A great philosopher once wrote that attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.
Whether the idea is encountered in writings by Plato or, as it is here, by the French philosopher Simone Weil, learning to better attend to people and things – whether the soul, the world, or one’s actions towards others – is the complete means and ends of philosophical study.
I came to it as a third career, having secretly admired philosophy as a Beatrice, from a great distance.
After graduating from Harvard in the turbulent ‘70s, I promptly rejected Ivy League values and hitchhiked West to grow my hair long and join a commune in Santa Cruz. I built a dome and traded it for a junk that almost sank in Alameda harbor of San Francisco Bay.
Eventually I returned to my hometown in upstate New York to recover my passion, teach high school math and, it turned out, discover that I was born to coach wrestlers. I was blessed with tough and dedicated student athletes; they were just naïve enough to believe in my technique and confidence. Together we conquered New York schools several times and even developed a couple of Olympic champions.
Looking back, I can’t help feeling that I was involved in a moment so powerful and unique that it yet lies beyond my full comprehension. I moved from hometown success to NCAA Division 1 coaching at Franklin & Marshall, an elite private college in Pennsylvania whose active learning approach is similar to APU’s.
Those years too seem almost dreamlike: I was coaching some of best student athletes in the nation in an enriching, halcyon setting. In the end, my athletes’ aspirations were contagious, and I realized that I too needed to pursue my own ambitions. I knew I must study philosophy.
I’d already completed a master’s degree reading the Great Books at St. John’s College when I applied to University of Georgia Athens, where I studied Plato under Edward Halper, the great scholar of Ancient Greek philosophy. My dissertation, “Plato’s Philosophical Use of Mathematical Analysis,” focused on the geometers’ use of the imagination as key to secrets of intellectual creatively.
Today I think of myself today as a brother of five, uncle of eleven and an addict when it comes to used bookstores and chocolate.
I teach philosophy because I am convinced that ideas are the living tools by which we transform the world. Because its aim is to improve our thinking, our caring, our reading and our reflective insight, philosophy may be the field most completely devoted to the betterment of oneself.
At Alaska Pacific University, I have the privilege of teaching interesting, passionate students who share my excitement at opening up riddles left to us by the great minds and how they may have perceived life’s mysteries.
PhD, Philosophy, University of Georgia
MA, Liberal Studies, St. John’s College
BA, Physics and Philosophy, Harvard University