He was My Father.
He died July 30th, 2013 at 91.
I have many memories of him, some early memories have that misty, but warm quality, of the fifties, an age of innocence.
You kinda of realize things slowly. Kids must learn. Things emerge into your consciousness.
I remember when I realized he was just a man around the time I was a young teenager, he wasn’t all powerful, he was human. And later I realized what a man. A Rational Man, just like me. And his ideas have changed many lives for the better.
And of course, he is of the Greatest Generation. An American marine fighter pilot, who at one time was sitting on a carrier off the coast of Japan, ready to invade their homeland. Not thinking of a future. Then there was the news.. Atomic Bomb. He now had a future, he could go home.
He returned, married my mother, went to school on the GI bill, and embarked on career as a psychologist. School psychologist. Helping troubled and troublesome kids.
And he was Maverick, in ideas.
He was “Just like me..” — Oh, what a lucky person I am.
What did “just like me” mean?
As it turned out this situation was unusual, although I did not know it at time and it took me a few years to realize it. And as a father myself, I understand it much more as time goes on. Your friends and family are rarely “just like you”.
The Father-Son relationship is complicated, whether or not you are a chip off the old block.
Being “A Chip Off the Old Block” — is not the usual situation, in life, as I was to learn from my father.
We both were interested in ideas. As it turned out he would name our type of person as “an Architect Rational” (and lastly a “Designer Rational” he was always tinkering with his theory) — but that is much a later in life. We both loved to examine and debate ideas, he respecting my thoughts despite my youth and naivety.
He was a great listener. But he was always willing to debate ideas, and question the conventional.
My most vivid memory, and recurring memory of him was when I was about 12 years old, I came back from school and he had asked me what I learned and queried me about my new found knowledge. Can a set be a subset of itself? That is the question my father put to me when I was about twelve years old, when I was being taught “new math” in junior high school and trying to explain to him math. I said “Yes, a set can be a subset of itself.” My answer at the time was less than satisfactory for my father, for he understood things much more than I did. A lively debate about this question ensued for many years between us and this question morphed to many other questions. The ensuing life-long dialog and debate between the two of us has covered a wide range of issues about life, both in the physical and behavioral sciences. My father spoke more of the behavioral sciences, I, more of the physical and computer sciences, and all the while both of us spoke of how words best be used.
He was well read in philosophy and psychology — and he loved history, particularly Civil War and WWII history, given that he was in the WWII. But ultimately he considered himself a “wordmeister.” He studied words. And he studied persons. He considered himself a personologist.
Beginning at an early age, my father would talk about the works of Oswald Spengler, Herbert Spencer, Will Durant, Charles Darwin, Adam Smith, Arthur Schopenhauer, Ayn Rand, Georg Hegel, Maurice Merlau-Ponty, Edmund Husserl, Wolfgang Kohler, William James, John Dewey, Ernst Cassirer, Isabel Myers, Milton Erickson, Jay Haley to name a few.
In the last years he had physical ails that dimmed and slowed his brilliant mind, as the impromptu video below shows. But he still retained an intelligence and humor far beyond the ordinary, up to his last few days.
By the by. Yes, I contended with my father on the ideas. He needed someone to bounce his ideas off. And, in the last few years he kept forgetting that I did put up some of his publishable work on madness (after trying to get him agree to let some of it out for about the last 10 years), here. — David Mark Keirsey.