Saturday, June 13, 2020

for ALL Humans--Left and Right, BLMers and Trumpers--"the line separating good and evil..."


FOR ALL HUMANS, left, right, BLM, Trumpers:
"...the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart -- and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years.”

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being."

“In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers...we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”
― Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Stand up to Protect Little Girls in Egypt and other Nations from Fathers Who Mutilate


From BBC World News:
"The UN estimates that 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone some form of genital mutilation.

As much as 87% of Egyptian women and girls aged 15-49 have undergone FGM, according to a 2016 survey by the UN Children's Fund."

"It can cause lasting physical and mental trauma, including chronic infections, menstrual problems, infertility, pregnancy and childbirth complications."

This year,
"a man in Egypt who allegedly had female genital mutilation (FGM) carried out on his three daughters after tricking them, has been charged along with the doctor who performed the procedure.

The doctor went to the girls' house after their father told them they would receive a coronavirus "vaccination", Egypt's prosecutor-general said.

The girls, aged under 18, were drugged and the doctor cut their genitals.

FGM was made illegal in 2008 in Egypt but remains prevalent."

Read the rest of tragic story at BBC World News.
Photo from CNN

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Part 2: Living the Questions: Meta-Stories about Reality


Living the questions, without definitive answers--somewhat lost, unlike most humans who seem so sure they know what it's all about.

I’m lost...not lost in the sense of the religious pietistic term, not un-rescued in the moral sense...not blind to ethical and transcendent truths...not existentially estranged in the sense of not having hope in the future, not lost when it comes to moral realism.

No, I’m not lost in those common meanings—nor am I caught in destructive habits or delusions or nontheistic confusions.
Though I often find I don't live as good as I know I ought to do,
I do seek to do what is right. And I do often experience the Light,
have a sense of the Good, the True, and the Just.


In all of those, I am found.
Thankfully.

No, how I am lost is
that I no longer have a vivid meta-story to identify with, a cosmic narrative.
I no longer have a sense why natural evils occur, such as Covid-19, cancer, etc.

About 10-15 years ago, I finally lost all hope in the Christian meta-story.
It turned out to be even at its best, an illusion. So I lost the philosophical
and theological understandings of my Christian worldview that I had thought
was a fairly stable foundation, despite my questions.

But the Christian meta-story turned out to be only many mirages, swirling sand that blew into a shifting Sahara of fading dunes. Besides, there were so many contradictory versions of what other humans claimed Christianity was!

Heck, most Christians claimed that Christians such as myself, who was one for 55 years, actually never were real Christians.

Furthermore, even all of those years as a Christian I never believed in their Creeds or their horrific concept of God.

But, finally, I realized, deeply, that I was trying to live a “true Scotsman” version of Christianity, one completely contrary to what most Christians claim. I realized down to the marrow of my bones that not even the Anabaptist/Quaker version of the Good News can be true.

I’m lost in that sense--from an intellectual standpoint. When in reflection, I step outside of my own personal commitment and try to see Life impartially and accurately, I have to admit that I don’t know the ultimate nature of Reality.

Unlike all of those who support various contrary versions of Christianity, those who claim they know that the meaning of existence is Islam, and those who claim to know that there is no god, etc., I am uncertain; indeed, never was “certain,” but now am very aware how little I know.

This is not the first time, I suddenly woke up lost--doubting my thinking and my perceiving, not knowing as much as I thought I knew when I was young.

Not long ago, about 10 years ago, I was sharing my spiritual struggles, a crisis I was in,
and one of my family joked “Oh Dan’s whole life has been one long spiritual crisis.”

And, in a sense, I suppose that is true as far as it goes:
from my earliest remembrances, I have—more than many—been the living human primate of “questions” far more than “answers.”


in process


Friday, May 15, 2020

"All things sick...evil great and small...foul": Covid-19 Virus and God


Jeremiah 14:11--16 "The YHWH said to me: “Do not pray for the welfare of this people.
Though they fast, I will not hear their cry,
and though they offer burnt offering
and grain offering, I will not accept them.
But I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.”


Many, many verses from the Christian Old Testament deeply stress and trouble humans. In the numerous readings through the entire of Bible, studying its various books in depth, listening to many sermons, and reading plenty of scholarly books, the great evil of such passages grows like a cancer within our moral selves.

Where in these vindictive, slaughtering, hate-filled parts of the Bible--that claim all natural evil and human evil are brought into being by God--is there the God of infinite love of the Good News, the God who never gives up on any human, the God who is the Good, the True, the Just, the Loving?

Then besides this textural hell, more and more Christian leaders--millions of them--emphasize these passages as central to Christinaity! They base their views in part by the study and promotion of Romans 9, the chapter which claims that God hates some humans, predestined billions of us to destruction and hell.

One famous Christian leader claims that God makes some humans "toilets" "spittoons."
Most state that all humans are "worthless," and "in essence, evil."
And so on...

Romans 9:
"11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay..."

Then there is the whole Augustinian doctrine of Original Sin.


Covid-19, the Black Plague, the Spanish flu, the Indian Ocean tsunami that slaughtered about 170,000, etc. all occurred because Adam and Eve disobeyed God. And God had foreordained their disobedience and punishment and that it would be inherited by all of the billions of infants conceived and born after them, over many thousands of years.

Even many Orthodox Jewish think that G-d created evil!
They quote Isaiah 45:7 "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the YHWH do all these things."

And it gets worse....
--

Now many current Christian leaders are applying these doctrinal beliefs to the current pandemic, that Covid-19 has been sent by God to punish America, the world.

According to the latest poll, 2/3rds of religious people (American Christians, Jews, and Muslims) think God sent Covid-19 as a message to all humans. So even though hundreds of thousands of innocent people are suffering and dying, this pandemic is God's way of warning us.
--the poll is from the University of Chicago and NORC Center for Public Affairs, May 2020

DOES THIS SOUND LIKE GOOD NEWS?

Here's a parody/satire of Christian beliefS.
from Monty Python Contractual Obligations Album:

All things dull and ugly
All creatures short and squat
All things rude and nasty
The lord god made the lot

Each little snake that poisons
Each little wasp that stings
He made their brutish venom,
He made their horrid wings

All things sick and cancerous
All evil great and small
All things foul and dangerous
The lord god made them all
--
"Black Death, a mid-fourteenth century plague, killed 30 to 50 per cent of the European population in just five years. The pandemic was caused by the Yersinia pestis bacteria with millions dying from the disease in two major outbreaks. This image is of a plague pit in Marseille, France"
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3412769/Black-Death-lurking-centuries-DNA-plague-victims-France-backs-theory-bacteria-lay-dormant.html

Each nasty little hornet
Each beastly little squid
Who made the spiky urchin
Who made the shocks... he did

All things scabbed and ulcerous
All pox both great and small
Putrid, foul and gangrenous
The lord god made them all
Amen


--Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: John Du Prez / Eric Idle / Trad
All Things Dull and Ugly lyrics
© Python Monty Pictures Ltd.,
Emi Virgin Songs Inc
--

So in Summation what are the “Books” of Nature and the “Books” Library of the Bible Teaching Us Humans?

#1 At one extreme are the Augustinian-creedal Christians, Orthodox Muslims and Orthodox Jews most of whom claim that both sets of books accurately describe the will of the nature of Ultimate Reality—that God causes whatever happens to humans.

Their views is already briefly described in the first part of this reflection.

HOW DO WE KNOW IF AN EVENT IS FROM GOD?

If it happens in nature or human history, then it is “God’s will.”

So, it is God’s will that Covid-19 happen.

Why?

To give God “glory,” “good pleasure,” to punish humans for failing to worship God.

#2 At the other extreme are the Naturalists, Materialists, and Atheists most of whom claim that there is no ultimate reality—that “God” or the “gods” are delusions of the human brain.

They state that there really is no good or bad, but only subjective morality, mere preferences, and that our preferences aren't really ours. We have them because it was determined by nature, the Laws of Physics, etc.

All of what appears to be horrific disasters, diseases, plagues, etc. including somewhat minor ones as Covid-19 aren’t even really "bad."

That judgment is only our subjective preference because we humans have a survival instinct instilled into us by natural selection. Besides, it was determined that that would happen because there is no free will and no moral responsibility.

"Free will" and "moral responsibility," according these thinkers, are delusions of the human brain that were determined to occur for who knows why. We humans don't choose our views or our actions.
We are "puppets" of nature.

Of course, why this happens, they state is for no reason.

So take your pick--God determined Covid-19 or the Laws of Nature/Big Bang determined it would happen.

#3


TO BE CONTINUED--

*The Triumph of Death by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1562)
*

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Review of Once Upon a Country, a Palestinian Autobiography by Sari Nusseibeh


Once Upon a Country by Sari Nusseibeh

Powerful autobiography and political history from one family’s perspective of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict of the 20th Century!
It restores my hope in Palestinians and makes me realize that the real problem in the Middle East (an elsewhere as well) isn’t any certain group of people, nor even any particular religion, but rather extremism, blind faith, and the dark side of human nature.

The central answer to intolerance is educated reason and the rejection of religious and political ideology!

I seem to have far more in common with this Palestinian, Sari Nusseibeh, than my own relatives for instance, more agreement with him than probably with anyone here on the Central Coast of California, where most people are fanatically supportive of the present administration of the U.S. and the Israeli government, and for various forms of creedal Christianity!

What Once Upon a Country also does is—despite Sari’s evident practical agnosticism and nominal faith—is restore confidence that we as humans can find hope and change despite the almost insurmountable problems and catastrophes of human history.

Sari communicates his life story and rational hopefulness and how he stood for nonviolence and reconciliation in the midst of intense hatred and violence, some even coming toward him and his family.

The book, too, again makes one cognizant of how much human destiny is affected by background, that while we do have some free creative choice (are morally responsible), some of us are better able to choose than others--
how upper class individuals who are bright and secularly educated, can have tremendous impact on their nations and the world, unlike average people who are more likely to be blinded by popular media and religious and political propaganda.

Part of the reason that Sari can be so rational and tolerant is that he comes from brilliant tolerant parents who sent him to England to be educated, where he earned his B.A. Then he earned his PhD in literature and philosophy in the United States at Harvard.

Such a background, while not guaranteeing moderation, hope, and nonviolence, certainly makes such moral qualities more possible than if he had grown up poverty-stricken in an intolerant family in Gaza with only a rudimentary education and filled with intolerant religious doctrines.

The extreme historical irony of reading this book is that Sari has been waging his nonviolent campaign for years yet the news never mentions it, but only the Palestinian extremists with bombs and Israeli settlers taking Palestinian land.

What if the international and U.S. news instead focused on Sari and other Palestinians’ peaceful protests and their efforts at education (such as Mars Elias Schools and Ramallah Friends School)?

This book has reignited my tremendous concern for Israel-Palestine. Thanks Sari!


In the Light of tolerance, education, and creativity,

Dan Wilcox

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Human Species: "All you are is a bag of particles..." Claims Atheist and Physicist Brian Greene


“All you are is a bag of particles acting out the laws of physics. That to me is pretty clear.”
Brian Greene


Like some other famous atheists, Greene in his new book, Until the End of Time, claims that humans don’t have “free will” because that ability would violate the laws of physics. Furthermore, there is no meaning to the cosmos.

Those aren't scientific statements but extreme philosophical claims. There are other astrophysicists who strongly disagree such as South African physicist and anti-Apartheid leader George Ellis.

IF we accept Greene's denial of free will, then think of the nature of the claim.
So when President Trump demeans, belittles, and name-calls other Americans, it’s not him bullying them, it’s the “laws of physics” doing that to other “bags.”

What’s also odd is that after making such extremely negative statements against human worth, against morality, against human creativity, etc. in the first half of Until, Greene appears to contradict himself later in his chapters on literature and other fields of study. In those, he writes of human creativity, marveling at what humans have achieved and the wonder of life.

Huh?!

IF all humans are only “a bag of particles acting out the law of physics” and determinism rules all, then like Sam Harris as claims human primates are only “biochemical puppets.”

Individual humans have achieved nothing but what cosmic strings yanked them into! So, the Germans didn’t choose to murder 10 million humans in concentration camps. They were forced by the laws of nature to do that.

Islamic State leaders didn’t choose to behead innocent civilians in the Middle East. That must happen because it was determined by the Big Bang.

According to these naysayers, the cosmos or evolution or nature or the Big Bang have lockstepped all of us humans to do whatever us “bags” do in this tragic life, this absurd existence.

Well, at least Greene didn’t compare us to “bacterium” or “scum” like two other famous scientists.

DON’T LET THESE PIDED PIPERS OF NEGATION GET AWAY WITH THESE NON-SCIENTIFIC CLAIMS.

It is true as Greene says that at the quantum level, a human is in popular lingo, “moving particles.”
But that ISN'T all what he/she is.

In physics, this mug of coffee and the individual holding it are only particles, and at a higher level only a mixture of various chemicals.

BUT at a conscious rational level, it is a teacher, a morally responsible human getting ready to teach over one hundred teens during a creative but exhausting day at a high school in Santa Maria, California.


In the Light of what is True, Good, and Just,

Dan Wilcox

Friday, May 1, 2020

Friendly Poets' Short Poems of Wonder

Keswick Meeting room | British Quaker Meeting Houses/flickr CC


The spirit connects
Even when two are apart.
They ride the same wave.

--by Peter Rabenold

Read more by Peter Rabenold at https://www.patuxentfriends.org/writings.htm

Midst thorns the cactus
Splurges its gorgeous blossoms
And allays our fears.

--by Peter Rabenold
-----


first freeze--
a leaf on a film of ice
trickling water

by LA Quaker

To see more by LA Quaker go to http://laquaker.blogspot.com/2011/01/haiku-written-during-year-at-zen-center.html

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Part 2: "Great Books" Reflective Questions on "The pennycandystore beyond the El"


Reflective "Great Books" Questions

The pennycandystore beyond the El
is where I first
fell in love
with unreality

1. Since candy store is 2 words in dictionaries, why are the 3 words pennycandystore run together as the starting line in this poem?

2. Why is the elevated train called the “El” instead of the El Train or even the Elevated Train?

3. Why does the poem emphasize that the pennycandystore is “beyond” the El?

4. Why is the place a "pennycandystore" where the speaker “first fell in love”?
Who is the speaker of the poem?

5. Why does he fall in love with “unreality”?

Jellybeans glowed in the semi-gloom
of that september afternoon
A cat upon the counter moved along
the licorice sticks
and tootsie rolls
and Oh Boy Gum

6. Why is the pennycandystore in “semi-gloom” rather than brightly lighted?

7. Why are “jellybeans’ mentioned first and why do they “glow”?

8. Why do the poem’s events take place on a “september afternoon”?

9. Why is there a “cat upon the counter” moving “along” the candy rows?

10. Why does the narrator speak of “licorice sticks,” “tootsie rolls” and gum?

11. Why is the gum singled out to be “Oh Boy Gum”?

12. Is there any significance in the details that “Oh Boy Gum”
advertisements in the 1920’s had this unusual image of an elf whispering in the boy's ear?

Why does the ad state that "It's pure"?



Another key point to ruminate on is that the poem in its original poetry book form is a concrete one where the lines are staggered so that the poem looks like its lines are falling leaves!


Outside the leaves were falling as they died

13. At this point, why does the narrator switch focus to outside of the pennycandystore, saying that the "leaves were falling as they died"?
Remember, Ferlinghetti has already said that it is "september."

A wind had blown away the sun

15. And then the next line speaks in extreme hyperbole and fantasy--that "a wind had blown away the sun"?

A girl ran in

16. Suddenly, after "a wind..." why does the focus shifts from objects back to a person, as it did in the 1st line, saying the speaker "fell in love with unreality"?

Her hair was rainy

17. Is this vivid metaphor describing the girl's hair literal or figurative-thematic OR both?

18. Before this, the speaker hadn't mentioned any rain or stormy weather, so why does he do so now?

Her breasts were breathless in the little room

19. This sexual image is shocking and unexpected! Before this sensuous image, one might expect that the girl is in elementary school since the boy is.
Why does this well-developed adolescent girl from outside enter now?

20. Why are her "breasts...breathless?
Of course on the plot level of the poem, it's because she was out of breath from running to get out of the bad storm and rain.
What emphatic meanings are in these 3 short lines?

21. Notice all of the near rhymes, alliteration, assonance, and other word play.
Here's an amazing graphic showing the sound structure of the poem from upinvermont
at https://poemshape.wordpress.com/tag/lawrence-ferlinghetti/








Outside the leaves were falling
and they cried
Too soon! Too soon!

22. Why are the "leaves...falling" "Outside" brought forth again?

23. Then another shocker--the narrator appears to use personification..."leaves were falling and they cried..." (like the rain?)

24. However, when one close-reads, the realization comes that the "they" aren't the "leaves" but the adolescent boy and girl!
Why are the leaves and the boy and girl associated with each other?

24. Of course, next is why do they cry, not only in the sense of weeping, but also as in shouting?

25. What is "too soon"?

26.


Please add other possible questions, comments, or reflections in the response box below.

In the Light,

Dan Wilcox

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Review: Best and Worst of Ferlinghetti

Memory sometimes brings back wondrous experiences. This morning, I took a brief break from showing our 3-year-old grandson pictures of dinosaurs in my evolutionary biology textbook by Stephen Jay Gould (our gk is wild for dinosaurs like so many kids, including me 67 years ago:-).

As I glanced over some of our home library shelves, an early 60's book of poetry jumped into my mental lap. Wow, Ferlinghetti! However, it's one of his books I don't remember: Starting from San Francisco .


My memory flashed back to my university days in the late 1960's,
the best and worst of times--back when I hung out with Beats,
hippies (heck, I became a hippie, lived in Haight-Ashbury-SF
until my draft notice came:-), and other wild ones--many of us
radical activists, reading Aldous Huxley, Herman Hesse, and Jack Kerouac,
hitching and backpacking and protesting and attending love-be-in's,
going to poetry readings and rock clubs.

In my vivid poetic reminiscence is this poem:

The pennycandystore beyond the El
is where I first
fell in love
with unreality

Jellybeans glowed in the semi-gloom
of that september afternoon
A cat upon the counter moved along
the licorice sticks
and tootsie rolls
and Oh Boy Gum

Outside the leaves were falling as they died

A wind had blown away the sun

A girl ran in
Her hair was rainy
Her breasts were breathless in the little room

Outside the leaves were falling
and they cried
Too soon!
too soon!


--by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
from A Coney Island of the Mind
New Directions Paperback
purchased at City Lights Book Store, February 1967

At this point, I planned to speak of the poetic power and deep meanings of this amazing poem by Ferlinghetti, but now have instead decided to let the poem speak its wonder.

To quote Billy Collins, Poet Laureate of the U.S.,
"I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means."

--Billy Collins


What about the worst of Ferlinghetti? Turns out that the book I didn't remember, Starting from San Francisco, ought to have stayed abandoned/dumped on a shelf in our garage. Ferlinghetti, therein, has written so much drivel--vapid pages of dead prose, long lists of words that look like they were impulsive mouthings minus all that is poetic.

Later I will return and continue:-)

In the Light,

Dan Wilcox

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Is There Meaning in Reality?


RESPONDING TO NONTHEISTS' CLAIMS THAT HUMAN “MEANING” CAN EXIST IN MEANINGLESS REALITY

This time around, it isn’t famous atheists such as Jerry Coyne or Sam Harris or Lawrence M. Krauss denying humankind’s belief in cosmic meaning but Michael Shermer.* This is a bit unusual because sometimes in the past, Shermer has, while supporting a mild atheism, has also tried to argue for the transcendent in reality in several of his books.

And, of course, countering this non-theist view of reality are other thinkers such as Carl Jung who wrote, “The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not?"

"That is the telling question of his life. Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interests upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance....The more a man lays stress on false possessions, and the less sensitivity he has for what is essential, the less satisfying is his life. He feels limited because he has limited aims, and the result is envy and jealousy. If we understand and feel that here in this life we already have a link with the infinite, desires and attitudes change.”

FROM Michael Shermer's article,
“Our Actions Don’t Matter in a Cosmic Sense—but That Doesn’t Mean They Don’t Matter” "Alvy's Error and the Meaning of Life" in Scientific American 318, 2, 67 (February 2018)
By Michael Shermer on February 1, 2018

“In a flashback scene in the 1977 film Annie Hall, Woody Allen's character Alvy Singer is a depressed young boy who won't do his homework because, as he explains to his doctor: “The universe is expanding.... Well, the universe is everything, and if it's expanding, someday it will break apart, and that will be the end of everything.” His exasperated mother upbraids the youth: “What has the universe got to do with it?! You're here in Brooklyn. Brooklyn is not expanding!”

Shermer continues, “Whether you behave like a Soviet dictator who murdered tens of millions of people or a Roman Catholic missionary who tended to the poor matters very much to the victims of totalitarianism and poverty. Why does it matter?

“Because we are sentient beings designed by evolution to survive and flourish in the teeth of entropy and death.”

Laughing out loud! Here is another philosophical naturalist speaking of undirected, unpurposeful evolution as “designing” !
I am amazed at how many non-religious thinkers who in their own writing speak of evolution as if it was a purposeful agent.

Probably, Shermer doesn’t believe this but is only showing how difficult it is for humans to speak about reality without “meaning” and “purpose.” He would probably say he was using “designed by evolution” metaphorically.

However, many “religious” thinkers would also state that their theistic statements are “metaphoric” not literal in a dirt and rock sense.

Then he writes “…expending energy to survive and flourish. Being kind and helping others has been one successful strategy, and punishing Paleolithic Stalins was another, and from these actions, we evolved morality.”

Huh? Does that mean if doing immoral and unjust acts would increase our “survival” then they would become the new morality. Sounds like Nietzsche, the reversal of values.

Human survival isn’t the true basis of meaning or morality. On the contrary, often true meaning and morality is contrary to human survival!

Then Shermer states, “In this sense, evolution bestowed on us a moral and purpose-driven life by dint of the laws of nature.”

There it is, again, giving agency to a natural process which, allegedly, has none—“bestowed.”

Also, how can “a moral and purpose-driven life come from the laws of nature” if cosmic reality is without any of that?

If all f reality is meaningless and purposeless, then any claim by humans that their actions and views have meaning is a delusion.

And Shermer ends with, “In the long run, entropy will spell the end of everything in the universe and the universe itself, but we don't live in the long run. We live now. We live in Brooklyn, so doing our homework matters. And so, too, does doing our duty to ourselves, our loved ones, our community, our species and our planet.”

Not if we, our places, our actions are PART of the “long run.” Then ourselves, our acts, or beliefs all don’t matter either because they are included in the whole.

I think it makes far more sense to go with those scientists who do think that all of reality--including humans--has meaning.

In the Light,

Dan Wilcox

*Michael Shermer is publisher of Skeptic magazine (www.skeptic.com) and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University. His new book is Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia (Henry Holt, 2018).


Monday, April 6, 2020

Stephen King on Pandemic Tragedy: (THE STAND) How Humans Ought to Respond...and Not


Looking back now, King's famous story, a mini-series and 1,141-page science-fiction opus seems prophetic,
especially in how such a crisis brings out

the Moral Best
and Immoral worst
in humankind
/unkind.
(Of course,
The Stand's
fictional flu pandemic
is far worse
than the Corona Virus Crisis).

Before we look at the outstanding themes in The Stand, here's a brief plot summary
of the powerful story to remind everyone of the basics and the main characters.

The central plot shows us how a pandemic could easily start, because of human negligence and immoral priorities. In the miniseries, most humans quickly catch the weaponized flu and suffer horrific deaths. The unwalking dead.

A few remaining humans--who somehow are immune--unite in two contrary groups:
One is led by a 104-year-old Black lady, Mother Abigail Freemantle, who seeks to lead them to the Good, the Just, the Right, the Kind.

The other led by Randal Flagg, a demonically inspired sociopath, sets up his kingdom of the world to bring about Evil, Injustice, and all that is Wrong.

From the first scene/opening page, the narrative hooks readers with the epic story.

For those who haven't seen the miniseries or read the long tome, I recommend the former, mainly because in the movie version some obscene minor parts not central to the plot are cut out.

Central Themes of How We Ought to Respond to Pandemic Tragedies:

#1 Don't spend trillions of dollars on weapons of mass destruction (biological, chemical, and atomic weapons) like the U.S. and many other nations do, and have done in the past. (Are you aware that President Obama, and now President Trump have committed more than 11 billion dollars for maintaining and upgrading U.S. weapons of mass slaughter?! The total cost will be almost 1.7 trillion dollars according to the Arms Control Association.)

#2 Set priorities putting humanistic spending first.

#3 Listen and observe what humans DO, not what they say. For instance, NIck Andros, when confronted by Mother Abigail to choose the Right and the Good, says to her, "I don't believe in God."

Mother Abigail bursts out laughing, "That don't matter! God believes in you."

Nick is a caring, compassionate, conscientious individual. Those actions are what matter, not abstract notions.

#4 TO BE CONTINUED...time to grandkid sit:-)

Thursday, February 20, 2020

What if Americans had spent 6.4 trillion on ending poverty, injustice, refugees, the homeless, building infrastructure, helping impoverished countries?


Instead, the U.S. spent, according to a new study,* 6.4 trillion on wars in the last 19 years!

Even worse, in none of those places is the situation better than before the U.S. invaded.

“Even if the United States withdraws completely from the major war zones by the end of FY2020 and halts its other Global War on Terror operations, in the Philippines and Africa for example, the total budgetary burden of the post-9/11 wars will continue to rise as the U.S. pays the on-going costs of veterans’ care and for interest on borrowing to pay for the wars,” Crawford writes.
*https://www.cnbc.com/2019/11/20/us-spent-6point4-trillion-on-middle-east-wars-since-2001-study.html

Even worse, there are other war expenditures such as new billions for nuclear weapons that President Obama started and President Trump is continuing:

"A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report in February estimates that the United States will spend $400 billion on nuclear weapons from fiscal years 2017 through 2026. (See ACT, March 2017.) That is an increase of $52 billion, or 15 percent, from the CBO’s previous 10-year estimate of $348 billion, which was published in January 2015."
https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2017-07/news/trump-continues-obama-nuclear-funding


Please work for a shift by the U.S. away from invasion wars, civilian killings, and the supporting of unjust regimes to INSTEAD spend trillions on ending poverty, injustice, inequality and to promoting human rights and well-being.

In the Light,

Dan Wilcox

Saturday, January 25, 2020

How to Oppose War and Other Forms of Violence--to Not Violate


Peaceful Becoming

"Inter-being"
from Ahimsa: The Path of Harmlessness by Thich Nhat Hanh

[to not violate—literally means “non-harming” or “harmlessness.”

“...first of all we have to practice it within ourselves.

“In each of us, there is a certain amount of violence and a certain amount of nonviolence...Even if we take pride in being vegetarian...we cannot be completely nonviolent, but by being vegetarian, we are going in the direction of non­violence...
-
“Anyone can practice some nonviolence, even soldiers. Some army generals, for example, conduct their operations in ways that avoid killing innocent people; this is a kind of nonviolence.

“To help soldiers move in the nonviolent direction, we have to be in touch with them. If we divide reality into two camps-the violent and the nonviolent-and stand in one camp while attacking the other, the world will never have peace. We will always blame and condemn those we feel are responsible for wars and social injustice, without recognizing the degree of violence in ourselves.

“We must work on ourselves and also work with those we condemn if we want to have a real impact.

“It never helps to draw a line and dismiss some people as enemies, even those who act violently. We have to approach them with love in our hearts and do our best to help them move in a direction of nonviolence. If we work for peace out of anger, we will never succeed. Peace is not an end. It can never come about through non-peaceful means.

“When we protest against a war, we may assume that we are a peaceful person, a representative of peace, but this might not be the case...
With this insight, we can see clearly and help our government see clearly. Then we can go to a demonstration and say, "This war is unjust, destructive, and not worthy of our great nation." This is far more effective than angrily condemning others. Anger al­ways accelerates the damage.
--
“You may think that the way to change the world is to elect a new President, but a government is only a reflection of society, which is a reflection of our own consciousness. To create fundamental change, we, the members of society, have to transform ourselves. If we want real peace, we have to demonstrate our love and understanding so that those responsible for making decisions can learn from us.
--

“When we see social injustice, if we practice non-action, we may cause harm. When people need us to say or do something, if we don't, we can kill by our inaction or our silence.

“To practice ahimsa, we need gentleness, loving kindness, compassion, joy...[to ourselves] and other people.

“Real peace must be based on insight and understanding, and for this we must practice deep reflection-looking deeply into each act and each thought of our daily lives.

“To prevent war, to prevent the next crisis, we must begin right now. When a war or a crisis has begun, it is already too late.

From Love in Action by Thich Nhat Hanh
Read the whole book of powerful insightful articles.
Parallas Press


Sunday, January 19, 2020

Hymn for the 81% who voted for Trump



--

"In 2016, 81% of white evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump after (among other things) hearing an audio recording of him bragging about sexually assaulting women.

Maya Angelou famously said, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

In the years since, even after enacting deliberately cruel policies to rip families apart and put children in cages at the southern border, evangelical support is as fervent as ever.

I was raised in the Evangelical world. It shaped me. I learned to take the words of Jesus seriously - love God, love your neighbor, feed the hungry, fight for justice for the oppressed. I thought that things like love, kindness, gentleness, and self-control MATTERED. I have been so confused and deeply saddened by the unflinching loyalty to a man who so clearly embodies the opposite of these values.

This song is a lament. It's a loving rebuke. It's a plea for the 81%, to come home to the way of Jesus."

Songwriter Daniel Deitrich

A Good Book of Leaves Composts Through Our Winters



BOOKS--the wonder of humankind's written heritage, a treasure (though in some cases a horror).

A good book of leaves composts through our winters.
"decayed organic material (as of leaves and grass) used to improve soil especially for growing crops."
"to convert (a material, such as plant debris) to compost...
a mixture that consists largely of decayed organic matter and is used for fertilizing"
"We compost leaves in our backyard."
Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary

"...of Latin compositus, past participle of componere "to put together,"
https://www.etymonline.com/word/compost
--

Literature is a record of how humans come to terms with our own mortality and the meaning of time itself.
Alfred Kazan

To push back the darkness a little bit at a time, in the same flighty manner as lightening bugs.
David Thornbrugh

Writing [and reading and chewing on] a book is like taking a journey. You know where you want to go but you don’t always know who you might meet or what you might experience along the way.
Road Dahl

Reading a book often takes one far from one's own shores and locality.

Where has a great or good book taken you?

Has its leaves of meaning, story, characters and themes composted through difficult times in your life?

Book Reflections:

There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.
Ursula Le Guin

[Reading is a way to be part of the family of humanity] Costa Ricans felt compassion for Kosovo refugees because they had read The Diary of Anne Frank.
Robert Probst

Literature is a journey, not something to finish.
Robert Probst

[What about rereading stories and books?]
Do we say we don’t plan to ‘do summer’ this year since we’ve done it before?
Robert Probst

A book helps me make sense of my experience.
Robert Probst

Characters in the plot connect us with the vastness of our secret life, which is endlessly explorable.
Eudora Welty