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Written by Richard Griffin   
Monday, September 09 2013 15:46

Come tomorrow, September 10, 2013, a native of my city of Cambridge is likely to be elected mayor of America’s largest city, New York.  Bill De Blasio is also a graduate of our public high school, Cambridge Rindge and Latin, in the class of 1979.

 Looming six feet, six inches tall, De Blasio did not challenge his schoolmate Patrick Ewing in basketball the way he has apparently met the challenge of many other candidates for mayor.

 If the polls prove to be right and De Blasio wins, one can perhaps expect some celebrative action in Cambridge and its top school. As a supporter off civic pride, I will take some pleasure in the outcome (unless Bill imitates Mitt Romney.)

My 85th PDF Print E-mail
Written by Richard Griffin   
Tuesday, August 20 2013 18:31

My 85th birthday on the nineteenth day of August would seem a much older age level to me were it not for my friend Dan.  As an earlier blog noted, he was 101 on the fourth day of this month.  Somehow, his being so much older than I reduces my feel of personal antiquity.

So does the arthritic malfunctioning of my right knee.  It’s the only physical ailment that reduces my functioning to any notable degree.  Unfortunately it limits my walking capability enough to make me often hobble. When I walk through Harvard Square I must look like the oldsters who wend their way carefully, looking ahead of each step so as to fight off any likelihood of falling.

Yesterday noontime I visited the ball field where, over a period of many years, I have been accustomed to play softball.  The knee problem has blocked my being able to play any more.  However, I went there in order to try throwing and catching the ball with my friends.  I managed to do both rather better than I expected but not enough for me to try practice playing first base, my usual position.

So many of my age peers have died, some many years ago, that it makes me wonder when my turn will come.  I think about this likelihood often and contrast in my mind the after-death views of my Christian faith with many friends who believe there is no after- life. When you live in a university environment as I do, it’s easy to find many who regard religious views of it all entirely unlikely.

However, my advance into the late years leads me to appreciate the values of religion and spirituality. Though there is much espoused by religious people that I do not at all believe, much less espouse, I continue to see a great deal in my tradition as important both for individuals and for the community. Reaching 85 makes reflection on this matter of even greater importance.   

Beyond Bye-Bye PDF Print E-mail
Written by Richard Griffin   
Thursday, August 15 2013 15:14

He described himself as “a fat, bald guy who looked unkempt even in a freshly pressed suit and a Brooks Brothers shirt.”

That was Jack Germond whose obit I read in today’s Times.  This memorable newspaperman was born the same year as I - 1928.  Seeing an age peer may   have been one of the draws that brought me to watch Jack on “The McLaughlin Group.”

Despite his fifteen year tenure on the show Germond labeled it as “really bad TV.” Finding an alibi for sticking with the show for so long he said it enabled   him to pay his daughter’s medical school tuition.  I identify with someone who can come up with that good an excuse for taking part in schlock.

Besides liking Germond, I had another reason for sometimes tuning into the show.  John McLaughlin is someone I was acquainted with long before he      became a television host.  Like me, he was a member of the New England Province of the Jesuits.  Along with almost three hundred other men we lived in the  1950s at the then Weston College, the Jesuit house of philosophical and theological studies. 

Besides eating, one of the activities of those men close to ordination used to be taking turns in delivering practice sermons during dinner. I still remember   the inflated character of John’s presentations.  My colleagues and I considered him well on the way to becoming a talented blowhard. But we did not                       foresee him becoming such on national television.

Later on, I had occasion to publish an article in the National Catholic Reporter blasting fellow Jesuit McLaughlin for defending Nixon’s bombing of               Cambodia.  This he had done while serving in the White House as presidential assistant, a Republican reward for having run in vain for the senate from             Rhode    Island.

When Jack Germond resigned from McLaughlin’s program, he left John a note entitled “bye-bye.” That was the McLaughlin’s signature way of ending each   program.

 My sentiments are much more heartfelt in saying farewell to memorable journalist Jack Germond.


Written by Richard Griffin   
Wednesday, August 07 2013 08:25

A major disappointment for me: my nephew, Jack Griffin, did not get to buy the Boston Globe as he and his associates wished and I had hoped.  Instead the New York Times sold the paper to the owner of the Boston Red Sox.

Jack would have brought to the Globe journalistic experience that John Henry, the new owner, lacks. Also Jack has deeper roots in the Boston area than Henry, allegedly a requirement of the seller.

A large part of my disappointment comes from what I envisioned as an extension of family tradition. My father, John Griffin, was Jack’s grandfather and spent virtually his whole career at the Boston Post.  Starting as reporter, he later became Sunday Editor and, in the last year of his life Editor.  The Post had once been the leading paper in Boston and one of the largest in the country.  Its offices and plant were located across the street from the Globe.

During the summer of my sophomore year in college, I worked as a copy boy at the Globe.  My father had arranged for me to be hired by calling his friend, the Editor. In this short time I came to see how a big-city newspaper worked, with all of its virtues and flaws.  Though the experience made me decide to follow a different career path then, the memory of it continues to stir my mind.

Had my nephew and his group been selected, he might have become Publisher of the Globe.  At least that’s how I envisioned the outcome.  Had that happened, there would have been a strong link with my father and a weak link with me.  And our family name would have once more adorned the leading Boston newspaper.

This dream, however, may have been destined to fail. Maybe it was and is better not to have extended this history.  Was not the extended family legacy I invented a kind of hubris just as well defeated?



To a Friend on His 101st Birthday PDF Print E-mail
Written by Richard Griffin   
Saturday, August 03 2013 12:17

I write with enthusiasm in celebration of your birthday.  You may still feel mixed about such events, but for me, and many others of your friends, it’s an occasion for rejoicing.  For me, it counts as a gift that you have lived so long. So thank you for continuing to provide so much pleasure for us who value your friendship.

I will raise more than one glass of red wine in your honor.  May you continue to find pleasure in your family members and friends for whom your life continues to be so important.

Written by Richard Griffin   
Monday, July 29 2013 15:19

Were you to be asked which country least needs to urge its young adults to visit their parents, what nation would you choose? Almost surely China, right?


Wrong!  This July, the government there put into practice a new law requiring them to do so.  It’s called “Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People.” And it means business.


Among its demands are these three: Go home often; Occasionally send greetings; and work places should provide time off.


Who would have thought that the country of Confucius would have needed such legislation? After all, he urged on everyone the virtue of filial piety.  And the importance of this view has marked Chinese life over the centuries.


What changed society enough to make the new law needed? In a word, urbanization.  So many Chinese have moved from the countryside into cities.  That migration has left many older people without the support of their grown-up children. 


And that support is not merely physical.  It’s also spiritual.  Older people now miss having offspring within range.  They feel deprived of seeing the children who can buoy them up in their later years.


I remember seeing something like this in Boston.  There I once visited a group of older Chinese immigrants. Some of them had been more or less abandoned by their children.  The latter had moved to the suburbs and were flourishing there.  But their parents were not.


How well do Americans respond to the needs of parents grown old?  Maybe I know the wrong people, but I think they respond rather well.  Most of them devote time and energy taking care of their elders or providing the means for professional help. Almost surely, this response applies much more to women than it does for men.


I’m rooting for the deserted elders of China to benefit from their country’s new law. And I hope we Americans take it as encouragement for our own reaching out to parents in need.














Written by Richard Griffin   
Saturday, July 06 2013 08:10

A party at the home of our next-door friends and neighbors, Emily and George, proved notable for more than the cherries picked from their backyard tree and eaten by us guests.  It also brought together ten adults, both old and young. 


Two of us are in our 80s, two others in their 70s. Among the women present, two seemed  around 60. One of the other women is in her 30s; her boyfriend apparently the same. And two of the other women are somewhere in their middle 20s.


What struck me about this assembly was the ease we had in talking with one another.  It proved simple to exchange the experiences we described.  No awkwardness interrupted the flow of events we shared among us.  Sure, the wine may have helped (and the cherries!), and so did living close by one another, but the delight of sheer being together was the main factor. 


It boosted my heart to realize how young and old can have so much to share.



DPLA PDF Print E-mail
Written by Richard Griffin   
Thursday, April 18 2013 09:26

Today, April 18, 2013, would seem to be an important day in American history.  Yet, the occasion has attracted precious little media attention.  You might expect many notices hailing the arrival of the Digital Public Library of America.  The DPLA, after all prom­ises “to make the holdings of America’s research libraries, archives and museums available to all Americans—and eventually to everyone in the world—online and free of charge.”

This quotation comes from Robert Darnton writing in the New York Review of Books. He is University Librarian at Harvard and took a leading role in bringing this project to fruition. It grew from a conference of forty people at Harvard in the fall of 2010.

The New York review was enthusiastic enough about it as to place an exclamation point after the title of Darnton’s article. But none of my friends seem to be aware of DPLA much less are they celebrating any kind of internal holiday. Still, I predict that many people will someday hail this new creation as one of our country’s proudest achievements.

There’s still a lot to be done before the full potential of this DPLA is available at large.  But its current possibilities surely deserve a hearty welcome, along with hopes for its future.


NOTHING PDF Print E-mail
Written by Richard Griffin   
Monday, April 01 2013 07:41

Nothing has proven itself once more.  After spending hours trying to find a password to suit my new printer, I was in despair.  Why did it not answer any of my reliable code words built up over the years?


The answer, provided on a hunch by my sister Carol, was none.  All I should have done was to simply ignore the request.  Doing so would have both saved time and preserved my peace of soul.  Instead, I tortured myself by searching for something that did not exist.


It’s not as if I had never before ignored the request for a password.  On more than one occasion, one of the smart tutors at the Apple store had shown me to provide no answer.  But, keeping my focus on reason  I failed to discover the beautiful way of nothing at all.

Habemus Papam PDF Print E-mail
Written by Richard Griffin   
Friday, March 22 2013 08:38

As I came out of my house one afternoon, so did a neighbor come out of his, three houses away. When he saw me, he turned toward me and to my astonishment called out “Habemus Papam.” These words, meaning “We have a Pope,” astounded me.

 First, I could not recall hearing Latin spoken on our short street before that day.  And, more surprisingly, the neighbor who spoke them is Jewish.  He did graduate from a Jesuit university, a fact that may have stirred feelings about the new pope, a Jesuit.

 By using the unexpected phrase, my neighbor made me feel new solidarity with him.

Written by Richard Griffin   
Monday, February 11 2013 09:31

Stupendus news, fast-breaking this morning February 11, 2013.  Benedict XVI has announced he will retire from the papacy! It will happen on February 28th, very prompt action on his part.


For decades I have been saying that popes should retire at the same age as other bishops, namely 75. But I never expected it to happen in my lifetime. The burden of history seemed too heavy for any modern pope to make this decision.


Yet, I continued to argue for the desirablility of popes stepping down.  The likelihood of dementia in later years seemed to me reason enough to justify him resigning. My hope is for Benedict’s courageous action to serve as a model for his successors.    


This may go down as Benedict’s most important action in office. It must have taken guts for him to do what he has done.  Hail to the man who has broken with tradition for the good of the church he serves!

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