My first 75 years: my roots and my branches

by on Friday, 24 December 2010 Comments

On August 1, 1931 in Martinez, California, St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church, one Robert Anthony Ronald from New York married Hazel Ritha Bergamini. From that union I was born. For those two persons from such different backgrounds to have met requires a staggering mind boggling amount of chance events.

Billions and billions of years ago, according to the calculations of many scientists, there was a Big Bang.  God initiated creation by concentrating all energy and matter in a single mass which exploded sending everything hurtling into space in every direction.

Eventually a portion of the energy and mass got trapped in a solar system in which several planets evolved. On one of these the conditions were just right for forming seas and continents. Living things appeared and gradually developed into plants and animals. Finally, the moment came when some animals were ready for God to create in them human souls. And God created men and women in his own image, giving them consciousness, free will and immortality.

As the original humans increased in numbers, they scattered around the earth, eventually speaking different tongues and acquiring particular racial identities and cultures. If circumstances were right, they managed to live relatively comfortably until they had to defend their territory from jealous neighbors. If circumstances were harsh, they had to migrate and fight to appropriate a share of what others claimed for themselves.

The clever invented new ways to make life easier. The strong found ways to subjugate and lead the weak.  The creative developed artistic expression. The gifted created crafts. Healers found ways to alleviate pain and cure ailments. Holy men and charlatans sought to contact and appease the gods. Merchants found ways to buy and sell, to create and satisfy the needs and desires of others. There were peace makers and war mongers. There were rich and poor. There were oppressors and the oppressed.

And they spread over the earth bringing war and peace. People lived and died and were forgotten, save for a notable few whose achievements and exploits were immortalized in legends and myths passed from generation to generation.

I’m glad I don’t live in those ancient times nor even in more recent older times. But I am grateful to those times, because my roots are there. That is where I come from.

bob_home1I would really like to know all the branches in my family tree. I am sure it would contain a vast variety of hunters, farmers, warriors, craftsmen, good people and bad people, leaders and followers, royalty and peasants, wise men and fools.

I wouldn’t be ashamed to find skeletons in the closet, or to discover I was descended from thieves or scoundrels or worse.  On the contrary, I would find it fascinating.  For better or for worse, they are my gene pool.  To even the worst of my ancestors, I owe my life.

I am disappointed that I have found no evidence of Hebrew blood or Negroid blood or Asiatic blood or of any of the present day indigenous peoples with their rich legacies of culture and humanity.  I did not choose my forebears. The past is fixed.  It is only the present and the future that are in my power to influence as I was influenced.

Actually, of course, I am much more than just a by-product of my parents. Every day what happens around me, the news I hear, the things that people do or say to me also influence what I say and do. And what I say and do also influences who I am and what I become. My life would be so different, if I had taken rather than not taken so-and-so’s advice or had accepted rather than rejected such-and-such an opportunity.

I am also disappointed that I have no descendants of my own.  I did not choose celibacy.  Celibacy was just a requirement for being a Jesuit priest of the Roman Catholic Church.  Had the rules been different I would gladly have gotten married and raised children.  But I have no regrets.  I freely chose to dedicate my life to service in the Church as a priest and willingly accepted the consequences of my choice.  Still I envy those parents in heaven who for as long as life remains on earth will be able to greet their own descendents, generation after generation, their own flesh and blood.

But I too leave a mark on the future. For better or for worse, some of the things I did or said, have influenced what others did or said.  Only God sees the threads of cause and effect, the ripples of reactions to what I deliberately or inadvertently said and did to change people or influence their destinies.

In heaven I will have the consolation of seeing those threads of history that were woven differently because of me.  I will also see, however, all the consequences of the misadventures and misfortunes that were occasioned by my doing or saying the wrong things or by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It will be both surprising and exhilarating to discover any good consequences of the things I did in my life. It will also shame and embarrass me to discover the repercussions of my mistakes, sins, and bad examples. And it will probably also be very humbling perhaps to see how very little I actually mattered in so many of my encounters with the people I met.

Robert Ronald

Bob was among the most prolific writers of eRenlai. He passed away peacefully on January 2 2009 in Taipei. A tribute to his life and his work can be found here on eRenlai: http://www.erenlai.com/index.php/en/focus/2011-focus/bob-ronald-challenged-but-not-disabled

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