My stepfather’s birthday was couple of weeks ago. He is no longer alive. I rarely ever call him my stepfather as he is the man who raised me. But, for the purpose of clarity, it seemed important to note the distinction about which father I was writing.
Both his birthday and Father's Day had me thinking about all the good he taught me. He was a character of complexity, like most humans. The things I wish I could thank him for today are his openness to the diversity of humans from all countries and traditions, his willingness to engage in conversation with anyone, and his fierce critical thinking skills.
Dad was a world traveler by trade which was further aided by his curious nature. When he was not traveling, he was building friendships with people from far off lands. His favorite people came from Mexico.
He lived in Mexico on three separate occasions, each time he would note their care of community and love of life. When he passed on he asked for some of his ashes to be spread in hills of Pascuales Mexico.
Dad taught me to travel like Anthony Bourdain — wide open, with the ability to chat with anyone who showed an interest.
Alongside his openness he maintained a constant vigilance for critical thinking. Mark and I were chatting the other day, about a societal lack of empathy, critical thinking, and care for community. Instead, our people seem steeped in compliance to legalized “rules of oppression and thoughtless.”
Mark was saddened by someone's lack of thought regarding a certain situation. It occurred to me this person was behaving just as our society had raised her — no critical thinking, no questioning, and no curiosity to look beyond what is to what could be.
When I was a young teenager my family took a road trip. We traveled from our home in Belgium to Portugal. At one point, on a very curved road that hung to the side of a cliff, my older sister Blythe and I argued the merits of Alice Cooper with our father. The odd thing is, I don't remember ever liking Alice Cooper or his music. I think we were partaking in the argument as an exercise in critical thinking and debate.
Our father enjoyed teaching us how to debate and truly proved it could be a blood sport. On that road, the car quickened with the conversation as we feared for our lives and learned to think for ourselves. He made us dig deep into what true support there was for our assumptions and beliefs.
Was it enjoyable? No. Was it educational? Yes. My dad’s gift of engagement, love for people, and critical thinking have all served me well — for that I will always be grateful.
What skills did your parents share with you? Can you or have you thanked them for those skills? Do you think our school system, social systems, or country encourages critical thinking?