Monthly Archives: April 2013

Unfriending Facebook

I deleted my Facebook account today and it was long overdue. Here are the reasons:
•    It was a frivolous time sink. I can think of many other things I can do or should be doing.
•    Corporate Facebook is not to be trusted. I’d rather trust the NSA with my personal data.
•    Just another attack vector for hackers and cyber threats.
•    Who needs propaganda when you have Facebook? Social media is the propagation of disinformation and half baked news. No one reads books anymore or the real news for that matter.
•    Benign posts were mostly of idle glimpses or what my friend’s kids were doing, easily summarized in conventional year end newsletter. It was rare that a benign post might also be interesting.
•    Malignant posts made unilateral remarks about traditional people, particularly men, fathers and husbands, lampooning conservatives, Christians and traditional values all while claiming to be tolerant. At first I thought Facebook might be the marketplace of ideas among rational and respecting persons. No—it’s basically a high school food fight.
•    George Takai. I never friended Sulu but would still get his crap on my newsfeed anyhow. I wonder if he weren’t gay would people find him as interesting.
•    My own posts, as creative and rare as I tried to make them, were seldom liked or commented and then by my immediate family. With some streams, I’m sure they got lost in the noise, and there is a lot of noise.
•    The temptation to argue, fight and eventually transgress was too great for me. I have little self-control, especially when it comes to *(*&$# imbeciles who parrot whatever they read in the New York Times, the Mary Sue or Gawker.
•    Lack of reciprocity. I unfriended people who I liked / commented on their posts with no indication that they ever cared or saw anything I did.
•    It amazes me that grown men and women feel the need to use, let alone type, profanity, indicative of a society that is out of ideas, civility and language skills.
•    A lot of my very smart friends don’t use Facebook. I think they are on to something.
According to policy, my account will be dead in 14 days. I’ll check to make sure it really is so.

The Richest Man I Know

Some years ago I volunteered to be  treasurer of my daughter’s travel soccer team. In order to secure the services of a professional coach a large sum of money needed to be amassed from the participating families ahead of the season. Based on the commitments I reckoned the amount each family should pay and acted on their good faith. One father was particularly slow in sending me his payment which he eventually did after a great deal of feet dragging and importunity. As the season began it was evident that the team was barely holding together: attendance at practice was sparse and dedication was almost non-existent.

After the first week of practice I got an email indicating that this wishy-washy father wanted a refund—that his daughter couldn’t play after all and so forth. The problem: the check to the coaching staff had already been cut. Furthermore, an avalanche of defectors would mean a dwindling number of families would be stuck holding the bag of an expensive soccer season that would amount to personalized training. Basically a full refund wasn’t possible. The die was cast.

With the utmost diplomacy, I explained in a private email to this individual why a full refund could not be issued. This did not sit well with the father and after some bantering, he responded in a hostile email deliberately copying all the families of the team as if that would curry favour.  The structure of the message was designed to aggrandize the writer as a rich corporate so-and-so who lived on a massive estate in Great Falls with money to burn while I was some petty poor slob attempting to extort money out of him to subsidize the team. I responded privately:

Dear ______,

Congratulations on being rich and important. Given the differences in our zip code there is a high likelihood that you indeed have more assets and wealth than me. You have many more acres of prime real estate and drive a Mercedes Benz. Your kids are all brilliant and go to the best schools in the land. Well done, well done.

Perhaps it is no accident that the date of this reply is April 10—a most peculiar anniversary for me and not one you are likely to encounter in many lives. On this day, I commemorate the fact that I am the “richest man I know”. You see, many decades ago, when I was a teen, April 10 was the day a surgeon removed a malignant tumour from my neck. This was the start of an ordeal that put me in touch with my own mortality.

On this day I celebrate the fact that I am alive once more around the sun. I celebrate graduating from high school and college. I celebrate that I lived long enough to get married and have a family. I celebrate that I was able to sire children when that should not have been possible at all. I celebrate the prosaic things in life because I understand how really important those things are when they are suddenly unavailable.

I know that money may buy the choicest food but can never buy appetite. Money may provide the best health care but doesn’t always buy health. Money may buy an Ivy League education but cannot buy wisdom—apparently.

Congratulations again on being rich, but, no matter how much money you amass, you will never be richer than me.

The Treasurer

What’s in a name

At first I wasn’t going to take on a confirmation name, typically that of a saint of the Catholic Church. The reason was simple: I really don’t know much about the communion of saints and their lives well enough to knowledgeably select one as my patron.

When I revealed to a long time Catholic friend (it had been a while since we communicated) that I was going to be confirmed in a few days at the Easter Vigil he tossed out a few names at me to consider even though I never solicited any. He suggested Thomas Aquinas, St. Joseph and even Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. But the fourth one registered with me: Thomas More. That one was familiar…

I had recollected a quote from the book Rage Against God by Peter Hitchens which curiously I posted on this blog precisely a year ago on Sunday March 25 2012 (I was confirmed Saturday March 30 2013 almost a liturgical year later). Had you told me back then that I would become a  Roman Catholic in one years time I would have laughed in your face.

Here is that quote:

In their utter reverence for oaths, men of [Sir Thomas] More’s era were in my view as superior to us as the builder of Chartres Cathedral were to the builders of shopping malls. Our ancestors’ undisturbed faith gave them a far closer, healthier relation to the truth – and so to beauty – than we have.  Without a belief in God and the soul, where is the oath? Without the oath, where is the obligation or the pressure to fulfill it? Where is the law that even kings must obey? Where is Magna Carte, Habeas Corpus or the Bill of Rights, all of which arose out of attempts to rule by lawless tyranny? Where is the lifelong fidelity of husband and wife? Where is the safety of the innocent child growing in the womb? Where, in the end, is the safety of any of us from those currently bigger and stronger than we are?

I am confirmed with the name of Saint Thomas More.



The New Pope

Apparent that I was going forward on full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, friends and family would volley questions my way as if I’ve become an expert in theology. What about purgatory, salvation through grace, the Immaculate Conception?

Last week, just before my confirmation, my mother tossed out a softer question: what did I think about the new Pope, Francis? After a little thought I provided the following answer:

Hey Mom,

I don’t know a lot about Pope Francis but I can definitely tell you that he is way better than the guy who used to be pope…me. Popes may be elected, may be martyred, may be canonized and may even resign. But my pope was fired. He is no longer pope. Thank God.