Review: Running to the Mountain: A Journey of Faith and Change by Jon Katz

I bought and read this book over 20 years ago. I was about the same age as the author at the time and I had a sense of my advancing age, mortality and the need to make changes. I did not have a spiritual guru like Katz did with Thomas Merton. ( I do share his interest in the writings of HL Mencken.) While there were times when I would have liked to be alone, I had absolutely no desire to find and buy a distressed cabin in the woods and live there.

While Katz was a far more successful professional man, I fortunately did not share most of the childhood traumas that he experienced with his parents and siblings. His demons followed him from childhood to adulthood.

This book had far more influence on me when I read it at 50 years old than it did re-reading it at 70 years old. Maybe I am a bit wiser, maybe I am a bit more resigned at my current age. Plus I have very little enthusiam for change.

Interestingly, I read an update on Jon Katz and noticed that he divorced his wife Paula in 2008 and remarried in 2010. Reading between the lines in his book, I sensed that he may have had some dissatisfaction with his marriage. I guess that that was part of the change that he was looking to make.

This is an inspiring book for those on a spiritual search or reconciling their mid life crisis. Very good story…

Excerpts from the book I found interesting…

I am not nearly as afraid of dying as I am of the hinges inside my mind and soul rusting closed. I am desperate to keep them open, because I think that if they close, that’s one’s first death, the loss of hope, curiosity, and possibility, the spiritual death. After that, it seems to me, the second one is just a formality. I wanted to oil the hinges, force the doors to stay open.

I’ve struggled mightily to figure out how to be spiritual without having to be religious, how to find peace without bending my knee before an altar.

I’d lost close friends this way before, even abandoned a couple myself. When men are pressed, their friendships go to the bottom of the list.

There is huge risk involved whenever you seek to discover yourself. You might find that you’re not as happily married as you thought you were. That you’re growing older than you’ve permitted yourself to acknowledge. That you have few true friends, or the wrong ones. That you’re not happy with the place you’re living or fulfilled by the work you’re doing. That you’re not happy or fulfilled, period.

As with so many other boomers, death was suddenly in the air around me, the consciousness of mortality emerging as parents, older friends and mentors, and the first of my peers began to falter and fall. I was writing my own history. I wanted immortality, though not in the conventional religious sense. I wanted to live on in the fond memories of the people I left behind, to be recalled as a supportive father, a loving husband, a devoted friend, a man who struggled to be a good person.

That Was The Year That Was (2022)

2022 remembered in headlines. I prioritized the headlines by impact…

Ukraine conflict: Fighting rages near Kyiv after Russia invasion (2/24/22)

Supreme Court has voted to overturn abortion rights, draft opinion shows (5/2/22)

At least 19 children and two adults were fatally shot at an elementary school (Uvalde, Tx.), the worst school shooting since Sandy Hook nearly 10 years ago. (5/25/22)

Cassidy Hutchinson provides explosive testimony during the Jan. 6 hearing (6/29/22)

Election takeaways: No sweep for the Republicans after all (11/9/22)

Jan. 6 committee condemns Trump as ‘central cause’ of insurrection in sweeping report (12/19/22)

FBI Raided Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago Resort, Former President Says (8/6/22)

Academy Condemns Will Smith for Slap at Oscars and Opens Inquiry (4/28/22)

Social Security benefits to jump by 8.7% next year (10/13/22)

2022 World Cup: USA’s win over Iran caps tense, emotional build-up that had turned bizarre (11/29/22)

Bully Market: My Story of Money and Misogyny at Goldman Sachs by Jamie Fiore Higgins

This is the second book that I have read by an ex Goldman Sachs employee. The first book was Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story by Greg Smith. I am more sympathetic to Mrs. Higgins as she did endure bullying, sexual harassment, juvenile behavior, unprofessionalism and was totally unsupported by management, human resources and fellow employees.

The author exposed the corrupt culture at Goldman Sachs. She could not beat the old boys network and despite an exemplary work record and performance, was never really taken seriously. I am happy to see that she finally resigned from Goldman Sachs but I think it was something that she should’ve done many years before. I think what confuses me is that this talented woman thought that the only place that she could work was Goldman Sachs. She never got any other offers from any other investment firms or companies? If she did, I missed it from the book.

She was extremely fortunate that she had a supporting husband, particularly after her brief affair with another Managing Director. To a significant degree she placed her marriage, her children’s upbringing and her health at extreme peril.

There were so many parts in the book that were cringing to me. Mrs. Higgins was treated so poorly that just about any other woman (or man) would have walked away from the job. The author did not disclose her financial status other than her significant bonuses that she received yearly. I would’ve thought that she had earned enough “fuck you” money to walk away much earlier than she did.

I am very sympathetic for those employees who have been treated harshly and unfairly by their managers and the company that they worked for. There are a significant number of assholes that work in senior management for many companies. And I understand that there may be very little recourse other than to leave when you are in a situation where you are being treated unfairly.

Kudos to Mrs. Higgins for her candor and her bravery. She truly exposed herself professionally and personally in this book. I read this book in less than two days. It is very compelling reading.

One of the best business books that I have read in 2022…

Demise of the Philly Big 5 ???

A rivalry in decline: Does anyone still care about the Big 5? 

The Temple News 12/20/22

The Big 5 is as passé as DVDs, Blockbuster’s and 8 tracks. Its heyday was back in the 1960s and 1970s where Palestra Big Five games were sellouts complete with noisy student sections, raunchy rollouts and streamers after the first basket. The building rocked back then.

Today’s Big 5 games are played with the passion of a CYO game.

The Big 5 has become the Big 1. At a recent Big 5 doubleheader featuring LaSalle vs Temple and St Joe’s vs Penn, only 3300 people showed up. Watching the games on TV, I noticed that as the camera panned the crowd, that many in attendance were alumni of decades past, a lot of gray hairs. The squeaks of sneakers on the gym floor were louder than the desultory cheers of a largely disinterested crowd.

It’s been a long time since a Big 5 school other than Villanova could attract or recruit a five star prospect. Past coaches were colorful and respected recruiters and strategicians. They could take unheralded players, many who were local stars, and create disciplined and competitive teams. It’s hard to know or remember the names of the current Big 5 coaches especially since Jay Wright has retired.

Fran Dunphy is the current dean of Big 5 coaches with his current stint at LaSalle and past head coaching jobs at Temple and Penn. If he can hold out a few more years, he could land a potential future job at St Joe’s. (St Joe’s has not had a winning season since 2015-16 season.)

Pro teams, in the distant past, would scout for NBA eligible players in Philly but there is only one potential draft prospect and he predictably plays for Villanova (Cam Whitmore).

One does not see much hope for the NCAA tournament with the exception of Villanova but they need quite an improvement to achieve the Sweet 16 if they get in. Shown below are current records:

Villanova 7-5

Temple    6-7

Penn        6-7

St Joe’s    5-6

LaSalle    5-7

The Athletic has reported that representatives from the Big 5 schools plus Drexel have been meeting on plans to revive the Big 5 spirit and rivalries.

I wish them luck and offer this piece of advice:

To generate fan interest, you need exciting and competitive teams. To field competitive teams, you need outstanding players. To attract outstanding players, you need outstanding coaches and facilities. To interest and hire outstanding coaches, you need $$$, plenty of $$$. 

The Oxford Book of Aphorisms (by John Gross) Excerpts

Probably no invention came more easily to man than heaven. Lichtenberg, Aphorisms 1764-99


I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching. Emerson, Essays


Life is a tragedy wherein we sit as spectators for a while and then act out our part in it. Swift Thoughts on Various Subjects 1711


Men shut their doors against a setting sun. Shakespeare, Timon of Athens


Equality may perhaps be a right, but no power on earth can ever turned it into a fact. Balzac


In prosperity our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends. Churton Collins 1914


Love is blind, but marriage restores its sight. Lichtenberg, Aphorisms


Good resolutions are useless attempts to interfere with scientific laws. Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891


The fact of having been born is a bad augury for immortality. Santayana, The Life of Reason 1905


At 50 you begin to be tired of the world, and at 60 the world is tired of you. Count Oxenstierna, Reflections and Maxims, mid-17th century

News: Most Influential vs Most Thoughtful

My list is decidedly different. I chose people whose contributions, judgement and commentary I respect.

Mediaite’s Most Influential in NewsEric Burleigh’s List of Thought Leaders in Media
1. Suzanne Scott Fox News1. Kara Swisher
2. Elon Musk 2. Andrew Ross Sorkin CNBC
3. Chris Licht and David Zaslav3. Maggie Haberman NYT
4. Tucker Carlson Fox News4. Maureen Dowd NYT
5. Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinsski MSNBC5. Jim Acosta CNN
6. Sean Hannity Fox6. Chris Wallace CNN
7. Matt Drudge7. Bill Maher HBO
8. Lester Holt, Norah O’Donnell and David Muir8. Jonathan Karl ABC
9. Maggie Haberman9.  Karine Jean-Pierre White House Press Sec
10. Greg Gutfeld10. Sam Harris
11. Ben Shapiro11. Charles Barkley TNT
12. Jake Tapper CNN12. Nicole Wallace MSNBC

Getting Schooled

A sober and somewhat depressing essay about the states of education and teaching within the United States.

Here are just a few of the longstanding problems plaguing American education: a generalized decline in literacy; the faltering international performance of American students; an inability to recruit enough qualified college graduates into the teaching profession; a lack of trained and able substitutes to fill teacher shortages; unequal access to educational resources; inadequate funding for schools; stagnant compensation for teachers; heavier workloads; declining prestige; and deteriorating faculty morale.

There’s a Reason There Aren’t Enough Teachers in America. Many Reasons, Actually. Thomas B. Edsall NYT 12/14/22

I‘m hardly surprised to read about the many failures of the American education system. We need to prioritize education as much as we prioritize health care and defense spending. I had not factored the effects of the “culture wars” but I can imagine the toll it has created among many teachers. The job is hard enough now without adding politics and wacky prohibitions about what is taught and what books pass a purity test.

Education and teaching was much better when I attended school between 1958 to 1974. Teachers were generally respected. There were very few incidents of parental interventions. There was bullying but not to the degree seen today. There were no worries of a crazed gunman running into a class and shooting students. There was interest in pursuing teaching as a career. How that has diminished since I attended school!

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of students graduating from college with bachelor’s degrees in education fell from 176,307 in 1970-71 to 104,008 in 2010-11 to 85,058 in 2019-20.

Edsall NYT 12/14/22

The failure to provide or receive a good education is a bane for the rest of one’s life. We know what the problems are. How to fix all the holes in our education system is another matter.