Letter From New York June 20, 2010

Or, as it seems to me…

As I worked through things at the office on Friday, I saw online that Tony Hayward, CEO of BP, had been removed from the frontline of dealing with the oil spill. His gaffes finally caught up with him. In front of Congress on Thursday he was accused of not taking responsibility and evading questions. He didn’t play well, not in Congress and apparently not in his own company and now the odds makers are taking bets on how long he will survive at BP.

The oil is, of course, still gushing and, according to revised estimates, gushing at rates far greater than previously estimated, a rate that keeps going up and up, discouragingly so, day after day, week after week.

There is the Gulf Oil disaster and new questions about our direction in Afghanistan even as reports are circulated about the potential mineral wealth there; some question the timing of this announcement since there has been knowledge of these deposits all the way back to the time when the Soviets were attempting to subdue the country.

An American teenager was attempting to be the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe ran into trouble in the Indian Ocean and had to be rescued. Her parents took a beating in the press for letting her pursue this dream – but the real problem may have been they had been attempting to sell a television program based on her quest. It didn’t play well.

The Israelis are still sorting the fallout from their actions stopping a Turkish flotilla that wanted to break the blockade of Gaza. There is talk of lightening the blockade as it is not playing as well as it had been.

The World Cup is playing out and Americans are paying more attention to it than ever before, particularly after the lucky tie of the US vs. Britain. Had lots of folks in my office excited. In more places than ever before, the World Cup is on the television, background in some bars and restaurants, catering to the growing numbers invested in the sport. It is playing well.

These are world events, playing out on the world stage, the affairs that shape the headlines and the national discourse. But in my life, and in the lives of all of us, these are the backdrop to our lives, to getting up in the morning, having coffee, plotting the day and then reacting to the things that happen to us, making sense of the “ordinary” developments we face in our own lives – the tensions in the office, the loss of those we know and love when they pass, the pressure of being in Place A at Time B for a meeting about C.

All of that hit me on Thursday when I learned that Andy Doyle, my sister-in-law’s brother, whom I have known since I was twelve, about my age, lost his fight to a rare brain ailment. He was a good kind man, a former priest, who came to celebrate Thanksgiving with me a few years ago, full of wry jokes and witticisms and intelligent conversation. His passing will not be splashed on front pages and, like most of us, will not effect world events but for those of us who knew and loved him he will be missed and a hole has opened in our worlds. The great events play out as backdrop to our ordinary lives, “small” according to the Chairman of BP, but central to our lives and more important immediately to our lives than the faraway front-page headline events. It is how it plays in real time, in real life.

And playing out in real time today, Sunday, is Father’s Day – the day when families honor the central man in their lives, the man who helped conceive them and who nurtured them [it is hoped]. For those whose fathers have gone, like mine, it is a time to recall, remember, re-evaluate perhaps, understanding that central character through more experienced eyes. It is a day to celebrate and to treasure. It is a time to play well with those we love. Happy Father’s Day.

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