New Edition of my Book Released

Young Man of the Cloth Cover

Young Man of the Cloth Cover

Young Man of the Cloth is now available in a Smashwords edition for $2.99. Smashwords offers Ebooks for almost every imaginable reading platform.

Young Man of the Cloth is a memoir about my nine years in the Passionist Order’s Seminary and Monasteries.

The 1960’s were a time of tumult for the American culture as well as for the Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Council raised hope on the part of many for changes in the church structure and way of doing things. For others, it was a time of fear that all they held dear would fall by the wayside. Monasteries served as a microcosm of the changes in the culture and in the Catholic Church. My story may give you some insight into the struggles taking place in the church at the time.

A relatively small number of priests have been abusive but I offer a start to understanding the cultural and religious influences which formed the context of their lives and experiences. Although it is easy to condemn them, it is a much harder task to understand them. There is much to explore, but I offer my experience of seminary training several decades ago as a starting point.

Sample or order Young Man of Cloth at:

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Blowin’ in the Wind or Bound for Glory

Oak Bluffs Sunrise

Oak Bluffs Sunrise

Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple

~Woody Guthrie~

In my last column, I wrote about what creativity is and where it comes from. I based my comments on Jonah Lehrer’s research for his book, Imagine. His book shared his theories about creativity and relayed brief examples of creative minds at work.

In a summer book project at Woodward Library in Le Roy, participants are encouraged to read books in various categories. One is music. I discovered Bob Dylan’s autobiography, Chronicles and Woody Guthrie’s Bound for Glory. I hoped to get a better sense of what happened in these two creative minds during their prolific years.

Dylan’s narrative followed Lehrer’s steps. He initially wandered about the country meeting quite a range of entertainers, mostly musicians. He absorbed their adventures, musings and creative experimentation. In the meantime, he struggled to find his own voice and finally did. His story is not presented chronologically or coherently. Instead it often reads like lyrics from his songs. I felt like I was in his head.

Woody Guthrie shares his adventures growing up, riding in boxcars, and also wandering the country learning what he could about people and their lives and sharing his music as he went along. He tells stories of the people he met and the influences on his life and music.

I recall times from my life journey when I felt bound for glory and also times when I was blowin’ in the wind. Sometimes my creative urges kept me awake at night until I honored them and sometimes I wondered when I would ever have another creative thought. Dylan and Guthrie both had times when they struggled and times when they rode the crest of creative inspiration.

When I started writing this column ten years ago, I thought that I might have enough ideas to write for about a year or so. Now, I still find topics to write about. I do not always know from week to week what my topic will be but something always emerges to trigger a creative response.

I have learned that I cannot force creative ideas to appear. I can read, listen and be open to the experiences which pass my way each day. Everything that happens around me can become grist for the mill of my mind if I remember to stop and pay attention. I can reflect on my experiences and on those of people in my life. My creativity sparks to life while pondering the connections between my experiences and my reactions to them.

My creative ideas have not brought me fame like Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie or many other artists who have inspired me. Yet fame is not what it is all about. Bob’s and Woody’s music helped them make sense of the world in which they lived. While I still find life full of mysteries, the sense I have made of it has come though creative outlets I have discovered.
Life Lab Lessons

  • Take some time to appreciate creative efforts of others.
  • Reflect on your own creative efforts.
  • What can you learn from each experience?
  • What parts of life remains a mystery for you?
  • Use your creativity to make sense of them.


Learning How to Unleash Our Creativity

Sculpture Play

Sculpture- Nantucket

The struggle of maturity is to recover the seriousness of a child at play

~Friedrich Neitzsche~

Napoleon Hill told the story of traveling quite a distance to visit a man whose creativity he admired. When he arrived he had to wait for some time. The explanation he received was that his mentor was in his chair in a dark, quiet room “sitting for ideas” without any set agenda.

I just finished reading Jonah Lehrer’s book, Imagine: How Creativity Works. I always thought that creativity had a life of its own, sparks of genius fusing into a new star in the night sky. I couldn’t make it happen if I wanted to and no amount of hard work could trigger it. Mozart, Einstein and Shakespeare appeared on the scene unbidden and unexpected in the course of ordinary human events.

Lehrer studied creativity in great detail and concluded that it is “the ability to imagine what has never existed.”  It is easier to put into words than to comprehend. Is creativity a lucky stroke of genius or does it evolve over a period of time? Does it take place in a vacuum or as the result of a group effort? The answer seems to be all of the above. It turns out there are three steps in the creative process. Two involve hard work and the other seems to happen when we least expect it.

The first step is gathering ideas which works best when we are surrounded by a mix of those who think like we do and strangers with very different ideas. It helps to have our ideas understood but also to be among others who think and see things in ways we don’t. This is also a good chance to consider what doesn’t work and to set aside unpromising leads.

The second step is creative inspiration, epiphany or the eureka moment. This works best is a state of relaxation and letting go. A garden or a beach is much more conducive to inspiration than is a lab, library or computer. Letting our minds float freely encourages connections and realizations we never could have predicted. It turns out that people with ADHD are better at this part of the process. They don’t stay tied to any one idea but find it easier to let in new and seemingly unrelated ideas. They are also better at finding connections among these scattered thoughts.

The third step is fine tuning. Once the creative idea has arrived, the task remains of discovering its meaning, uses and practical implications. Our time of rest and reflection is over and it’s time to get back to work.

Creativity is not limited to a few lucky or chosen ones. All of us have a spark of creativity often lying dormant. We need to practice turning off our internal censor to let our creative ideas take flight in our own minds and ultimately to share them with others.

Life Lab Lessons

•    Listen to your own inner voice and let it speak to you.
•    Don’t be critical of your own ideas.
•    Listen without criticism to others’ ideas.
•    Do your homework first.
•    Then find a quiet place to let your ideas percolate.