Tuesday, March 12, 2019
I age into olding years, and my mind forgets what I did yesterday or--smoke!
--already forgot I turned on the broiler 10 minutes ago.
Even the name of my favorite poet won’t show up in my mind, and I have to go over
to one of our many bookshelves and run my fingers down until a biography of her shows up.
Yet in the middle of the many a sleepless night, my brain harps on mistakes, also-ran diligent efforts, regrets, tragedies of 30, 40, 50 years ago...
So it was serendipitous that recently I came across an old Walt Whitman poem—“O Living always...”
O LIVING always—Always dying!
O the burials of me past and present,
O me while I stride ahead, material, visible, imperious as ever;
O me, what I was for years, now dead, (I lament not, I am
O to disengage myself from those corpses of me, which I turn
and look at where I cast them,
To pass on, (O living! always living!) and leave the corpses
I’m not imperious, and am confused why Whitman would still be wielding such a corpse-creating wrong.
BUT I do find myself dragging untold numbers of heavy former corpses—chained to me now, dragging me down and backward—
as I struggle up life’s sisyphusian mountain crag.
And dragging dead 'me’s' is far more difficult than rolling a large rock like the Greek did.
So, in this new year of 2019, every day, I resolved and am working each day to cut loose more past 'me’s'
the dead ashed lapses of the past,
and cast them backward into
the before n’ gone chasm.
Rejoicing in growing Redwood sprouts I planted in the past, here and now, I am--
LIVING THE A’S
To become new in the present moment, not be a corpse’d has been—regressing, regretting, reverting…
As the wise teacher Thich Nhat Hanh wrote:
In the Light,
Thursday, March 7, 2019
FROM World Vision, written by 15-year-old Samia, a Bangladeshi member of World Vision’s Young Leaders Network, a program designed to empower young people ages 12 to 17 to make their voices heard in the global campaign to end violence against children.
"I am a Young Leader and a member of the Child Forum Ashar Alo, which means “Hope of Light.” I am from Bangladesh, a place of natural beauty; it’s full of rivers and has the largest mangrove forest in the world. I believe that many of you have heard about it.
"However, apart from all the wonderful things, we have many problems such as poverty, child marriage, child labor, and both physical and emotional violence against children. For this reason, many girls in my country cannot get their rights and suffer every day.
"In our Child Forum, we come together to help those children, especially girls, because in our society girls are still left behind, and they are vulnerable to superstition and many forms of abuse.
"Many girls are unable to enjoy their rights as human beings. For example, in my country the rate of child marriage is 52.3 percent, and 72.6 percent of women who have ever been married have experienced some type of partner violence. These numbers are very high and terrible for any country and society.
"If we give people knowledge, they will understand what is right and what is wrong, and hopefully they will end all forms of violence.
Samia, 15-year-old Bangladeshi advocate to end child marriage
"These are big problems in our country, but for me, the main issue is the lack of protection because of illiteracy and the cultural beliefs that maintain and accept violence against girls as a regular thing. However, besides old traditions that support violence and child marriage, many parents feel they have to marry off their children due to poverty.
"Cultural beliefs, illiteracy, and lack of knowledge cannot be an excuse anymore to justify violence. If we give people knowledge, they will understand what is right and what is wrong, and hopefully they will end all forms of violence. Luckily, my parents are conscious that violence against girls and child marriage is a problem because they have learned that these things have a negative impact on children’s lives. I shared my learning with them, and they understood.
"But many parents do not understand this problem. They think girls are born to do household work and if they get married early, they can be happy in life. Many parents of my friends believe in that way.
Samia speaks out against child marriage and violence against children
"Here I want to say that everyone is equal; girls and boys are the same. I firmly believe that we, the girls, can equally contribute to society and, together with boys, we can end violence against children. But we need encouragement from the people around us.
"Sadly, all over the world, girls are prevented and discouraged from talking and making their voices heard. In our community, people think that girls are a burden. This is not right!
"We, girls, can do many things to change the world and change the attitudes of society, and this is what we are doing today in our Child Forum. This is the reason why I am here today writing this blog.
"I am here to show my determination to work together in ending child marriage and all forms of violence against girls. My dream is to see our world free from child marriage, free from child labor, and free from all forms of violence against children."
In the Light of Human Rights,
Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Conservatives versus Liberals,
Republicans versus Democrats,
Muslims versus Christians
Atheists versus Theists,
AND AROUND THE WORLD:
Russia versus Ukraine,
Palestine versus Israel,
Spain versus Catalonia,
India versus Pakistan,
Syria versus Sunni Fundamentalists,
HOW CAN HOPE AND PEACE TAKE PLACE?
The beginning for peace-activist Gene Knudsen Hoffman of a transforming, life-changing experience hope came about this way:
FROM a powerful article at
After seeing a huge sign in front of a Quaker Meeting: "MEETING FOR WORSHIP FOR THE TORTURERS AND THE TORTURED"
GENE KNUDSEN HOFFMAN: “I was on a world tour of peace centers...
I’d long known I should listen to the tortured
but listen to
“I’d never thought of that.
“I began wrestling with the idea that I should listen to both sides of any conflict and when I arrived in Israel I began listening to Israelis and Palestinians. I found it changed my perspectives on each. I began to practice it everywhere I went.
“Reconciliation is the most difficult of peace processes because it requires the resumption of relationship between those in conflict. It means the coming together in harmony of those who have been sundered.
“My sense is that if we would reconcile, we must make radically new responses to the radically new situation in a world where violence is mindless, hopeless, meaningless and so many nations have nuclear weapons…
“We peace people have always listened to the oppressed and disenfranchised. That’s very important. One of the new steps I think we should take is to listen to those we consider ‘the enemy’ with the same openness, non-judgment, and compassion we bring to those with whom our sympathies lie.
“In 1989 my work-focus became the Middle East, and in that year a small group of us from the Fellowship of Reconciliation went to Libya to listen to the Libyans after we’d bombed Libya twice, first to kill Khadaffi and second after we’d downed two Libyan planes over Libya. We knew our governments’ side and we wanted to hear the other. We did.
“After ten days in Tripoli, as guests of the Libyan government, we learned a lot. We met with Libyan leaders, professors, government members, religious representatives.
“Our government wouldn’t listen to us, since we’d gone there illegally. So we wrote our articles, spoke publicly where we could and were considered ‘dangerous.’
“My next efforts were on my own. Between 1989 and 1996, I went to Israel and Palestine some seven times to listen to both sides. I listened to Israeli psychiatrists, Settlers, government members, peace people, writers, publishers and plain people.
"In the West Bank, since I stayed in Palestinian homes, I had more opportunity to listen to the people: refugees, families, parents whose sons had been killed, some of their sons who hadn’t, academics, peace leaders, and twice I met with Yassir Arafat. Out of those experiences came Pax Christi’s Just World book of 1991 called Pieces of the Mideast Puzzle.
“Now we are preparing for our first formal Compassionate Listening delegation, which will bring Rabbis and Jewish community leaders to listen deeply to Israelis and Palestinians representing all sides of the conflict.
"Compassionate Listening is adaptable to any conflict. The listening requires a particular attitude. It is non-judgmental, non-adversarial, and seeks the truth of the person questioned. It also seeks to see through any masks of hostility and fear to the sacredness of the individual and to discern the wounds suffered by all parties.
“Listeners do not defend themselves, but accept what others say as their perceptions. By listening they validate the others’ right to those perceptions.
“I’m not talking about listening with the ‘human ear.’ I am talking about discerning. To discern means to perceive some thing hidden or obscure. We must listen with our ‘spiritual ear.’ This is very different from deciding in advance who is right and who is wrong, and then seeking to rectify it. And, it’s very hard to listen to people whom I feel are misleading, if not lying. Hard to listen to such different memories of the same event – hard!
“Here are two definitions of reconciliation we use. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese teacher, peace-maker, and poet, describes it as “understanding both sides.”
“Adam Curie, senior Quaker mediator from England, says “We must work for harmony wherever we are, to bring together what is sundered by fear, hatred, resentment, injustice, or any other conditions which divide us.
“…Thich Nhat Hanh asks this of us: “In South Africa the black people suffer enormously, but the white people also suffer. If we take one side, we cannot fulfill our task of reconciliation. Can you be in touch with both sides, understanding the suffering and fears of each, telling each side about the other? Can you understand deeply the suffering of both sides?”
Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace, Parallax Press, 1988
"Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart...
"Because you know that listening like that, you give that person a chance to suffer less. If you want to help him to correct his perception, you wait for another time...You just listen with compassion and help him to suffer less. One hour like that can bring transformation and healing."
Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace
“Finally, I treasure this quotation from the poet Longfellow: “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”6
Gene Knudsen Hoffman
Gene Knudsen Hoffman expands on this theme in her 1995 Pendle Hill Pamphlet: No Royal Road to Reconciliation. (Pendle Hill, Wallingford, Pa.)
READ the rest at https://newconversations.net/…/compassionate-listening-fir…/
Also, check out her site at
“Compassionate Listening is
A personal practice – to cultivate inner strength, self awareness, self regulation and wisdom
A skill set – to enhance interpersonal relations and navigate challenging conversation
A process – to bring individuals or groups together to bridge their differences and transform conflict
A healing gift – to offer a compassionate listening session to a person who feels marginalized or in pain”
In the Light of Listening, Caring, and Working for the True and Good,
Saturday, March 2, 2019
(and odd ugly ones, too) on my nature hikes--
on gravel roads and creeks outside of our small village, and elsewhere--
would put the heavy things in my pockets or carry them home in my hands
and add them to my growing collection.
A real rock dog.
(I guess I could say ‘stoner’ but that might mislead readers;-)
And later found others non-precious gems in the Black Hills, Rockies and Sierras,
and a small chunk of copper from a mine in Arizona, animal bones from Montana,
besides lots of pebbles, quartz, feldspar, granite, agates, mica, who-knows rocks, fool’s gold, sea-glass,
and many sorts of shells and other sea life from 3 coasts.
I became a beachcomber of beauty,
a voyager through the washed-up-and-down of life.
A drifter and sea stroller who walks along sand dunes and shores
looking for unique things, even riff-raff...
Now here on my computer desk and various shelves--rocks, pebbles, and shells
lay still waiting for another
that aesthetic depth which sometimes
Which reminds me of another key pebble of beauty for living--
that we humans get washed up
on this shore of existence,
surrounded and crowded
we didn't choose.
But the wonder of our human brain’s neural plasticity
is that we each get to choose
how we respond to life's circumstances
and we get to create anew,
contribute a line,
as Walt Whitman
Beauty and, hopefully, wisdom created by choice
And, then, there are the more folksy versions of that point:
There once was an oyster tale to tell,
Of beach sand that got into his shell;
'Unjust' a grain; it gave him great pain.
Oysters got feelings though they're so plain.
Did he curse...go mum and clam, or claim
The lively sea shouldn't so maim?
'No,' said he laying in his shell,
'Since I can't remove, improve it, I shall.'
Thus, a mean grain of sand that hurt so
Became a beautiful pearl aglow.
--Adapted, Author Unknown
What has washed up on your shore today?
What beautiful pebbled moments of wonder?
Or what irritant, ache, troubling circumstance, or tragedy
has gotten lodged in your
oyster mind and heart?
What creative choices can you make to turn this problem into a precious pebble/stone/moment/agate?
In the Light,
Thursday, February 21, 2019
FROM AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL:
"URGENT ACTION: SAUDI ACTIVIST HELD IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT (SAUDI ARABIA: UA 21.19)
Woman human rights defender, Nassima al-Sada, was placed in solitary confinement since early February 2019, in al-Mabahith Prison in Dammam.
Nassima has been detained since July 2018 without charge or trial. Nassima’s detention was part of a recent wave of arrests that targeted Saudi human rights activists. Since May 2018, at least 15 human rights activists, including several women human rights defenders have been detained without charge in Saudi Arabia. Amnesty International calls on the Saudi authorities to release Nassima al-Sada and all other human rights activists immediately and unconditionally.
Write a letter in your own words or using the sample below as a guide to one or both government officials listed. You can also email, fax, call or Tweet them.
His Majesty King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King
Royal Court, Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 11 403 3125Ambassador Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Ave. NW, Washington DC 20037
Phone: 202 342 3800
Contact Form: https://bit.ly/2KScqag
Salutation: Your Royal Highness
Dear King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud,
Nassima al-Sada is a woman human rights defender who has been arbitrarily detained since July 2018. According to trusted sources, Nassima al-Sada has been placed in solitary confinement since early February 2019 in al-Mabahith prison in Dammam. Nassima has been detained without charge or trial since July 2018.
Nassima has been campaigning for civil and political rights, the rights of the Shi’a community in the eastern province, and women’s rights, in particular, the right of women to drive and for the end of the repressive male guardianship system. Prior to her arrest, Nassima al-Sada had been repeatedly targeted, harassed, and placed under travel bans for her human rights activism.
I urge you to release Nassima al-Sada and all other activists, including all women detained without charge, immediately and unconditionally, as she is a prisoner of conscience, solely detained for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression, assembly and association."
Read more details about this prisoner of conscience at
"Human rights are rights that are inherent to all human beings, whatever ones nationality, place of residence, sex, ethnic origin, religion, language, or any other status. Everyone is equally entitled to human rights without discrimination.
These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible. All human rights are based on the notion of human dignity. These rights are often guaranteed to us by law in the form on international treaties, customary international law, general principles and other sources of law.
International Human Rights Law places obligations on governments to act in a particular manner and to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, not only for individuals but also for groups."
In the Light,
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Is it Necessary for the Holocaust to Happen for "Greater Good" to Come About as Many Religious Leaders Claim?
The historian Karen Armstrong points out a life-stance doesn’t succeed because it “can be demonstrated rationally but because it [is] effective in preventing despair and inspiring hope.”
Of course, if the life-stance is fallacious, irrational, superstitious, harmful, unjust, destructive, etc., even questionable, then the hope it inspires is delusionary, not real.
Maybe, even despair would be better than delusion, than false hope.
Isn’t facing loss, distress, heartache, grief, sorrow, anguish, tragedy, desperation, hopelessness, and intense suffering preferable to what is false, an empty pretentious lie?
Ought not we human primates to realize that terrible accidents happen for no reason, and that often evil events occur without any hope against them?
There is no meaning in an accident, especially not in a serious one. (Isn't that the usual meaning of "accident"--that it happened by chance, wasn't planned!?)
UNLESS, of course, one is a Muslim for whom everything that happens, evil as well as good, is Allah’s will...
Or a creedal Christian for whom the Trinitarian God foreordained every event, evil as well as good, before the universe came to be...
Or an Orthodox Jew who believes that God created evil in the beginning, etc.
Billions of such true believers claim to know that accidents are planned:-(
And another very bad philosophical view in another sense is the horrific belief that God ordained and permitted (or willed) the Holocaust, the Black Death, the 30 Years War, etc.
According to them, God allows, permits accidents and other evils in order to achieve “greater good”!
For instance, the Baptist philosophical professor Randal Rauser argues that not even God can get humans to demonstrate compassion…without allowing the amount of evil/suffering which would be required a condition for the demonstration of compassion.”
Even more reprehensibly, Rauser sincerely states, “Even in the paradigmatic example of evil, the Holocaust, one could readily draw up a vast list of some (but certainly not all) of the types of reasons that might be operative in God's allowing that evil. At no point is the Christian left with "very little, if any, content to such speculation."
Totally baffled and grieved, I courteously asked Randal Rauser, “May I ask what greater good came from the Holocaust?
And the 1918 Spanish Flu, the Great War, the 30 Years War, the Black Death, etc.?
Also, doesn't allowing horrific evil in order to achieve a greater good sound similar to the immoral action of the end justifies the means?
God permits horrific abuse, torture, and slaughter of millions including children and infants in order to achieve a “greater good”?
As a former teacher of the Holocaust and one who has lived and worked in Palestine-Israel, I can't think of any good that has come out of the Holocaust, let alone any greater good.”
BUT Rauser never answered me, didn’t give even one example of a greater good that came about because of the Holocaust!
But, thankfully, most humans, even many millions of religious ones are baffled and appalled by such horrific thinking by millions of other Christian leaders. During the 55 years I was a dedicated liberal Christian, mostly a Quaker, we NEVER thought that accidents or intentional evil actions happened for some greater good.
What an immoral, unjust, terrible idea—that the God had to allow the intentional torture and slaughter of over 10 million humans, 6 million of them Jewish, in order to get some unknown great good.
Even on the local level such thinking is wrong! I still remember reading about this high school girl who thought she had had an accident, become paralyzed so that she wouldn't be able to dance, because dancing was a sin in their conservative Christianity.
How absurd and tragic both at the same time.
A commenter on Rauser’s blog wrote even more starkly about this, “The innocent smile of a child hides within itself all the evils of history. It is horrible when children suffer and die; but, when I look at my son and daughter smiling at me, I realise that smile is only possible because other children (my older siblings for instance) suffered and died.” “If God loves the particular persons who exist as the particular persons who they are, and loving them wills their existence, then he must also will everything necessary to their existence, including even great and horrific evils.”
“If the Holocaust had never happened, then very many Jewish people alive today would never have been born. Without the Holocaust, there would have been, not just more Jews in the world, but a very different set of particular Jewish individuals.” Jews who live now do so only because “of the Holocaust.”
“So, if one of these individuals concludes that it is good that they exist – or good that their own beloved children exist – well, that good is only possible because of the Holocaust.”
“If God loves the particular persons who exist as the particular persons who they are, and loving them wills their existence, then he must also will everything necessary to their existence, including even great and horrific evils.”
How can one possibly answer such grossly immoral, unjust defenses of the idea that some God premits horrific evil, even genocide in order to get “greater good”?
I think the best response to such bizarre religious thinking is the story from Dostoevsky:
"Tell me yourself, I challenge your answer. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature- that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance- and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth."
"No, I wouldn't consent," said Alyosha softly."
And can you admit the idea that men for whom you are building it would agree to accept their happiness on the foundation of the unexpiated blood of a little victim? And accepting it would remain happy for ever?"
"No, I can't admit it."
The Brothers Karamazov
Thankfully, ALL such religious doctrine is fallacious.
But that doesn't mean that all theistic thinking is wrong.
I do think that theists are right, that there is meaning in existence, just not in accidents, not in chance, not in evil events, especially not in the Holocaust.
No, I’m not of the sort of modern non-religious leaders who claim that everything is meaningless, that the human species is only “pond scum,” "biochemical puppets," without any worth, etc.!
When any human shows care and concern for others there is good meaning. And the Enlightenment values of human rights, justice, and equality are of great meaning.
That is why I think that moral realism is true, that humans have inherent worth, that existence isn't meaningless, and so forth, why I am a theist, not an atheist or agnostic.
However, I don't claim to know the ultimate nature of reality; I suppose some might term me an agnostic theist.
Unlike many theists and atheists, I don't start by asserting the ultimate nature of existence, but start with the local--reason, moral realism, caring, human rights, math, etc. and
from finding those reasonable, I work my way out toward the cosmic,
thinking that while I don't know ultimately what is the final nature of existence, I can be fairly confident that reason, moral realism, caring, human rights, math, etc. aren't meaningless and worthless even if human primates are a rather insignificant brief species in a minor solar system of the universe.
In the Light,
Thursday, February 14, 2019
Love: Choosing commitment, is action.
Friendship: committing to another individual who has interests and goals in common, with affection and esteem.
Romancing love is “friendship that has caught fire,” filled with romance, passion and mental, emotional, and sexual intimacy.
Consider the fiery words of Sherman Alexie from one of his famous short stories. Roman and Grace are a married Spokane Native American couple. He is standing close to her with his basketball between them, as if the ball represents the expectant infant they will soon create...
“Michael Jordan is coming back again,” he said.
“You can’t fool me,” said Grace. “I heard it. That was just a replay.”
“Yeah, but I wish he was coming back again. He should always come back.”
“Don’t let it give you any crazy ideas.”
Roman pulled the basketball away and leaned even closer to Grace. He loved her, of course, but better than that, he chose her, day after day.
Choice: that was the thing. Other people claimed that you can't choose who you love—it just happens!—but Grace and Roman knew that was a bunch of happy horseshit...
Damn, marriage was hard work, was manual labor, and unpaid manual labor at that...that was what was missing in most marriages: politeness, courtesy…thank-you notes to his wife for the smallest favors, did the dishes…vacuumed...
...year after year, Grace and Roman had pressed their shoulders against the stone and rolled it up the hill together.
Then he lifted the ball over his head...and pushed it toward the rim...it caught fire.
From “Saint Junior” by Sherman Alexie, Grove Press, pages 176-178, 188
Yes, LOVE is friendship that has caught fire.
Love grows like a glowing vineyard in the sunrise,
takes root and develops one day at a time. Love
in maturity is like fine wine, improves with age.
Love is quiet understanding and mature acceptance
of imperfection. Love gives strength and creatively
opens in new ways
to your beloved.
You are warmed by your beloved’s presence,
even when your lover is away. Miles do not separate.
You want your beloved nearer. But near or far, you
know your lover is yours, and you are your beloved's.
Love means patience and trust. Love springs up;
you and your beloved feel more whole. Love fill
the empty spaces in your hearts, leads you both
to look up, and to give out to others.
creative, compassionate, gentle, and kind,
coming from deep in the heart, essential.
Love is choosing again and again, daily to love
your beloved even in the hard times.
Love is wider
than the widest, deeper than the deepest,
closer than the closest--
a fire of chosen passion.
Anon and adapted
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
The chubby woman in a blue Pontiac
Jerked up alongside our country’s curb
Where members of contrary rallies stepped
Placarding decision street
In planned parents' hood.
One protester crossed our line,
To ask her, "What do you need?"
Bordering near to hysterical, she yelled,
“You’re wrong!” her face taut and
Yanked back from the cleft.
With drowning eyes, she shouted
“I wish I’d never been born.”
So much for ‘boarders’
And backwards wet with rivers
Walled out from us.
Then she jammed her shift's gear
And sped away, not even glancing
At Trump's declared wall or down
To her remaining child next to her,
Confused and missing her seat belt.
in Unlikely Stories IV
in different form
Sunday, February 3, 2019
All down, failed up low?
then fail on, without ceasing
so much edged beyond normal,
failing onward into victory
instead of ceasing--
*The inventor Thomas Edison made thousands of failed attempts at creating a successful light bulb. When someone asked, "How did it feel to fail so many times?"
Thomas Edison said, "I speak without exaggeration when I say that I have constructed three thousand different theories in connection with the electric light, each one of them reasonable and apparently to be true. Yet only in two cases did my experiments prove the truth of my theory. My chief difficulty, as perhaps you know, was in constructing the carbon filament, the incandescence of which is the source of the light." Harper’s Monthly Magazine, 1890 interview
Then in Edison’s failed efforts to create a good storage battery, Edison failed by conducting 10,000 experiments, too.
One of Edison’s friends said: “Isn't it a shame that with the tremendous amount of work you have done you haven't been able to get any results?”
‘Edison turned…like a flash, and with a smile replied: “Results! Why, man, I have gotten lots of results! I know several thousand things that won't work!”
Edison: His Life and Inventions, Frank Dyer and T. C. Martin
Each failure, eliminated one possibility, and brought him possibly closer to the right one.
Brilliance, hard work, and PERSEVERANCE!
And, last but not least, make sure that what you persevere toward is the Good, the Compassionate, the Beautiful.
In the Light,
Monday, January 28, 2019
Very popular, again, is the view that there are no inherent moral truths. Various thinkers state that moral realism isn’t true, that sometimes lying is good, etc. Often this outlook on ethics emphasizes that the end justifies the means and that “love” is the only rule.
Unfortunately, words such as “love” are empty-bucket terms meaning contradictory acts and are almost meaningless. For instance, the famous Roman Catholic leader, Augustine, in the 4th century wrote, “Love and do what you will. (on the First Epistle of John, Homily 7 on 1 John 4:4-12)
But Augustine was the same Christian leader who brought hard determinism into the Christian religion, condemning all human infants as being guilty of Original Sin, claiming that only a limited number of humans were predestined to be rescued, billions of others left to damnation.
Augustine also used the power of the Roman state to persecute others. And he abandoned his common law wife/concubine of 10 years, and planned, instead, to move to Rome and marry a high-class lady. At least he didn’t abandon his son from his common-law wife.
Other Christian leaders have gone even further. Christian theologian, Episcopal priest Joseph Fletcher, in the late 1960’s wrote the book called Situation Ethics which claimed that loving could mean to lie, to commit adultery, to blackmail, even to kill hundreds of thousands of civilians!
According to Fletcher, “nothing is inherently right or wrong” (page 134). Allegedly, later, Fletcher promoted abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, etc. in the name of “love.” (according to Wikipedia)
Paul Tillich, the famous Lutheran philosopher and theologian, wrote that “love is the ultimate law” (Systematic Theology, Volume 1, page 152) then repeatedly committed adultery, etc. The long scholarly biography of Tillich shows how dishearteningly wrong Tillich behaved, like so many others, by holding to the semantically vague idea of "love" as the only guide.
Even many Christians who claim to believe in objective ethics (not situation ethics) argue for very strange moral views such as the American Christian leader who declared that the atom bomb is “God’s gift to America”!
Or the millions of Christians (over 78% of American Evangelical Christians) who defend President Trump’s forcefully taking little children under 4 from their refugee mothers and sending the crying toddlers off thousands of miles away from their mothers to U.S. government facilities!
And ALL of those ethically wrong actions happened because the American Christians lied about the nature of the refugees, claiming they were criminals, drug dealers, enslavers, etc.
Even if--let's hypothesize--no bad results came from lying (or what ever other violation of moral truths), that lying would still be contrary to what is good and right.
Tragically, humans who think that morality, justice, human rights, etc. are inherently real and true, not subject to situations seem, often, to be in the minority.
DISHONESTY/LYING is ALWAYS wrong.
Theft, adultery, infanticide, killing, and so forth are ALWAYS WRONG…
Meticulous honesty, sharing, generosity, infant care, compassion, justice and so forth are ALWAYS RIGHT.
1. Without meticulous honesty, fields and professions such as science, technology, architecture and construction, medicine, criminal justice, education, and so forth can’t function well or successfully.
Human history and current events are strewn with the millions of cases of scientists, law enforcement officers, politicians, architects, doctors, teachers, etc. who in the name of what ever ethics they followed, lied, deceived, or shaved the truth.
When a doctor lies, it might mean only deeply harming a patient. But when a scientist lies, it could wreak havoc on an entire society causing the suffering and death of millions of humans.
2. Unfortunately, the vast majority of humans have a penchant toward viewing the world from their own advantage point. We tend to justify what looks good for our group or our nation. Consider cases such as how the leading intellectuals and brilliant scholars of the various opposing nations of 1914 led us into the completely wrong Great War, which caused the slaughter of at least 15 million humans.
See Manifesto of the Ninety-Three German Intellectuals
See Preachers Present Arms by Ray h. Abrams
As various writers have emphasized the first fatality of war is truth. Lies are the immoral “body-guards” (to twist a phrase of Winston Churchill who infamously claimed that lies are bodyguards who protect truth!)
Another lesser case is the official lies—especially the Gulf of Tonkin lies-- told by the American government which led to over 2 million humans slaughtered in Vietnam including over 50,000 Americans.
Of course, most of these humans lied, deceived, were dishonest from the best of motives (though their motives you notice were based in the group egotism of their particular nation and society).
3. ALL lying, all deception, all dishonesty is to state contrary to reality. For instance, the construction boss needs to get the building finished by October 1st for many good reasons. Yet the inspector has been slow in coming out to certify, so the contractor hedges the truth. After all, in other situations, the minor deception hasn’t resulted in anything bad.
But regardless of whether or not his dishonesty catches up with the construction contractor (even though he meant it for good), the lie is contrary to what is true and real.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE EXTREME CASES?
Extreme cases are, admittedly, difficult. And so various thinkers have stated that honesty must be relative to end results.
People say, wouldn’t it be good to lie to a Nazi, to lie to a murderer?
However, as I’ve already pointed out, these extreme situations don’t normally happen. Yet they are often pulled up to justify more common situations in which many people think a lie is also “good” in their particular difficulties.
Second, lying is always wrong even in desperate situations.
But what if an abused child hides at your house?
Will you lie to protect the innocent child from the abusive father?
What if you can discover no other option?
In that case since no alternative seems available, you can't find a good way to deal with the crisis, then you may choose to do what is wrong, the least wrong action.
Notice, the lying, is still WRONG, BUT COMPARED TO A CHILD BEING FURTHER ABUSED, LYING IS THE LESSER EVIL.
And after the crisis passes, you well-meaning liar, will still need to admit your wrong-doing, and emphasize that you will make whatever amends you need to for your deception.
No where is any well-meant lie—itself--justified.
If only all humans would choose such moral realism, the vast majority of evil actions in the world would be lessened and eventually stopped.
Meticulous honesty, compassion, generosity, defense of human rights, etc. are ALWAYS RIGHT.
In the LIGHT of TRUTH,
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Saturday, January 19, 2019
Given that so many millions of Americans (both heterosexual and same sexual individuals and the Supreme Court), worked diligently for and came together in a vast movement to finally bring the good legalization of marriage for gay individuals, it is puzzling, disturbing, disheartening, and contradictory that now
so many Americans are rejecting monogamy and fidelity,
and, instead promoting,
and living in promiscuity.
Edna St. Vincent Millay, (a wondrous poet who could write about ideals powerfully
but who's private life was tragic, superficial and uncommitted like Earnest Hemingway, Diego Rivera,
and many other famous humans. The great Mexican muralist Rivera stated that sex is like pissing.)
True, billions of humans for many thousands of years have engaged in promiscuous behavior of various sorts, BUT in recent times, many humans have seen fidelity and monogamy as the ideal, what all people ought to seek.
Polygamy, one-night-stands, serial divorce, mistresses, pornography, prostitution, recreational sex, etc. have been rejected as immoral, unequal, unjust, and destructive.
Committed monogamy for many people replaced those unequal, unjust ways of history.
That is until the last 40-50 years.
Now many are celebrating promiscuity as a way of life, having multiple partners, talking about sex workers' "rights," even justifying one form of polygamy.
The Modern Un-Covenant
Of disengaged couples
Rail lines that never join
The banal and travail
Not personal union
Scabbed and only
Repeating ing ing
Copping a plea
The feeling of deeply
Not ultimate giving and receiving
Not the spurt and burst of life
Precious in the growing
Of the inner room
But passive ‘lost’
Over and over
Skinned rituals on
Repeating ing ing
Through the ‘mine’ field
Worn to the ‘marrow’
First pub. in The Cerebral Catalyst,
then repub. in Dead Snakes
This is a tragic reversal back to the unethical historic past when most humans rejected fidelity, and only a few humans actually lived in equal romantic monogamous relationships.
Which brings to mind the famous poem on romantic sexual love by Edna St. Vincent Millay:
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.
We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.
We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed, “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!
Edna St. Vincent Millay, "Recuerdo" from Collected Poems. Copyright 1931, 8 1958 by Edna St. Vincent Millay and Norma Millay Ellis. Reprinted with the permission of Elizabeth Barnett, Literary Executor. All rights reserved.
Source: A Few Figs From Thistles (1922)
Tragically, Millay seldom lived those idealistic lines, but instead, (like so many American writers and artists of the early 20th century), engaged in rampant promiscuity.
To Millay (too late), and to all of the individuals and thinkers I've dialogged with, here's my own poetic response to the contradiction between some of Millay's romantic lines versus her rampant sexual infidelity:
On Losing Recuerdo
dissipated by rampant
Back and forth
Back and forth
Who said the sad truth
Our allusions are truer than true
Back and forth, ritual rote lust
Millay so trothed to us
In Recuerdo love’s truth
Only to show and live in her life
Lust’s crusty lie, lying with every
Tom, harry, and dick
And not so merry’s too.
She burned her lifeline at both ends
A taper betwixt noxious flames
She lay, lay, lay New York,
Lay down on a steeple-top
Under neath her generation’s
Gin-jazzy, faithless moon.
How slow-slug tiring her girlish
Fetish for a boy poet Dillon
Not Thomas nor Bob,
But oh so tight drunk
And so loose
Wide her marriage
Eugenic barrenness aborted;
All so fair-less—her life’s subway,
Money given for less,
No lesson in her dissipation
And that sky dripped, slime
A thicket-full of yellow
And an apple vomit ate
In this garden gone to rot
Who gives a fig for these
Her thistle, Pulitzering
Caught in the snout of a swine'd life
CHOOSE the romantic love of Recuerdo, not its opposite, Losing.
For in the midst of many seeking to marry, to find one other person to commit to in romantic love and caring and fidelity,
there are so many millions of others who brag about,
promote, and live in
CHOOSE FIDELITY INSTEAD.
In the Light,
Thursday, January 17, 2019
Intensely Popular at present in American politics (as unwell as elsewhere) is the demeaning and name-calling of individuals on the other side. Each side makes extremely negative statements against the character and worth of persons of the opposition, those blanketyblanks----fill in the blanks from the daily news.
For instance, President Trump gives negative names to his opponents, "Crooked Hilary," Wacky and Deranged,” “a crazed, crying lowlife” and comparing another to a “dog.”
And individuals on the other side return the disfavor: Trump is "dumb, "an idiot surrounded by clowns," and so forth. Just read the daily news accounts.
But here's a few snippets from the media:
Against Trump: "...corrupt politicians deserve no love. They inflict greater harm, death and destruction than any one person calling them a ________[twisted obscenity] will do to them.
Civility is for those who live in a fairy tale dream that somehow you can hope the tyrannical evil will suddenly grow some empathy. It won’t work.
Call him a _________. He deserves worse but will likely get less.
Jesus can love him all he wants. The rest of us can energize righteous anger and use it to oust him and any other mad tyrants who think they can trample on the constitution and the people it’s written to protect."
"You don't hand matches to an arsonist, and you don't give power to an angry left-wing mob. Democrats have become too EXTREME and TOO DANGEROUS to govern," Trump tweeted, "Republicans believe in the rule of law - not the rule of the mob. VOTE REPUBLICAN!"
BUT, what we need to do instead is condemn actions, NOT attack the worth or intent of humans in opposition to what we think is true, good, and right.
Most humans of the historic past--creedal Christians including the ones who slaughtered millions in the Great War (First W.I) the U.S. and British Civil Wars, the 30 Years War, French and German Religious Wars, etc., most orthodox Muslim jihadists in the past and now, many doctrinaire communists, most Napoleonic soldiers, etc. weren't corrupt, vicious, or vile.
On the contrary, most true believers of whatever religion or ideology tend to be almost exactly like all of us! As I recall that was one of the central points of Eric Hoffer's famous book on the true believer.
When I stayed with a Muslim family in Nablus, Palestine, they were very generous, kind, and considerate.
Ditto for the Jewish people on the kibbutz where I worked,
and ditto for the Christian Baptist leader from Jerusalem with whom I spoke,
YET they all were involved in the intentional slaughter of each other because of their religion.
Even some Jewish secularists and Palestinian secularists were in favor of intentionally killing civilians.
Most humans aren't vile. It's their dedication to nation and ideology or religion that is.
Yes, there are sociopaths. When I worked in a mental hospital, I worked with at least one.
But generally most of the evil in history and now comes about because normal, somewhat civilized, humans go to war for their evil beliefs, and abuse, oppress, and slaughter millions in the process.
Look at the horror in Syria, where all sorts of ideologies are battling each other--secular Arabs, orthodox Muslims, Shia, Sunni, Russian, American, Turkish, Kurdish, Iranian, Saudi, Gulf States, Israeli (secular Jews and orthodox Jews), etc.
have caused the death of 1/2 million people, the wounding of millions more, and the displacement/refugee status of many millions.
As wrong and destructive as Calvinism, Roman Catholicism, Islam, Marxism, Hinduism, Atheism, etc. are I doubt that the actual individuals who grow up in those horrific religions and ideologies are they themselves vile, evil in intent. Many of them really believe they are doing what is good and right.
One of the most fanatical creedal Christians I ever met was a very mild, courteous, kind individual who was an airplane steward. If he hadn't happily consigned billions of us other humans to eternal torture--without any sense of guilt or sadness--
I would have never guessed that he would hurt a mosquito.
Vile ideas, not usually vile people.
At least that is my experience and my view.
Remember the essential words of Martin Luther King:
"Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him." Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Thich Nhat Hanh (the Vietnamese Buddhist nominated for the Nobel Prize), Bayard Rustin, and many other moral leaders point out what leads to harm, division, and destruction among humans is the claim of each side to be the good, dutiful, patriotic, honorable side.
But when one side claims to their enemies that they are are the only ones who are tyrannical, corrupt, and they deserve no compassion, no civility, then they have become like those enemies that they condemn.
I saw this when I lived in Palestine-Israel (where both sides demean, harm, and attack the others). And one can read of this lack of civility in American history and world history.
There are many tragic examples from American and world history where both sides held to be righteous and treated the opposite side as not deserving civility, kindness, hope because they were so bad.
However as the Russian great writer wrote, good and evil aren't on opposite sides, but both run through every human heart.
It appears that President Donald Trump bullies, constantly lies, intentionally harms millions, defends a murderous regime, the Saudis, etc.
But it is probably that Trump honestly thinks he is doing what is best, what is good. At least about 80% of Evangelical Christians think he is God's man for this troubled hour!!
Attacking the President personally, calling him bad names, etc. isn't the answer to this time of crisis.
Instead, our moral answer needs to be a very detailed documentation of all immoral and unjust actions. We need to work to bring good change based in human rights, not curse others.
One of the first rules of debate is that no matter how unfair, unjust, even evil the other side's views are, speakers should never attack the opposing speakers' inherent human worth. To do so is a denial of human rights.
In the Light,
Thursday, January 10, 2019
AGAINST the 400-year-old Anniversary of the Canons of Dort
my gramma’s beheading like the results of dort
my gramma grabbed that hatchet
and the white pullet
that bloody spurt or naught
that chicken head lay dead edged
in my 5-year eyes while that
silent squawking chicken’s body
(not elected for that select coop on the upper ledge
behind their barn)
ran circling 5 points round and round, by golly,
in its danced death-exit
ever present in my memory's
round the years--
400 including its 30 Years War--
of distress and despair caused by those Christian ‘apopletics,’
against the remonstrants
by those calvinist 5 sin’ods of dort,
those canons who beheaded van oldenbarnevelt
For those who don’t like analogies and word-play poetry, in plain prose here’s the ethical points:
THEOLOGY AND PHILOSOPHY AND IDEOLOGY
Choose instead the Enlightenment of Reason, Justice and Compassion,
One of the central purposes of a nation is
BE A BLESSING TO OTHERS, ESPECIALLY THOSE IMPOVERISHED,
A nation can protect its citizens without building huge walls,
without demonizing refugees,
In the Light of compassion, generosity, hope, and help,
Friday, January 4, 2019
Let us move toward a healthy, kind, nourishing life-enhancing way of eating and living,