls I knew. What was I to do?

 

Years through Early Adulthood and Their Later Effects

 

  1. After thinking about it, I decided to do nothing.  I knew I was not ready to date.  Dating someone that emotionally excited me could only lead to heartbreak or involvement, commitment, marriage and children.  I was not ready for any of that.  I was not yet sixteen years old.  I could barely tie my own shoes.  I was planning college, enjoyed learning and was just getting started in life.  I had already experienced in my studies the intellectual joy that Dr. Tarrasch described.  I had already experienced the spiritual joy of altruism.  Thus, I could wait in experiencing the joy of having a girl friend.  Besides, I didn’t know anything about N.  My attraction to her was only based on appearances.  I might not like her once I came to know her, or she might not like me.  I decided I would wait and do nothing and with the passage of time, the infatuation would probably pass; and that is exactly what happened.

 

  1. In the summer of 1957, I started visiting libraries to see if I could find a proof of the Pythagorean Theorem that matched the one I discovered over the Memorial Day weekend.  One of my friends from the Proviso chess team, Franklin, suggested I try the John Crerar Library, a famous research library specializing in science and located in Chicago.  Over a period of months, I visited the Crerar Library several times, at least once with Franklin, and in various sources, we found 127 different proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem, but none of them corresponded to my proof.

 

  1. During my junior year of high school, I pursued my career plans of becoming a radio announcer by taking courses in public speaking, dramatics, and radio speaking.  I joined the Forensic team and represented the school in stand-up comedy routines during various regional competitions.  I also took a role in the junior class play, Our Town.  Although I continued to receive the highest marks in my radio speech course, I was disappointed in the way my voice sounded on the radio.   For the first time in my life, I actually made recordings of my voice and played them back.  There was nothing distinctive about it nor did it have any qualities that would make another person want to listen to it. Is this the way I sound in real life I inquired, and when the affirmative answer came back, I knew that radio announcing was not a realistic career choice because many of my peers in the forensic program had strong and pleasant speaking voices.

 

  1. Years later, in the early 1980s my young daughter during her playtime started pretending that she was broadcasting the news on radio.  Nora and I would sit on our living room couch and listen as she held a microphone in her hand and reported the news to us.  I said nothing about my early aspirations but watched as she grew up and through her own talents and initiative worked as a news reporter on radio and then television.  Many of our friends and acquaintances would ask Nora or me, “Is that your daughter?”  One of my actuarial colleagues at MetLife who I would see in passing would greet me as “the father of the news reporter”.  To me, a proud parent, that was a nice compliment.  

 

  1. Franklin was a year ahead of me in high school.  He was graduating Proviso in the spring of 1958 and going to the University of Chicago to major in either physics or chemistry.  Throughout my junior year, he encouraged me to apply to Chicago, “They have a great Mathematics Department and their College is unique.  They are the best, and you should go there.”  I was taking high school chemistry, and it quickly became my favorite subject junior year.  The standardized aptitude tests that Proviso gave me showed that my mathematical or quantitative skills were above the 98th percentile, significantly higher than verbal skills, which came in the mid-80’s.  With the thought of a radio career fading into the background every time I listened to my own voice, the notion of going with my natural strengths made sense, and I wrote to the University of Chicago to get information about the school and an application for admission.

 

  1. In April 1958, I showed my proof of the Pythagorean Theorem to Mr. Kent, my advanced algebra teacher.  I told him I thought it was a new proof because of the research that I had done at the John Crerar Library.  He encouraged me to submit the proof to the Committee on Supplementary Publications at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in Washington, D.C., which I did.  Within days, I received a letter from W. Warwick Sawyer, a mathematician from the University of Illinois, “Your proof of Pythagoras’ Theorem has been forwarded to me from Washington.  I found it very interesting.  It is new to me.  I am editor of the “Mathematics Student Journal”.  Your idea would certainly be suitable for us to use...”  I was overjoyed, and with this letter, I put the radio career behind me for good.  I would pursue chemistry and mathematics and see where they led me.

 

  1. I had written my proof of the Pyhagorean Theorem out in detail with each step delineated, and a reason provided for the validity of each statement.  The proof took 30 steps.  Dr. Sawyer summarized the proof to such an extent that I hardly recognized it as my proof.  He explained in his letter, “We are however very much cramped for space.  I have taken the liberty of making a summary of your proof, which I enclose.  I think you will find the essential idea of your proof is conveyed by this summary.  This is the usual procedure in publishing mathematical research; just enough is printed to make clear the line of thought; readers can fill in the details for themselves.”  His summary was so terse that my mind, which at that time worked slowly and linearly, could only follow what he had done with difficulty.  My response to him was, “I was happy to hear that you are considering for publication my proof of the Pythagoras’ Theorem.  Although I found your summary of my proof very interesting, I’m afraid I can not take credit for this abridgement because I do not consider it my work.  However, I have taken the liberty of shortening my original proof, which I enclose.  I hope it is to your satisfaction and you will still consider it for publication.”  The proof that was finally published in The Mathematics Student Journal, Volume 6, Number 1, November 1958, page 6 is a crisp summary that follows my abridged version.

 

  1. Martha Hildebrandt was head of the Mathematics Department at Proviso and my trigonometry teacher senior year.  One day she walked into class, carrying copies of the November issue of the Mathematics Student Journal.  “Here is our Philip’s proof” she proudly announced.  The trigonometry class had some of the brightest kids in our school, and Miss Hildebrandt gave everyone of them a copy of the Journal.  I sensed a variety of emotions emanating from my peers that day as they offered their congratulations.  As an example, the kid who sat immediately behind me in class started patting me on the back, but he didn’t stop, increasing the intensity of his feelings to heavy slaps.  I finally had to pull away from him.  All in all, however, the day was one of my happiest, and the enjoyable experience continued when the Chicago Tribune called for information and subsequently printed a small article in their paper that December. 

 

  1. Besides trigonometry and college algebra, which Miss Hildebrandt taught, I took calculus with David Beckman, who was the high school teacher closest to a college professor that I ever had.  It was clear that Mr. Beckman loved learning and was intellectually interested in many subjects, but mathematics was his favorite.  He taught the ideas behind the calculus and not just the mechanical manipulations of the subject.  Solutions to problems were not as important as the method used to approach the problem.  Writing down a formula and grinding out an answer received no credit if you could not explain your thought process.  One of his favorite expressions, which brought smiles to the class, was “manifest absurdity.”  “This approach leads to a manifest absurdity” or “Here we have a contradiction – a manifest absurdity.”  If imitation is the highest form of praise, then clearly he had a big influence on me because for a brief period of time after I had graduated from high school, I started imitating his speech patterns, which were distinctive, being emphatic and yet punctuated by pauses.  One day, as I was talking to a friend, following the speech patterns of Mr. Beckman, I thought to myself, “Why am I talking this way?  This isn’t me.  This is a manifest absurdity!”  And so I stopped talking like him, but the ideas that underlie the calculus that he taught have remained with me.

 

  1. During my senior year, Jim’s parents bought him a car.  The morning and afternoon bus rides to and from high school became part of the past as I rode with Jim to school.  Friday and Saturday evenings, especially after basketball games, brought visits to the local diners, and the freedom of mobility, captured over a decade later in the film, American Graffiti (1973).  The 1959 Proviso East basketball team surprised everyone by winning the York Regional tournament, defeating a heavily favored Oak Park team in the final round.  As I kept the team’s statistics, I couldn’t believe that we were only two games away from my childhood dream trip to the Sweet Sixteen in Champaign, but reality set in when we were trounced by Aurora West in the opening game of the Hinsdale Sectional tournament.

 

  1. In February 1959, I was told that my rank in the senior class was 11 out of 880.  The year before I had been elected to the National Honor Society and the Key Club.  Franklin was a freshman at the University of Chicago majoring in chemistry, and I followed his lead in applying to Chicago.  On April 27, Chicago accepted me and awarded me an Honor Entrance Scholarship of $150 in “recognition of superior personal and academic achievement.”  I knew my academic success was due to my long hours of study and not any exceptional internal brilliance.  I knew that many of my academic peers at Proviso were quicker thinkers than I was.  I knew that Chicago, as one of the top schools in the country, was going to be a challenge, but if I didn’t go to one of the better schools, I would never know what I was capable of and would always regret not giving myself the chance of experiencing the best.

 

  1. Forty-one years later in 2000, my eldest son who had graduated from Georgetown University with an undergraduate degree in government and then worked for two years at Andersen Consulting, applied to and was accepted at various law schools.  “I’m going with the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor,” he said to me, announcing his decision after visiting several campuses, “It has the best Law School.”  His stated reason jolted my memory of my decision to enter the University of Chicago.  I had never discussed with him the wisdom of the philosophy of going to the perceived best school, but I certainly understood his decision and hoped for his best.

 

  1. Rose and Don and their young son lived in one of the houses next to my parents.  Don ran his own business, making neon electrical lights for restaurants, bars, and other places that wanted to advertise some product.  Rose and my mother always talked and somehow it came to pass that after high school graduation in June 1959 I had a summer job at Don’s neon light shop.  I went to work as an assistant, getting materials for the men who actually made the glass tubing and filled it with the appropriate gas.  I wasn’t on the job more than a week when Don called me and a middle-aged man, who had also just started working, into his office and told us we had to go downtown to the union office and talk to the men who ran the union.  The middle-aged guy and I went to the union office where a group of men in suits questioned us about what we were doing in Don’s shop.  A couple of them looked like characters out of a Cagney/Bogart 1930’s movie and kept muttering “scabs.”  Apparently, Don’s shop was 100% unionized, and I couldn’t work there, even temporarily for 3 months during the summer, without a union card.  I wasn’t aware that Don’s business involved union workers.  I am not certain what happened to the middle-aged man who was a skilled glass blower, but I went out and quickly found another summer job, this time as a material handler for King Bee, a company that manufactured car and truck mirrors.

 

  1. My dad and many of my uncles were tradesmen and union members, and thus growing up I unequivocally equated the union movement and the Democratic Party with social progress and the upgrading of life for millions of workers and their families.  With my brief summer job cut short by a group of strange men in suits in an office far away from the workplace, I experienced another point of view that up to that time I had seldom heard about.  One of dad’s brothers, my Uncle Frank, ran his own business, a small deli, in Cicero.  He always strove to be independent and did not want to work for any boss or affiliate himself with any company, union, or political party.  One of my friends, Kaz, came from a family that apparently saw businessmen as the strength of the country.  Kaz urged me to read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, which I did.  She referred to her philosophy as “Objectivism” and I liked the concept, but many of her conclusions did not seem to me to be objective.  My high school basketball coach, Joe Hartley, was a staunch Republican and considered Franklin D. Roosevelt to be a bad President.  When I asked him why he thought that way, he responded that Roosevelt had consistently lied to the American people.  Joe who served in World War II would imitate one of FDR’s speeches, “I hate war.  Eleanor hates war.”  Then, according to Joe, FDR promised to keep America out of war but did everything to get us involved.  FDR also lied about the social programs he had put into place, which were hurting the country by stifling growth and individual responsibility.  The diverse views of Uncle Frank, Ayn Rand, and Joe Hartley all were in sharp contrast to those I had heard from my dad and some of my other uncles.  My Uncle Joseph on my mother’s side, for example, told me that in his youth he had been a socialist.  Many companies and businessmen throughout history had behaved despicably in their treatment of workers, and thus people came together in solidarity in order to protect themselves and families.  My dad generally distrusted owners, saying many of them acted like sharks with blood in the water when money was involved.  To dad and these uncles, the Great Depression and the Axis dictators were evil, and FDR in peace and war had saved the United States of America.  I agreed but recognized that there were diverse points of view on political issues and without agreed upon postulates and givens, it was not possible to come to a universal position on any issue.    

 

  1. In early October 1959 I entered college at the University of Chicago and was assigned to East House, part of a new dormitory and cafeteria complex consisting of undergraduate housing for men (East House) and women (North and West Houses).  This complex was conveniently located just north of the Midway and a short block east of the main quadrangle.  My roommate, David, lived on the north side of Chicago with his parents and sisters.  David was going to major in physics, and many of his personal books that he brought to college, such as The World of Mathematics by James R. Newman, matched my collection.  At this time, we collectively made a decision that we would enroll in Differential Equations, skipping freshman calculus because we had taken calculus in high school, and the University was giving us credit based on the Advanced Placement Examination.  This was a fateful decision for me because Differential Equations conflicted with the beginning chemistry course, and consequently, I de facto decided against the chemistry major in favor of mathematics when I took Differential Equations.  It probably would have turned out that way eventually, since in my spare time, I read books on mathematics, not chemistry, indicating where my real interest was.  Nevertheless, in retrospect, it would have made sense to repeat calculus, making the transition to college easier while simultaneously taking chemistry to see if the subject in college was as enjoyable to me as it had been in high school.

 

  1. One of the consequences of not being able to take beginning chemistry was that I enrolled in biology in order to satisfy one of the science requirements.  It was here that I discovered that my high school background in zoology was inadequate.  Evolution was taken as a fact, and I had never viewed nature the way my biology professors and textbooks presented material.  Moreover, many of the students were already familiar with the basic ideas behind evolutionary theory either through their high school courses or their own readings.  I had to scramble to catch up to their level of knowledge.  Moreover, both David and I were struggling to get good grades in Differential Equations.  We were both used to an “A” or its equivalent in high school mathematics courses and now an “A” was difficult to achieve.  Chicago was on the quarter system with the autumn, winter, and spring quarters constituting a normal school year rather than two semesters which was common with other colleges.  By the end of autumn quarter David told me that he had to study harder to get better grades, that this wasn’t high school where he could breeze through with minimal studying and still get high grades.  For myself, I was already studying as hard as I could, carrying out a similar study program as I had in high school, hitting the books every weekday night, and I did manage to get a “B” in Differential Equations when the final marks were released.  Once David started studying as many hours as I did, his grades improved and “As” started coming his way.  For me, it was clear that to further increase my study time, I would have to give up recreational activities such as chess or reduce the hours I spent sleeping.

 

  1. By the winter quarter I had grown frustrated by my inability to get an A on any paper or any examination in any course.  One of the major projects in Biology that quarter was a paper explaining the fruitfly breeding results that the class obtained in crossing two different breeds of fruitflies differing in three characteristics.  The paper was somewhat mathematical, involving hypotheses and demonstrations to explain experimental data.  I was determined to devote whatever time it took to do the very best on the paper.  The paper was due at nine o’clock in the morning and the night before I did not get any sleep at all, working to the very last minute, refining and retyping my explanation.  Exhausted, I turned in my paper and collapsed into bed when the class ended.  Up to that point, I had never stayed up the entire night in my life.  I did get an A on the paper, and my instructor, Mr. Mayfield, wrote, “Very well done!” at the end of my explanation, but I was ambivalent, happy about the mark but recognizing that the exceptional effort necessary for me to obtain an “A” might not be possible for me to sustain. 

 

  1. Besides my struggles with grades, my freshman year was marked by an internal spiritual struggle.  I had been regularly attending mass every Sunday but had never received the sacraments of communion, confession or confirmation, and this bothered me.  I thought I should talk to a priest about receiving these sacraments, but I held back.  Some areas of Christianity and its practice among Roman Catholics had been confusing to me, and I didn’t want to commit myself too quickly.  Additionally, many of the kids in the dormitory were agnostic or atheistic and their rational arguments against a formal religion were appealing, but there were also Protestants, Catholics, and Jews who gave different testimonies.  During cacophonous bull sessions, I determined I had to reason out my position slowly and quietly by myself. 

 

  1. I started recording my thoughts in a journal.  Besides philosophical and religious thoughts, I put down mathematical ideas.  I had become fascinated with mathematical determinants and independent of classroom work began recording my findings on that subject.  Since I didn’t want anyone to read my journal and had no place to hide it, I wrote most of it in a code that I had constructed.

 

  1. Throughout high school I read about Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) and flying saucers.  These articles generally suggested that Earth was being visited by aliens from another planet.  I thought there might be some validity to these claims.  The universe was vast with billions of suns, and it seemed plausible to think that intelligent life existed elsewhere.  If an advanced civilization had detected life on earth, then why wouldn’t they visit?  I wondered if they were interfering with human society in some manner, in particular with our religions.  Stories in the Bible where God’s voice is heard through the burning bush or at the baptism of Jesus or the events surrounding His transfiguration could all be cast in terms of extraterrestrial contact.  More recently, the events at Fatima, Portugal in October 1917 where thousands witnessed the sun “dancing” in the sky and then plunging toward the earth seemed to be another UFO story.  Once when I visited Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, I asked one the astronomers what he thought about flying saucers.  He said there was no credible evidence that earth was being visited by aliens and that individuals who wrote articles claiming various alien visits or encounters were “nuts.”  I tended to believe him.  Moreover, trying to explain God through extraterrestrial visitations or equating God with some super alien civilization was intellectually unsatisfying because such theories did not answer the ultimate question as to the source of that alien intelligence.  How can intelligence/self-awareness/personality arise in the universe, either on earth or elsewhere, if it wasn’t always intrinsically present?     

 

  1. The summer before I entered college I was questioning my belief in God.  On one level, I knew that God existed, but looking at the world, it bothered me that God was hidden and not obvious to my senses.  I dismissed the philosophical proofs of God’s existence on the authority of twentieth century mathematicians who stated that these proofs contained logical flaws.  I did not take my prior insight that certain questions about God were essentially unanswerable as proof per se that God existed.  I wondered if my prayers to and thoughts about God were similar to conversations I had with my imaginary family when I was a child - that God was not real but only in my mind similar to Pumpkin Face and Cute Kitty.  At the same time, I recognized that millions of other people throughout the world acknowledged God as real and not a collective delusion.  Moreover, the insights I sometimes had after praying were real and applicable to daily living and certainly the joy I occasionally experienced when I helped someone was not imaginary but a beautiful and powerful emotion.  Thus, one of the first entries I wrote in my journal was, “Because of my experiences and the experiences of others, God exists.”

 

  1. Once during that summer before college, I asked God to show me if he existed and to do so through some highly unlikely event to demonstrate that he was really acting.  Here is what happened.  I was mowing the lawn at my parents’ house one evening but my mind was not on the task.  Rather I was wondering about God’s existence.  As twilight arrived and the evening grew dark making it difficult to see, I finished my task and pushed the gas-powered lawnmower into the garage only to discover that a bolt had been shaken loose from the lawnmower and had fallen somewhere on the grass in the dark.  I was not going to be able to restart the mower without finding the missing part.  My father kept a flashlight in the garage, and as I looked at it, a random silly thought came into my mind.  “God, if you exist, then you will show me by allowing me to shine this flashlight on the lawn and find the missing bolt.”  I grabbed the flashlight and went behind the garage to that part of the lawn that I had mowed last.  My parents’ property was roughly 83 feet by 200 feet, consisting of a lawn in front of the house, grass on each side of the house, a back lawn between the house and a stand-alone garage, and a further back lawn away from the house and behind the garage.  It was to this far back lawn away from the lights of the house that I went with the flashlight because it was the last piece of grass that I had cut and it was there that the bolt had probably dropped to the ground in darkness unseen by me.  This patch of lawn was roughly 20 feet by 30 feet, and as I walked around the area, looking at the ground but unable to see anything because of the darkness, I repeated my “God, if you exist” prayer.  At one point, I stopped and shone the light onto the ground.  A nine square inch patch of light revealed grass and dirt, but no missing bolt.  I snapped the light off.   “Does this mean God doesn’t exist?” I asked myself at the failure, half recognizing the manifest absurdity of what I was doing.   I walked a few more steps and turned the flashlight on a second time, and there in the beam’s light on the grass was the missing bolt.

 

  1. As I look back, I recall the various interpretations I gave to what happened that evening.  (a) There were about 20 square inches of light on the grass from the flashlight in the two attempts I made to find the bolt and about 86,400 square inches of grass where I could have shone the flashlight.  Thus, the odds were roughly 4300 to 1 that I would locate the bolt, but from this unlikely success was I ready to conclude that God existed?  If so, I thought many of my skeptical friends would knowingly laugh at my superstition and many of my religious friends would be embarrassed by my actions.  (b) Although the odds were long, the event that occurred was completely by chance and independent of my prayer.  (c) Many individuals say prayers and nothing seems to happen.  As I was saying “God, if you exist” perhaps at least 4300 other individuals were saying a similar type of prayer all over the world.  If so, it’s not surprising then that one of them came true, and I was the lucky random winner that evening.  (d) The prayer had nothing to do with finding the bolt because God doesn’t act or have to act to prove his existence, especially through a trivial request.  (e) Although it was dark, I still had some sensory perception and was able to dimly see the bolt, albeit unclearly and unknowingly, and thus shine the light at the proper time, at least on the second attempt.  (f) Perhaps this could be evidence of an unproven extra sensory perception but that would have nothing necessarily to do with God.  (g) God answered my prayer because I said it with a sincere and searching heart.  His answer came on my second attempt and not on my first effort because this was the second time he had answered my doubts, the first being when I wondered about his “dice playing.”  By not showing the missing lawnmower part on my first attempt, he was letting me know that I shouldn’t expect an immediate answer in the future if I continued to question his existence.  (h) Finding the missing bolt may have been luck or it may have been God; there is uncertainty because one of the ways that God works in the world and remains hidden is through chance events, allowing individuals to remain free to cooperate with him or not.

 

  1. Almost immediately after this event, I decided that I would never question God’s existence in prayer again.  I also decided that I needed some formal religious understanding and so I enrolled in a correspondence course offered by the Paulist Fathers.  The sent me a small book, labeled Paulist Correspondence Course, which summarized the major teachings of the Roman Catholic religion.  I completed this course, and thus by my freshman year in college, I had an overall understanding of the faith of my baptism.

 

  1. The correspondence course discussed the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope.  It offered various arguments as to why the Pope as the visible head of the Church is infallible when he speaks for the Church in defining a doctrine on faith or morals.  Growing up with Protestant friends, I knew that infallibility was a stumbling point for many people, and it was one of many ideas that I found strange about Catholicism.  My friends relied on the Bible and conscience as the determining factors in religious questions.  However, the correspondence course defined “infallibility” and the term “defining a doctrine” and then reasoned from scripture, church councils, and history to demonstrate the Pope’s infallibility or protection from error when defining a doctrine to be held by the entire Church.  Reasoning from givens is what I enjoyed, and so I accepted their definitions, took the scriptures of the New Testament and pronouncements of early church writers as postulates, and rearranging the arguments presented in the correspondence course demonstrated papal infallibility in matters of religious faith.  My demonstration, however, did not show papal infallibility in the matter of morals although the concept of morals was an integral part of their infallibility definition.  In fact, the correspondence course did not distinguish between religious faith and morals but linked the words together in their arguments, which to me was a flaw in their demonstration.  Nevertheless, I was amazed that scripture and history showed the validity of the doctrine of papal infallibility, at least in matters of faith.  Up to that point, the only reasons I had in approaching the church for full communion was that I had been baptized a Catholic, and my conscience seemed to be telling me that that was the right thing to do.  Now, however, there was an intellectual reason.

 

  1. I still hesitated to formally enter the church.  There were other doctrines that I found difficult to accept.  Papal infallibility might be deduced from scripture but why accept scripture?  I found the idea of life after death difficult to believe.  How could I accept communion if I doubted a belief that fundamental to Christianity?  After much internal debate, I decided that I did not need to understand everything before formally joining the church.  I would give them the benefit of doubt and follow their teachings with respect to faith and morals.  Christianity promised a resurrection of the body; and if that happened, then I certainly understood life after death.  Other doctrines that also seemed strange might fall into place with time, and if I found that I had made a mistake in joining and that the Catholic faith did not teach what was true, then I could always quit.

 

  1. Marty was a physics major, and he and my roommate structured a fine relationship based on reciprocal respect through their constant discussions.  When I listened to them and other physics majors talk, I learned about thought experiments.  These were hypothetical experiments constructed in their minds to help reason out or illustrate a difficult problem.  Famous physicists, including Einstein, used them all the time.  A thought experiment that illustrates the difficulties in understanding quantum mechanics on the macroscopic level was put forth by Erwin Schrodinger in 1935.  In his original thought experiment, Schrodinger imagined that a cat is locked in a steel chamber, along with a radioactive atom that is connected to a flask containing a deadly poison. If the atom decays, it causes the flask to smash and the cat is killed.  According to quantum law, the atom can be both in the decayed state and the non-decayed state at the same time.  This effect is called superposition of states and has been verified experimentally at the subatomic level and described mathematically by a so called wave function or psi-function.  Once the atom is measured, it definitely is in one state (decayed) or the other (non-decayed).  However, before observation or as long as the chamber remains closed, we do not know if the atom has decayed or not.  Superposition of states occurs at the micro level to the atom’s electrons but what happens at the macro level to the cat whose fate is linked to the decay or non-decay of the atom?  This thought experiment suggests that the cat within the closed chamber is somehow both dead and alive at the same time because the unmeasured atom is simultaneously in both states.  The cat’s fate is only determined when the atom is measured or the box is opened and the enclosed cat observed.  Physicists know that superposition actually occurs at the subatomic level but have struggled for over 75 years to understand what that implies about the nature of reality at the macro level and have given different interpretations of quantum mechanics.  When and how does the model of microscopic possibilities resolve itself into a particular macroscopic state?  I decided I was going to minor in physics in support of my mathematics major.

 

  1. At the end of the twentieth century, Time magazine named Albert Einstein as their person of the millennium.  This award recognized his importance in developing atomic energy and its impact on the world.  It also recognized his influence on science and the role science has played in shaping the modern world.  Myself I would have been more conventional and given the honor to Winston Churchill.  If Churchill had taken the easy way and sued for peace in the spring of 1940 after the fall of France and avoided the immediate daily death, destruction, and suffering that came with the German bombings, our twentieth century world would have been more fundamentally changed.   I also suspected that the ideas triggered by Charles Darwin in the nineteenth century, such as eugenics, had a greater impact on the lives of people in the twentieth century than the physics of Albert Einstein.  Nevertheless, I was happy with the choice of my boyhood hero and the indirect honoring of my favorite subject, mathematics, which underlies much of modern physics. 

 

  1. When I first became interested in determinants, I thought there might be a way to evaluate them in terms of a definite integral.  I did derive expressions to evaluate determinants of order 3 and order 4 using definite integrals, but the formulas were long and unwieldy and so I abandoned the idea.  I continued to work on determinants because I was bothered by the definition of a determinant of order N, which invoked the notion of permutations without recording them.  I thought there should be another definition which explicitly gave or generated the required permutations.  My journal entries for 1960 were filled with various notational devices that I invented in order to construct a generating formula.  If successful, I was not certain of any practical application of my work since my restructured definition was going to be as abstract as the standard definition, but that thought did not deter my work.

 

  1. After I finished reading The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, I discussed the book with my mother.  She had asked me about my studies at college and how everything was going.  She knew I was taking biology and reading Darwin and was interested in what he said.  I explained his theory of evolution through natural selection to her.  “You believe that?  It’s so ridiculous!” she replied after my lengthy explanation.  Apparently I did not do a good job with my explanation because Darwin’s book does provide evidence for the fact of evolution.  In retrospect, many evolutionists, like Darwin, have a naturalistic or sometimes a materialistic philosophic bent that overlay their explanations and thought processes, and these inclinations can either attract or repel an individual to an idea independent of the merits or validity of the concept itself.   

 

  1. Before I read The Origin of Species, I would have said that evolution was false because on the surface the idea seems ridiculous.  At that time, I had not studied the subject and thus I did understand what natural selection was or how it worked.  Reading the book and other textbooks about genetics changed my mind.  Because I knew that the Roman Catholic Church had not rejected the idea of human bodies evolving over time, I had no conflict on this issue in approaching the church.  To me evolution and Christianity were not necessarily contradictory, but materialism and Christianity were. 

 

  1. When I went to mass on campus, it was at Calvert House, which was located on South University Avenue directly across the street from the main quadrangle.  The house built in 1902 had been purchased by the Chicago Archdiocese in the 1940’s to serve the Catholic population at the University.  Monsignor Joseph Connerton was the pastor.  The big surprise for me was that the congregation during mass continually responded aloud in Latin to the priest’s prayers.  The only words of Latin that I felt comfortable saying aloud were “Et cum spiritu tuo” which I had learned from listening to mass at Divine Infant of Jesus in Westchester.

 

  1. One evening in January 1960 I walked out of my dormitory with the intent of asking Father Connerton for the sacrament of communion.  It was a cold winter night with a heavy snow falling, and a street light near the Oriental Institute kept blinking off and on as I walked frozen toward Calvert House.  The on and off blinking light resonated with my emotions.  “Do I really want to do this?” I asked myself.  I turned around and walked back through the storm to the dormitory.

 

  1. A few evenings later, after additional soul searching, I again made my way toward Calvert House.  This time there was no snowstorm but the street light was still blinking.  I rang the bell at Calvert and waited.  No one answered the door.  I turned around, passed the flickering street light and returned to the dormitory.

 

  1. The next day I tried again, and this time a secretary answered the door, and asked Father Connerton to talk to me.  I told him that I had been baptized as a baby but had never received any of the other sacraments and would now like to fully participate in the church.  He welcomed me and set up a schedule.  I would study the catechism, and we would meet periodically to discuss various topics.  Pentecost that year was June 5 and that date would be my first communion.  I would make a general confession the day before.  Shortly thereafter, an adult confirmation was scheduled, and I would be confirmed with them.  Father Connerton gave me a copy of The Baltimore Catechism, No. 3 With Explanations by Rev. E.M. Deck.  We shook hands and I walked back to the dormitory.  The romantic in me would like to say that the street light was now burning steady, but my memory recalls that it was still blinking off and on.  To this day I can not walk by a flickering street light without thinking of those days when I decided to receive the sacraments of penance, communion and confirmation.

 

  1. O. was a young woman from New England who had gone to a private girls’ high school and now was a first-year student at Chicago.  I made her acquaintance in the cafeteria where we occasionally had dinner with other students.  O. seemed to have more male friends than female, and many of the men in East House knew who she was which wasn’t surprising because she had a nice smile, a good sense of humor and a friendly disposition.  I was seated in the East House lounge reading the daily newspaper one afternoon when three guys from the dorm, seated only a few feet from me, started talking about O.  They were not discreet and didn’t seem to care that I was hearing their conversation.  One of them apparently had a weekend date coming up with O. and was expecting a sexual encounter.  I was surprised by his crassness and wondered if it was true and if O. was also anticipating sex or if big mouth was just bragging for his friends and the rest of the guys in the lounge.  That evening, I saw O. walking out of the cafeteria as I was entering and felt that I had to say something to her, but I really didn’t know what was appropriate or how to begin.  Before she passed, I quickly asked her, “O., how old are you?”  “Why, Phil, what a strange question,” she laughingly responded, “Are you planning on taking me across a state line?  I’m eighteen!”  A revealing answer to my surprise question.  “No, O. that is not what I had in mind, but eighteen is certainly old enough for you to take care of yourself,” I said as we continued walking in opposite directions.

 

  1. About two years later, I was in a bank line when by chance the teller who handled my transaction was O.  She told me she had gotten married and dropped out of Chicago.  She and her husband recently had twin boys.  “Thunder and Lightning” O. said jokingly.  I wished her and her family the best.

 

  1. The East House lounge was certainly the place to hear rumors and stories about people.  I sat in the lounge to read the Chicago newspapers which came to East House through subscriptions, but people were always talking there, and it was impossible not to listen to the gossip.  One of the upper classman, Michael, had gotten married and moved out of the dorm.  I didn’t know Michael, but other guys were talked about him and said Michael’s wife was having an affair with some other student.  Not knowing Michael, his wife, or the other student, this information, whether true or false, would have quickly gone out of my mind.  However, I was playing in the Great Lakes Open chess tournament, an event held May 28-30, 1960 and rated by the United States Chess Federation (USCF), when by chance I was paired against Michael in one of the rounds.  I felt embarrassed sitting across from him as we played our game.  Michael was a stranger to me, and yet I knew something intimate about him, about his wife that was possibly true; something that perhaps he didn’t even know, but in any case, something that I certainly shouldn’t know.  I was happy when he overlooked one of my combinations and resigned on his 25th move, ending the game early.  Shaking his hand, I wished him the best and silently prayed that his wife would not hurt him.

 

  1. During one of my sessions with Father Connerton, he asked me what I thought about the problem of evil.  I told him I didn’t understand evil, but I thought God could bring goodness out of evil.

 

  1. One evening during the winter quarter, I went down to one of the study rooms in the basement of East House.  I had already taken my shower and was in my pajamas and a bathrobe.  After thirty minutes of studying, I decided to say my evening prayers.  I knelt on the floor of the study room and started to pray.  I was very hot in the small room, the heat was sizzling through the radiator, I had closed the door, and the heavy flannel pajamas covered by a winter bathrobe added to my warmth.  I am not precisely certain what happened, but the best description I can give is that I slipped into a semi-trance where I kept repeating my prayers over and over, at a very fast pace, in a completely euphoric mood.  When I finally snapped out of it, my legs were stiff and ached as I got off my knees and stood upright.  My watch indicated I had been praying for over two hours.

 

  1. I had read about individuals getting “high” on drugs.  The drugs would induce some reaction in their brains to create a feeling of happiness and well being.  I had seen people get drunk on alcohol, and most of them acted silly and started talking more, usually in a friendly manner, although some became nasty and mean.  I had taken alcohol a couple of times but each time I stopped drinking when I felt I was getting inebriated.  I had never heard of anyone becoming “high” on prayer as what happened to me in the basement of East House.  I thought the heat and my posture had somehow combined to trigger the euphoric semi-trance state.  Even though the sensation of well being was pleasant, my conscience was disturbed by this incident.  Praying was not about creating an emotional state where an individual would necessarily feel happy, but a rational attempt to acknowledge God, to ask that his ways be brought to earth, to ask for our daily necessities, to ask for forgiveness of our sins and, in turn, to forgive others, and to ask that we be delivered from evil.  None of this seemed possible to me if I wasn’t thinking rationally but off somewhere enjoying an emotional high.  From then on I avoided environments and postures that could adversely affect my prayers, and I never entered that semi-trance state again.

 

  1. A few years later when the psychedelic drug phenomena attracted attention in the main stream press with reports of LSD and other mind altering drug usage, I knew that any experimentation was wrong for me and thus avoided attempts to induce insights through chemicals.

 

  1. When I thought about hallucinations and distortions in perception, I came to modify the statement that I once wrote in my journal that I believe God exists because of my experiences and the experiences of others.  Any experience I have is interpreted by me based on my predisposition.  Consider the following thought exercise.  I see something that appears to be a flying saucer low to the ground with an alien at one of its portals, and the sighting vanishes within a second.  If I am predisposed to UFOs and alien visitations, then I would report it as such.  However, if I know that no evidence for UFOs exists, then I am likely to think that something else happened.  Perhaps I had a fever and hallucinated.  Perhaps a shadow flitted across the trees and my perception was distorted for a second, creating an illusion, and so I interpret the experience as an illusion, following my own world view.  Belief in God for me depends not only on personal experience but also reflects reality, is rational, and is based on facts (e.g., the Jews, the Church, saints and holy people all exist and are visible, and the Good News of Jesus Christ is preached.)

 

  1. When I pray I now sit in a chair, usually with my eyes closed and hands folded.  I try to avoid any emotional state.  If I am saying repetitive prayers, such as the Our Father or the Hail Mary, and speed them up, racing through them as if I want to get them over with, then I do, even today, sometimes experience a euphoric rush similar to what happened in East House, except that it lasts only a few seconds and I am not in any semi-trance.  The only other physical sensation I have when I pray is that many times my forehead tingles and it feels like my brain is pushing outward.  I have also observed a similar sensation when I am deep in thought over some problem.  I have tried other postures besides sitting in a chair when I say my prayers.  For example, a few years ago whenever I wanted to give thanks to God I tried prostrating myself on the floor.  One time as I bowed, my conscience told me that this was not an appropriate way of giving thanks to God, and thus I stopped the practice of praying in that manner.

 

  1. In my college French class, we were reading about the life of Joan of Arc and translating the French into English.  At Joan’s trial, she was asked if she was in a state of grace.  The professor asked the class to explain why this was a trick question for a Catholic and then he quickly answered his own question.  He said that God’s grace could not be felt, and thus Joan would be in trouble with either a yes or a no answer.  Her answer, however, was both beautiful and honest.  We translated it as, “If I am not, may God put me there, and if I am, may God so keep me.”  I started to use Joan’s response in my life and sometimes a variant, “If I am not living my life according to God’s will, then God help me to change, and if I am, may God so keep me.”  In situations where it isn’t clear whether it was God or some other cause that impacted my life, a second variant, “If it wasn’t God, then may God come into my life, but if it was God, then thank you and please stay.”

 

  1. Later I learned that Mark Twain was fascinated by Joan of Arc and spent twelve years researching the biography he wrote of her.  This surprised me because I never thought Mark Twain was predisposed to see God at work in the world.  As he stated, Joan of Arc’s life is unique because it is the only biography which comes to us under oath.  The official records of her trial in 1431 and subsequent events are preserved in the National Archives of France.  Apparently Joan was a counter example to much of what Twain saw and believed, and therefore, he had to investigate her life.  To me this shows the importance of saints to the world.  “Lord, we give thanks for the saints, for it is through them that we see you,” is a prayer I composed after thinking about the role of saints.  When I consider Joan’s innocence and the fact that her actions were devoid of selfishness, I realize the many times in my own life when I did not act in a like manner.

 

  1. In June 1960, my freshman year at college came to successful conclusion.  My marks of Bs in Advanced Calculus II, Algebra I, and Philosophic Aspects of Biology were respectable, and I received for the first time the sacraments of penance and communion.  Afterwards, my mother told me how happy my godfather, Uncle Joseph, was that I had acted to receive the sacraments.  “Now, I didn’t lie,” he said to my mother referring to the promise he made at my baptism.

 

  1. That summer I returned to work at King Bee as a material handler.  King Bee manufactured truck and car mirrors.  The company owned machines that when operated punched out thousands of steel forms in which the individual mirrors were eventually encased.  They hired machine operators who were paid piecemeal by the number of forms they produced and material handlers who were paid hourly to keep the machines and their operators supplied with new steel rolls.  My job as a material handler consisted of walking around the factory floor and lifting the appropriate size steel roll into the machine on a timely basis so that the operator never ran out of steel and could keep punching out new mirror forms.  The company had a difficult time retaining material handlers and hired college students for the summer.  I did get to know a number of the permanent employees, and all of them were very pleasant people who genuinely did not seem to mind their factory job, which paid a reasonable wage and provided health benefits.  To me the days on the job dragged, and I was happy for the weekends and my return to school in late September. 

 

  1. That July the Democratic Party nominated John F. Kennedy to be president.  The future president’s religion immediately became an issue.  In 1928 the Democrat Al Smith, a Roman Catholic, lost 40 of the 48 states to Herbert Hoover, including four (Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Texas), which had been solidly Democratic since reconstruction.  Mistrust that a Roman Catholic could be a loyal President had led many segments to vote against Smith solely on the basis of religion and now Kennedy faced similar apprehension and perhaps the same fate.  In September, Kennedy went to Houston and delivered a speech to Protestant ministers in which he gave his vision of religion and its role in the American political process.  To me the most important concept he conveyed to Protestants that evening was something that was self-evident to most Catholics; namely, if elected he, John Kennedy, not the Pope in Rome, would be the President and run the executive branch of the United States of America.  In making that point, however, Kennedy’s exclusion of religion in the public forum went far beyond what most subsequent presidential candidates thought proper or necessary.  For example, in 1976, Jimmy Carter’s moral principles based on Christian teachings were an integral part of his campaign.  In the 2000 campaign, Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice-president candidate and an Orthodox Jew, did not campaign on the Saturday Sabbath and stated that moral principles based on religious teachings were important.  Thus, I hope future presidential candidates who are Roman Catholics might appeal to moral principles without a “Pope in the White House” backlash.

 

  1. The next major hurdle for Kennedy to overcome was the notion that he was young and inexperienced and not ready to be President of the United States.  As a Democrat, this was my concern as I sat down on September 26, 1960 to watch on television the first presidential debate.  I was overjoyed at the result because Kennedy clearly demonstrated that he had the wherewithal to be President.  My Republican friends were now worried and sensed that Kennedy had a chance to defeat Nixon.  Joe Hartley told me he thought Nixon had won the debate but admitted Kennedy had looked good.  Kaz said he had listened to the debate on radio, and Nixon had scored all the points.  Kaz was startled when he watched the rerun on television and saw the appearance of the two candidates.

 

  1. “The work of science is to substitute facts for appearances and demonstrations for impressions. –RUSKIN” is the motto of the Society of Actuaries.  I learned about the Society that September when I returned to college for the autumn quarter and asked one of my fellow math majors about his summer.  He told me he had made good money working for an insurance company as a summer actuarial trainee.  He said he wasn’t interested in the actuarial profession per se since he wanted to be a mathematician, but actuaries knew calculus and probability theory very well and used it to calculate insurance premiums.  He said they had a series of difficult competitive examinations where less than half of the candidates passed and that kept the number of qualified actuaries in the country down, which in turn, raised their salaries.  He was planning on taking the first actuarial examination in May, the only time they were given during the year, just to enhance next year’s summer job salary.  Companies hired college mathematics majors without any actuarial exams for summer work if they interviewed well and expressed an interest in the profession, but individuals who had at least one exam had an edge and received more money.   His summer job experiences sounded pleasant and certainly better than lifting steel on a hot factory floor, and therefore, I began to investigate the actuarial profession with an eye toward a job in the summer of 1961.  I wrote to the Society of Actuaries for literature and received their examination syllabus.  In order to achieve fellowship in the Society, a person had to pass eight examinations.  The examinations were given only once a year and some of the later examinations were five hours in length.  An examination paper was given a mark, ranging from 0 through 10 with 6 and above passing and 5 and below failing.  In this scale, the interval was 10% of the pass mark so that a grade of 5 meant failing with a score of at least 90% but less than 100% of the pass mark.  Individuals who failed an examination had to wait a year, but they could retake the examination as often as they wanted.  A lengthy comprehensive examination to demonstrate competency in a subject was familiar to me because the college at the University of Chicago was run that way.  All my courses except for courses in my major, mathematics, and some related science courses were subjected to comprehensive examinations where the grade for the entire year was determined by the one comprehensive test.  Thus, for example, in my freshman year, I had taken a required course in English during the Autumn and Winter quarters, and my mark of a B on the comprehensive written examination given in March 1960 was the only grade that went on my transcript, giving me credit me for two quarters of English.  Similarly with my foreign language requirement, I took three quarters of French my freshman year and one examination in June 1960 to get three quarters of credit.  That entire examination was translating passages of French into English, and I had only received a mark of a D for my translations, which gave me credit, but left me unsatisfied with the grade.  However, it was possible to sit for the comprehensive French examination again without having to retake the three quarters of classes and to raise your mark by showing increased competency; and in fact, that is what I did, continuing to read French authors my sophomore year to maintain my command of the language without going to any French classes, and then writing the French comprehensive exam a second time in June 1961, replacing my D with a C.  Thus, as I looked at the Society of Actuaries literature I felt completely comfortable with the idea of taking a comprehensive examination, especially in mathematics.

 

  1. Most of the students in the College supported Kennedy.  I was surprised at how pro-active and passionate many of them were about the election.  Most of my undergraduate friends were not eligible to vote being under the voting age of 21, but that fact did not stop many of them from expressing their politics, loudly and often.  The bulk of them apparently came from households that admired the New and Fair Deals of Roosevelt and Truman, and therefore, supporting Kennedy was merely a natural continuation of support for the Democratic Party.  However, the more vocal students were not only for Kennedy, they were against Nixon.  Their literature referred to him as “tricky Dick” and pointed out his failings as a California Congressman and then Vice-President.  I don’t recall many students defending Nixon.  Additionally, Kennedy’s wit, charm, intelligence, and ability to inspire people with lofty ideals such as the Peace Corps contributed to a high degree of unanimity among the undergraduates that John Kennedy was a better candidate than Richard Nixon.  Election night 1960, when it became likely that Kennedy was going to win a narrow victory, the dormitories exploded in spontaneous joy, students were yelling and clapping, fire alarms were set off, and the women in West and North Houses started Parisian chorus lines in their rooms, with the windows and blinds wide open and every light blazing.  It was the biggest and happiest celebration that I remember in my four years, 1959-1963, at the University of Chicago.

 

  1. A number of students were influenced by the writings of Karl Marx and used a Marxist analysis when analyzing social questions.  A smaller group of students were pro-Soviet Union and did not recognize the moral and intellectual failure of the Soviet Union.  Discussions with them were not possible because they denied facts.  For example, I had one admirer of the Soviet Union deny that over 20,000 Polish Officers had been murdered in the Katyn Forest during World War II and that all the evidence pointed to Stalin’s secret police as the killers.  I walked away from his denials, shaking my head in frustration.  Generally, I have been amazed my entire life by the passion and certainty many people bring to political discussions, and the actions they are willing to take based on their politics.  Social issues are complex and intertwined and far more difficult to analyze correctly than a problem in mathematics.  I always had a difficult time figuring out the proper course of action for society, and analysis tends to be obscured during passionate verbal exchanges.   

 

  1. At the start of my sophomore year, I decided to ease off in my course studying.  There were three factors that entered into this decision.  First, after four years of high school and one year of college courses where I conscientiously did the assigned work, I was tired of formally studying course related textbooks and wanted to pursue other readings and projects that interested me.  As an example, there was my project on determinants.  Also, after studying the Baltimore Catechism, I developed an interest in theology, and the University had a wonderful library in Swift Hall devoted to religion and theology.  In the evenings, I would walk to the Swift Library to study for my courses, only to wind up reading another book in theology.  If I studied in Eckert Hall, which housed the mathematics library, I wound up looking at texts in mathematics.  Additionally, that year I took the required courses in Humanities, which included not only literature but also music and art, two subjects where I knew virtually nothing.  I spent hours listening to and enjoying classical music and more hours in the Art Institute in downtown Chicago, looking at their collections.  That year, I started writing poetry and briefly tried my hand at painting.

 

  1. A second factor that impacted my study time was that I became more involved in campus activities; in particular, Chicago’s intramural sports program.  Correctly convinced that my asthma was behind me, I played on one of the East House touch football teams.  One of my friends in the dormitory, John, owned a pair of horseshoes, and the two of us paired up as a team in the horseshoe competition.  We didn’t win anything that year but the next year we did well, and in our senior year, we won the intramural championship.  I learned to golf, and John and his roommate, Ed, who I knew from the chess team, and I began to go out golfing.  I joined a “Climbers’ Club”, an informal non-University recognized group of Chicago students and, started climbing, on the inside, to the top of every tall building on campus.  Our favorite was Rockefeller Chapel, which had a magnificent view of Chicago from its tower, especially at night.  We probably would have been disciplined if one of the campus security guards had caught us because Rockefeller Chapel was locked at night, and we had to enter by climbing through a turret on the northwest side of the building.  Fortunately, nothing happened to any of the groups that I was part of, the closest call being one evening as we came down from the tower and were in the church on the ground floor on our way out when a guard, making his nightly rounds, with a dog on a leash entered the church.  We quickly hid on the floor among the pews, and the guard and his dog unknowingly walked by us down the center aisle and out the other side of the building. 

 

  1. The third reason for easing off in my studies was more intangible and perhaps a rationalization in light of how I spent my free time, but I did not believe in pushing myself too far.  I knew there were students who grasped concepts quicker than I did, and who were more certain and eloquent in conveying their knowledge, but that was their nature, not mine.  I pursued knowledge slowly and needed breaks, time to think, and reconsider.  One of my friends at Chicago had a nervous breakdown, desperate for high marks, trying to absorb the entire content of each course.  I was not going to allow that to happen to me.

 

  1. It was during my studies in the Swift Library that I became aware of the “God of the philosophers” and how the great philosophers thought about God versus the religious God revealed in scriptures and church tradition.  Philosophical thought leads to God’s omnipotence and omniscience while scripture and tradition emphasize that God loves, creates and communicates.  God’s reply to Moses, “I am who am,” announces God’s aseity, and is a link between the philosophical and religious understanding of God.  Subsequently, I learned that many modern Catholic theologians start their detailed study of salvation history - God’s saving action in bringing about the consummation of his plan for the created natural and human orders - with Abraham, not Adam, thus circumventing any questions about the origins of mankind.  It makes sense to focus on Abraham because his life is clearly a watershed in human history, but I do not think that Christians can ignore the concept of the fall of mankind from God’s grace merely because it is difficult or perhaps impossible to pinpoint such an event in evolution.  Rather, we should look for a discontinuity before recorded history, at least 6000 years ago or even much earlier, before men began building cities, invented writing, and religion came to be with the start of monotheistic recorded history as evidenced by the Jewish calendar, which says it is the year 5763 (as of September 2002).  Certainly, the validity of evolution does not in itself discredit the idea of discontinuities in natural history.

 

  1. I also studied different philosophical and religious ideas about life after death; in one notion, the person ceases to exist at death; in another, a spiritual component of the human person continues after the person dies, while in yet a third notion the body is resurrected.  The first notion has a common sense appeal based on observation and had I not accepted Christianity, I would probably hold to it.  The third notion reflects the joy of Christianity that the Savior is resurrected, and we shall also be raised bodily to live again.  For a long time, I thought about the resurrection in a purely mechanistic manner.  One day I would close my eyes and die.  The next time I opened my eyes I would have a glorified body.  Billions of earth years could have passed, but when I opened my eyes again it would be like the next second for me and death would have been an illusion.  But realistically how could my body be resurrected?  With imagination, it was easy to invent ways that a resurrection might occur.  Suppose the universe somehow recorded everything that happened.  Think of a three dimensional recorder that “tapes” everything.  Then take my DNA in the single fertilized cell and start the recorder at precisely the right moment.  Stop the recorder in this new universe when I get to age 20 or 30 or any age and you have me resurrected up to transmission errors!  Of course, this is not a religious view of resurrection; this is not the glorified body of the risen Christ described by the first Christians, just a deja vu version of me in the same DNA damaged universe somehow recast years later.  Most Christians that I know do not speculate how God, who is omnipotent and omniscient, will bring about the resurrection but accept God’s promise.  The second notion, that a spiritual part of each person survives death, is also part of Christianity and many other religions.  In this version of life after death, the soul is separated from the body and hence the body dies, but the soul is immaterial and continues.  In Catholicism, after death the soul is either with God (heaven), under God’s care being purified before entering heaven (purgatory), or not with God at all (hell).  At the general resurrection, all these souls will be reunited with their bodies, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness, the just will reign with Christ forever, glorified in body and soul, and the material universe itself will be transformed (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1052 and 1060).

 

  1. With time I stopped speculating about death and eternal life, comfortable with Christ’s promise.   I have been saying my prayers and receiving communion for years.  Almost daily I know God is with me, and therefore, how can death separate a union that God has started?

 

  1. In the dorm, one of my acquaintances, who happened to be a physics major, told me that he was an ex-Catholic.  He said he could not believe what the church taught about communion; that is, transubstantiation, the doctrine that the bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of Christ.  According to him some of the kids in his high school believed that the bread molecules were changed at the consecration into body and blood molecules and that a chemist could observe this change through analysis.  I shook my head in disbelief.  “You obviously have a spiritual understanding of what is happening,” my friend said.  I nodded yes.  The change is real but not observable, either directly or through instruments.  The chemist continues to “see” bread and wine through his analysis, but there is a reality beneath what is observable.  Some physicists, trying to describe the reality of the subatomic world, say we should not think in terms of particles and macro world experiences because such thoughts are misleading inside the atom.  From their perspective, the best we can do at that level is to write mathematical equations.  At a certain point, thinking about the consecrated bread and wine, I leave the domain of science.  In the domain of religion, I look beneath what is observable, and believe that in “the eyes of God” the bread and wine become the Lord’s Body and Blood, food for my spiritual strength as revealed by the Savior in scripture and upheld in church tradition.      

 

  1. A few days after Christmas 1960, my maternal grandmother, Katerina, died.  My mother had been taking care of her, traveling on buses and the el between Westchester and Cicero several times a week.  One day when she returned home, she told me Grandma had died.   I remember hugging my mother as she stood crying in the doorway.  Grandma was the last of my grandparents to die, my paternal grandmother having died in 1940, the year before my birth, and my grandfathers having passed in 1939 and 1948.  As such, she is the only grandparent that I remember.  She remains special to me because of the euphoric joy that swept my being as a child when I kissed her, opening my mind to a different world.

 

  1. I believe it was my sophomore year in college as I was riding in a car with a group of male students returning to the campus from an event, and one of the guys said he had had sexual intercourse with nine different women, and each woman felt different “down there.”  I thought to myself that if I wanted to marry and raise a family, then I was correct in avoiding sex before marriage because various sexual experiences would lead me to want more and different women, making the odds of a stable marriage and family with one wife less probable.

 

  1. I and a group of other Catholics who had never been confirmed worked with Father Rollins Lambert, an assistant priest at Calvert House and that spring a bishop visited the Chicago campus to administer the sacrament of confirmation.  I asked my University of Chicago friend John to be my sponsor, and the evening of the confirmation, John, my mother, and I had supper in the dormitory cafeteria and then walked over to Calvert House for the ceremony.  My father worked evenings and did not attend.  I took as my confirmation name, Francis, after St. Francis de Sales, because Calvert House was also called DeSales House, and St. Francis was known for his writings, and I thought some day that I might try writing under my childhood pseudonym, Phil Lip.

 

  1. During the summer of 1961 I worked as an actuarial trainee at Bankers Life in Chicago.  I sat at a desk with a large calculator about the size of a typewriter and a worksheet paper about 14” by 26” with formulas at the top of each column.  I made the calculations required by the formulas and entered the numbers on the worksheet.  When I finished a worksheet I passed it on to another trainee who checked it, while I was checking the worksheet he just completed.  Thus, the summer passed.  A full time actuary at the company who had passed most of the actuarial exams wrote the formulas at the top of each column.  He explained what the formula meant and what we were doing, but my work was to do the arithmetic on the calculator and enter the results on the paper.  Today a computer spreadsheet would make the calculations in a few seconds once the actuary entered the formulas and linked them to input data. 

 

  1. The employees at Bankers Life were pleasant.  I was seated in a section with another actuarial trainee, a full time actuary, two secretaries, and another summer intern who helped them.  The actuary was an Associate of the Society of Actuaries and wrote the formulas on the worksheets.  There was a considerable amount of talking, banter going back and forth, which broke up the monotony of the calculations.  There was a morning and afternoon break and a lunch hour where the actuaries from various sections ate lunch and played cards.  In July my formula-giving actuary received good news - he had passed his last actuarial examination, and was now a Fellow of the Society, which increased his opportunities both within the Bankers Life hierarchy and outside the company with other firms.  There was bad news, however, for one of the other actuarial assistants when he opened the envelope containing his grade from the Society.  He had received a mark of a 5 on Part 4, the fourth examination, which meant he had studied and knew the material, but not well enough to pass the examination, being within 90% of the pass mark.  “We have all been there” and “Hang in there, you’ll get it next year,” were the typical words of consolation given to him by the older actuaries.  I looked at a sample Part 1 examination provided by the Society, which was a multiple choice examination, basically covering mathematics through advanced calculus.  The problems required a detailed knowledge of formulas and their manipulation to produce a specific answer.  It was easy to make an error and to fall into one of the common mistakes, and if you did, it was likely that that standard wrong answer would be on the answer sheet just waiting to catch a sloppy student.  Additionally, many of the questions required the student to solve three separate problems and then the answer sheet read something like (a) None, (b) II only, (c) III only, (d) I and II only, (e) I and III only, giving ample opportunity to go astray.  Pass rates for the early examinations were usually around 35%.  The new fellow told me that the only way to pass the examinations was to sit for hours doing problems, picking up speed and standard tricks to shorten the calculations.  I didn’t care for the speed part, but I knew the mathematics and felt I could handle the early examinations.  The fellowship examinations, however, covered insurance law, insurance accounting, insurance taxes and business related topics which did not interest me at all.

 

  1. In the spring and summer of 1961, the new American President had his hands full with international problems.  First, the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba was defeated by Castro’s army, and second, the Russian Chairman Nikita Khrushchev angered over Germans fleeing into West Berlin demanded that the East Germans be given control of the entire city.  Kennedy would not negotiate on West Berlin and called the nation to arms on July 25.  War by December seemed likely.  Then in August East German police surrounded West Berlin and began laying barbed wire on their side of the city.  The border was sealed and soon the concrete Berlin Wall was built.  Tensions remained high but with East Germans unable to flee to the West through West Berlin, the immediate threat of nuclear war passed.

 

  1. Throughout my grammar and high school days, the threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union was always there.  In case of an attack we were taught to seek shelter from radiation in basements or public fallout shelters.  The emergency broadcasting system or CONELRAD (CONtrol of ELectromagnetic RADiations) was established to use AM radio frequencies of 640 and 1240 to broadcast information to the American people in the event of an attack.  Since I had no control over world events that might precipitate a war, I did not worry about nuclear attacks.

 

  1. In 1961 I wrote to the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization and received a booklet on how to construct a fallout shelter in the basement of our home and other pamphlets on how to deal with emergencies.  Worrying about events beyond my control never made sense to me but considering possible events and making prudent preparation did.   I showed the materials to my parents, and I don’t remember the discussion, but we did not construct the concrete block shelter described in the booklet.  However, we did have a separate pantry in one corner of our underground basement away from windows which was stocked with canned goods and water.  It may not have protected us from the country wide radiation anticipated from a full scale attack, but it would have offered protection from many other emergencies.

 

  1. Forty years later, after terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center, I looked again at the materials that the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization had sent out in the early 1960’s.  The fact that terrorists might try to use weapons that spread radiation and that New York City was a likely target made such considerations prudent once more.  My home in Brooklyn is about four air miles from the World Trade Center site, and on September 11, 2001 wind currents blew the smoke and dust high in the sky but directly across my neighborhood.  A charred piece of stationary with its letterhead intact from the ill-fated Cantor Fitzgerald office where about 650 individuals died fell in the driveway of my neighbor.  She had the relic framed, and it hangs in her hallway, a reminder of the modern world.

 

  1. Once during my four years at the University of Chicago Dorothy Day came to talk to the students at Calvert House.  She spoke about Genesis, Chapter 18 where Abraham interceded with God to spare the city if he found fifty innocent people there, then interceded again to ask about forty-five innocent people, then forty, thirty, twenty and finally ten.  “For the sake of those ten,” he replied, “I will not destroy it.”  This passage subsequently became fashionable with speakers, and I heard it referenced many more times in my life, but Dorothy Day’s talk was the first time I heard the passage read and discussed.  She also said something else that has stayed with me, “We are born alone, and we die alone.”  Although it is wonderful that we have a community of believers to support us, and we are nourished by those around us, and the communion of saints is real, the journey into earthly life and eternal life is made individually.

 

  1. In October 1962 the United States of America and the Soviet Union came to the brink of nuclear war over the placing of offensive missiles in Cuba.  By this time I was a senior in college with a relatively light course load and consequently no longer living in the dormitory but back home in Westchester and traveling to school on the El.  I remember seeing the city of Chicago from the El window during one of those gray October days when it seemed that any moment the city might be destroyed.  I remember going to sleep one Saturday night wondering if I would wake in the morning.  Remarkably, my philosophy of not worrying about things outside my control allowed me to sleep soundly through that night and wake Sunday morning to the news broadcast that Moscow had announced the dismantling and crating of the missiles.  Lying in bed and hearing the radio announcer, I said a prayer of thanksgiving, thinking about those ten innocent people.

 

  1. Years later I read accounts of those thirteen days in October 1962, and the role of Robert Kennedy in the crisis.  When an immediate surprise air attack on Cuba was being pushed by the military and many of Kennedy’s top advisors, it was Robert Kennedy who wrote the note, “I now know how Tojo felt when he was planning Pearl Harbor.”  Bobby supported the idea of a blockade or a “quarantining” of Cuba.  Later, when two letters arrived from Khrushchev, the first demanding a no invasion of Cuba pledge for the dismantling of Soviet missiles, and the second being much tougher and also demanding removal of American missiles from Turkey, it was Bobby who came up with the idea of publicly accepting the offer in the first letter and ignoring the second, while privately assuring the Russians that the Turkish missiles would be removed.  Without Bobby’s presence, the United States probably would have gone to war in 1962.

 

  1. On June 4, 1968 I walked down into the Grand Canyon of Arizona.  I was on western trip with a fellow teacher, Jacques, and we had a pleasant day hiking in one of America’s natural treasures.  That evening we were exhausted and quickly fell asleep.  The next morning we started to drive to Las Vegas.  I turned the car radio on and was shocked to hear that after winning the California primary Bobby Kennedy had been shot and was not expected to live.  Coming two months after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and with the turmoil of Viet Nam raging across the country, I wondered and worried about the future of the country.  The newspaper had a photograph of Robert Kennedy, bleeding on the hotel floor, his eyes fixed on eternity, holding rosary beads in one of his hands.  I wished there was something I could do to stop his death, but that wish like Bobby’s run at the White House was an impossible dream.

 

  1. In early January 1990, my eldest son was being interviewed by various high schools for a position in their freshman class starting that autumn.  One of the interviewers asked him for the most significant event that had happened in 1989.  “How did you answer?” I asked him.  “The collapse of the Berlin Wall” he responded.  “Good answer” said his happy father.  Happy not only for his son but because freedom had swept through the nations of Eastern Europe in 1989.  In Germany, the Berlin Wall came down and happy Germans took its concrete slabs as mementoes to a bitter historical era.  I thought back to summer of 1961when the Wall went up and to bull session debates in the UC dormitory about the merits of the Soviet Union.  I thought of Ronald Reagan and his call to Mr. Gorbachev to tear down “this Wall” and his strong stand against the “evil empire” that now was passing.  I thought of the courage of Pope John Paul II in his opposition to communism.  However, from a spiritual point of view, the Pope’s most important action may have come on March 25, 1984 when he and the other bishops finally consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as she had requested.  Certain spiritual events are entangled in ways that we can only speculate, but they lead to observable events in time.  We can never be certain of all the causes behind a significant historical event, but the ascension of the reformist Mr. Gorbachev as Russian Premier occurred a year later in March 1985.  On December 25, 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved, and the world got its best Christmas gift since the first Christmas.  When the USSR dissolved, I thought of the late Robert Kennedy because all these observable events were intertwined, and if the United States had gone to war in 1962, then the relatively peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union and its empire in the years 1989-1991 never would have occurred the way it did.

 

  1. At least once during my college years I visited the Museum of Science and Industry located close to the University of Chicago campus and saw an exhibit that to me illustrated how symmetry could flow out of a random process provided an underlying structure was present.  The exhibit consisted of a high wall of hollow glass and thousands of plastic balls that cascaded down the wall behind the glass from the ceiling to the floor, striking fixed pins attached to the wall as they fell, which randomly sent each ball to the right or left, there to hit another pin, falling again to the right or to the left, there to hit another pin, and so on down the wall to finally settle in hollow vertical tubes at the bottom of the exhibit.  Each time a ball hit a pin, it had a 50-50 chance to go either right or left, and thus there were very few plastic balls that settled in the tubes to the extreme right or left.  Most plastic balls wound up in the center tubes with a gradual tapering to the ends.  After thousands of plastic balls had fallen, the viewer could see the symmetric curve that had been formed.  The exhibit referred to this as the “curve of probability” and math majors recognized a normal curve approximation to a binomial process.

 

  1. After thinking about this exhibit, I became more aware of how large numbers in nature work toward producing the universe we observe.  For example, there are billions and billions of stars and that may be necessary to produce intelligent life.  Just as thousands of plastic balls are required to obtain at least one ball in the furthest end tube with a high degree of probability it may require billions and billions of suns to get something like the human species with a very, very high degree of certainty.  In the exhibit the underlying structure consists of the pins set into the wall and enough plastic balls to produce a normal curve with a high degree of probability.  Could the underlying structure of the universe be set to give intelligence out of randomness?

 

  1. In 1962 I completed my paper on determinants.  I had invented notation and a generating formula that reproduced the standard definition, which I demonstrated in a proof.  I wrote down my observations in a paper and submitted it to the Mathematics Magazine, a publication of the Mathematical Association of America, where it was referred to the editor of the Miscellaneous Notes Department, Professor Roy Dubisch of the University of Washington, who suggested two changes to better clarify a couple of technical points and made a request for a practical application of the reconstituted definition.  I was reasonably certain that the generating formula, which was an algorithm, could be programmed on a computer, but I did not know how to program at that time.  After resubmitting the paper, I received a final letter from Professor Dubisch dated July 3, 1962:  “In your revision of your paper, Observations on Determinants, you have certainly carried out the first two of three suggestions that I made.  Unfortunately, however, it is the last suggestion which was most important from the viewpoint of publication of your results.  Without a useful application of your definition, I am afraid that I must conclude that the publication of your paper in the Mathematics Magazine would not be in order.  Your result is certainly ingenious and I hope that you will continue your mathematical activities and that some of them will result in publication.”  I wasn’t surprised by his letter and decided that my senior year I would use my elective to take a course in business applications, which included learning the programming language, FORTRAN.

 

  1. I did not return to Bankers Life in the summer of 1962 - I told them I liked mathematics but could not see myself in the business world.  Instead, I found a summer job on the University of Chicago campus, working at the Population Research Center for Karl and Alma Taeuber, two sociologists who were studying residential racial segregation in American cities.  Their approach to quantify segregation was to take census data and to tabulate the ratio of blacks or Negroes (the word used at that time to identify Americans of African descent) to the total population for each area of the city, block by block, and to compare that neighborhood’s result with the percentage of Negroes in the entire city.  They came up with a segregation index for each city, which represented the amount of non-white residential moving that had to take place in order for each area of the city to have a similar racial composition as the total city.  They hired students like me who went through Census Bureau booklets and made the calculations for each of over 200 American cities.  The work was very time consuming with the tabulation of one large city taking weeks, and the Taeubers spent several years on their project before publishing Negroes in Cities (1965).    

 

  1. During the summer of 1962 my infatuation with a female classmate grew.  I had met S. my freshman year and gradually I became attracted to her.  She was always friendly and talkative to me.  That summer she was living on campus with her female roommate, but I did not see S. that often.  However, the roommate ate lunch every day at the Reynolds Club, and I joined her, in part because I didn’t care to eat alone but mainly to find out more about S.  After a month of lunches, the roommate thought I was interested in her!  I shall never forget the pained look on her face when she realized I was using her to find out about S.  Up to that point in time, I thought of myself as a good person who never would hurt someone else, but here I recognized that I had been manipulative and that I had hurt the roommate.  I never thought sexual attraction or “affairs of the heart” were rational, and this experience reinforced my view.  Today, biologists discuss sexual selection as an evolutionary mechanism where individuals, consciously or not, want to transmit their genes to suitable partners.  Nothing in my experience contradicts this view of life, but my sexual longings often conflict with my spiritual longings.  In this instance, I stopped eating lunch with the roommate.  I never went out with S., and a few months later I heard she had married and left school.

 

  1. Fourteen years later, I was living in Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan with my wife, Nora, and our newborn baby.  One winter evening, after parking our car, I was riding the apartment elevator up from the lowest level to the twelfth floor where we lived, when the elevator stopped on the main floor, and S. got on accompanied by three men.  She was talking intently about visiting her friends and never noticed me at the back of elevator, bundled up in a winter coat and hat.  I never interrupted their conversation, and as they got off on the eighth floor and the elevator door closed, this chance encounter left me wondering why I had been attracted to her years before and what would have happened had I pursued her in the summer of 1962?

 

  1. I was fortunate to take courses from several well known mathematicians at the University of Chicago.  I shall mention only three.  First, there was L.M. Graves, who was impeccably dressed in suit and tie, and without effort conveyed a sense that he was both a gentleman and a scholar.  Dr. Graves was well along in years, but a wonderful teacher and it was difficult to think of a different career other than mathematics after taking his course.  Second, there was Irving Kaplansky, another excellent teacher, who made the classroom sparkle with excitement, although he was a bit arrogant.  After proving the Jordan-Holder theorem in group theory, he turned to the class and said that his explanation of the theorem was the clearest exposition possible and gave the impression that students were lucky to be in his classroom.  He was correct on both points but announcing it to the class wasn’t necessary.  Third, there was Paul Halmos, who was genuinely interested in students and their development.  Dr. Halmos took time to talk individually with many undergraduates, including me, about a career in mathematics, what to expect, and how to prepare.  Every mathematics student I knew was sad when he decided to leave Chicago for another university.  I admired each of these men for different reasons, and the mathematics they taught, real analysis and group theory and point-set topology, even though the level of abstraction was daunting.

 

  1. It was during my undergraduate years that I started having two recurring dreams that I thought about during the day when I was awake.  The first dream showed a frozen winter night with the heavens ablaze with stars and the Milky Way stretching across the sky above a deep snow that covered the fields and forests of the earth.  A solitary figure stood looking up at the magnificence of the heavens, but the scene was very still and crystal cold with every detail sharp and clear.

 

  1. In the winter of 1963 I took a course where I learned, among other things, to program in FORTRAN, and gaining access to an IBM 7090 computer as part of the course, I wrote a routine that successfully evaluated determinants using my definition.  I learned that the standard routine for evaluating determinants on a computer was called the pivot method and used the concept of matrix inversion.  I wondered how my technique compared to the standard in terms of computer efficiency, but the course ended and I lost access to the computer, and so I put the investigation of this question on hold.

 

  1. Somewhere around this time, my friend, Ed, said to me that I needed to become “inspired”.  By this time, Ed who knew me through chess, golf, and mathematics had become used to my generally laid back style and thought it was hurting my progress.  Years later, working at Metropolitan, having achieved the rank of Vice-President and Actuary, many of my bosses thought the same thing.  I had achieved, but I could do even more if I became more assertive and less laid back.  After hearing this for forty years from peers and supervisors, I am forced to conclude that there is a touch of intellectual laziness on my part.  Yet, I also know myself, and I know for me that assertiveness on any issue without all the facts has led to misunderstandings, anger, and poor results and that it takes time to gather facts and sort through them.  I act once I am convinced that the action is correct.  When I was an undergraduate, I could not articulate for Ed what inspired me.  Forty years of additional living allows me to formulate a response.  Spiritual and rational concepts, God’s involvement in the world and chance events, and how they are intertwined in the lives of ordinary people who also make daily decisions, impacting others and changing events, fills me with wonder and inspires me.

 

  1. My second recurring dream showed a scene that reminded me of a Renoir painting, Boating Party, where a group of happy people, men and women, are tasting food and enjoying wine, surrounded by yellow sunshine and a scent of the sea in the air.  Everywhere bright colors – crimson and turquoise – grace the scene, and in the background, joyful sounds of children, playing in lush green grass touching the earth’s rich black soil teaming with life.

 

  1. In June 1963 I graduated from the college of the University of Chicago with a degree in mathematics.  My grade point average was too low for acceptance into their graduate program, and thus it was not immediately clear what I was going to be doing in the autumn; however, that summer I returned to the Population Research Center to work on computing segregation indices for the Taeubers.  There was good fellowship among the sociologists and students at the Center, which was important to me.  I met two of the main forces behind the Research Center, Philip Hauser and Evelyn Kitagawa.  Dr. Kitagawa invited me to one of her house parties.  I thought of switching fields and applying for admission to study sociology at the University since I found a number of the studies that were taking place at the Research Center interesting, understandable, and easy to explain in contrast to some of the mathematical abstractions I had studied.  I decided to talk to the head of the Sociology Department and went to his office, but when I arrived, I saw he was busy, working at his desk with his back to me.  Standing at his open door, I asked myself if I really wanted to study sociology and undecided as to my answer, I turned around and went back without talking to him.  Afterwards, I wondered if he hadn’t been busy, if I had arrived earlier or later, or if by chance he had looked up, and I had spoken to him, would the course of my life have been changed?

 

  1. I applied to and was accepted at DePaul University in their graduate school to obtain a Master of Science in Mathematics.  I thought this made the most sense for me because it was a natural continuation of my interests and with a Masters I knew I could get a teaching job at an undergraduate college, which I thought was a possible career for me given my abilities.  Thus, in September 1963, I left my summer job at the Population Research Center and started graduate work at DePaul.

 

  1. All my mathematics courses were in the evening, and one block away from DePaul University on Michigan Boulevard in downtown Chicago was the Continental Assurance Company; and thus, it was natural for me to apply for a job in their actuarial department.  I was comfortable that I could handle the M.S. studies in the evening and work full time during the day.  I knew the actuarial work given to new students would involve mathematics and programming, and I would not have to get involved in any “business” applications.  This then was a good fit for the two years that I expected to be working on my Masters because I would be doing a job that Continental needed done and earning money at the same time.  Continental gave me a specialized test, involving both English and mathematics that they only gave to individuals applying for actuarial work.  Fortunately, I passed both pieces of the test, and my interviews went well, and I was hired full time as a new actuarial employee.  I started work on Monday, November 18, 1963.

 

  1. On Friday of that week, President Kennedy was assassinated.  People were walking around the office talking, gathering in small groups, and I knew something was wrong.  Not knowing exactly what was happening, I sat at my desk, reading the material my supervisor had given me, waiting and wondering.  I heard women workers near me say that the phone lines were down and then another one say, “He’s dead.”  My supervisor came over to me and told me the news.  I could go home, and there wasn’t going to be any work on Monday.  I took the El home that terrible afternoon, wondering who had shot the President and why, and what the effect was going to be on the country.  Starting graduate work in mathematics and with my new job, I had entered a new phase in my life, and now with the assassination it appeared that the United States of America was also entering a new phase in its history.

 

 

Years through Age 31 and Their Later Effects

 

  1. The living room of my parents’ house had a large picture window and when the curtains were pulled back and the window was washed and perfectly clean, it appeared that the space was open, free of any glass barrier to the outside.  Sometimes birds flying on the outside would crash into the glass unaware it was there.  One day when I was in the kitchen, I heard a bird bump into the living room window.  I went outside to investigate and found a dazed bird on the ground.  I picked him up in my two hands.  His terrified eyes looked at me, and I felt his heart beating rapidly.  I thought that if I had been a bird, I might be able to communicate with him and find out if anything was broken.  I walked to the back yard where there were other birds in the trees and placed the dazed bird on the ground.  After fluttering his wings a couple times, the injured bird began chirping and joined the others in a tree.

 

201.                       Later, as I reflected on this accident, I recognized the mystery of God’s Incarnation and came to a better understanding of this central event in human history.  God came to us as a man because we are able to understand human communication, and He arrived in such a way that a broken humanity would not be terrified and could be healed.  Christ, as described in scripture and understood in the traditions of the Church and as reflected in the lives of saints, confirms a portion of my adolescent insight; namely, the insight that God cares for and loves individual people. 

 

202.                       Between October 11, 1962 and December 8, 1965, the twenty-first ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church (Vatican II) was held.  Pope John XXIII’s stated objectives in calling the Council were to seek the renewal of the Church and to modernize its forms and institutions.  He also wanted to foster unity among Christians.  Being in school and working full time during most of this period, I did not follow the Council closely, and indeed the opening days Vatican II were overshadowed by the Cuban Missile crisis.  Subsequently, homilies at mass were my main source of information as to what was happening at the Council.

 

203.                       There was a fairly sizable group of actuarial students at Continental Assurance at various stages in the examination cycle, and I became friendly with most of them.  One group periodically met on weekends to play cards, mainly poker and variants of the game.  I enjoyed these sessions and did quite well.  At work, I was doing FORTRAN and COBOL programming, which wasn’t that interesting but office camaraderie helped pass the time.  In the evenings, I was busy with my courses in mathematics at DePaul.

 

204.                       In 1931 the German mathematician, Kurt Gödel, published a significant paper, On Formally Undecidable Propositions of Principia Mathematica and Related Systems, which once I understood it made me appreciate the limitations of mathematics.  Ever since high school geometry I had been enamored with the axiomatic method where certain axioms are given or accepted and from them an entire edifice of theorems and mathematical structure can be reasoned.  In his paper, however, Gödel demonstrated that certain statements in any axiomatic system could not be proven to be either true or false.  There were then certain undecidable propositions, neither true nor false, but simply not decidable.  If the mathematician attempted to add an axiom or another given in order to determine whether the proposition was true or false, then he would disturb the consistency of the system; that is, certain other propositions could now be shown to be both true and false simultaneously.  A contradictory system would be untenable for mathematics.  No mathematician would add an axiom that would introduce contradictions in order to force certain other statements to be either true or false.  Thus, in order to have consistency or no contradictions in the system, mathematicians have to live with certain propositions that are not decidable.  In some sense then an axiomatic system is not complete because it gives rise to undecidable propositions.  To recognize that mathematics was limited in what it could do was an important step in my intellectual development.    

 

205.                       Particle was a quarterly journal “by and for” science students with offices in Berkeley and Chicago.  After the Mathematics Magazine  turned down my paper on determinants, I submitted it to Particle in August 1962 and based on their comments made some minor changes and resubmitted it a month later.  Months passed, and I never heard from them, and thus it was a surprise in December 1963 and again in February 1964 to receive letters from them that the paper was being reviewed for publication.  In their last letter, the referee suggested that I prove some theorems using my definition or discuss a computer application of the method.  The definition was not constructed to prove theorems but to calculate determinants.  The FORTRAN program I had written in the spring of 1963 was the computer application that the referee was looking for in order to complete the paper, but I did not have the time in February 1964, with both school and work, to integrate the two into a coherent paper.  Besides, at that point in my life, it was no longer important to publish a paper that introduced a computational technique where professionals were already happy with the existing methodology, and thus I did not submit an integrated paper and my correspondence on determinants came to an end.

 

206.                       Slowly, I came to understand what the winter night dream sequence meant to me.  Mathematics was beautiful and elegant like the splendor of the night sky on a clear cold night, but if I went that route, I would be alone, the solitary figure in the dream, wondering at amazement and working within myself to generate endless refinements to the edifice that was mathematics.

 

207.                       In 1964 John Bell, a physicist concerned with the design of elementary-particle accelerators, published a paper that showed it was possible to design actual experiments, not just thought experiments, that would decide which of two approaches to quantum reality were correct, orthodox quantum theory or any other interpretation based on the idea that electrons and other quantum particles have a definite local reality.  Orthodox quantum theory predicts a correlation between distinct objects that doesn’t rely on the physical signals or interactions of classical physics.  Some physicists thought that the notion of local reality could be salvaged at the subatomic level through hidden variables operating within elementary particles.  Bell’s paper was a major discovery, showing that measurements would decide if a hidden variable approach was correct or not.  Subsequent experiments in the 1970’s and 1980’s based on Bell’s paper showed that orthodox quantum theory was the correct approach.  Thus the other part of the insight I had as an adolescent was also confirmed: quantum theory with its probabilities rather than actualities is a correct understanding of our universe. 

 

208.                       One of the young actuarial students at Continental Assurance was Al; and in the summer of 1965, Al, one of his friends, and I took a trip by car to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Teton mountains.  It was the first of several trips that I was to make, sometimes by myself and sometimes with friends in the years 1965 through 1971 and where I was able to see and explore almost the entire continental United States.  On this particular trip, Al wanted to see if he could drive over 1000 miles in one day.  On the first day, we left Chicago around 5 A.M. and after an extended rest stop in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, we made it to Casper, Wyoming, over 1000 road miles from Chicago around 10:30 P.M.

 

209.                       Al now designed another trip, his grand tour, which would take him to every state in the continental United States.  He had mapped out a road plan, which covered slightly over 10,000 miles and went to each of the 48 contiguous states.  In many instances his plan only called for him to drive into one town in a particular state and then to drive out.  He would mail himself a card at the local post office and the cancelled stamp would show the date and time he had been in the state.  In that way he would have a set of 48 post cards, one from each state, documenting his grand tour.  The surprise part of his plan was that he would complete the entire tour in 10 days, which meant driving over 1,000 miles each day for 10 consecutive days.  He needed a co-pilot to keep him awake and to watch the road and asked me if I was interested.  Al had a wry quiet sense of humor that made it difficult to sometimes tell if he was serious or joking.  I think he was serious, and the idea had some appeal for me but not the 10 day timing, and thus I declined.  The number one cause of death for young males at the time was accidents, and 1000 miles for 10 consecutive days for one driver was too great a risk for any personal satisfaction or reward that accomplishing such a trip might bring.  I suggested 30 days, but one month’s vacation from the job was not possible, and we abandoned the idea.  However, his goal of visiting every state in the continental Union appealed to me, and I decided to make his grand tour leisurely over a period of years, dividing the country into regions and visiting the major cities and sites in that region before returning home and then moving on to another part of the country.

 

210.                       Another actuary in the office was Elmore.  He was slightly older than my other friends and was an examination away from fellowship.  Our conversations usually touched on philosophical questions and religion.  His goal at working in an office was to accumulate as much money as possible so that he could retire as quickly as possible.  He found he could do actuarial work and was happy with the salaries actuaries earned.  Like me, he abhorred drudgery, office politics, and the notion of climbing a corporate ladder.  Thus any success toward his goal of financial independence had to come from the money he earned as a technical actuary rather than an insurance executive and then as to how wisely he invested that money.  With respect to religion, Elmore was an agnostic, and he seemed genuinely surprised to have found in me a practicing Catholic who appeared at least on the surface to be reasonably normal.  One notion that bothered him and made Christianity impossible to believe was the eternity of hell.  If God was good and in charge, how could he assign someone to suffer forever? 

 

211.                       Upon reflection, some individuals have freely rejected God.  Observations show some individuals acting with cruelty and wickedness toward others and apparently loving evil.  How can a just God not deliver us from evil in the next world?  And if this means separating us permanently from those who do evil without remorse, then why wouldn’t a merciful God do that?  Unfortunately, I know I have the capacity to do evil.  That is why I need Christ, the Savior, and why I need to think and pray daily.  I didn’t say any of this to Elmore because at that time I didn’t understand enough to formulate the words.  

 

212.                       Time is not well understood.  The fact human beings perceive it as passing or flowing with a present, past, and future raises difficulties with many of the theoretical constructions of physics and philosophy.  The thought of eternity, not only as everlasting, but also as timeless where all events are “seen” in one moment allows the Christian believer to pray for individuals from his past, with the possibility of affecting those events which have not yet been separated or deconstructed in a quantum universe defined by probabilistic states.

 

213.                       One summer afternoon I sat reading on the back porch of my parents’ house.  Birds were in the grass, pecking at the ground, walking, and then pecking some more.  One bird was somewhat separated from the other birds, off to the side near the bushes and trees that divided my parents’ yard from the yard of their neighbor.  There I noticed a stray cat, crouching close to ground, almost hidden from view by the shrubbery, waiting as the isolated bird wandered closer toward the bushes.  I observed that the cat remained perfectly still, tense and coiled, waiting to pounce on the approaching bird.  If I moved, I would disturb the situation and force an outcome, and I wondered if I should take action?

 

214.                       In the autumn of 1964, Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater were the presidential candidates of the two major parties.  As a Democrat, I naturally supported Johnson, and Goldwater’s rhetoric scared me enough to actively campaign for Johnson and to write letters for him.  Apparently millions of other Americans were also scared by Goldwater because we overwhelmingly returned Lyndon Johnson to the White House with 61% of the votes.  Having reached age twenty-one in 1962, 1964 was the first Presidential election in which I could vote.  Because of the subsequent actions of Johnson and his Democratic advisors in Viet Nam, it was the last time I actively worked for a candidate because of party affiliation.

 

215.                       On June 9, 1965, I graduated from DePaul University with a M.S. degree in mathematics.  At the end of June I learned that I had passed Part 2 of the actuarial examinations.  The prior June I had received credit for Part 1.  I was a very happy person as the summer of 1965 began, not only because I had done well with my graduate level mathematics courses and the actuarial examinations but also because I had wide circle of friends.  From my grammar school days, I frequently saw Jim and his wife, Judy, and Ray.  From my high school days, I saw my chess playing friends at tournaments and club meetings.  From my college days, I golfed frequently with John and Ed, the latter having also received a M.S. in mathematics from DePaul.  Finally, there were my workers and friends from Continental Assurance and a host of social activities through work.

 

216.                       It was reasonably clear to me that in many ways I was now living my second dream sequence, Renoir’s Boat Party.

 

217.                       In July 1965 President Johnson announced massive increases in American ground troops to prevent South Vietnam from falling to the communists in North Vietnam; and in order to meet the demand in manpower, he also announced corresponding increases in the monthly draft totals.  In early September, I received a notice from my draft board to report for a medical examination on September 22.  I passed their physical and mental examinations and was classified 1A, which meant a draft notice could come at any time.  My mother was overwrought and actually started to lose weight with worry.  My godfather, Uncle Joseph, took me aside and spoke to me like I was his son.  I had a M.S. in mathematics and if I could use my degree in some positive way and avoid fighting in Vietnam, the family would be relieved.  He said that there was no glory in the war with North Vietnam.  This was not like World War II where the nation had to fight to defend itself.  This message from a regular Democrat, an intelligent hard-working printer with no specialized knowledge in world affairs, given to me in 1965 proved to be more accurate and true than the messages given by the “best and brightest” that ran the United States.  I often wonder about the processes, the events and thoughts that cause so many individuals who obtain positions of leadership and power to devalue or not properly evaluate the opinions of ordinary people.

 

218.                       I believe it was in early 1967 that Uncle Al and Aunt Ann returned to Chicago for a family visit from California where they had relocated.  Uncle Al told my father and his brothers about how great he thought California’s governor, Ronald Reagan, was.  I think I smugly said something disparaging about movie and television actors as politicians, which caused my uncle to respond, “Don’t underestimate him.  He’s a natural leader and could be President some day.”

 

219.                       I had thought about teaching math at a small college once I obtained my M.S., but the mathematics in the actuarial profession attracted me and caused me to hesitate.  Offsetting the academic foundations of the profession was the actual running of an insurance company, a business with all of its ramifications including office politics, which did not attract me in the least.  I kept thinking about how much I enjoyed mathematics, the intellectual excitement of discovering theorems and how mathematics was constructed and that I would eventually lose that if I continued with the actuarial profession.  Vietnam and the pressure of being drafted now introduced another factor.  I thought the United States was correct in trying to stop the spread of communism but uncertain as to the wisdom of a ground war in Southeast Asia.  If drafted, I thought I could perhaps invoke religious principles and apply for service in a medical unit, helping doctors with the wounded rather than actually fighting, but I was not certain how our armed services would react to such a request from a draftee.  About this time, I heard of an opportunity at a college that had recently opened for women in St. Charles Illinois called St. Dominic’s College.  They needed an instructor in physics and mathematics starting in September 1966, and the timing seemed right for me.  I could take the additional physics courses I needed at DePaul during the academic year 1965-1966 and continue working at Continental.  When St. Dominic College offered me the position, I accepted.  The Dean wrote a letter to my draft board, and I obtained a deferment.

 

220.                       Sometime later as I was studying demography I noticed that the number of births in the United States increased dramatically in 1946; more precisely, the number of live births went up by 553,000 from 2,858,000 to 3,411,000, an increase of 19%.  This was the start of the post World War II baby boom, which lasted in the United States through 1964.  It was this increase in population that nineteen years later gave Lyndon Johnson the extra manpower he needed to fight the war.  If the increased manpower had not been there, would the United States have put ground troops into Vietnam?  The factors and considerations that went into the war and its continuation were never clear to me.  Goldwater had frightened me because I thought he would go to war too quickly, but then Johnson and his Democratic advisors actually went to war contrary to the mandate he had received in the general election.  The miscalculations on the war eventually reinforced my opinion that politicians of both major parties did not know what they were talking about.  Real world events were complicated, intertwined with other unknowns and essentially not predictable.  Individuals, even experts, who expressed certainty about political and social issues, were generally not to be believed.  The expert who was more nuanced with opinions and who recognized uncertainty was more believable.  I began to look for individuals, regardless of party or political affiliation, who I could trust to act responsibly in a world full of surprises and uncertain events.

 

221.                       In Illinois voters did not have to declare party affiliation in order to vote in the primary elections.  Thus a person could decide on the day of the primary to choose either a Republican ballot or a Democratic ballot, and two years later switch the choice of party if a particular candidate on the other ballot appealed to him.  When I came to New York, I found besides the two major parties, a wide array of parties, such as Conservative and Liberal, but I had to declare my party affiliation up front at registration.  “I’m independent,” I told the clerk when I was registering to vote, “I don’t want to be affiliated with any party.”  The amazed clerk had to search for a form that allowed a citizen to register as an independent but eventually found it, and I was so registered.  The problem, of course, was that I could vote only in the general election, not the primary election; and in New York City where the overwhelming majority of registered voters are Democrats this meant I could not vote in the primary election, which for all practical purposes, determined the actual winning candidate.  As an example, in the first general election in which I voted, the candidate that I wanted had already gone down to defeat in the primary and was not even on the ballot.  I decided I had to vote in the primaries and re-registered as a Democrat.

 

222.                       Many years later as I was signing the voting register in a primary election, I noticed the letters DEM underneath my name.  This told the clerk at the voting booth that I was a Democrat, and she duly noted the proper ballot.  What surprised me was that my daughter, who had just turned 18 and registered, had the letters BLA underneath her name.  I couldn’t figure out what party BLA referenced.  Black Liberation Army was the only thing that came into my mind.  I knew she might have liberal tendencies but even so that was an unusual choice of party given the current political climate.  I thought I would broach the subject with her to see if entry into college had altered some of her views.  I laughed out loud when I found out that BLA meant blank and that she had registered as an independent!

 

223.                       My year of studying graduate physics at DePaul was not very productive.  I did not think as a physicist, and I found myself struggling with many of the courses similar to my experiences as an undergraduate and in contrast to the graduate level mathematics courses I had just taken to obtain my Masters.  I bought the three volume set, The Feynman Lectures on Physics, and in 1966 I had a grant at the Argonne National Laboratory for their program, Summer Institute in Nuclear-Physical Chemistry, and these sources gave me some confidence with twentieth century physics, but classical physics remained a challenge for me.

 

224.                       About twenty new faculty members descended on St. Dominic College nestled in the woods on the banks of the Fox River in St. Charles Illinois in the autumn of 1966.  The school’s President, a Dominican sister, wanted to develop a top-flight college quickly and decided that a high faculty to student ratio would help recruit highly rated students.  The lay faculty outnumbered the Dominican teaching sisters three to one and was a diverse group in terms of academic disciplines and teaching experience and also ecumenical with Protestants, Jews, and agnostics represented.  I made friends with some of the faculty, but for a number of reasons, I did not enjoy my first year of teaching.  Firstly, the commute between St. Charles and Westchester was too long to do on a daily basis especially in the winter, and thus I rented a flat in St. Charles a few minutes drive from the campus.  I was lonely, eating most of my meals in local restaurants, and preparing the next day assignments in the evening.  Secondly, the town of St. Charles was located on the banks of the Fox River, forty miles west of Chicago, and had its own history which dated back to the nineteenth century.  It appeared to me that many of its residents were worried that the western suburbs of Chicago were growing too rapidly, that all the available farm land between St. Charles and Chicago would be lost to developers, and that the big city was encroaching on their way of life.  They were correct in their assessment but generally powerless to stop the western migration out of Chicago and its suburbs, and I believe this affected the way some of the native residents viewed the new College.  Simultaneously and somewhat contradictory, I found the natural friendliness of some of the residents disquieting.  For example, when I first opened an account at the local bank, the teller recognized the address of my flat, knew my landlady and proceeded to tell me things about her finances that were professionally inappropriate.  I did not feel comfortable in St. Charles and was happy to go home or into Chicago every weekend.  Finally, as a new teacher, I was very nervous and this was compounded by the fact that I didn’t know or love physics the way a college teacher should.  I realized I had made a mistake in agreeing to teach the subject.  By the end of the first semester, I started looking at other local colleges in order to find a job teaching mathematics, but St. Dominic College offered me another yearly contract, this time to teach only mathematics, and so I stayed at the school another year.

 

225.                       During my first year of teaching, I would periodically drive to DeKalb, Illinois and visit Joe Hartley, my former high school basketball coach.  Joe was now teaching and living in DeKalb, but Beryl was back in Westchester teaching mathematics at Nixon grammar school and completing the years she needed to collect a full pension.  They would see each other on weekends, but during the week, Joe was by himself and pleased to have company over dinner at one of the local restaurants.  In spite of the age difference between us, we had a few things in common – we both enjoyed basketball and we both dabbled in the stock market.  It was actually Joe Hartley who started me investing in stocks, back when I worked at Continental.  My parents, having lived through the great Depression, never invested in the stock market and kept their money in banks and savings and loan associations, but Joe said prudent investing in the market was wise over the long term and showed me the basics, giving me the name of his broker.  In 1964, I had opened an account and began investing.  I picked my own stocks, set targets, watched my rate of return, and sold when I thought the time was right.  I was not an active trader and never owned more than a handful of stocks at any one time, but at least this experience gave me some idea of how a business was run and how money was made.  Joe and I now compared companies and stocks.

 

226.                       As far as I could tell the changes initiated by Vatican II caused divisions among the Dominican sisters.  The tensions, although publicly unstated and certainly not understood by me, were at times palpable.  The President of the college, using the themes of Vatican II - renewal, modernization, and ecumenism - wanted to quickly create a great Catholic college from scratch; however, certain practical considerations, such as outgoing expenses exceeding incoming revenues caused in part by a large number of lay faculty and not enough students, were obviously causing problems.  More fundamentally, there appeared to be divisions between those nuns who wanted to move and implement changes quickly and those who wanted to go slowly or not at all.  Whatever the reasons, between my first and second years of teaching, the President was replaced by another Dominican sister and subsequently left the religious order.  Another difficulty on campus was that a few of the lay faculty proved to be unstable – one had an emotional breakdown and had to leave teaching, while a second apparently left his wife of many years for one of his students.  St. Dominic College closed its doors in 1970 and sold its campus to Arthur Andersen, the accounting and consulting firm, who used it as a training center.

 

227.                       One of the students said to me that many people only call upon God when something was going wrong.  If things were going smoothly, they did not think about Him.  I don’t know how true this is or what percentage of the population comes under this description.  In theory, Christians should give thanks daily for all their blessings and all the good things in life and not take them for granted.  If evil is threatened, we should redouble our prayers.  God is good, and since Pentecost the Holy Spirit is with us; and thus, we have the power to put evil behind us if are not seduced by its short-term attractions.  Physical evil that comes to us from the outside and through nature remains a mystery to me.  I suspect that mankind has yet much to learn about physics and biology and their connections with our interior lives and how our minds are linked to the universe and events.

 

228.                       One of the lay faculty who also functioned as a student dean told me he didn’t believe in prayer.  It was a waste of time; only the actions of people mattered and that was the way to change the world.  His attitude was common among many of the academic people I knew.  Prayer, however, is human action, requiring thought, time and energy.  Actions produce results, and therefore, I think we should pray and not be led astray by the argument that it makes no difference.

 

229.                       Like prayer, almsgiving is another action that makes a difference in the world and which I started to practice.  In March 1967, I became a foster parent, joining Foster Parents’ Plan, Inc. and began to support a Vietnamese child, Phu.  According to the case history, Phu was born September 1, 1957 and was one of eight children.  His parents came to South Vietnam as refugees from the north, the father died of tuberculosis in 1965, and the mother and children settled in Cholon.  The mother and the two oldest children worked, but their combined income was not sufficient to support their basic needs.  Because of my monthly support, Foster Parents’ Plan provided the child with a monthly cash grant, medical care, and schooling; and this assistance gave the entire family some measure of security.  Every month Phu wrote me a letter, which was translated into English by Foster Parents’ Plan, and I received both the handwritten original letter and the typed translation.  I, in turn, wrote short notes back to him and his family, and we exchanged photographs.

 

230.                       Phu was my foster child from March 1967 through August 1971 when Foster Parents’ Plan determined that outside assistance was no longer necessary and wrote me, “You will be happy to learn that the family’s economic conditions have improved to the point where further outside help will be unnecessary.  Our Director advises that the boy passed the highly competitive entrance exams to the first grade of a public secondary school last year.  He is now on summer vacation and is a very good student.  He ranked among the top ten of sixty-three in his class.  He would like to be a teacher later on.  A recent chest x-ray examination showed that he as well as his mother and sister, Dung, are now cured of TB.”  The letter then continued and documented the family’s finances, which had improved significantly from March 1967.

 

231.                       Years later I was reading a pamphlet distributed by the Christopher’s that encouraged individuals not to weary of doing good things in the world.  To me that is a message worth noting.  If I had not kept Phu’s letters, I would not have remembered the circumstances of my involvement.  Sometimes I hear friends of mine, basically good people, say that they have accomplished nothing in life.  I don’t think they remember all the good things they did in the past and need the encouragement provided by organizations like the Christopher’s who remind us not to become weary and to continue to do good deeds to others.    

 

232.                       During my second year of teaching, I shared a flat with Jacque, who was a French Canadian, and an instructor of French at the College.  The fact that I now had a roommate and was no longer alone, along with my teaching mathematics instead of physics, made my second year at St. Dominic College far more enjoyable than my first year, but I still thought that teaching was probably not a good career choice for me.  Moreover, I knew that a Ph.D. in mathematics was essential if I wanted to do anything in mathematics, including teaching.  It was for these reasons that I left St. Dominic College and accepted a graduate teaching assignment in the evening division at the Illinois Institute of Technology in the autumn of 1968.  This program paid me to teach calculus and differential equations in the evening and to pursue a doctorate in the day.

 

233.                       The year 1968 was traumatic for the United States.  On January 30, North Vietnam launched its Tet offensive, which turned American opinion against the war.  At the end of March, Lyndon Johnson surprised the nation when he announced at the end of a speech that he would not seek reelection.  I remember watching him on television with my parents and my Uncle Al and Aunt Emma and all of them sadly shook their heads, wondering what had happened to the Democratic Party.  In fairness to Lyndon Johnson, his domestic programs did much for the country; Medicare and Medicaid virtually eliminated poverty for the elderly, civil rights legislation restored justice for minorities, and a host of other legislation improved education, cultural programs, the environment, and the protection of consumers, but in March 1968 these achievements were overshadowed by war.  On April 4 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, followed by the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy in June.  The Democratic National Convention held in Chicago in late August exploded in street violence.  The nation seemed to be coming apart.  Earlier that summer, as Jacque and I traveled by car taking the leisurely variant of Al’s grand tour through the southwestern and western states, we saw hundreds of students traveling, but everywhere from the hitchhikers on the highways of Texas to the flower people in San Francisco the V sign for peace was flashed.

 

234.                       April 4, 1968 was a very warm early spring day in St. Charles.  I was driving, crossing the bridge over the Fox River, with the car windows wide open on my way to a restaurant for supper when a crazy random thought popped into my head, “Mayor Daley has been assassinated.”  I parked the car, went into the restaurant, and ordered.  While waiting for my food, an announcer broke into the television program that was showing above the restaurant bar.  He said there was breaking news and to stay tuned for a special announcement.  I looked up startled and waited, half expecting to hear something about the Mayor, but then the announcer said that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot in Memphis!  Up to that point, I never had a clairvoyant extra sensory experience in my life, and technically my thought, which occurred about ten minutes before Dr. King’s murder was announced on television, was not correct because I had the wrong person.  Nevertheless, I sat in the restaurant, shocked at the assassination and bewildered by my experience.  Nothing like that has happened to me subsequently, and I attribute the experience to chance and not some “sixth sense” because I know I occasionally have silly uncontrolled predictive thoughts, which I promptly forget when nothing happens to validate them; but this one time, my predictive thought was close to what actually happened and given the stature of Dr. King, I remember the event.

 

235.                       To me Dr. King’s public life is a testimony to the power of Christ’s message in the world.  His “I Have a Dream” speech, which has made its way into American history, is the gospel call for justice “without bitterness or hatred” acknowledging the brotherhood of mankind and the “glory of the Lord” and ending with a thanks to “God Almighty”.  When I was growing up, I had virtually no contact with blacks or Negroes, the term used at the time, before I went to high school.  When the civil rights movement started, I thought everyone was like me, happy and basically satisfied with a good life, and I did not understand what motivated people to join the movement.  Slowly, as events unfolded, I learned.  On Good Friday in 1963 Dr. King was arrested and thrown into a Birmingham jail.  Out of that jail, he wrote a letter, which I didn’t read until much later but which answered my questions.  Dr. King wrote, “But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tip-toe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness’; then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”  The night before his death, Dr. King himself may have had a clairvoyant experience or perhaps the grace of God had prepared him for death when he said, “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life.  Longevity has its place.  But I’m not concerned about that now.  I just want to do God’s will.  And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain and I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land.  I may not get there with you.  But I want you to know that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.  And so I’m happy tonight.  I’m not worried about anything.  I’m not fearing any man.  Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

 

236.                       The opening of the first Amendment to the United States Constitution reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...”  When Dr. King stood at the Lincoln Memorial, on public property, and delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech and spoke the words “Lord” and “God”, he was not establishing his religion as the law of the land but freely exercising the right to practice his religion as stated in the first Amendment.

 

237.                       Sometime during the school year 1967-1968, before the Democratic National Convention and the subsequent trial of the Chicago 7, one of the college departments, I believe it was the History Department, invited the anti-war organizer, Rennie Davis, to speak at the St. Dominic campus.  There was a huge uproar, the St. Charles press and the local radio station decided to cover the event, some faculty members were to be on the speakers’ platform with Mr. Davis to present an alternate point of view, and the Dean who was to introduce the speakers – this was the same Dean who told me that the world could only be changed by physical action - decided he didn’t want to be seen and asked me to take his place on the podium.  Even though I did not favor public demonstrations against the war, I recognized their validity under the Constitution, and I was a reasonably objective person.  Moreover, as a laid-back mathematician who could fairly represent both points of view, I might serve as a calming influence on the presenters and audience.  I agreed to open the session, introduce the participants, and facilitate; and that is what I did.  Happily the event took place without incident.  My recollection is that Rennie Davis made his speech, which was neither warmly greeted nor roundly rejected by the audience.  A faculty member – the one who eventually left his wife for one of his students – argued for American values, stopping communism in Southeast Asia, and support for the war, which raised a passionate rebuke from a small group of anti-war students and one other faculty member who claimed the war went against American values and was immoral.

 

238.                       I watched the 1968 Democratic National Convention on television.  Hubert Humphrey received the nomination, but his triumph was overshadowed by the anti-war demonstrations organized by Rennie Davis and others and the subsequent adverse reaction of the Chicago police to them.  With two assassinations in mind and civil unrest rampant, Mayor Daley was determined that the Convention would take place and not be disrupted.  He was organized with police and troops that outnumbered demonstrators two to one.  What he needed then was a calming influence, someone who could have told the police that they had the situation under control and that there was no need for strong-arm antics.  Unfortunately that did not happen and crowds of people were clubbed and gassed - Davis himself was knocked unconscious – and some of the violence was shown on live television to millions of Americans.  By the grace of God, no one was killed, but the candidacy of Hubert Humphrey may have received its mortal wound in Chicago.

 

239.                       The conclusion to the first Amendment of the United States Constitution reads, “...or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”.  The anti-war protesters in Chicago had the right to peacefully assemble and to exercise their freedom of speech.  However, the demonstrations in Chicago had not been peaceful, and the organizers were charged with conspiring to incite a riot.  The jury trial acquitted the “Chicago 7” of conspiracy but found five of them, including Renee Davis, guilty of inciting a riot.  Subsequently a review court overturned those convictions.  Simultaneously, in separate cases, police officers were also cleared of any wrong doing during the Convention.  Public demonstrations are part of the American tradition, and we need to be vigilant that peaceful assemblies of unpopular protesters will not be stopped by tactics that accuse them of non-existent crimes.

 

240.                       Throughout the 1960’s and early 1970’s, I continued to play USCF chess, postal chess, and was a member of various chess teams and chess clubs in the Chicago area.  I have many pleasant memories and experiences from chess over those years.  I will only mention two.  First, between 1967 and 1971, the Oak Park Chess Club periodically visited the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Indiana to play their chess team, the Gambiteers.  The matches, played under tournament conditions, within the prison’s recreational area were on Sunday afternoons.  I am reminded of those trips whenever I hear the scriptural injunction to visit prisoners (e.g., Matthew 25, 37).  Of course, modern prisons provide food and medicine, but back in St. Matthew’s time, they didn’t, which is why it was an important act of mercy for the early Christians.  For the Oak Park chess team, we looked forward to our matches with the Gambiteers because it was an opportunity to play the game we loved in an unusual setting, and I don’t think our team thought very much about the spiritual or social aspects of our visits.  My second memory is that of the Illinois Chess Open which was held Labor Day weekend, August 30-September 2, 1968 in Chicago.  Because of the trauma at the Democratic National Convention, which ended the day before the tournament started, the hotel that was to host the event canceled the playing site.  (The joke among the chess players was that hotel management thought we were going to continue the demonstrations, wantonly throwing chess pieces at bystanders).  Fortunately, my former company, Continental Assurance, showed common sense and offered us their building.  Chess players received special passes to enter the building for the weekend tournament; I returned to the place where I had worked for over two years; and in some small way Chicago returned to normal. 

 

241.                       Two weeks before the 1968 election, I surprised Ray with the statement that I was voting for Hubert Humphrey.  “How in the world did you come to that conclusion?” he asked wide eyed with amazement, believing that the Democratic Party was in shambles and that Nixon would win easily.  I explained that it had nothing to do with party; that as an independent voter, I thought Humphrey was a better candidate than either Nixon or Wallace and that he could do the best job as President.  Thus, on that Election Day I cast my vote for Humphrey; and regardless of party, the person I thought the best candidate received my vote in every subsequent election.  The 1968 popular vote was surprisingly close, but Nixon won the election and became America’s 37th President.

 

242.                       When I first started teaching at St. Dominic College, my Uncle Frank, my father’s youngest brother, asked me how I liked teaching at a college for women.  When I told him I was nervous teaching, he got a lascivious grin on his face, “You’re only twenty-four; I too would be nervous around all those twenty year old women!  Are you dating any of them?”  I smiled, “No, Uncle Frank, that wouldn’t be right, it wouldn’t be professional; however, if I ever leave the school, I might consider it.”

 

243.                       E. had been one of my students, and in the tumultuous summer of 1968 when the fabric of American society had shifted, we started to date.  I was not looking for sex for pleasure in spite of the sexual revolution that was unfolding.  To me most of the cultural change was not attractive and some of it contrary to Christianity.  I wanted a family, and a woman who shared similar ideas with respect to God, children, and living, and I looked for someone who might have those ideas.  I thought if two people agreed about the essentials then that would naturally lead to marriage and family living.  Thus, I kept my focus on those essentials, but it soon became clear that there was another essential that was missing and not developing in my relationship with E. and that was love.  Hence, we stopped seeing each other.

 

244.                       In July 1968, Pope Paul VI released, Humanae Vitae, his encyclical that said artificial contraception was wrong and that modern day developments did not warrant a change in this understanding.  Many observers, both Catholic and non-Catholic, thought the ban on artificial contraception would be lifted because of overpopulation concerns and the advent of the birth control pill.  A majority of the individuals, which consisted of married couples and clerical professionals, on the Pope’s commission to study the question had recommended lifting the ban, and therefore, there was real surprise, almost shock, when the ban was vigorously upheld.  No one in my family of parents, aunts or uncles or any of my friends or colleagues seemed to think that there was anything wrong with the practice of artificial birth control.  The assumption, tacit but sometimes stated, was that adult sexual intercourse was completely between the two adults and didn’t involve others.  The notions that God and natural law might be involved were foreign concepts and never seriously considered.  Humanae Vitae received extensive criticism from both Catholics and non-Catholics.  Some Catholic theologians and priests openly disagreed with the encyclical saying that the Pope had issued a non-infallible decision, that there was no definition of dogma, a point of revealed truth to be held by all, in the encyclical; and therefore, married couples were free to follow their own consciences.  Non-Catholics expressed alarm that overpopulation would swamp the globe, leading to uncontrolled famine and wars and that zero population growth was necessary.  I remember listening to Norman Ross, a Chicago TV and radio talk show host, interview Philip Hauser, my former boss’s boss at the Population Research Center, discussing the rate of increase of population and extrapolating the current population exponentially into impossible numbers of people – how would the human race survive?  A similar theme was discussed that same year by Paul Ehrlich in his book, The Population Bomb, and a few years later when the global think tank known as the Club of Rome issued their work, Limits of Growth.  These experts all agreed that the planet was in serious trouble and predicted economic crisis by the 1990’s due to population growth.

 

245.                       I tended not to believe the demographic doomsters.  I didn’t have a completely cogent argument, but I think I recognized that life expectancy was one of the basic measures as to how individuals in a population were fairing, and globally, almost everywhere, in spite of the rapid increases in population during the 20th century, life expectancy was improving.  Thus, increasing populations were not immediately harmful, and if they turned out to be, then we should start to see that impact in human mortality.  Additionally, in an intuitive way, zero population growth seemed bad to me in that it would probably lead to stagnation and a decline in living standards.  On the other hand, unlimited or very high population growth was also crazy as the doomsters had shown.  I thought that slow, steady population growth was the best way to achieve ongoing progress. 

 

246.                       “How many pairs of rabbits can be produced from a single pair in a year if every month each pair begets a new pair which from the second month on becomes productive?”  This is a famous mathematical problem from the year 1202 given by Leonardo Fibonacci, also known as Leonardo of Pisa.  It leads to the following sequence where the terms are the number of pairs of rabbits present in successive months:  1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89,144,233,...  The pattern here is that each term in the sequence, given that the first two terms are 1’s, is the sum of the preceding two terms.  These Fibonacci numbers are seemingly ubiquitous in nature, occurring in a surprising number of unexpected places.  I have had fun working with these numbers.  Humans, of course, do not reproduce following this sequence, but real population growth world wide has been measured, quantified, and then projected based on various assumptions.  In the fully developed countries of the world, birth rates have fallen dramatically from the 1960’s and today virtually none of them are reproducing their populations, a fact that is still masked in many countries by their prior population increases.  Unless this trend is reversed, these nations will actually start to lose population, exclusive of immigration, sometime in the first half of the new millennium.  In most of the less developed countries of the world, birth rates today are generally falling but remain above the replacement level.  Most projections have the world population leveling off in the middle of the 21st century and exponential doubling is no longer in any forecast.  Although the population of the world grew four-fold in the 20th century and more than doubled in my lifetime, the predicted catastrophes never occurred because technology and markets produced enough food, goods, and services.

 

247.                       Father Langan at Divine Infant spoke about artificial contraception and the unpopularity of the teaching which banned it, “the Pope has not been proven or shown to be wrong.”  A year before Humanae Vitae was issued, a visiting priest told parishioners that the ban against artificial birth control could not be removed by the Church because the teaching was true, based on natural law which came from God, and taught consistently by the bishops throughout the history of the Church.  In my nearly fifty years of attending mass and listening to sermons, these are the only two times I have heard birth control mentioned from the pulpit.  Information on where to learn about natural family planning methods has been periodically listed in parish bulletins.

 

248.                       Natural family planning methods had been discussed and written about before Humanae Vitae, but the encyclical brought them to the forefront with the following words:  “If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling births in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principle which We have just explained.”  One of these methods, which became known as the Billings Ovulation Method, after John and Evelyn Billings, the Australian doctors who developed and wrote about the method extensively, is very straightforward.  A change in cervical mucus indicates that the cyclical ovulation process is beginning anew, and the couple needs to abstain from marital intercourse during this time if they are spacing births.

 

249.                       In the 1960’s I found it difficult to believe that artificial contraception was wrong, but over time, my views were modified once I thought about nature and as a Christian inserted God into the picture.  I usually found it easy to ignore God.  I could get up in the morning and go through the entire day without once acknowledging his presence.  If my conscience started to bother me or if by chance I saw or heard something that reminded me of God, I could just turn my mind away and become engrossed in another activity.  I could be closed, not open, to God – I could set up barriers.  This line of thought led me to see that contraception is a barrier, an obvious barrier to new life.  How can I reflect the natural order and the innate desire to procreate and to transmit genes if I use contraceptives?  How can a new life come to be if I don’t allow it?  How can God be God in the birth of a baby if I don’t allow him to be God?  If Providence, and this is speculation, needs a specific number of people to assure that a specific event or action will occur with a very high degree of probability because at least one person will freely do God’s will, then what happens if I don’t initially cooperate and refuse to have children?  Yet there is a tremendous ongoing responsibility in bringing children into the world, in educating and raising them, in assuring that the mother’s well-being and health are preserved, all of which I could not take lightly; and if a slow and steady growth in population is good for society, then the reason for spacing births is clear, and perhaps providentially the Billings Ovulation Method proved to be an effective method of spacing births.

 

250.                       I taught mathematics in the evening division of the Illinois Institute of Technology (I.I.T.) between September 1968 and May 1972.  During this period of time, I took mathematics courses toward a doctorate, played on the I.I.T. chess team for the school in matches, traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean, Canada, and the United States, made many new friends, wrote articles about mathematics (one published) and short stories (none published) and generally enjoyed a life of intellectual leisure.

 

251.                       Rodney was one of my friends during this period of time.  He was a single graduate teaching assistant studying for a doctorate in mathematics similar to me.  After teaching classes, the two of us, sometimes with others, would go out to a variety of pubs to talk and socialize.  O’Rourke’s located on North Avenue was our favorite watering hole.  It had darts and chess boards available to patrons, photographs of the great Irish writers on the walls, and Irish songs or jazz playing in the background.  Rod and I discussed mathematics, teaching, the space program, evolution, movies, and world events.  We drank beer, played chess, and spun impossible theories – it was a good time.

 

252.                       During my speculations, I was not able to construct a plausible reconciliation between evolution and the early chapters of Genesis.  The concept that mankind had fallen from some ideal state seems critical to an understanding of Christian scripture, and thus, although it may be convenient in various contexts to begin the discussion of salvation history with Abraham, ultimately it is intellectually dishonest not to conceptually consider the fall of mankind or to ignore it because it appears to be or perhaps is not reconcilable with evolution.  I thought that scientists would continue to observe and factually document the natural order, hopefully as free as humanly possible from any predisposed materialist ideology, while at the same time Christians would continue to pray and work in the world fully embracing all the doctrines of their faith; and eventually over time, mankind would come to a synthesis and a collective understanding of what is true.  Thus far, this has not happened, and today in the United States, the debate over evolution continues and has expanded with Intelligent Design being put forth as an alternative explanation and evolutionists rejecting these arguments.  

 

253.                       Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man (1959) set forth to reconcile Christian theology with the facts and implications of evolution.  I found his writings very difficult to understand.  In the 1960’s and 1970’s his thoughts received the attention of both scientists and theologians, but as far as I can determine, not many individuals believe he achieved the desired reconciliation between the supernatural elements of Christianity and naturalism.  Nevertheless, Teilhard gave a view of the evolutionary process moving toward its consummation in God, which helped to dispel the impression that the Christian and modern scientific views of the natural world were in irreconcilable conflict.

 

254.                       More recently, I returned to speculations about evolution and the writings in Genesis.  Christianity affirms an event took place at the beginning of the history of mankind (or was it at the start of recorded or observed history?) that separated us from God and the paradise He created.  Scripture speaks of an earlier fall, those of angels, who freely turned from God and disrupted His creation (2Pet2:4).  These events are discontinuities in religious history, and they are barely noted, the full stories having been lost in time and forgotten, leaving an impression of legends.  These discontinuities do not cause Christians to abandon what they know to be true about their faith.  On the other hand, evolution shows a long history of species coming and going with homo sapiens being one of many species to appear.  Geology and biology are marked by discontinuities, sharp breaks in empirical evidence, where it is not clear exactly how or why a new species suddenly arose.  These discontinuities do not cause evolutionists to abandon what they know is true about their science.  In the end some of these religious and scientific discontinuities may be explained and thus will disappear, but others may be true singularities in the construct of the universe or the natural world.  Analogous to what happens in axiomatic systems, the complete truth may not be consistent or reconcilable or decidable to human beings.  Thus, I continue to accept both Christianity and evolution.

 

255.                       On July 20, 1969, I sat with Ray in his living room and watched on television as the United States of America landed Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin on the moon.  We were happy and proud as Americans of this accomplishment, “one small step for man ... one giant leap for mankind.”  Five other Apollo missions were to land on the moon, the last being in December 1972, but progress in space has been very slow the last thirty years compared to what I and all my friends thought would happen back in those heady days when everything seemed possible.

 

256.                       In 1969 the PBS Educational Television stations showed Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation, a remarkably beautiful series of thirteen shows that summarized Western European art over the ages.  The scripts of these television shows were subsequently turned into the text of a book, amply illustrated with the works of art discussed.  One of the sculptures shown was Gianlorenzo Bernini’s Ecstasy of St.Teresa, “one of the most deeply moving works in European art.”  Here is what Clark said of this work, “Bernini’s gift of sympathetic imagination, of entering into the emotions of others – a gift no doubt enhanced by his practice of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises – is used to convey the rarest and most precious of all emotional states, that of religious ecstasy.  He has illustrated exactly the passage in the saint’s autobiography in which she describes the supreme moment of her life: how an angel with a flaming golden arrow pieced her heart repeatedly.”  These words resonated with me for they explicitly recognized spiritual and religious ecstasy, emotions that had touched me in my life, albeit not as dramatically.  Moreover, the words “rarest and most precious” rang true for such moments that were truly rare and once experienced, both impossible to deny and difficult to describe.

 

257.                       I speculated that there was a genetic component to religious emotions, and consequently, chastity among believers has worked to keep those emotions rare in the general population.  If religious, spiritual and altruistic tendencies are transmitted through genes, then that is another reason among individuals with those traits to be generous when planning children.  Certain individuals are called by God to religious life, a life of service to other people, a life where chastity is freely accepted and directed toward a greater good; and the results of their good deeds are seen everywhere, in hospitals, in schools and in parish communities; but I never felt called to the religious life.  Perhaps my ego deflected God’s message or my vanity was too great, but I wanted to marry and, if possible, have children.

 

258.                       Rodney started dating a woman who was studying for her Masters degree at I.I.T. and suggested that we occasionally double date.  I did so and went out with a couple of different women just to make an evening and joined Rodney and his friend; but during this period of time, I was attracted to another woman, X., who was also a mathematician.  I saw X. socially along with other people, at parties and school events, and we went out a couple of times.  Unfortunately, our values were different, and I could not see her raising children, and thus we stopped dating.

 

259.                       My first year of teaching at I.I.T. was actually my third year of classroom experience, and by this time, I had finally developed into a good instructor.  I was comfortable, confident, relaxed and enjoyed what I was doing.  Many of the graduate teaching assistants were teaching for the first time and were struggling like I had during my first year.  To the students in the evening division, I was a pleasant surprise and word spread that I knew calculus well and could teach it.  My classes had a heavy enrollment and student feedback was very positive.  By my fourth year of teaching, I probably reached my zenith, but my doctorate studies were not progressing.  I was not having any success with my initial attempts at a thesis.  By early 1970, I knew I was not going to get a Ph.D. in mathematics and began writing letters to colleges and junior colleges, looking for a full-time teaching position.

 

260.                       The market for mathematics teachers at the college level was very poor.  There were too many applicants and not enough positions available.  I had seen that first hand at the Mathematical Association of America annual meeting held in San Antonio in January 1970 where there were dozens of applicants, many with Ph.D.’s, interviewing for the same job that I was.  I started receiving rejection letters in March 1970, and they continued to arrive into the summer; and thus, I returned to the evening division of I.I.T., teaching fourth semester calculus and differential equations, and took various doctorate level courses in the daytime.  By the spring of 1971, the job market had not improved, and I doubted if I was going to find a teaching position at the college level.  I thought about the actuarial profession again and decided to take the third actuarial examination that May.

 

261.                       Part 3 consisted of two distinct mathematical subjects: first, the theory of interest and second, numerical analysis and finite differences.  My recollection is that the three hour examination consisted of 32 multiple choice questions, 16 in each subject, with each question having 8 choices for an answer, all of them plausible, but only one of them correct.  The student was penalized for guessing because one-seventh of a point was subtracted for each incorrect answer, yielding an expected score of zero for a candidate who guessed on all thirty-two questions.  I barely studied for numerical analysis because the subject was very easy for me after all my graduate studies and undergraduate teaching.  The mathematical theory of interest, however, was a different application entirely, and I had to learn the specialized notation and techniques unique to that subject in order to solve the detailed problems.  I did so, but by the examination date, I knew I had not worked enough problems and did not have the necessary speed needed to answer the 16 interest questions in the allotted time.  Fortunately, it was not necessary for a candidate to show proficiency in each subject but only to get a high enough overall score on the entire test.  I hoped that numerical analysis would carry me through the examination.  I answered 15 of the numerical analysis questions and was comfortable with my answers, even though I recognized that the questions were designed to snare unsuspecting students in standard traps; but I only had time to answer 7 of the interest questions before the examination ended.  I wasn’t certain if that was enough to pass.  I knew one-seventh of a point could be the difference between a passing grade of 6 and a failing grade of 5.  On June 28, 1971 the Society of Actuaries released the examination results for Part 3 with a standardized preamble, “The number of candidates who sat for Part 3 was 647, of whom 47 failed to meet minimum standards (50% of the passing score).  The following 240 candidates passed.”  My name was on the list, and the opened envelope revealed my grade to be a 7.

 

262.                       Even though I did not have a teaching position lined up for the autumn of 1971 and had just passed an actuarial examination, I could not bring myself to return to the profession and certainly not to Continental Assurance.  I heard the company had undergone a couple reorganizations and many of the actuaries I knew there had left to work elsewhere.  Reorganizations and internal company politics were inherent in any business and two of the reasons why I hesitated in seeking an actuarial position at any organization.  Then the Mathematics dean who headed the graduate teaching assistants at I.I.T. offered me another year to teach in their evening division.  The pay was minimal but enough to keep me going and I accepted.

 

263.                       In the autumn of 1971 I was confused about my future and what path I should follow.  College teaching without a Ph.D. was not a viable option and to enter the actuarial ranks without a desire to learn and run a business did not seem wise; it seemed a road to frustration and unhappiness.  I started to look around at other possibilities.  Computer programming seemed to me to be too one dimensional.  I thought about getting away from careers that were related to mathematics and briefly considered real estate sales, but after watching and talking to various salesmen, I confirmed what I had tacitly always known, that selling was not in my nature.  Also it did not make sense to give up and not use the one talent, albeit limited, that I had in mathematics.  I was now ironically asking myself the question that used to amuse me as a child when adults inquired, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  It was now natural to reflect on this question during prayer.  The response as I understood it was that I could do anything that was appropriate, but I had to be a Christian.  Of course, if God’s Providence required some specific action on my part, He would make it clear to me, or it would happen naturally as part of my life without me being aware.

 

264.                       In early 1972 it was clear that my Uncle Joseph was losing his battle with cancer.  By mid-February, he was very ill, and I spent a couple of overnights in his house with my Aunt Marge, offering her support and keeping watch.  His nephew, Father John, came to the house as a priest and as a relative to visit him.  Eventually my uncle went into the hospital and a couple of days later as my cousin Margie and I stood by his bed, he stopped breathing and died.  My uncle and aunt had made arrangements for their interments in the Queen of Heaven mausoleum, located in Hillside, Illinois on the grounds of the large Roman Catholic cemetery of the same name; and there in the St. Joseph’s room, surrounded by the images of the faith, at age 64, he was laid to rest on a winter’s morning.  If there was ever a doubt in my mind about how short life on this earth is, all illusions were stripped away that day.  It was clear that time was quickly passing, and I had to resolve my own indecision and uncertainty about my future.

 

265.                       I continued to receive and save rejection letters from various junior colleges.  I saved those letters to remind me later in life as to why I didn’t pursue a teaching career.  Another reason to leave that profession was the quality of my teaching had declined.  I was still doing a good job, but I knew that teaching the same material every year had worn on me and made me less enthusiastic and less effective.  I don’t know what would have happened had I found a full time teaching position.  Perhaps I would have been rejuvenated in a new college, but by 1972 I felt I was making the right move in leaving the teaching profession.  I applied for an actuarial position at a couple of mutual life insurance companies.  Mutual of Omaha was not hiring, but the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York City was.  By any standard of measure, whether it was dollars of life insurance in-force or dollars of assets or the size of its work force or Actuarial Department, Metropolitan was one of the two largest life insurers in the United States.  My job interviews with them had gone very well, and with three examinations to my credit it was clear that they were going to make me an offer.  They asked if I had any preference as to where I wanted to start – in personal insurance or group, in pricing or reserving – and I told them I did not have a preference and left my initial assignment to them.

 

266.                       I accepted Metropolitan Life’s job offer and told them I would start July 10, 1972.  I had to find housing in New York, and I knew that was not going to be easy because affordable, suitable housing was scarce.  In June I drove from Chicago to New York to locate a furnished apartment.  As I drove into the New York area one weekday afternoon – I was still in New Jersey -the remnants of a hurricane swept in and deluged the area with a major rainstorm.  I turned off the highway before the Lincoln Tunnel because I didn’t want to go into Manhattan on a work day in the middle of a storm. The rain continued and became so heavy that the windshield wipers could not keep the water off the glass.  I did not know where I was driving.  I could not see anything ahead of me, and thus I pulled the car to the side of the road, parked, and waited for the storm to pass.  After several minutes, the storm cleared and the sun quickly reappeared.  I was on Boulevard East in North Bergen, New Jersey, directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan and there in front of me, was a sign advertising furnished apartments.   Shortly thereafter I had my apartment.

  

267.                       On my first day at Metropolitan, I was assigned to the Actuarial Department, Personal Life Insurance, the Underwriting and Mortality Studies Unit.  Metropolitan contributed mortality data to the Society of Actuaries for inclusion in various insurance company studies, and I would be involved in those projects.  Mel, a fellow of the Society, was the manager of the area.  I noticed Mel had a chess board set up in his office, and I casually commented about the position.  His eyes lit up when I told him I was a class A player in the United States Chess Federation.  He was captain of the Metropolitan Life chess team, which played in Commercial Chess League of New York (CCLNY), and the team had won three consecutive League championships under tournament conditions and retired the League Trophy; but now Mel and the team’s two strongest players, one of whom was a senior master and ranked as one of the strongest players in the entire country, no longer wanted to play chess after work on Wednesday evenings.  Thus, Mel was looking to replace three players when the CCLNY chess season opened in September.  Even though I was no where near the senior master level, I was strong enough to play third board on the revised team, and when Mel asked me if I was interested in playing tournament chess in the CCLNY, it was completely natural for me to accept his offer. And so on my first day on the job, because of where I had been assigned, my manager and I spent an enjoyable hour talking chess.  The Fischer-Spassky world championship chess match was scheduled to begin in Reykjavik the next day; PBS Educational Television would carry the games with analysis and soon the entire country would be talking about chess.

 

268.                       I have played chess in the CCLNY every year since I arrived in New York and have dozens of wonderful over the board combinations and hundreds of enjoyable memories of friends.  In the years after the Fischer-Spassky match, 64 teams and hundreds of players competed on Wednesday evenings after work from late September through early April in the CCLNY; but with the passage of time, increased work loads, and opportunities to play the game on computers, fewer individuals are willing to stay in the city to play tournament chess.  The 2002-2003 chess season saw only 8 teams playing in the CCLNY, and the continuing existence of the League, which was formed in 1923, remains in doubt.  In order to keep the CCLNY functioning, I recently volunteered to serve as Secretary and to calculate and distribute match results and ratings to the players.

 

269.                       During my first few months in New York I frequently went out to see the attractions of the City. While living in Chicago I had gone to various events sponsored by the local Catholic Alumni Club.  I knew this was a good way of meeting people, and thus it was natural for me to become involved in the Catholic Alumni Club of New York.  Through that organization I helped them sponsor a Junior Achievement company, and in another unrelated activity we took children from a grammar school on field trips to museums and ball games.  They also sponsored dances, and it was at a dance on November 10, 1972 that I first met Nora.

 

270.                       When I was packing my belongings for the move to New York, I came across a typed document that my mother had saved.  It had been typed by my Uncle Steve, my mother’s brother, and carefully bound in a folder.  Clearly, it had been important to him.  My uncle had typed out, word for word, Kahlil Gibran’s, The Prophet.  I knew my uncle had had a difficult life and I only had faint memories of him, but I felt as I stood with the bound typed copy of The Prophet that my uncle had found some meaning in his life by reading and copying this work.  The search for meaning in a life lived and the attempt to transcend death through a work of art is hauntingly evocative.  The empirical evidence left in some small way by each person is a remarkable testimony of the uniqueness of human life, both individually and collectively.   

 

271.                       In September 1972 my mother told me that she and my father had just purchased an entombment crypt at the Queen of Heaven Mausoleum where my Uncle Joseph was buried.  They had been on a waiting list and a crypt had become available in one of the rooms, and they had taken it.

 

272.                       In October 1998, I was visiting my parents in Westchester and making arrangements to move them out of their house to an apartment five blocks from my home in Brooklyn, New York, because they had reached the point where they could no longer take care of themselves.  I had to make a decision about the Queen of Heaven mausoleum crypt, whether to sell it back to the cemetery and bury my parents in New York when the time came or to keep it and return the bodies to Illinois for burial when they died.  My father would not have understood what was being asked of him, and my mother said I was to do whatever was easier for me.  I decided to drive out to the mausoleum, visit the crypt where they were to rest, and perhaps talk to a cemetery official in order to reach a decision.  On my way to the car, I took a loaf of bread from the kitchen, planning to break the bread and feed it to the birds in the backyard, a practice that my mother had done daily before she became immobile.  Outside, it had started to rain, making it impractical to feed the birds, and thus I took the loaf of bread with me into the car and placed it on the passenger seat as I drove to the cemetery.  At Queen of Heaven, I visited the St. Joseph’s room and said prayers for my Uncle Joseph and Aunt Marge, both of whom were now entombed there.  A mausoleum directory gave me the room location and number of my parents’ crypt.  Their room was called Holy Eucharist, and it was on a floor above ground level, beautifully adorned with images of Christ at the Last Supper.  In the room, a window overlooked the parking lot and my car was parked at an angle where I could see the loaf of bread on the passenger seat of the car.  It was clear that my parents should be buried in the Holy Eucharist room as they had planned.

 

273.                       Thus when my father died in March 2001, a small group of family and friends gathered with me in the chapel of the Queen of Heaven mausoleum for a funeral service.  The pastor of Divine Infant of Jesus Church led the prayer service, and Dad’s coffin went into the wall of the Holy Eucharist room.  Nora had a memorial card with the 23rd Psalm prepared as a remembrance.

 

274.                       Speculation about Heaven always seemed silly to me, but after my father’s death I thought about him and his happiness.  He once told me his happiest days were when he was growing up in South Wilmington, surrounded by his parents and his older brothers and sisters who looked after his wants and cared for him.  I can easily envision an idyllic summer day with blue sky and white cumulus clouds and the Illinois farm land alive with the growth of a plentiful harvest, the light rays reflecting through the trees and the sights and smells of verdant pastures giving delight to the senses; and Dad as a teenager fishing with his brothers in the nearby restful waters, not a care in the world, knowing he was on the right path loved by his family and the Creator and loving them in return.  There must have been many of these special moments when he was happy and a sense that he was almost in heaven.  I know when Alzheimer’s landed him flat on his back in his ninetieth year, he sometimes returned to his youth, and there he seemed refreshed for his blue eyes showed happiness; and so, let me speculate that those youthful special moments were captured in space-time under God’s Providence and are being relived by Dad.

 

275.                       Before I left the Chicago area for New York City and my job at Metropolitan Life, I had already decided that if someday I was going to marry and raise children, then I needed a steady source of income and combining that need with my only above average talent, mathematics, led naturally to the actuarial profession.  My concerns about working for a company, office politics, and possible drudgery remained, but if a family and a profession based on mathematics were of primary importance to me, then I would simply have to put up with whatever secondary nonsense there was in working for a company.  Having determined what I was going to do, I now had to follow through and be the best person I could, remembering that life had been summarized by Christ as loving God and my neighbor.

 

276.                       The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company was a company with an amazing and glorious past.  In 1972, the financial winds of change had been blowing since the end of World War II, but the Company did not seem to know how to change, afraid that it was losing its precious past to circumstances beyond its control.  To some extent, that is exactly what happened.  In 1972, however, the company was nothing like I thought it might be; instead, it still was a distinctive company with a unique and proud history of social progress, and I guessed I sensed this when I went for my interviews and perhaps this why I felt so good about the place even before I started to work there.  By the time I retired in 2002, the company had become similar to many other organizations, having lost most of its distinctive features and was looking and acting more like the company I feared it might be when I first joined.

 

277.                       The distinctive features of the Metropolitan grew out its mutualism and its size and how it blended the two under the leadership of its top executives, particularly Haley Fiske, to become a social force for good in North America during the first half of the twentieth century.  The Company’s origins in 1868, its unprecedented growth in life insurance beginning in 1879, its rise to preeminence, and its social achievements are fully documented in the book, The Metropolitan Life, by Marquis James published in 1947 by the Viking Press.

 

278.                       It was in 1909 that Metropolitan began its systematic campaign of health and welfare work when it organized its Welfare Division for the education of it policyholders and for the purpose of cooperation with public health bodies in their work.  In January of that year the Company’s new plan stated, “Insurance, not merely as a business proposition, but as a social program, will be the future policy of the Company,” and this announcement effectively recognized its transformation from a commercial enterprise into a social institution. 

 

279.                       Metropolitan also put into place many programs for employees, which enhanced its reputation as a good employer and which influenced other employers: (a) An Athletic Association was organized and sponsored activities such as baseball, basketball, handball, golf, tennis, swimming, bowling, skating, and track and field, (b) In 1908, Metropolitan started the practice of serving a free lunch to Home Office employees each day from Monday through Friday, (c) In 1913, Metropolitan opened its own tuberculosis sanatorium for employees suffering from that disease, (d) Metropolitan started free annual medical (1914), dental (1915) and eye (1913) examinations for employees, (e) In 1914, Metropolitan provided health insurance and free life insurance through newly formed group insurance concepts, (f) In 1925, Metropolitan established a retirement plan for employees, which provided a retirement annuity and some degree of security on the employee’s normal retirement date, (g) Metropolitan referred to its employees as family, and they didn’t fire employees unless the person committed a crime.  If a person didn’t work out in a particular area, they moved the employee to another area and tried to find out what the problem was.  Metropolitan’s maternalistic approach and virtually guaranteed employment philosophy earned the company its unofficial name of “Mother Met”.  Company publications stated, “The Metropolitan is a beautiful Mother to Policyholders, Agents and Clerks” (All employees who didn’t sell insurance, including officers, were known as clerks.)

 

280.                       A 1924 company publication, An Epoch in Life Insurance, had the following written by its President, Haley Fiske, which summarized the Metropolitan during the first quarter of the twentieth century:  “The Metropolitan has shown other insurance companies, especially Industrial companies, what can be done for public welfare, and how enormously important an instrumentality they can become for social uplift.  They are now beginning to follow the Metropolitan’s lead.  It seems to us that the best thought of the age has fixed upon insurance as the solvent for most of the economic ills of society.  One can in imagination picture the time when instead of but one-third of the population, practically all living in the cities and towns shall be insured in Industrial mutual insurance companies; and in the development of these companies along Welfare lines one may look to the time when the people shall take care of themselves through life insurance in a service covering health in life, care in sickness, indemnity in death, sanitation in community life, the financing of home-owning, of public utilities and civic conveniences – a mutual service of cooperation among such a large proportion of the population that it may be called The New Socialism!”  When Haley Fiske died at age 77 on March 3, 1929, the events that would eventually unravel his Metropolitan and The New Socialism and make his dreams for the country impossible had not yet happened.

 

281.                       On my first day at work I was told by Personnel that a free lunch was a benefit of employment but that I should not expect it as a continuing benefit and that soon the company would do away with it.  Metropolitan fed 18,000 employees in a dozen or so cafeterias located in the basements of their buildings located on Madison Avenue between 23rd and 25th streets.  Most employees ate in the cafeterias located in 2B, the second basement.  There were separate cafeterias for managers in 3B, the third basement, that had tablecloths and better silverware on the tables, and an officers’ dining room on the 12th floor of the South Building staffed with waiters who served the free lunch.  As an actuarial student with three examinations, I qualified for the managers’ dining room, but initially I seldom ate there, preferring to eat with most of my co-workers in one of the regular cafeterias.  The Company’s Athletic Association and other clubs and organizations were prominent, and many employees were involved with one or more of these employee activities.  The Metropolitan Chess Team was sponsored by the Athletic Association, which annually paid our nominal entry fee into the Commercial Chess League of New York.  The morale of the work force that I saw was high, and I don’t think anyone in my unit thought badly of the Company although everyone smiled at the quaint practices from the past that still existed in 1972.  For example, the final worksheets that were tabulated by the mortality study clerks were done in ink on thick paper with quill pens that were dipped into inkwells.  Periodically, an inkwell woman would come along with her equipment and clean and refill the inkwells.  Another interesting practice was that employees were paid their salary in cash every Friday when a money cart pushed by a clerk and accompanied by a security guard would come around and distribute the salary envelopes to each section.  These salary envelopes almost always contained freshly minted cash and coins.  If you were going to be out of the office on Friday and your supervisor approved, you could collect your salary early by taking the approved form to the vaults where clerks working behind steel bars counted out your salary and handed it to you.  Metropolitan now fired employees if they were not performing in their jobs.  One of the stronger chess players on the team apparently did no work during the day and was given a warning that he would be fired unless he changed.  I was not aware of his personal circumstances and asked him to analyze one of my adjudicated games during the lunch period.  He agreed, but we met surreptitiously behind the columns in the balcony of the gymnasium on the 27th floor so that no one could observe that he was looking at a chess position during the work day.  His analysis of my game was good, but a few months later he was let go and became a full time chess player in the New York area.  There were also other surprises.  As an actuary in the making, I was handed a copy of a memo written, as I recall, by a company attorney that had the names or initials of all the officer actuaries signed in the margins and which said as an actuary in a mutual company, I was not to use the word “profit” in any memo that I might write.  I found this strange because even though I was not especially business orientated I still calculated an annual rate of return on every personal investment I made, and I recognized that corporations had to do the same and that making money could not be ignored by any organization that wanted to remain viable.  It appeared then that the ideas of mutualism were not being implemented properly by Metropolitan.  My colleagues explained that actuarial practice required each product to be priced properly and that a permanent contribution to surplus for the ongoing health and stability of the organization was an essential piece of any product, including products offered by a mutual life insurance company.  Not working in a pricing area, I didn’t directly worry about, in my early years, how Metropolitan made its money.

 

282.                       One the early projects that I did work on was a first attempt to develop a new valuation table for industry use.  At that time most of the legally required life insurance reserves on individual policies were calculated on the 1958 Commissioners Standard Ordinary (1958 CSO) Mortality Table, which used intercompany mortality experience from 1950-1954 policy anniversaries.  From published intercompany Society of Actuaries Reports data, I took mortality experience from 1965-1970 anniversaries and following the same procedure that had been used to construct the 1958 CSO, I developed a new valuation table, which I called “Valuation Table A”.  This work was passed on to a Society of Actuaries committee, which through various iterative developments eventually produced sex distinct Valuation Tables K (Male and Female).  The industry and state Insurance Departments accepted these as the 1980 CSO Tables, which then became the legal valuation standard in the United States.  Having moved into Group Insurance and then corporate areas, I was not part of the Personal Insurance Society Committee that formally constructed the new standard; however, the initial work to develop Table A was just one of many interesting and challenging projects that I worked on over the years.

 

283.                       One of my later projects was to help the American Academy of Actuaries with a monograph series on health care reform.  This was in response to the Clinton administration’s proposal to reform the health care system in the United States.  Actuaries across the United States came together to provide information to the public, congressional staff, and federal policy makers in a series of monographs.  I was one of the principal writers of Monograph Number Ten, Actuarial Issues Related to Pricing Health Plans Under Health Care Reform, which was released in July 1994.  The Monograph discussed the methods used by health plan managers to price health plans and how premiums would be set under a reformed health care system.

 

284.                       Although my career has been fulfilling, I have witnessed the last half of the slow and sad decline of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company from its preeminent position at the end of World War II as documented in The Metropolitan Life to one among many large institutions offering financial services and trying to distinguish itself in a highly competitive world.  Metropolitan is now a stock company, known as MetLife Inc., having demutualized in April 2000 with a distribution of billions of dollars to its policyholders in cash and stock.  Like most large corporations, MetLife contributes in many ways to the social well-being of the communities in which it has a presence; however, the idea of MetLife, Inc. as a mother to employees and policyholders and the concept of a “New Socialism” whereby financial corporations are actively run by policyholders who cooperate to limit personal profits funneling them toward the enhancement of society rather than shareholders and executives are considered manifest absurdities and were dismissed long before MetLife’s actual demutualization.  When MetLife abandoned the concept of insurance as a social need and focused on profits, it mirrored the business and social milieu of the United States, circa 2000.  However, the mutual interdependence of people is generally recognized, and thus noble ideas should not be lost or forgotten but retained, remembered, and passed on, waiting for circumstances to change and for an opportunity to restore and properly implement them in a future historical era.  

 

285.                       In November 1972 I took Part 5 of the actuarial examinations, which was an all day examination with multiple choice questions in the morning and written essays in the afternoon.  The topics on this examination included risk theory, mathematical graduation, history and construction of mortality tables, and demography.  Even though I didn’t spend much time studying, I felt reasonably comfortable about the topics on the examination because my day time work was mortality studies and graduating mortality rates.  One of the mortality questions on this examination was flawed, but no one knew it, and I spent extra time working the problem correctly, and then reworking it a couple of different ways and wondering why I couldn’t find my solution on the answer key.  The Society examination committee removed this flawed problem and any work submitted on it from the grading curve so in theory the problem had no effect on a candidate’s final grade, but the time I wasted on it cost me additional points on other problems.  When a fraction of a point can make a difference between a passing and failing score, it was heart breaking to receive a grade of a 5, knowing the time I had wasted on the flawed problem.

 

286.                       In the spring of 1988 my boss, Frank, called me into his office.  At that time, I was working in the Group Insurance Actuarial Pricing area on health insurance, and the blending of group indemnity insurance with medical network concepts.  Frank said the Group Department wanted to make me an actuarial officer, but they couldn’t do it within the overall company context because I needed Part 10 of the actuarial examinations to complete fellowship.  I had stopped taking actuarial examinations years earlier after I became an Associate, but periodically I would spend some of my free time studying particular topics, and I had managed to pass all the examinations except the last one.  Now Frank had a proposition for me.  I should get away from work and just concentrate on passing Part 10.  The Company would send me to the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, which had a crash two week review course on Part 10, and the Company would pay my expenses and the course fee, if I would use some of my vacation time.  I agreed, and so in the spring of 1988, I said goodbye to Nora and our four children and became a “university student” for two weeks.  I virtually did nothing during this period of time other than attend classes, read the 2,000 pages of readings that could be on the test, sleep, and eat.  The test was five hours of essay, which was not to my advantage, since I thought and wrote relatively slowly compared to my actuarial competition.  There was one six-point question, which involved a pension calculation that completely confused me.  I wound up leaving that problem blank and concentrating on the other essays, which I barely finished before time expired.  After the test, one of my actuarial friends asked me about the examination and questioned my decision to leave a six-point question totally blank.  He said, “You have to write something in order to get some points.  You know that less than two points will be the difference between passing and failing, and everyone else will probably have at least a couple of points on you because they at least put something down on a six-point question!”  He shook his head sadly, thinking that I was headed toward a grade of 5.  I responded that what he said was true, but I didn’t know what to do with the problem and thus I didn’t waste any time on it.  I had limited time and spent it profitably on other questions.  I had done my very best, and what would be, would be.  I was not anticipating failing or passing - my grade would be only known when I opened the envelope and observed the enclosed score.  When the envelope arrived, I opened it and saw a grade of 6.  I had passed!  I was a Fellow of the Society, and Metropolitan did promote me to the officer level.  Subsequently, I heard that the pension question I left blank was a flawed problem and had been thrown out of the grading process by the examination committee.

 

287.                       On a Sunday in November 1972, I could not find the telephone number of the redhead I had met at the dance on Friday.  This was annoying because she was not only physically attractive to me but also educated with a good mind and I thought we probably shared similar values.  Opportunities like this were rare, and I knew I had to see her again.  Unfortunately, there was no way of contacting Nora because I didn’t know her address, and she was not listed in the telephone directory.  I tore my apartment apart, looking for the slip of paper that had her number, turning every shirt and pants pocket inside out, and restacking every stack of papers; and most certainly, I offered a prayer.  On my second day of searching, I found the paper with her telephone number, and I called her.  Nora and I started dating, and on St. Valentine’s Day 1974 at the Alpine Cellar restaurant in the Hotel McAlpin, I proposed marriage, and she accepted.

 

288.                       On November 30, 1974 at Holy Name of Jesus Church with a small group of family and friends as witnesses, Delia as maid of honor, Ray as best man, and Father Grisaitis representing the organized Church, Nora and I conferred the sacrament of marriage on each other.  The unknown and uncertain future was ahead of us but the blessings of family, friends, country, and faith would sustain us.

 

 

Epilogue

 

 

289.                       How reliable are my memories that go back years?  Thoughts and insights around spiritual events and God are probably reliable because they were important to me, made an impression, were internalized, and carried forward; they go to the heart of the matter and influence how I live my life.  Memories of secular events are less reliable, but events involving the United States are facts recorded in history and have been either validated or corrected in my memory; and in a similar way, personal events that I saved in letters, journals, tapes, and on pieces of paper are factual.  One of the surprises for me in recording my memories was to see connections among personal events that I had not realized before I wrote my thoughts down.  Thus, allowing for uncertainty and the need to recite the second variant of St. Joan of Arc’s prayer, this project has been very meaningful to me because it brought my life into better focus and provides evidence of God’s involvement in my daily life.  Indeed, my random thoughts and memories, when written down and organized herein, have increased my faith and makes me want to praise the glory of God.

 

290.                       I got out of the chair and stood up on the back porch.  The bird in the grass was startled, flapped its wings, and flew away.  The cat sprang forward but was too late to catch the bird.  The cat looked up at me, almost questioning with its gaze what I had done in disturbing the situation.  I went inside the house, returned with food, and fed the cat.

 

291.                       When I was in college, it was fashionable for students to say all human behavior was relative and that there were no moral absolutes.  For those who were absolutely certain that there were no absolutes, I gave examples from the physical world such as the speed of light and absolute zero in order to suggest that there may also be absolutes in the moral and spiritual worlds that a reasonable person should follow.  Certainly, the Gospel imperative of God and neighbor is there.

 

 

 

Text completed on April 13, 2003 (Palm Sunday).

 

Text reread and minor corrections made without adding events that happened subsequent to the original completion: April 4, 2004 (Palm Sunday).

 

Text reread and minor corrections made without adding events that happened subsequent to the original completion:  March 20, 2005 (Palm Sunday).

 

 

 

 

 

Endnotes, References, and Additional Thoughts

(Numbers below refer to numbered paragraphs in the above text.  In contrast to the above text, which was written before March 20, 2005, some of the remarks below were updated or added as subsequent events unfolded.)

 

1.       My birth certificate shows I was born in the Oak Park Hospital, Oak Park, Illinois at 5:01 A.M. on December 24, 1941 four hours after my mother was admitted.  John F. Kluzak of Berwyn, Illinois is listed as the doctor.  The ages of my parents are given as 29 for my father and 27 for my mother, but both are incorrect.  My father’s birth certificate states he was born April 14, 1911, making him age 30 at my birth, although a second certificate, which my father said was incorrect, gives his birth date as November 10, 1910.  My mother’s birth certificate states she was born November 12, 1908, making her age 33 at my birth.  My mother spelled her first name, Katherine, with a K, but my birth certificate incorrectly spells her name, Catherine, with a C.

 

2.       There are no precise figures for the number of individuals killed in World War II.  Harold Evans in The American Century, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1998, page 284 writes “We can merely note that more than 50 million people lost their lives, perhaps 20 million of them civilians.”

 

3.       My Certificate of Baptism shows I was baptized by the Reverend Anthony J. Nenesh at St. Frances of Rome Church in Cicero, Illinois.  My understanding is that Rev. Nenesh was related to my Uncle Joseph, who was my Godfather at the ceremony.

 

5.       The Pythagorean Theorem states that under the postulates of Euclid in a plane that the square of the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to sum of the squares of the lengths of the legs.  In notation, if c denotes the length of the hypotenuse and a and b the lengths of the legs, then c squared = a squared + b squared.

 

15.   Children showed me the spiritual nature of love.  When my first child was born, I loved him.  When my second child was born, I loved her; and I did not love my first child any less.  The same was true with my third and fourth children.  Love was not divided into thirds and quarters but was complete and whole for each child.  The physical and material gifts I gave them were limited and divided or shared; for example, by its physical nature, the ice cream in the container had to be divided equally into fourths, but my love for each did not have to be divided.

 

21.   An example of a singularity comes from mathematics when an equation yields a zero in the denominator.  Dividing a number by zero is not possible – mathematicians say an expression is not defined at values where denominators become zero.  A denominator can be as small as you want but never zero.  When a mathematical equation models the real world, restrictions are placed on the equation in order to avoid zero denominators, and the mathematics describes reality everywhere except at the singularity.

 

22.   Time Capsule/1941, Time, Inc., 1967, page 14.

 

23.   Time Capsule/1941, Time, Inc., 1967, pages 181 and 182.

 

24.   Time Capsule/1941, Time, Inc., 1967, page 187.

 

25.   Time Capsule/1941, Time, Inc., 1967, page 40.

 

27.   According to Ellis Island records, my maternal grandmother arrived in the United States on September 15, 1903 from Nemsova, Slovakia.  She came on the ship Konig Albert out of Bremen, Germany.  The records say she was 25 years old.  Our family records, however, give her birth year as 1876, making her age 27 years old when she arrived.  She was a widow, having lost her first husband in Europe to illness after a few weeks of marriage.  My maternal grandfather is not listed in Ellis Island records; however, according to New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, he may have arrived in the United States on June 22, 1904 on the ship Kronprinz Wilheim out of Bremen where his age was listed as about 30 (he was born September 19, 1872 according to family records). 

 

28.   According to the Baltimore Passenger Lists 1820-1964, my paternal grandmother arrived in the United States on September 10, 1891 at the age of 10, but family records give her birthday as July 26, 1879, which means she was actually 12.  She came from Kasejovice, Bohemia on the ship Dresden out of Bremen, Germany.  My paternal grandfather’s name on Ellis Island records is listed as Ignatz (family spelling was Ignac), and his two cousins as Stefan and Iragutin.  The country of origin is listed as Hungary, but the family always said that they came from Rude, Croatia.  This is not a contradiction since Croatia was part of Austria-Hungary before World War I.  These three cousins came on the ship Belgenland out of Antwerp, Belgium and arrived March 28, 1893, which would make my grandfather 17 years old, his birth date being February 14, 1876 according to family records.  However, Ellis Island records him as age 19 and his cousins as age 19 and age 27.  A baptism certificate in the possession of a family member states that Ignac was christened at St. Barbare Church in Croatia.

 

31.    On October 9, 2017, my son, Brian, set me an email that he had found an on-line book that mentions my uncle, Charles Bednarik.  The book is “Blood on the Talon: 139th Airborne Engineer Battalion, 1943-1945, Volume I: Unit History”.  It’s a complete narrative history of 139th AEB which was part of the 17th Airborne Division in WWII and may be accessed at http://castraponere.com/bloodonthetalon/VolumeI.pdf .  Page 131 documents my uncle’s death along with two other soldiers while clearing minefields near the Our River. My uncle’s middle initial should be J given correctly elsewhere but not on this page.

 

34. Words taken from the website – http://member.lycos.co.uk/dover_kent/words/blue_birds_over.htm

 

43.   In the spring of 2001 I wrote an article, “Tips on Making an Effective Presentation,” for The Stepping Stone, a Society of Actuaries’ Section Newsletter.  At one point in the article, I wrote the word “left” when I should have written the word “right”.  The editor, Michael, caught the mistake and asked about it in an e-mail.  It’s still happening I thought and dashed off the following response to him:  “Michael, you are correct: left should be right.  Generally, I have this 180-degree dyslexia where I say up when I’m thinking down, right instead of left, etc.  As a kid it made me wonder about doing well on true/false tests.  Thanks for your editing!  Phil.”  The next morning I received his reply:

“Michael

,yours Sincerely

,welcome You’re

,Phil”

Happily, I ended the exchange with “Michael, I love your humor!  It is difficult to bottom your response.  Phil.”

 

44.   From a cultural perspective, it is interesting to note that I called Our Lady by name (Notre Dame) in a non-religious context; that is, when I was doing arithmetic and long before I knew who she was and her role in salvation history.

 

48.  In 2016 the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.  By that time my children ranged in ages from 29 to 40, and as adults, they understood that Dad would continue to root for the Cubs.

 

56.   I heard the following story in a different context from Alzheimer’s disease, but I think of it as a parable for dementia in general and for Alzheimer’s in particular where a son remembers and knows more than his father:

“A man went skiing in the Rocky Mountains, by himself.  There was an avalanche, and the man was buried in snow and ice, and his body was never found.  Last winter, his son, who had been a small boy at the time of the accident, went skiing, by himself, on the same mountain that had claimed his father.  Halfway down the mountain, the son stopped next to a large boulder, to eat his lunch.  As he unwrapped his sandwich, he looked down and saw buried in the snow and ice, the body of a man.  Trembling, he went down on all fours and pressed his face against the ice.  He thought he was looking in a mirror.  The face of his dead father stared back at him.  At that moment, the son realized that his father at the time of the accident was actually younger than he currently was.   Thus, a small boy had grown up and become a man, and in so doing, had become older than his father.”

 

60.   The Roy Rogers’s cowboy movies and later listening to the Lone Ranger on radio reinforced the moral code of honesty that my parents taught me.

 

70.   What a person does with his life, how he lives it, what he chooses to do with the time he has, how he integrates what is given to him at birth with the events that happen to him in life, how he handles events outside his control, what he thinks about God, and how he treats other people; all these factors shape history and subsequent events, making the real world more fascinating than any work of fiction.  I’ve thought about these issues throughout my life, starting from those early days on the playground at Goodwin grammar school when I first decided not to repeat certain stories and jokes.

 

71.   The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994) is a basic current source for understanding moral issues in the Christian framework.

 

72.   The house was built by Walter Baltis whose company was a major builder in Westchester. 

 

74. A small portion of the Illinois prairie has been preserved in Westchester, north of 31st Street and west of Wolf Road.

 

75. As I walked along the streets, I thought about randomness and how it affected life.  I asked myself if events were predestined or fated and whether human actions were somehow forced or determined by unknown variables.  By the time I entered college I had concluded that events were not predestined, that individuals had free will and their decisions determined what happened.  I came to this conclusion in part because I thought I could act freely – I could do a certain action or not; and in part because I saw chance occurrences also determining the future, similar to my random walks through Westchester.

 

76. Ray died suddenly and unexpectedly in April 2004.  I had written paragraph 76 in 2002 and retained it.

 

85.   Visitors to Westchester after 1960 may have thought that the two public schools, Nixon and Kennedy, were named after the 1960 presidential candidates of the two major parties.  They would have surprised to learn that Nixon was George F. Nixon, one of the early developers and builders of Westchester, and Kennedy was Mary Jane Kennedy, a deceased English teacher at Nixon school.

 

87.   In Euclidean plane geometry, it is possible to prove that the circumference to diameter ratio is the same for all circles.  An outline of a proof that I constructed years after I left the seventh grade uses standard calculus concepts to develop arc length.  The proof starts with a unit circle and derives an expression for the arc length along the circumference from the x-axis to a point subtending a 60-degree angle.  The arc length expression is kept in closed form and never explicitly uses the number pi.  Then a coincident circle at the origin of arbitrary radius R is formed, and an analogous closed expression for its corresponding arc length subtending a 60-degree angle is constructed.  Simple algebra shows this arc length to be R times the unit circle arc length so that ratio of arc length to radius is the same for both circles.  Generalizing from a 60-degree angle to a 360-degree angle (full circle) then gives the desired result.  If you move outside Euclidean geometry by changing the parallel postulate, then triangles no longer have 180 degrees and ratios of circumferences to diameters vary by size and are no longer uniquely equal to pi.  Thus my objection to Mrs. Hartley was valid outside of plane geometry.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

89.   To demonstrate intellectual productivity in chess, consider one of my tournament games.  The position for White consists of pawns on b2, c3, e4, f2, g3, h3; a knight on f3; rooks on d5 and e2; a queen on a1 and a king on g2.  Black’s position is pawns on a7, c5, d6, e5, f7, g6, h5; a bishop on h6; rooks on a6 and b7; a queen on c6 and a king of g8.  I was playing the white pieces for the Illinois Institute of Technology team in the Intercollegiate Tournament against a player who had an Expert’s rating from the University of Illinois at Chicago.  The game had just been adjourned at the end of the fortieth move.  I’m a pawn down, but my position is far from hopeless.  During the adjournment analysis, the idea for White to immediately open the king side and attack was thought to be a viable option for a draw or possibly even to create enough complications for a win.  Here then is how the game unfolded and how this simple idea was implemented over the board:  41. Qd1  Rbb6,   42. g4  hg,  43. hg  Bf4,  44. Qh1  Qc8,  45. Qh4  Kg7,  46. Rd1  Qh8,  47. Qe7  Qc8,  48. Qh4  Rb8,  49. Rh1  Qh8,  50. Qe7  Qd8,  51. Rh7ch!  Kh7  52. Qf7ch  Kh8,  53. Re1  Qf8,  54. Rh1ch  Bh6,  55. Qg6  d5,  56. Qa6  Rb6,  57. Qa7  de,  58. Ne5  Rf6,  59. g5  Qg8,  60. Rh6ch  Rh6,  61. Nf7ch  Resigns.  My 51st move turned the game around but that move was possible only because of the earlier productive idea to open the king side with g4 and then Black’s subsequent imprecise play, which often happens in tournaments even among very good chess players.

 

97.   When the physical and mental deterioration of my parents started, I focused on helping them the best way I could, while at the same time I kept myself strong with prayers and positive thoughts.  I handled the situation presented each day and did not worry about problems that might occur in the future or events beyond my immediate control.  I did not second guess my decisions.  My mind turned toward the good things that had happened to me in life.  I made mental notes and when I had time I started writing them down.  I tried writing some poetry.  I had written poems before, but I thought all of them were uniformly poor.  Anyway, here is a poem I wrote during the 1996 Easter season, slightly modified, which subsequently helped me once my parents started to significantly decline.

 

EASTER PRAYER.

I shun death,

The dark, the cold, the decay,

Annihilation.

My hope, my consolation, my joy

Is Your Resurrection,

My Lord and Savior,

CHRIST JESUS,

Life and light.

 

100.           My marks in high school were significantly better than my marks in grammar school, showing the importance of homework and additional study.  My marks in November of the seventh grade were M’s in Reading, Spelling, English, and Arithmetic and A’s in History, Geography, and Science (A was above average, and M was working in the class average).  In March, I had A’s in all subjects except Science, which was an M with a small x subscript.  A footnote on the report card explained that x meant, “The pupil is not using his time to advantage.”  In June, I had moved to A’s in all subjects.  In November of the eighth grade, my marks were A’s except English and Arithmetic where Mx’s were recorded.  In March, English had become a plain M, Arithmetic had moved up to an A, and Science had come down to a Mx.  No marks were recorded in June because I graduated on June 7, 1955.

 

104.           Another related question about computers and robots is could they develop free will?  Computers and robots are programmed to perform specific tasks but allowing open feedback to occur might develop self awareness in the machines and then their ability to think and choose.  Movies (e.g., 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), The Terminator (1984),  The Matrix (1999), and A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)) have all speculated that humans will create a self-aware species, and we will have troubles because of our creation.

 

106.           Soon thereafter, Jim countered with his humorous story.  A man died and went to heaven.  St. Peter showed him the different rooms in the heavenly mansion.  “Behind this door are the Baptists and over there are the Methodists,” said St. Peter.  Then passing by another door, he told the man to be very quiet.  “Why do we have to be quiet?” asked the man.  St. Peter replied, “Behind that door are the Roman Catholics, and they think they are the only ones up here!”

 

107.           In order to give some flavor to the high school chess played in the Greater Suburban Chess League, 1957-58, I offer the following game which was part of the Individual Tournament, round 1, played on May 25, 1958 between myself from Proviso with the white pieces and a student from Niles with the black pieces: 1. e4 e5, 2. Nf3 Nc6, 3. Bc4 Nf6, 4. d3 Bc5, 5. c3 h6, 6. Be3 Qe7, 7. b4 Be3, 8. fe d6, 9.O-O Bc7, 10. Nbd2 Be6, 11. Bb3 a6, 12. d4  Bb3, 13. Qb3 ed, 14. ed O-O-O, 15. Rfe1 Rhe8, 16.a4 Nb8, 17. c4 Nfd7, 18. a5 Rf8, 19. Rab1 f5, 20. b5 fe, 21. ba b6, 22. ab Nb6, 23. Re4 Qf6, 24. a7 Nb6, 25. Qb6 cb, 26. a8(Q)ch Kc7, 27. Qa1 g5, 28. d5 Ne5, 29. Qa7ch Kc8, 30. Rb6 Nf3ch, 31.Nf3 Resigns.

 

112.           In 1968, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics reissued The Pythagorean Proposition by Elisha Scott Loomis, a book originally published in 1940 that gives 370 different proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem.  I wish I had discovered that book in 1957 and 1958 when I ran around searching for proofs - it would have saved me time, but I never came across the original.  In any event, my proof is hinted at on page 79 of this “Classics in Mathematics Education” text, proof number 86, remark (d), but not actually given.  Thus, the proof in the endnote to paragraph 117 below is at least proof number 371in the Loomis text.

 

117.           My proof of the Pythagorean Theorem is as follows.  Let the vertices of the right triangle be denoted by A,B, and C with the right angle at C.  Denote the opposite sides by a,b, and c.  Then under the postulates of Euclid, we want to prove c squared = a squared + b squared.  Denote the center of the inscribed circle by I, and P,Q,R points of contact with the sides of the triangle, a,b,c, respectively.  Label the segment CP as y so that PB becomes a-y.  Similarly, label the segment CQ as w so that QA becomes b-w; and label the segment BR as x so that RA becomes c-x.  Now it can be easily proven that IR=IP=IQ=y=w, and since the area of triangle ABC is the sum of the areas of triangles AIB, AIQ and the trapezoid, BIQC, it therefore follows by substitution: (1) ab/2=w(a+w)/2 + cw/2 + w(b-w)/2.  This may be simplified to (2) ab=aw + bw + cw.  It can also be proven that x=a-y, w=y, c-x=b-w, and solving these equations for w, we find w=(a+b+c)/2.  Substituting this value of w into equation (2) gives after simple algebra 2ab=a squared + ab – ac + bc – c squared + ab + b squared – bc from which the result follows easily.

 

118.           The Tribune published a small article in their West Side Neighborhood Section in December 1958.  The headline was, “Proviso East Math Student Has New Proof.”  The article stated, “P.L. … a senior at Proviso East, has recently developed an entirely new proof to the Pythagorean theorem.  His proof along with his picture and a short article about him appeared in the November issue of Mathematics Journal.  Phil developed the proof over a Memorial Day weekend in his sophomore year.  “The John Crerar library downtown lists 127 proofs of the theorem,” states Phil.  “Since mine isn’t listed, it’s probably original.”  The Pythagorean Theorem states that the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle equals the sum of the squares of the other two sides.  Phil developed his proof by splitting a large triangle into two smaller triangles and a trapezoid; then, comparing areas.”

 

119.           One of the ideas in the calculus is to partition or subdivide complicated areas into smaller and smaller rectangles and then to add all the rectangular areas to get the total.  A fundamental theorem gives the evaluation of many complicated expressions, and thousands of applications in science and economics have been found.  Thus looking at the very small or the infinitesimal in mathematics has proven to be very fruitful and beneficial.  Looking at very small or “infinitesimal” in physics has led to quantum mechanics and a subatomic universe where the laws of Newton and classical physics are not applicable.  Nature at that level, as it is understood today, behaves in a way where it is fundamentally impossible to make a precise prediction of exactly what will happen in a given experiment.  Nevertheless, thousands of useful applications of quantum theory exist.  A statistical or probabilistic basis underlies the world of the very small and philosophical discussions on the nature of reality continue.       

 

120.           Provi 59, the Proviso 1959 yearbook lists the basketball scores and teams.  At the beginning of my senior year, Proviso Township High School was split into two schools when a new school was built in Hillside to accommodate the growing population of Chicago’s western suburbs.  The new school was named Proviso West and the former school in Maywood became Proviso East.  My senior class was kept intact in Maywood and became the first graduating class of Proviso East High School.

 

129.           I saved pages from my journal and looking back at it forty three years later, I find that I am not able to read the language I invented.

 

130.           More precisely, the astronomer said George Adamski’s, Flying Saucers Have Landed (1953), was “nuts” and dismissed flying saucer stories because hard evidence was lacking. 

 

132.      I now find this approach to God strange, but I record the event as it happened along with my subsequent thoughts.         

 

133.           If an individual was uncertain about God’s existence and searching for the truth, I would recommend a less restrictive prayer than the one I offered in order to avoid the accidental chance quandary.  “God, if you exist, please help me to find you.  I want to know the truth.  If you are the truth, then help me find you.”  This is a quick prayer that can be repeated daily by the searcher and allows for a daily reflection unique to that individual’s life.

 

133.            It is possible to use Bayes Rule in an attempt to gain possible insight into this event. In this example, I examine three possible causes of the event documented in paragraph #132; namely, (1) God answered my prayer (God as Christians understand the word), or (2) it was an unlikely chance event, or (3) it was a “natural cause” event.  In this third category I include not only causes such as my eyes/brain somehow recognized the bolt in the dark but also various ESP explanations along with various “New Age” possibilities.  All of this is subjective; however, having three possible causes I follow statistical tradition and take the Bayesian priors each to be one-third.  That is, Probability (God caused the event) = Prob. (Nature caused the event) = P(chance) = 1/3 and use the notation P(G), P(N), P(C) for these priors along with P(E|G) to mean the probability of the event happening given God’s existence and P(G|E) to mean the Probability of God existing given that the event happened.  Starting with the assumed prior probabilities of P(G)=P(N)=P(C)= 1/3, we apply Bayes Rule in the form P(G|E)=P(G)P(E|G)/[P(G)P(E|G)+P(N)P(E|N)+P(C)P(E|C)].  Here from the documentation of the event P(E|C)= 1/4300 = .0002 to four decimals.  P(E|G) cannot be directly measured but we know that the Christian God answers sincere prayers affirmatively unless the person’s salvation or freedom or the salvation or freedom of others would be lost, in which case God’s answer is no.  For this event other individuals were not involved and hence a negative response would have meant my salvation or freedom to act in the future would have been compromised.  Since God’s response to my prayer could have been either affirmative or not, it not unreasonable to take P(E|G)= ½ = .5.  P(E|N) also cannot be directly measured; however, given the facts of the event, it is not likely that “nature” had a big impact in its cause.  Thus, it is reasonable to think P(E|N) is less than .5 and as a first estimate to take P(E|N) = ¼ = .25.  Placing these numbers into the equation gives P(G|E)=(1/3)(1/2)/[(1/3)(1/2)+(1/3)(1/4)+(1/3)(1/4300)]=.6665.  Similar equations give P(N|E)=.3332 and P(C|E)=.0003.  Thus, updating the Bayesian priors given this event and its quantification as shown gives new estimates as to the priors of P(G) = almost 2/3, P(N) = almost 1/3, and P(C) = nearly 0.  This calculation, albeit speculative, reinforces the notion that chance was not the likely cause of the event.  In order to use Bayes Rule in a meaningful way here and in other situations involving God and/or nature, theologians and naturalist philosophers would have to have general data to quantify specific P(E|G) and P(E|N) as they arose.

 

135.           The demonstration I formulated back then is briefly summarized in the following:  Religion is God’s statement to us of certain unalterable facts about His own nature that mankind is not able to deduce from reasoning or to observe from living.  Those facts revealed by Christ are preserved by the Church and protected from error by the Holy Spirit.  The demonstration of this using scripture and history starts with Matthew, chapter 16, verses 13-20, where Christ changes Simon son of Jonah’s name, and Peter becomes the head of the new church.  Text after text in scripture shows that the office Peter holds is the head and exercises jurisdiction (examples: Matt. 10, 2; Mark 3, 16; Luke 6, 14; Acts 1, 15; Acts 2, 14; Acts 4; Acts 11; Acts 15; Mark 16, 7; Luke 24, 34).  In subsequent years successors to Peter act accordingly and early church writings reinforce this authority (examples: Origen in the second century; Cyprian in the third century; St. Ambrose in the fourth century; the Council of Chalcedon in the fifth century).  If the Church taught error with respect to religion, then the Spirit of truth would not be with us always and the gates of hell would prevail, contrary to scripture (John 15, 16-17 and Matt. 16, 18).  Therefore, when the head of the Church speaks for the Church about religion, he is protected from error (i.e., infallible).

 

136.           I have not quit.  With time, most Church doctrines did fall into place, and although I am still intellectually undecided about a couple of them, I have not found any of them to be false; and thus, I am at peace accepting The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994).

 

137.           To the uninitiated almost all the interpretations of quantum reality might appear to be manifest absurdities.  For example, today many physicists accept parallel or the many universes understanding of quantum mechanics.  This leads to notion that there are almost an uncountable number of separate universes out there, each invisible to our own.  In some of these universes the history of the world is very different: perhaps the Roman Empire never collapsed or Islam swept through Europe in the eighth century or Washington was captured and the American Revolution stopped or the South won the Civil War or the Nazis won World War II.  In most of these universes you don’t exist because mom and dad never got together.   In other universes where you were born but subsequently bifurcated many times, you are there but probably leading a very different life.  As a child and adolescent, long before I studied physics, my coin flipping (do I walk left or right?) and my make believe story telling allowed me to imagine parallel universes but not to the extent that the many-universes interpretation of reality now envisions.  Interestingly, the notion of parallel universes actually bubbling up to the macro level likely avoids one of the “problems” usually associated with an omniscient God; namely, since God knows what you are going to do, then somehow you are not really free when you go ahead and actually do the action because He knew the specific outcome before it happened.  In the multiple parallel universes construct, however, God knows all the paths, all the bifurcations that take place, and all these universes are real, the one where you went right and the one where you went left, and He knows all of them, all the outcomes, not just the outcome you experienced in your particular universe.  And thus God is all knowing without having caused any of the outcomes. Aside: Boethius’s understanding that eternity is not perpetuity is the way to understand that God “seeing” something is not God “imposing” something.

 

139.           The definition of determinant that bothered me came from Birkhoff and MacLane, A Survey of Modern Algebra (1953), page 300.  The determinant, det(A), of an nxn square matrix a(i,j) is the following polynomial in the entries a(i,j): det(A) = Sum (sgn@) a(1,1@)a(2,2@). . . a(n,n@).  This polynomial is a sum of n! terms, one for each permutation i to i@ of the digits 1, . . . n.  The term belonging to a permutation @ is a product of n factors, one from each row of A; the factor a(i,i@) from the i-th row lies in the column i@.  The whole term is prefixed by a sign, sgn@, which is +1 or -1, according as @ is an even or an odd permutation.  The only way to appreciate this definition is to write out the polynomials for low order n’s.  Thus, for a 2x2 matrix, we have det = a(1,1)a(2,2) – a(2,1)a(1,2) and for a 3x3 matrix, we have det = a(1,1)a(2,2)a(3,3) - a(1,1)a(3,2)a(2,3) - a(2,1)a(1,2)a(3,3) + a(2,1)a(3,2)a(1,3) + a(3,1)a(1,2)a(2,3) - a(3,1)a(2,2)a(1,3).  I was looking for a definition that would generate these polynomials directly.

 

141.           In August 1950 Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical Humani generis and wrote, “...The teaching of the Church leaves the doctrine of Evolution an open question, as long as it confines its speculations to the development, from other living matter already in existence, of the human body.  (That souls are immediately created by God, is a view which the Catholic faith imposes on us.)”

 

149.           After years of reflection, The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994) has the best answer, as explained in paragraph 309, to the problem of evil: “If God the Father almighty, the Creator of the ordered and good world, cares for all his creatures, why does evil exist?  To this question, as pressing as it is unavoidable and as painful as it is mysterious, no quick answer will suffice.  Only Christian faith as a whole constitutes the answer to this question: the goodness of creation, the drama of sin, and the patient love of God who comes to meet man by his covenants, the redemptive Incarnation of his Son, his gift of the Spirit, his gathering of the Church, the power of the sacraments, and his call to a blessed life to which free creatures are invited to consent in advance, but from which, by a terrible mystery, they can also turn away in advance.  There is not a single aspect of the Christian message that is not in part an answer to the question of evil.”

 

154.           I rejected this posture when praying long before the events of September 11, 2001.  Of course, I knew bowing face down was used by Muslims in their prayers and therefore, as a Christian, I may have been predisposed to find it inappropriate even though Orthodox Christians also prostrate themselves.

 

156.           Joan of Arc, Mark Twain, Ignatius Press (1989), p. 23.

159.           Kennedy’s speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, a group consisting mostly of Southern Baptists and Evangelical leaders, may be found at http://www.usa.usembassy.de/etexts/speeches/rhetoric/jfkhoust.htm                                                                                                                                                                                 

159.           While all of this was going on, Roman Catholic’s had come up with various in-jokes concerning Kennedy’s nomination:  For example: Catholic #1, “Did you hear that the Pope opened the envelope containing the third Fatima secret?”  (Sister Lucia had written the third secret in 1944 and sealed it in an envelope, and the Pope was supposed to reveal it in 1960.)  Catholic #2, “No, I didn’t know the secret had been revealed!  What did it say?”  Catholic #1, “Vote for Kennedy!”

161.           Although the number of examinations, their organization and content has changed many times over the years, the Society of Actuaries grading system of marks from 0 through 10 with a 6 being within 100% to 110% of the passing score has not changed.

162.           The voting age was lowered to age 18 in 1971.

 

163.           For years, the Germans and Russians blamed each other for the Katyn Forest killings but most individuals in the West knew that this atrocity was committed by Soviets, not Nazis; however, some Americans found it difficult to believe that an ideology that grew out of the political left could murder in a manner similar to the ideology out of the political right.   In April 1990, Premier Mikhail Gorbachev publicly admitted Stalin’s police or the NKVD's responsibility for the Katyn executions.  In 1992, Russian President Boris Yeltsin handed over to the Polish government Stalin's "Supreme Punishment" decree of March, 1940, which ordered the execution of over 14,000 Polish officers and 10,000-plus other Poles.

 

164.           One of my first poems, Dead in the Street:

I saw a dog dead in the street yesterday -

Just lying there, dead, hit by a car.

It was sunset.

I wondered, “Where was this dog at yesterday’s sunset?”

Walking along a road,

Not knowing that soon he would be dead in the street.

And where was I yesterday?

Walking along that road;

And as the sun set,

I wondered if I wasn’t already dead in the street.

 

167.           Christians understand in God’s revelation to mankind through Christ that God is three persons in one nature.  This understanding is more important than philosophical reasoning, which deduces God’s omnipotence and omniscience.  The philosophical understanding of God is formal and abstract, similar to mathematical and logical exposition, but you would not approach a person abstractly as a hypothesis and a proof, and thus I have tried not to approach God in that way.

 

168.  On January 21, 2007 I had an experience that showed me that I have soul, which is described in one of my speculative thoughts.

 

169.           The fact that I can now write these words in good conscience shows, I believe, the effect of weekly communion on my interior life and the transformation of someone who had serious doubts about life after death into a traditional Christian.

 

173 .As a child I used Phil Lip as a pen name.  I kept it for years and used it when I first placed this memoir on the website along with the following introduction: 

      “My lips shall glorify you.” New American Bible (Psalm 63, 4);

      “My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.” Romeo and Juliet (Act I, Scene 5);

        Palmer - A medieval European pilgrim who carried a palm branch as a token of having visited the Holy Land, the American Heritage College Dictionary;

       A modern American palmer presents a brief written testimony of the blessings given to him.

       At that time I thought my last name had a good chance of being related to the Palmers mentioned in history.  Subsequent findings regarding the last name made the Palmer connection very unlikely; hence, I removed it and also the pen name.

 

174.           My recollection is that we were comparing the actual mortality experienced by the company separated by plan, age, and duration against the expected mortality that went into the premium.  

 

176.           The American Century, Harold Evans, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1998, pages 488-489.

 

182.           The American Century, Harold Evans, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1998, pages 494-495.

 

183.           Robert Kennedy’s campaign theme was The Impossible Dream.

 

186.           Many individuals believe that if chance events and randomness produce order, symmetry, and design in the universe, then there is no need for God as an explanation of that universe.  However, chance does not act in isolation.  It needs an underlying structure and a natural setting in which to operate for by itself it cannot produce anything.  There would be nothing at all if God had not created and did not continuously sustain the underlying structure and natural order of the universe, allowing chance to operate and to produce whatever it intrinsically is able to produce given the structure and setting.

 

187.           My definition of a determinant, det (N), of an nxn square matrix is:

det (N) = n:L1, n-1:L2, n-2:L3, n-3 . . . :Ln.  Here L is a generator defined (details not given here) to operate on integers in such a way to generate the required polynomials using Sylvester’s Umbral Notation.  For a 2x2 matrix, det = 2:L1, 1:L2. = 12:L2. = 12 – 21 and for a 3x3 matrix, det=3:L1,2:L2,1:L3. = 23:L2,1:L3. = 123-132:L3. = 123 + 231 + 312 – 132 – 213 – 321.

 

196.           Interestingly, ten years later Kitagawa and Hauser published, Differential Mortality in the United States, Harvard University Press, 1973, a work of interest to actuaries and life underwriters.  By that time, I was doing mortality studies for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.

 

202.           Catholic Encyclopedia, Rev. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Editor, Our Sunday Visitor Inc., 1991.

 

207.           Einstein’s Moon (Bell’s Theorem and the Curious Quest for Quantum Reality), F. David Peat, Contemporary Books, Inc., 1990.

 

214.           The American Century, Harold Evans, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1998, page 515.

 

217.           I remember going home from work one evening and thinking how happy I was and being jolted by newspaper headlines which announced President Johnson’s plans for a massive troop buildup.  I saved the Selective Service announcement ordering me for a medical examination on September 22, 1965.

 

219.           I don’t remember how I heard about the teaching position at St. Dominic College, and the details of my interview remain hazy in my mind.  The events that may have saved my life are lost in my memory and not documented in my records other than the letter offering me the teaching position.

 

220.     A somewhat related demographic change occurred during the nineteenth century in Europe where improved living conditions and agricultural yields helped to decrease infant mortality and increase life expectancy.  The populations of many European nations doubled and nearly tripled between 1800 and 1900, and allowed their leaders to increase the size of their armies which, in turn, made possible the magnitude of World War I.  The leaders of those nations may not have gone to war or continued the stalemate if they didn’t have the extra manpower.

 

226.           After graduating from Georgetown University in 1998, my eldest son went to work for Andersen Consulting (now Accenture).  Andersen Consulting and Andersen Accounting had just formalized their separation but were still sharing training facilities, and my son attended training classes in St. Charles Illinois on the site of the former St. Dominic College.  I was in the process of moving my parents out of Westchester and so I visited him.  It was strangely haunting to see the campus after thirty years.  Even though there had been massive construction and changes, certain locations (e.g., my former office) were recognizable.  Now that Andersen Accounting has been dissolved due to the Enron scandal, I don’t know what has happened to the site.

 

233.           The American Century, Harold Evans, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1998, pages 516-517.

 

235.           The American Century, Harold Evans, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1998, pages 505 and 549.

 

238.           The American Century, Harold Evans, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1998, pages 550-551.

http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/Chicago7/Account.html, Doug Linder, Professor of Law, University of Missouri – Kansas City Law School.

 

239.           The American Century, Harold Evans, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1998, pages 550-551.

http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/Chicago7/Account.html, Doug Linder, Professor of Law, University of Missouri – Kansas City Law School.

 

246.           One.  One.  Then two.  Followed by three.  Three plus two is five.  Five plus three gives the next number, eight.  Thirteen is the next Fibonacci number constructed by adding the prior two numbers.  Twenty-one is next, and as the sequence develops, the ratio of two consecutive Fibonacci numbers converges quickly to the golden mean.  Thirty-four, the next Fibonacci number, divided by the prior Fibonacci number yields, accurate to two decimal places, the golden mean, which is the quantity one plus the square root of five divided by two.  Fifty-five, the next Fibonacci number, divided by the prior Fibonacci number is, rounding to three decimal places, one, decimal point, six, one, eight, exactly (to three decimals) the golden mean, which is also known as the golden ratio or the golden number or the golden section and was first defined by Euclid in his geometry.  Eighty-nine comes next, but Euclid’s number or the golden ratio emerges from geometry in the following way: Take any line segment and divide it into two parts so that the longer part of the segment is in the same proportion to the shorter part as the entire line segment is to the longer part; the ratio in question is the golden ratio; and a simple quadratic equation can be developed and solved from the above description to yield one plus the square root of five all divided by two.  144 is the next Fibonacci number, and these numbers and the golden ratio are connected to diverse phenomena in nature (none of which I have verified) such as the head of a sunflower where florets form various clockwise and counterclockwise spiral patterns, intertwined and crisscrossing, but clear to the eye, and the number of clockwise spirals and the number of counterclockwise spirals vary, depending on the size of the sunflower, but the numbers are Fibonacci numbers and the golden ratio emerges; the petal arrangements in a rose; the branching of leaves on a stem; the flight path of a diving falcon; the shapes of spiral galaxies; the way black holes change from one phase to another; the breeding patterns of rabbits; moreover, various human works such as the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and the art of Salvador Dali have reflected the golden mean.

 

246.           Specific country projections are found in the 2002 World Population Data Sheet of the Population Reference Bureau, Washington, D.C., www.prb.org

 

248.      Humanae Vitae may be found at  www.vatican.va

 

252.      My speculations were and continue to be hindered by not understanding very well the          various disciplines involved, including theology.

 

254.           Pope John Paul II believes both are true.  In October 1996 the Pope in “Truth Cannot Contradict Truth,” an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, said, “Today, almost half a century after the publication of the encyclical [Humani Generis (1950)], new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis.  It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge.  The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.”

 

256.           Civilisation, Kenneth Clark, Harper & Row, 1969, pages 190 – 191. When I visited Rome in September 2011, I went to the Cornaro Chapel in Santa Maria della Vittoria and saw Bernini’s masterpiece, Ecstasy of St. Teresa. I was not disappointed but the highlights of that trip for me were my own experiences described elsewhere on the Ordinary American Catholic website.

 

268.           One of my favorite games was played in the CCLNY, Metropolitan versus Navy Yard, on October 25, 1972.  In the position described below I have the white pieces and start a 9 move combination that leads to checkmate – the alternatives are other checkmates or an easy win.  What a nice way to end an over the board game with a clock running!  White: pawns on a2, b2, c2, d3, f5, g3 and h2; knights on d5 and e4; bishop on g2; rooks on e1 and f1; queen on g4; king on g1.  Black: pawns a6, b7, c5, d4, f6, g7 and h7; knight on c6; bishops on c8 and d8; rooks on a8 and f8; queen on b8; king on g8.  The game concluded with 18. Nef6ch. Bf6, 19. Nf6ch.  Rf6, 20. Re8ch. Kf7, 21. Qh5ch. g6, 22. fgch. hg, 23. Rf6ch. Kf6, 24. Qh8ch. Kg5, 25.Qh4ch. Kf5, 26. Bh3mate.

 

268.  CCLNY continues to survive playing every subsequent season through a portion of season 2019-2020 when CCLNY decided to stop the team tournament after round 10 on Feb. 26, 2020 because of the COVID19 virus. The League then moved to internet chess, waiting for the pandemic to pass.

 

278.           The Metropolitan Life - A Study in Business Growth, Marquis James, The Viking Press, 1947, p.186.

 

279.           An Epoch in Life Insurance, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company publication, 1924.

 

280.           When Haley Fiske died, Fredrick H. Ecker became the President.  His investment policies had kept Metropolitan out of the stock market in the 1920’s.  His position was vindicated with the market’s collapse and the Great Depression.  During World War II, Metropolitan invested over 50% of its assets in United States Government War (Savings) Bonds.  The Company emerged from the Depression and the War as the strongest financial institution in a totally changed world.  But the Metropolitan had not changed and did not change in the years immediately after the War.  Fredrick H. Ecker had become Chairman of the Board and then honorary Chairman, and worked and influenced the Company for eighty years into his mid-nineties up to his death in 1964; his son, Fredric W. Ecker, became President in the 1950’s and his father’s ultra-conservative investment philosophy continued.  No major new individual products were introduced, nor markets opened, and the Company went into a long slow relative decline with respect to other insurers.  Meanwhile, the insurance industry itself did not seem to position itself well with the American public, and lost ground to other financial institutions.  For example, the theme of “buy term life insurance and invest the difference” was not effectively combated with advertising or competitive products marketed to capture those extra dollars.

 

281.           The Company finally did away with their free lunch for home office employees in the early 1990’s.  Free dental, medical and eye examinations also went away as did the Athletic Association and the many clubs and organizations that proliferated when employees were considered to be “family.”  Employees and retirees dug into their own pockets as the MetLife chess team paid its own way in order to play in the 2002-2003 CCLNY chess season.

 

282.           The 1980 CSO Tables were replaced by the 2001 CSO Tables and then the 2017 CSO Tables.

 

283.           The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company exited from the medical care insurance market in 1994 and eventually most of its medical care business was purchased by UnitedHealthcare.  Health care reform came to the United States in terms of physician networks, medical care savings accounts, and cost shifting from employers to employees but not in increased Federal Government involvement beyond Medicare and Medicaid.  There were still millions of Americans without a health insurance plan and whose access to medical care was an emergency room or a private arrangement with a doctor before the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010.

 

284.           During my employment, the relative decline in the Company came in Personal insurance lines of business.  Generally, the Large Group and Pension Departments continued to grow faster than their competitors.  By the time the Company demutualized in 2000, the volume of business under mostly non-participating institutional contracts was greater than the business under participating individual contracts (e.g., the dollar amount of group life insurance in-force was over three times the dollar amount of individual life insurance in-force.)  Through the business it had placed on its books, Metropolitan had effectively changed its characteristics from the days of Haley Fiske and had started on the road to demutualization long before its formal action in 2000.  The optimum legal structure, mutual or stock, for a life insurance company depends on the business it writes and the business it can write, given the social and economic situation of its customers.

 

287.           I gave Nora a poem the night we became engaged:

My heart feels affection

Deep and sincere

To be your true love

Now and for life.

So on this Valentine’s Day

Do not say, “Yes,”

Unless your heart desires the same.

My mind thinks thoughts of

Home and family

With a wife who is a lover

Now and for life.

So on this Valentine’s Day

Do not say, “Yes,”

Unless your mind understands the same.

 

288.           There is a rational or intellectual component to love.  It is that component that leads to vows of “in good times and in bad times.”  Without intellectual love, life long marriages become rare because emotions and feelings tend to be too variable.