Sunday, March 7, 2021

Guest Post: Teens Create Portable, Solar-Powered Tent for the Homeless

Teens Create Portable, Solar-Powered Tent for the Homeless February 23, 2021 by Cathy Stack San Fernando, CA - A team of 12 teenage girls have invented a portable, solar-powered tent.

Their inspiration for the ambitious and innovative project was the growing problem of homelessness in their community. Improving the lives of homeless individuals and addressing their daily struggles with a lack of shelter and privacy was their guiding goal. They set out to create a highly durable, water-resistant tent that offered more air, light, sanitation, privacy, and a cell phone charging station. The team consists of San Fernando high school students who have had no formal engineering training, only a compelling desire to help their community. The students teamed up with a nonprofit organization called DIY Girls which supports girls in science, technology and engineering. Team members learned new skills ranging from coding and 3-D printing to sewing and soldering. They also taught themselves how to plan, print and assemble a product to complete the tent’s prototype.

America Hernandez and Casandra Salazar, two team members, decided to participate in the design and engineering project to help make a difference. “We decided that homelessness was something that was growing in our community and it was something that not a lot of people focus on,” commented America. The long hours and dedication required did not deter the students. “Since this project was meant for other people, we did feel more motivated,” added Casandra.

There are many state-of-the art features and design elements that make the tent unique. It is made to be both portable and lightweight. It neatly folds into a rolling backpack to make it convenient to travel with. The tent’s interior is equipped with lights, a pair of USB ports, and one micro-USB port specially powered by solar energy. The solar power is used to charge electronic devices, provide light and sanitize the tent’s interior.

Now that the prototype is complete, the team aspires to get their invention patented and mass distributed to the homeless population. The team also hopes their invention can eventually aid many different displaced people around the world, such as refugees.

Pass It On and The Foundation for a Better Life is highly impressed with these young innovators who identified and worked to resolve a problem in their community using their own skills and intellect. They are a great example of the value of Teamwork. As a team, they experienced the empowering feeling of witnessing how their combined skills could be put to good use to improve the world. Please help us honor these young heroes by sharing their inspiring story.

Watch video here:

Please tell us about your everyday Hero. The Heroes among us are ordinary people whose actions leave a lasting and positive impact in their communities and demonstrate the potential in all of us. Their heroic acts uphold our shared values. Help honor these individuals by creating a billboard and sharing their story at:

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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Pebbled Poems of Spring

Flighting Surprise

In my morning mug
Cold milk, washed blue berries
Dark and delicious
Lay waiting for another swig

Wait; what’s that?
Adhering--a wispy white feather

Or more briefly:

flighting surprise

in my morning mug—
adhering to wet blue berries
a wispy white feather


humming attack

wearing my fiery red shirt
for Christmas, I open our
sliding glass door;
sudden jolt in front
of my startled face--
a flash of feathers hum-buzzes,
darts within inches of me;

but away it flits left
back to that flowering bush
along our fence--
me a reject


side of the road

gray shadowed mail box
overwhelmed green, red-purple
bloomed jungle wonder


Twilight: Crossing Shimmering Streams into Dusk and Stars


fall back to autumn

treetops blazing gold
with the last light of this day--
we lift our eyes

--Dan Wilcox

In the Light

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Part #2: Prayer and Fishhooks

Prayer and Fishhooks*

Our third daughter, Hope, learned-disabled early, Struggling with the squiggles and numeric symbols

Of unseen realities, of knowing, that set the stars In motion and our human minds in transition.

How dangerous those fish-hooked praying supplications

Her childish zest died while, as her father and provider, I practiced disabling late, raised to belief's unreason

In the rigid way of Huck's Miss Watson, so stubborn In righteous doctrine, ignoring our doctor's suggestion, Not giving Hope medication, but certain in literal petition.

How dangerous those fish-hooked praying supplications

So I prayed time-round-the-three for our daughter's minded healing, But just like gullible Finn and his never-gotten fishhooks,

Hope got none, and I— doubt, ill-gotten mishap, and bilge, Eventually lessening into cynicism, the wounded death Of an ash-filled, but empty-petitioning/requesting mouth.

How dangerous those fish-hooked praying supplications

Yet unlike Huck, to this day I keep reeling out petitions, Focusing like the Widow (Huck's other guardian),

On heartened prayer, the learning of spiritual gifts; But not even the gentle fish lures of patience

And boundless joy ever ripple my faithless way; I, too, become the lost orphan in the dying of trust.

How dangerous those fish-hooked praying supplications

No longer a fisher of miracles in the doubtful churning, Of the endless surging views of oceans seven

The world round, I struggle between trust And reason, earnest but lost in cruel confusion

Fearing those extremes — nihilistic negation And fishy delusion — doubting all to a hellish end.

How dangerous those fish-hooked praying supplications

Still rises the good news of caring medicine: Briefly free of false hooks, we gave our dear Hope,

So dead to minded school, the late prescription And she was upward raised, yes, recovering soon A zest for learning — early for her, way late for me –

How wondrous thoughtful reason-decided invocations

Except to say the real hook of it all is that True knowing is not gulping barbs of pious deceit,

Nor being gilled or gulled into the dying of truth, But yearning and learning — like Descartes and Kant

Of old — finding in humble, reasoned trust The poetry and prose of spiritual growth, A Godly way of reasoned becoming,

How wondrous thoughtful reason-based deliberations

--Dan Wilcox

First published in The Centrifugal Eye then in the published poetry collection, Psalms, Yawps, and Howls

-- *From Huck Finn: “Well I got a good going-over in the morning from old Miss Watson on account of my clothes; but the widow she didn't scold, but only cleaned off the grease and clay, and looked so sorry that I thought I would behave awhile if I could. Then Miss Watson she took me in the closet and prayed, but nothing come of it."

"She told me to pray every day, and whatever I asked for I would get it. But it warn't so I tried it. Once I got a fish-line, but no hooks. It warn't any good to me without hooks."

"I tried for the hooks three or four times, but somehow I couldn't make it work. By and by, one day, I asked Miss Watson to try for me, but she said I was a fool. She never told me why, and I couldn't make it out no way."

"I set down one time back in the woods, and had a long think about it. I says to myself, if a body can get anything they pray for...why can't the widow get back her silver snuffbox that was stole? Why can't Miss Watson fat up?"

"No, says I to myself, there ain't nothing in it. I went and told the widow about it, and she said the thing a body could get by praying for it was "spiritual gifts." This was too many for me, but she told me what she meant -- I must help other people, and do everything I could for other people, and look out for them all the time, and never think about myself."

"This was including Miss Watson, as I took it. I went out in the woods and turned it over in my mind a long time, but I couldn't see no advantage about it -- except for the other people; so at last I reckoned I wouldn't worry about it any more, but just let it go."

"Sometimes the widow would take me one side and talk about Providence in a way to make a body's mouth water; but maybe next day Miss Watson would take hold and knock it all down again."

"I judged I could see that there was two Providences, and a poor chap would stand considerable show with the widow's Providence, but if Miss Watson's got him there warn't no help for him any more."

"I thought it all out, and reckoned I would belong to the widow's if he wanted me, though I couldn't make out how he was a-going to be any better off then than what he was before, seeing I was so ignorant, and so kind of low-down and ornery.”

Wise words of yearning and learning from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Samuel L. Clemens

-- In the Light of Hope and Reason,

Yearning and Learning, Trust and Skepticism,

Ideals and Science, Imagination and Fact...

Dan Wilcox

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Musing about Prayer, the Exacting Scientific Study, and Reality

Does prayer change things as the famous aphorism claims?

Does God literally answer petitionary prayer—everything from requests for a parking place to the healing of severe disease to defeating the enemy in war?
Fifteen years ago, an exhaustive scientific study was done on praying for heart surgery patients with a grant from the religious Templeton Foundation.

Sadly, from a religious point of view, unfavorable results of study occurred in 52 percent of those who received prayer, 51 percent of those who did not receive it, and the worst results for 59 percent of patients who knew they would receive prayers.

“There were no statistically significant differences in major complications or thirty-day mortality.” Wikipedia and Harvard Gazette, "Prayers don't help heart surgery patients; Some fare worse when prayed for"

But some raise the important question is prayer meant to be an action looking for literal results?

Most theists would say so including famous philosopher and science writer Michael Gardner, a theistic skeptic, cofounder of the modern Skeptic Movement. When it comes to miracles, Gardner disdains belief in those supernatural events, what he calls the superstitious “finger of God,” but Gardner argues for the reality of prayer!

In his book The Why’s of a Philosophical Scrivener Gardner states that petitionary prayer is real and true. He agrees with fundamentalists, creedal Christians, Muslim, Orthodox Jews that humans can literally petition God for help.

Most Atheists emphasize the exact opposite, that all prayer is a severe delusion.

This is in contrast to a third view of prayer best expressed in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Huck Finn is told by the Fundamentalist Ms.Watson that prayer works, so he sets about praying for fish hooks.

But none come. He waits longer, still none come. Huck is keenly disappointed—down right angry--and tells the Widow Douglas so. She gently corrects his confusion, telling him he has misunderstood the true nature of prayer.

Widow Douglas emphasizes that prayer isn’t for getting what we want, even if we are asking for something good.

Then what in heck is the nature of prayer? According to the Widow Douglas, prayer is for moral and spiritual uplift!

But is that so?

Maybe the Widow Douglas was right—that the true nature of religion is spiritual, not literal at all. Consider even the simple prayer of grace, that form of prayer that many religious humans say before eating supper where they thank God for their food. Or goodnight prayers with little children.

If we look at the actual situation of prayer at the dinner table, we see that God has had literally nothing to do with the getting of the food on the family’s plates. The parents at the table have gone to Wal-Mart and purchased salmon, green beans, and wheat bread from money they earned working 50 or 60 hours a week as engineers, clerks, or mechanics; the store owners have bought the seafood from ocean boats and produce from farmers; the farmers have planted and harvested the crops, and the fishers have gone out into the wild Pacific and caught the salmon, etc.

So where does God fit into the equation?

The answer is a spiritual one as Widow Douglas said. For example, the famous German thinker Fredrich Schleiermacher wrote that religion is a transcendent experience, a total abandonment to, and reliance on the Infinite.

God is the ultimate, infinite source of the meal, even though he doesn’t literally do a single action to bring it to the evening table. No, God isn’t literally in the business of growing corn, finding parking places or supplying fish hooks, healing diseases, etc. unlike what most humans think.

Rather, prayer is transcendent communion with the Ultimate, a sense of union with the Source of all, the Ground of all Being.

How many times have we humans said grace at meals, prayed for loved ones, etc. and felt uplifted and united!

The number is probably almost endless; and there are the countless prayers for individuals living in tragic circumstances, world crises, and prayers for our own spiritual growth.

PRAYER CHANGES US, not bad situations or terrible circumstances.

We humans in prayer can become more humanistic beings given to loving others as ourselves, even our enemies as Jesus, Martin Luther King, and othe wise leaders have stated.

But Huck and most people aren’t impressed with such an view. What they want are fish hooks, healing from diseases, success in their careers, and so forth.
Becoming more loving, kind, generous, and patient is, granted, nice but a real let down.

Literalism has its hooks in most of us, either believers or disbelievers.

To be continued

Dan Wilcox

Friday, January 29, 2021

IF Not putting Our Selves FIRST...

If NOT putting itself First, What Is One of the Central Purposes of a Nation, our nation the U.S.A., every nation?


A nation exists NOT to put itself FIRST.

contrary to what former President Trump claims and multimillions of Americans including 81% of Evangelical Christians still believe.

A nation can protect its citizens NOT by building huge walls, NOT by demonizing refugees, NOT by being self-centered.

In the Light of compassion, generosity, hope, and help,

Dan Wilcox

Sunday, January 24, 2021

THE WAYS of a Philosophical Journeyer and Mariner...tacking into the Storm of Life

Many thousands of speeches have passed through my ears and countless millions of pages of writing into my eyes to be mentally swallowed, digested, and then later chewed like the proverbial cud of a skinny cow;-).

True some of all this ingestion, I couldn’t stomach, and spit out rapidly. Sometimes even metaphorically vomited. Other learning was so boring I forgot it before I heard it. But some writing/ideas/themes/worldviews/life-stances stuck inside me like the words of the speaker of Ecclesiastes spoke of over 2,500 years ago, that wisdom is like spikes hammered deep into one’s psyche, truths so powerful they keep inundating one’s mind.

One such speech* I heard online several years ago concerned how we humans hold to what we think is true, what levels describe our way of living. In the brilliant talk the speaker described the various levels of perception from the superficial to those inner bone deep commitments and convictions, to the deepest heart of convincement.

Here’s my own very different adaption of this:

Notions: I am very “low-church” when it comes to traditions. I get next to nothing out of ritual, liturgy, repetition, tradition, hierarchies, etc. IF it had been my choice, I would have gotten married on the beach or in the mountains with a few brief words of romantic love and a few attenders and would have skipped months of planning and a formal service. I was one of the early “Jesus people.” I find nothing meaningful in formal church services, following liturgies, religious holy days, orders of service, etc. Instead, I like creative Christian rock music, lots of unexpected action, change, dramatic sermons with visual illustrations, churches that meet in shopping malls, not in old traditional buildings, etc.

But all of these preferences are just notions, personal likes, enjoyments. I could easily leave them behind if need be. And I realize that multi-millions of other humans find great meaning in traditions, liturgies, and rituals.

Opinions: The liberal Friends-Quakers and some liberal Anabaptists seem the closest to what is true morally and spiritually. But if a moral leader could show me there was another human group or organization that was closer to the Truth, I would change immediately.

Speculations: Based on many years of studying philosophy, theology, religous and secular history, geology, anthropology, biology, cosmology, etc., I agree with some famous scientists and scholars who think that God is Ultimate PROCESS, not Ultimate Substance.

That makes the most sense to my understanding. But it’s all educated speculation. How can any human possibly know or understand the ONE who spangled the Cosmos into becoming before Time?

Beliefs: I believe theism is true, and atheism completely false, that democracy is the best form of government and that democratic capitalism (with restraints) is the best form of economy.

However, I am not a creedal person, am not a Republican or a Democrat, never believed in the Christian Creeds, even though I was a devout Christian for 55 years, serving at times as a Baptist youth minister, elder, Bible teacher, mission worker, etc.

I grew up in a non-creedal denomination: American Baptist. We were concerned primarily with accepting Jesus as our Leader and Deliverer, and then living for him daily, following his moral truths.

However, these are only beliefs, meaning that I hold them moderately.

Beliefs come and they go. As far as I can see, all of them or the vast majority of them have only moderate impact on day to day living.

Convictions: Those values one holds/trusts in/lives by/views so deep one would die for them.

For instance, I think and trust that Moral Realism is true—

that meticulous honesty in medicine, science, criminal justice, journalism, etc. is very important, that slavery, abuse, slaughter, prejudice, racism, etc. are always wrong.

That all humans have the capability to create and to choose among alternatives, to make (LFW) real choices by using their conscious awareness, their reason, their creativeness. That all humans are morally responsible and capable of seeking what is true, good, just, and beautiful.

If these convictions were proven wrong, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I wouldn’t know how to live at all. I suppose I would then say, “Even if Altruism, Mercy, Kindness, Cherishing, Generosity, Patience, Meekness, Humbleness, Honesty, Equality, aren't true, they SHOULD BE, OUGHT TO BE.

That’s how deep this conviction is within me.


In the Light,

Dan Wilcox

*Allusion to the philosophical autobiography of the theist and skeptic Martin Gardner

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Color Me Fiery Intense Red

Color Me Fiery Intense Red

As a kid, expressive, creative, rambunctious, something of a wild card long into adulthood I loved vibrant Green-- for abundant life, for exuberant energy, vividly alive for beauty like in colors, emerald or jade,

for the natural world from creek to patch of woods behind our house on the edge of Adams village, to verdant forest green glens of the Sierras, Sequoia and Yosemite

But-- then, suddenly, unexpectedly, without conscious why; spontaneous, impulsively one day in middle life, I awoke not liking green anymore… viewing green instead as dull, insipid, sickening, repetitious, odd, over-done, humdrum...

Color me fiery Red--riveting, intense, striking sparks of light cardinal, crimson, scarlet burst into my eyes and consciousness —passionate, dazzling, blazing, heated, different...

as in exploding firework sky rockets, as pulsing red coals in a bonfire,

as an amazing psychedelic quilt by my sweetheart, like an Impressionistic painting, luminous in our house to ruby red lava in Hawaii’s volcano, intense sunsets, and Utah’s red rock

Red forever

--Dan Wilcox