Thursday, March 28, 2019
From Network movie on media: “I don't know what to do about…the Russians and [Syria, Afghanistan, illegal aliens, etc.]
“All I know is that first you've got to get mad. [shouting] You've got to say: 'I'm a human being…
But first, get up out of your chairs,
open the window,
stick your head out,
AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE
For the last few years, especially in politics and religion, life has become so troubling, with even more wrong and unethical speeches, actions, and behavior by conservatives and liberals.
I’ve alternated between a sense of hopelessness and my commitment to the Good no matter what, but this last few weeks,
with the reality show of the American government getting much worse, even its defending freedom-denying Saudi Arabia's persecutions, ruthless murder and bombings, all the constant uncivilly by Republicans and Democrats, the endless falsehoods....
I feel like—without the name-calling, demeaning, bullying and lying—going to my window here on the central coast of California and YELLING, "I'm as mad as hell...
HOWEVER, while that scream might relieve some of my angst, anger against injustice and selfishness of Americans, and anger against horrific religious and non-religious beliefs, etc., it wouldn't solve any of the seemingly endless wrongs being committed.
What solutions do you have to overcome this many headed-hydra debacle of the 21st century?
HERE'S MY PLAN OF ACTION (after I rant and rave against all the WRONGS, ALL THE INJUSTICE, ALL THE ARROGANCE, SELFISHNESS...)
1. Write another email for Amnesty International for a prisoner of conscience.
2. Vote for CIVIL political leaders to replace the mess.
3. Offer LIFE-STANCE alternatives to the horrors of creedal Christianity, Islam, etc.
4. Continue to support outreach organizations such as World Vision, MCC, Habitat for Humanity, etc.
which make practical real-life differences to individual humans suffering from impoverishment, injustice,
inequality, lack of clean water, and so forth.
5. Urge more people to read Enlightenment Now by psychologist Steven Pinker, and other books supporting reason, compassion moral realism, altruism, equality, human rights, and justice.
6. Write more articles, poems, and fiction for Goodness' sake.
7. Continue to search for a local group which works for human flourishing and the wonder of God.
8. Seek new ways to live a true life.
9. Keep in mind the wise words of Howard Zinn (and others) when we continue to face immorality and injustice year after year:
"TO BE HOPEFUL in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
"What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives…If we remember those times and places…where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
"And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
"I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him.
--Martin Luther King Jr.
"True religion consisted in an inward life, wherein the heart does love and reverence God the Creator, and learns to exercise true justice and goodness...I found no narrowness respecting sects and opinions, but believed that sincere, upright-hearted people, in every society, who truly love God, were accepted of him.
In the Light of Truth, Goodness, and Civility,
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Reading is "our consciousness in someone else's mind,"* whether in the literary sense of being within a fictional character or an actual biographical individual, or in the seemingly unending raveling mind of a book's writer.
-verbal image by journalist and novelist Anna Quindlen
“Books are love letters (or apologies) passed between us, adding a layer of conversation beyond our spoken words.”
-Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader...
"In books, I have traveled not only to other worlds, but into my own. I learned who I was and who I wanted to be, what I might aspire to...the difference between good and evil, right and wrong."
“Part of the great wonder of reading is that it has the ability to make human beings feel more connected to one another, which is a great good...”
-Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life
Of course, it can have the opposite effect, depending upon who is doing the reading. Some of the most evil-acting humans in history have been avid readers. Napoleon was a voracious reader, as was Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili (birth name of the Georgian leader who adopted the noms de guerre of Stalin)
The latter amassed a library of 25,000 books! And he was a poet.
(Side Note: And that's another humanistic fallacy--that poets are somehow more sensitive and more humane than the average human, than business leaders and engineers, and other non-literary types. Yet not only was Soso a published poet, so was the murderous Ho Chi Minh, etc.)
Since, I mentioned Stalin and Napoleon, maybe that is a strong place to start listing powerful books which have dynamically affected me:
NAPOLEON by Alan Schom
YOUNG STALIN by Simon Sebag Montefiore
LOST PROPHET: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF BAYARD RUSTIN by John D'Emilio
THE OUTPOST: JOHN MCLOUGHLIN AND THE FAR NORTHWEST by Dorothy Nafus Morrison
STEPHEN F. AUSTIN by Gregg Cantrell
THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS by Rebecca Skloot
THE PASSION OF AYN RAND by Barbara Branden
WADE HAMILTON by Rod Andrew Jr.
FOUNDING BROTHERS by Joseph J. Ellis
FOOLS GOLD: CAPTAIN JOHN SUTTER by Richard Dillion
THOMAS PAINE: APOSTLE OF FREEDOM by Jack Fruchtman
CITIZEN THOMAS PAINE by Howard Fast
NO ONE GETS OUTSIDE by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman
STEVEN JOBS AND EINSTEIN by Walter Isaacson
THOMAS JEFFERSON by Fawn Brodie
THE FIRST MUSLIM by Lesley Hazelton
MACHIAVELLI by Ross King
ONCE UPON A COUNTRY by Sari Nusseibeh
FREEDOM AT MIDNIGHT by Larry and Dominique Lapierre
FRANCO by Paul Preston
CARL SAGAN: A LIFE IN THE COSMOS by William Poundstone
SUBTERRANEAN KEROUAC by Ellis Amburn
ERASMUS OF CHRISTENDOM by Roland Bainton
MICHAEL COLLINS by James Mackay
THE BONESETTER'S DAUGHTER by Amy Tan
ALASKA by James Michener
11/22/63 by Stephen King
DARK MATTER by Blake Crouch
SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD by Orson Scott Card
THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand
OPEN SEASON by C.J. Box
THE COLONIALISTS: HISTORICAL NOVEL OF AUSTRALIA by William Stuart Long
ST-NG: GHOST SHIP by Diane Carey
THE CHILDREN OF HAMLIN by Carmen Carter
THE ALTAR OF EDEN by James Rollins
FACE TO FACE by Karleen Koen
THE ORIGIN by Irving Stone
BLUEHEART by Alison Sinclair
WEST OF EDEN by Harry Harrison
FAILURE TO APPEAR by J.A. Jance
BIRTHRIGHT by Nora Roberts
ILL WIND by Nevada Barr
MIST by Miguel de Unamuno
GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell
FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON by Daniel Keyes
FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS by Ernest Hemingway
LISTENING WOMAN by Tony Hillerman
HYPERION by Dan Simmons
MIDNIGHT by Dean Koontz
ALBION'S SEED by David Hackett Fischer
BEAR FLAG RISING by Dale L. Walker
GOD'S ALMOST CHOSEN PEOPLES by George C. Rable
THE PRINCE OF THE MARSHES by Rory Stewart
JESUS WARS by Philip Jenkins
TEXAS AND TEXANS IN THE CIVIL WAR by Ralph A. Wooster
AMERICAN NATIONS by Colin Woodward
A HISTORY OF KANE COUNTY by Martha Sonntag Bradley
POLK by Walter R. Borneman
ZEPHANIAH KINGSLEY JR. AND THE ATLANTIC WORLD by Daniel L. Schafer
A GLORIOUS DEFEAT: MEXICO IN AND ITS WAR WITH THE U.S. by Timothy J. Henderson
RINGSIDE SEAT TO A REVOLUTION by David Dorado Romo
TO END ALL WARS by Adam Hochschild
THE FIRST WORLD WAR by John Keating
LONDON: A HISTORY by A.N. Wilson
TEAM OF RIVALS by Doris Kearns Goodwin
THE ISLAND AT THE CENTER OF THE WORLD by Russell Shorto
MAYFLOWER by Nathaniel Philbrick
THE LIVES OF THE KINGS AND QUEENS OF ENGLAND by Antonia Frazer
HEAVENLY SERBIA: FROM MYTH TO GENOCIDE by Branimir Anzulovic
PHILOSOPHY, RELIGION and ETHICS:
AMONG THE DEAD CITIES by A.C. Grayling
GOD AND THE REACH OF REASON by Erik J. Wielenberg
INVENTING HUMAN RIGHTS by Lynn Hunt
50 VOICES OF DISBELIEF Edited by Blackford and Schuklenk
HOW JESUS BECAME GOD by Bart Ehrman
UNDERSTANDING THE APOCALYPSE by Wilfrid J. Harrington
A SHORT HISTORY OF MYTH by Karen Armstrong
WHEN GOD TALKS BACK by T.M. Luhrmann
ADAM, EVE, AND THE SERPENT by Elaine Pagels
FEELING GOOD by David Burns
SCALING THE SECULAR CITY by J.P. Moreland
A REFUTATION OF MORAL RELATIVISM by Peter Kreeft
SOPHIE'S WORLD by Justein Gaarder
WHAT THE BUDDHA TAUGHT ME by Walpola Rahula
THE MIND'S I by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett
WHY PEOPLE BELIEVE WEIRD THINGS by Michael Shermer
LEAVING THE FOLD by Edward Babinski
THE TRUE BELIEVER by Eric Hoffer
PROTESTANT CHRISTIANITY by John Dillenberger and Claude Welch
THE HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE by Stephen R. Covey
DYNAMICS OF FAITH by Paul Tillich
HOW IT BEGAN and HOW IT ENDS by Chris Impey
THE ANCESTOR'S TALE by Richard Dawkins
FAITH VERSUS FACT by Jerry A. Coyne
WHY EVOLUTION IS TRUE by Jerry A. Coyne
FINDING DARWIN'S GOD by Kenneth R. Miller
THE BIG QUESTIONS IN SCIENCE AND RELIGION by Keith Ward
THE ROCKS DON'T LIE by David R. Montgomery
DARWIN'S DANGEROUS IDEA by Daniel C. Dennett
In the Light,
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,