Saturday, January 30, 2016

Innumerable Trails: A Reflection on Choices

We’re old backpackers; we have hiked up various high trails in the Sierra Nevada’s and down many a descent-track into the Grand Canyon.

Similarly, the ascent of life/existence itself has innumerable trails that lead off in many different directions.

However, too often, we humans forget that fact, that there are so many alternative ways, and instead get caught in an Either/Or fallacy of 'trials.'

I got caught there once—made the worst decision of my life, one that would cause me seemingly endless grief and others, especially my close family, plenty of problems, too.

The split in the trail came one bright sunny day—really splendid weather outside—where I stood on the sidewalk between 4-story classroom buildings at Long Beach State in California in the fall of 1966.

The memory has remained so vivid, so option-able since I stood undecided looking up/down two entirely different routes, conundrum-stopped at 50% to 50%, uncertain which way to go.

I stood there torn between the atheism highway of most of our brilliant professors and knowledgeable fellow students


the Christian religion of my past childhood and youth.

At the time, there seemed to be only two choices--an Either/Or.

If I had to do it over again, I would still opt to take the trail away from atheism—for that philosophy, besides being essentially negative (emphasizing "from a- "without"), mainly represented what was wrong including subjective and relative ethics.

But this time around—if I could live again, was able to revise/revisit my life journey, I would never choose religion as a path.

The latter led mostly to years of false promises, delusion, trials, deep despair, and hopelessness.

Thankfully, that is only part of my life's arduous journey.

A number of times, I have backpacked on dangerous primitive trails in the Grand Canyon.
But once, on one hardly used trail it was extremely dangerous. The path thinned to only one foot wide, with a drop-plummet of at least 2,000 feet almost straight down to my left.

And there were rock slides I had to crawl over, and wind gusts of about 20 miles per hour pulling on my backpack!

Let me tell you, truthfully, I got very scared, and I promised myself that if I ever got off that trail, I wouldn't ever take it ever again.

Since, I am writing this you know I survived:-)

Plus, I got to see a small herd of seldom-seen Big Horn Sheep,

and a growling fox warning me off the trail's switchback;
and I almost stepped onto a very large
curled-up rattlesnake on the walk path, too. And so many
geological layers of vividly colorful rock dating back
multi-millions of years ago.

Dangers! But now, I look back on on that dangerous trip and am filled with wonder and almost joy.

I wish the same could be said for the dangerous 'trials' I took in religion.

But those chosen pathways have caused so much hurt and harm to so many humans.
And many have plummeted over the edge,
and even worse many of religion's leaders
glory in that fact:-(

I am so glad and thankful to be free from religion! Now I go to the Church of the Swimming Pool
and Book Club, and live in the Light
of Reason and the Good.

Daniel Wilcox

Friday, January 29, 2016

Guest Post: Do You Want to Know the Truth?

Here's an intriguing guest post from Professor James F. McGrath:

Do You Want To Know The Truth?

Hemant Mehta shared a really useful thought experiment/discussion starter, which deserves to circulate widely. It is inspired by a newspaper column by Robert Kirby, and takes the form of a simple question:
if there was a button that you could push, which would tell you definitively whether there is a God, and more specifically, whether your thinking about God is correct or not, would you push it?

The question might seem simple to answer, and it might seem that the obvious answer is “yes.” And I don’t disagree. But there are those who would not push the button, claiming that it would eliminate “faith.”

But in my view, that is a terrible way to think about “faith.” Faith should not be believing without evidence, or worse still, refusing evidence because we think there is some merit in refusing to fact check and investigate and just believe what we assume or have been told instead.

But of course, unless one or both of us pushes the button, we won’t know for sure whether or not my thinking about that is misguided.

I think the really interesting part comes when we reflect on what happens after we push the button and get our answer. If you find out your suspicion or strong conviction is right, how would your approach to life and to other people change now that you know for sure?

Would you become even more intolerant with others now that you know for sure that you are right?

If so, then perhaps not knowing for certain was indeed better for you.

And if you found out that you had been wrong, and some other group, whether atheists, Christians, Hindus, or no one on Earth was right, how would that affect you?

Would you embrace the truth with joy or begrudgingly, and why?

Your instinctive reaction will tell you something about where your foremost commitment lies: to the truth, or to your tribe.

I can also imagine that, even if the results of the button-pushing could somehow be guaranteed, there are those who would refuse to accept what was revealed. Would you possibly find yourself among them?

I hope you think about this, and then take the opportunity to discuss it in the comments below!

Dr. James F. McGrath is Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast.

Neil Carter has also, independently, weighed in on this question of truth/reality on Facebook. He wrote, "I don't think I became an atheist because I'm smarter than other people. I think they just quit asking the harder questions and I couldn't."

I guess that's the gist of human speculative guessing on ultimate questions.

Here's my own response to James McGrath's response to Hemant Mehta's response to Robert Kirby's article along with my own different philosophical climb related to Carter's mountain point:-)

Of course the reality is that seeking truth in all fields is nothing like a magical button push, but more like working one's way through a complicated maze...

...carrying untold weights, dealing with ill health issues,
helping others find their way...

managing to counteract strange people who keep trying to mislead one down wrong paths...

...even attackers trying to stop maze searchers for truth...

...and, despite all that and more difficulties, when going indeed seems impossible, one keeps going!

A more apt image for seeking truth would be--if truth is at the top of Mt. Everest
or some other peak of incredible height,
would you make the arduous climb, no matter what, and accept what is true?


However, my main question isn't whether God exists or not. I worked through that at university to a very deep level and came out a committed theist (though on Thursday, I am still an existentialist;-).

What concerns me much more is the second part of Metha and McGrath's question:

What is God/Truth/Ultimate Reality like?

Can we finite reasoning primates even have any accurate idea?

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Is the Universe Pointless?

Physicist Stephen Weinberg wrote, “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.”

In contrast, consider this: "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems wondrous."

Such contrary views of existence.

Weinberg's comment reminds one of other scientists who claim homo sapiens are "bags of chemicals" and "puppets," etc.

But check out the contrary views of scientists such as English astronomer and physicist Arthur Eddington, evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky, cell biologist Kenneth R. Miller, French astronomer and physicist Georges Lemaitre, etc.

Also, consider Albert Einstein's wonder at the cosmos and its "radiant beauty":
"A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty - it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man."

"The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness."
Albert Einstein, The Merging of Spirit and Science

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Reviews of First Among Friends, Cavaliers and Roundheads, and Cromwell: Lord Protector

First Among Friend: George Fox & the Creation of Quakerism by H. Larry Ingle
Rating 7

Ingle’s book does a great service in that it isn’t hagiographical in nature but good scholarly history. Ingle shows George Fox’s and early Quakers’ good and bad characteristics and right and wrong actions, warts, wounds, and all.

A must read for Friends who want to understand how the Movement and Society first got started.

The volume focuses mostly on outward actions and is more of a cultural biography, however. At times the text comes across almost too academic and too skeptical. And its disappointing that Ingle doesn’t deal much--hardly at all--with Fox and others from a spiritual point of view. Indeed, if a reader hadn't dialogued with him and other Quakers in the past on an email list, one wouldn't know, that besides having a doctorate in history, Ingle is also a devout Friend.

Still, the book is worth the time. First gives us a new awareness of how all religious truth is conditioned by culture, time, and place, and that even devoutly spiritual people, at their best, are still weighed down by pettiness, squabbling, and hypocrisy.

Also, my reading of the history Cavaliers and Roundheads at the same time helped me be more sympathetic toward the governments of the period as I now see how they often mistook Friends for dangerous revolutionaries. See below for the review.

Parliament versus King varied in their behavior toward the early Quakers. In some cases the English government dealt harshly,
causing the imprisonment and death of thousands;
at other times, English courts were somewhat fair.

It’s very strange that King James II, a Roman Catholic, was the first to really grant Friends and others religions tolerance, while the Protestant Parliament in 1683 was so against Friends and other nonconformists that hundreds were sent to prison.

Such intriguing facts show how complicated real history is versus the myths and over simplifications that most people hear about and think is the truth.


Cavaliers and Roundheads by Christopher Hibbert
Rating 6

Well worth reading English history, though Hibbert spends a large portion of the time recounting military battles in detail. The book is fact-detail heavy and mostly dry.

On the other hand, sometimes Hibbert details intriguing stories of individuals caught in the absurdity and evil. Various religious groups kept changing sides, sometimes aligning with the Scots, sometimes against the Scots, etc.

A few individuals met the confusion and conflict demonstrating how to live fairly just and compassionate lives in the middle of the chaos. But mostly the Civil War seems to have accomplished nothing but slaughter and mayhem in the name of Christ and God.

Then 8 years later Parliament brought back the monarchy via Charles’ son which included severe penalties for such nonconformists as the Friends! So the Restoration reversed a few gains.

Both sides--Cavaliers (Royalists, Anglicans, Catholics) versus Roundheads (Calvinists, Puritans, sometimes others)--not only claimed God was on their side but even gloried in the slaughter in the very name of God.

And both sides’ soldiers plundered, raped, and massacred all for God supposedly. Puritans even hanged a 90-year-old Catholic priest. They were against the "Papists" and against the Church of England, demanding that it be purified.

Puritan soldiers repeatedly broke stained glass windows, burned books and artwork, defaced and destroyed statues, and so forth. Tragic, though not as bad as the thousands of killings.

Their actions remind me of how the Islamic State and the Taliban are now destroying archaeological treasures, churches, and the mosques of enemy Muslims. Religion so often distorts, harms, persecutes, and kills.

It's amazing that any Friends survived this religious hell. Most of the political and religious movements of the time didn't.

A depressing book. But I am glad I read it.

Cromwell: The Lord Protector by Antonia Fraser
Rating 5.5
This a magisterial work showing years of research. Fraser's style is dry, even on the boring side because it is a very fact heavy book. But I learned a lot.

Most surprising is that Fraser tries to redeem Cromwell, seeking to show that despite his dictatorial policies and avid pursuit of cruel wars, and the killing of many thousands including many unarmed civilians--that he was a truly a heroic leader.

I'm not convinced, though the book is good to read because it helps to give different view of the Civil War and of the time of Cromwell ruling as Lord Protector. Fraser claims Cromwell wasn't quite the butcher and tyrant that others portray him as.

Of course Fraser's repeated noting how Cromwell showed compassion to a few individuals in need seems a pathetic argument after she admits that Crowell did slaughter thousands and that 3/4 of the Irish were driven from their lands and 12,000 sent enslaved to the Caribbean.

What is more troubling than all the bloodletting and persecution and destruction was how Cromwell thanked Jesus and God when he succeeded in the slaughter. The New Model Army soldiers went into battle singing Bible verses.

Most of the killed during the war were of other Englishmen from their own area, often even former neighbors! Also, Cromwell sometimes let his soldiers plunder the vanquished, stealing from the dead! He violated most of the Ten Commandments while yet speaking fervently for Jesus Christ.

Later, Cromwell spoke of how he hoped "love and peace will kiss." Such contradictory behavior compared to Jesus' ethical standards in the Sermon on the Mount and 1 Corinthians 13 is very troubling.

One good action Cromwell did achieve for the English (but not the Irish) is support more tolerance for mild differences in religion within Protestant Christianity, and he eventually sought to get Parliament to let Jews return legally to England (for the first time in several hundred years).

Most weird was how Cromwell (and for that matter all the other sides of the Civil War, too) even after the terrible killing of the opposite side, would then turn around and make alignments and packs with one set of enemies against former allies.

Protestants would even side with Catholics against other Protestants!

The whole Civil War turned into an obscene mess full of hypocrisy and back-stabbing.

To 'top it off' at the end, Cromwell finally beheaded King Charles I, then ruled more and more dictatorially himself. He didn't introduce most of the ideals that many Englishmen had so devoutly fought for; on the contrary, Cromwell even adopted views and actions very similar to King Charles' former rule.

And after all this bloodletting, when Cromwell died, shortly afterward, English leaders brought back the monarchy with Charles II!

And things got worse: persecution, immorality, etc.

Huh?! So very pathetic if it weren't so tragic and absurd.

This was a very depressing book.

Politics, religion, and war slaughter never seem to change, generation after generation...

Though I'm currently reading a book called Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker whose central thesis is that our present century, the 21st, is the least violent of all of history. We'll see.

Troubled in the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Weep low, angled humans...a Muslim father has praised his son...

...for knifing to death a mother of 6 in Israel/Palestine.

"Witnesses reported a brutal scene on Sunday: Dafna Meir was painting her house's door-frame when the terrorist approached her from behind and stuck his knife in her head.

Meir's daughter Renana, the eldest of six children, was present and called for help, her screams helping to scare him off."
by Yoav Zitun, Elior Levy and Elisha Ben Kimon

"Speaking to Palestinian media, Adais's father said he was proud of his son for stabbing the unarmed nurse to death.

'I am proud of him,' [the father] said, adding that [Israeli] security forces also detained and interrogated several family members during the arrest operation."

QudsN, a Palestinian news also applauded the Muslim for slaughtering Dafna.

Left behind are her 6 children and her grieving husband.


When will Muslims worldwide change and become healers and rescuers, not butchers?

In contrast what you get are many Muslims praising these killers:-) even designing digital art of the bloody knife of revolt in support of the slaughter.

“We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem. This is pure blood, clean blood, blood on its way to Allah. With the help of Allah, every martyr will be in heaven, and every wounded will get his reward.”
Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the PLO and President of the Palestinian National Authority, September 16, 2015

Grieving tonight.

Please lift up Dafna's family,
and the Muslims killers
(that they might repent) into the Light.

Daniel Wilcox

Corny Quaker Humor #8: Politically Off

Like in movies and TV shows: This blog post doesn't necessarily represent--nor is it meant to create a precedent--the views of this station or its owner;-) or any Friends, cronies, or nuts
as for book illegalities: All the characters in this slapstick
comedy are real and accurate:-)

This time around the spam and spin and spar of the presidential election is even worse
than those horrible bad old days! Silence is olden'. "Sue! Sue!" shouted the Missouri
Quaker pig farmer. "Don't 'Show me' all that political hog wallow."
While many others are lamenting and rocking,
"Roll over William Penn."

So, I’ve lost my oats and am going home, down corn-pone way…

First, take this Friendly quiz:

Which one of these presidential candidates grew up in an historic peace church similar in many ways to the Quakers?

Ted Cruz?

You want to vote for a low rider candidate
from You-stun, Texas, who used to cruise ‘Cowlgary’
Boulevard up north?

Doesn’t anybody question his ‘birthright’?
Like the bomber, no legal father!
Born on an island so to speak.

'Bordering' on trouble too....


Donald Trump?

To all Christians at Liberty University,
…”that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope…

with a cry of command,
with the voice…
and sound of the trump of God.”
1 Thessalonians

"I’m all ears" is what the ‘hare’ said. Are they ‘rabids’?

Well, at least Trump and others aren't yet making
Americans kiss-up to them.
"Nayler and his followers refused to remove their hats
while Fox prayed, which Fox took as both a personal
slight and a bad example."
Then Nayler refused to kiss George Fox's hand, so
Geroge ordered Nayler to kiss his foot instead.
They parted angry.

Hmm...some things never change.


Hilary Clinton?

Hilarious! Surely you’re not serious. Do I detect a ‘clint’
in your eye?

Yes, we know ‘Hilary’ wants to reach the highest,
evermost peak, a real precedent.


Rand Paul?

Isn't he related to Ayn Rand?

With a little bit of Paul from Scripture?


Bernie Sanders?

People claim that if you use a sander for the body politic it will burn;-)

But with new ideas, one can burnish old things.


Marco Rubio?

His name doesn’t sound American. True, he was born in Florida--
‘close but no cigar.’
Remember his parents weren’t U.S. citizens.;-)

Just like Obama’s dad wasn’t; Obama was born in a U.S. 'terroritory.'
Anybody want to hop in that political pool
and play marco polo?
Just cruisin’ too.


Ben Carson?

Been moses' son? Would you buy an historic artifact
from this pyramid scheme?

He seems to ‘doctor’
the facts according to his own creation;-).


Carly Firoina?

Can you trust a business 'mogal' whose name is Carney Fear-orina?

Who uses guilt by association against
another candidate? She’s running an age old game.


Mike Huckabee?

Every time he gets the mike….what a hick to be claiming the
President is marching Jews. He's not at all like Elias Hicks.
More like those right-wing Quakers in Indiana in the 1920's.

And now he defends famous negligent
parents whose past has been ‘dug’ up. Surely you’re ‘joshing’?


Jeb Bush?

Don't 'jeb' us in the ribs.

And don't beat around the bush;
be honest about how your brother preysident said,
"I ran and I reck."


Trying to laugh my way up from the political darkness,

Daniel Wilcox

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Part #3: What Is Purity of the Heart?

Mind and Heart continuing:

After rejecting the wrong—
pornography, propaganda, emotional pollution,
obscenity, and other destructive actions,
what is the first positive step
into purity of the heart?

#1 Love what is transcendent, first.

What is finite—needs to be an also-ran,
coming in very secondary.

Everything that pollutes the heart comes from imagining,
choosing, and acting as if some finite thing
is most importance. As Plato emphasized
so long ago, and many thinkers since, love the Good.

#2 Realize that seeking the Good, the True, the Just
the Beautiful, the Loving is the first step
into each
each minute,
each hour,
each day,
each month,
each year,
each lifetime,
not one goal among many other concerns.

Purity of heart
is the true path to everything else.

#3 As good as career, projects, achievements, and success are,
choose in the present now to put humans first.

That’s called humanism, altruism, benevolence,
friendship, empathy, compassion, and so forth.

#4 Remember, that commitment in marriage is continual
continual action,
and continual promise.

Feelings come and go.
Circumstances come and go.
Understandings come and go.
Distractions come and go.

But purity of the heart is coupled to covenant.

This is when two lovers
are one in caring and sharing in the midst of their
many differences, disagreements, and mistakes.

To be continued--

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Friday, January 15, 2016

Part #2: What Is Clarity of the Mind?

Continuing with the series, Purity of Mind and Heart:

#1: Use reason to clarify your worldview, when making major decisions, and in opposing what is false, wrong, and destructive.
Steer clear of informal and logical fallacies.

#2 Keep in mind that sometimes the term fallacy can even be used as a fallacy! For example, it has often happened in “appeal to authority.” An individual states 98% of plumbers in the U.S. think that such and such pipe is more reliable than…Or most philosophers think that…
And a person who disagrees says, “Oh, that’s just an appeal to authority—Fallacy!"

Nope. Showing that most authorities in their field support a view--the consensus--isn’t a fallacy, that’s evidence.

The fallacy, “appeal to authority” is when you argue most ministers, or most people in the U.S., believe that evolution is false. That is an error in authority because whether or not evolution is true or false is a subject for biologists to study and present evidence for one way or the other (97% of scientists say evolution is a fact).

Whether or not not most ministers, or most of the public, oppose evolution as false is not significant because they aren't scientists!

#3 Though carefully thought out reasoning is the watch-word, It’s okay, (even sometimes needed or necessary), to make intuitive jumps. Scientists and other thinkers often use intuition including famous ones such as Albert Einstein. Remember his comment about how imagination is more important than knowledge.

When making intuitive leaps, however, make sure it’s not near a cliff;-).

If you’ve been studying a project or issue in depth and haven’t solved the problem, then taking a break, even sleeping on it may help. One scientist actually made an important discovery in a dream.

However, if you are about to try out a new parachute, launch a rocket, get married, or change worldviews, it behooves you to double check your sudden intuitive insight with some careful thinking and evidence.

#4 When thinking through an ethical problem, be careful about semantic confusion, simplistic terms, and confirmation bias. Take a look at Peanuts:

And consider another example of confirmation bias, semantic confusion, and simplistic term-iteness:

"I'm pro-life! Strongly against abortion. We stand with America and our troops. Remember what our Christian leader said, God's gift to America
is the atom bomb."


In the Light of Reason,

Daniel Wilcox

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Purity of the Mind and Heart

From Purex laundry soap to Pure Silk, ads emphasize the importance and beauty of purity.

But with so much negative emphasis of late on the destructive “purity culture”
of Fundamentalist Christians and Muslims
—especially where girls and women are shamed, persecuted, abused, even executed
simply for what they wear or don’t wear,
how they choose to express themselves, and so forth,
one hesitates to use the word “purity” because it’s
often now misunderstood.

But no other word really suffices.

Purity in its denotative meaning is essential for humanity. Think of purity in water.
Even the slightest infestation of bacteria or dangerous chemicals in drinking water can cause severe illness, even death quickly.

That’s why when backpacking in the Sierras
and the Grand Canyon, we always used water purification tablets.

Nobody wants pollution in water, air, or food, except the crazy or the greedy. Think of the many cases
of food poisoning in the news in the last 3 months including 80 students in New England.
That's why there are high standards in food preparation and store products.

Also, ever hear of pure gold?
Who wants gold if it’s mostly scattered in amidst other minerals which will make it hard to extract?

So what is Purity of the Mind?

Purity of the Heart?

Probably, first, it’s easiest and quickest to show what it ‘ain’t’ (to quote Huck).

#1 Think of the illusions and delusions of the mind.

Many Americans are convinced that the earth is only
a few thousand years old and that evolution is false!

Yet there is plenty of hard evidence and scientific
conclusions which show that evolution
is a fact and that the earth is billions of years old.

When we humans stop seeking what is true, but stay only
with what we learned in the past, and with what is
accepted by our culture and society, we will harm others
and ourselves eventually.

#2 Consider many of the salacious ads that appear on the Internet
(and on TV, Cable, etc.) every time we search for an article, product,
movie, idea, or to look up an old friend.
Ironically, even when I was looking for images of purity,
a few morally sick graphics came up on Google.

Even when anyone stops at a philosophical or ethical site
to read about goodness and justice,
there will be ads not only for food, health, and travel, but often also--

“20 Stars Who Clearly Aren’t Wearing Underwear”

“See What Short Skirt Kim Wore”

--ad nauseum...

#3 Who the hell cares?
(Sorry for that unpure expletive; it's intentional to emphasize the spiritual sheol
so many humans obsess in.)

#4 Unethical advertisers do. They create these clearly salacious, prurient, lewd
(whatever term you want to call it) ads to hook young adults (or not so young)
into clicking and viewing each ad which may give them a voyeuristic jolt,
and then get them to buy some product.

That is NOT purity of the heart or mind—
not for the immoral advertiser,
the idiotic sponsor,
or the morally foolish individuals who click on them.

Yet millions of humans do all the time.

#5 And the Internet--which was supposed to help bring people together,
to enrich their intellectual and emotional lives--
is instead used to make billions of dollars through pornography.

Why have we as a human species so twisted our sexuality, gotten so licentious and prurient
that we use brilliant technology to con humans into descending into a subhuman level.

Well, no, not "subhuman"; as Mark Twain wrote, that's besmirching animals.
Rather salacious ads and pornography and immoral media are anti-humanistic.


#6 Another example could be given of impurity of the mind by studying the speeches and statements of the presidential debates
and related comments.

Contrary to what all we literature teachers taught students about the danger and destruction of propaganda
(via Animal Farm by George Orwell), the current media focus has been one endless bag of informal fallacies and ad hominem.

--ad hominem,

you uneducated blob;-)

To be continued

Got rid of a little of the muck...

next the good--

In the Pure Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Urgent Human Rights Action for 7 Chinese

Please write email letters to the People's Republic of China appealing for the release of these prisoners of conscience:
Zhang Zhan, Wang Su'e, Qu Hongxia, Ran Chongbi, Li Meiqing, Wen Rengui and Sheng Lanfu.

From Amnesty International:

They "are currently detained in the Fengtai Detention Centre in Beijing on suspicion of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, a charge often used by the authorities to suppress freedom of expression."

"Six of the activists were taken away by plainclothes police officers on 14 December from outside Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court, where they had gathered with several hundred supporters of Pu Zhiqiang."

They were arrested "even though the crowd was peaceful." The individuals
had gathered to protest against the trial of Pu Zhiqiang who was imprisoned
"primarily on the basis of seven social media posts in which he criticized
the government."

"Qu Hongxia, Wang Su'e, Zhang Zhan and Li Meiqing have
been able to meet with their lawyers, while the other three
have not yet been allowed to do so."

Please write courteous letters requesting the release of these prisoners of conscience.


Fengtai District Detention Centre
No. 6 Shagang Village
Yuanpingcheng Dongnanbu
Fengtai Distirct
Beijing, People’s Republic of China
Telephone: +86 10 8368 0063 (Chinese
Salutation: Dear Director

Minister of Public Security
Guo Shengkun
14 Dongchanganjie
Beijingshi 100741
People’s Republic of China
Salutation: Dear Minister

And copies to:
Xin Jinping Guojia Zhuxi
The State Council General Office
2 Fuyoujie
Xichengqu, Beijingshi 100017
People’s Republic of China
Fax: +86 10 6238 1025

Also send copies to:
Ambassador Cui Tiankai, Embassy of the People's Republic of China
3505 International Place NW, Washington DC 20008
Fax: 1 202 495 2138 I Phone: 1 202 495 2266 I Email:

Thanks. Also visit Amnesty International's website for more information about prisoners of conscience and A.I.'s other vital human rights work around the world.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Friday, January 8, 2016

The First and the Last

Of course, this is a famous ancient quote from the Bible. The symbolic statement is still very important for humans, a vivid reference to their conviction that God--ultimate reality--is eternal, that God is, was, and will become, that God existed before the Big Bang billions of years past and will exist after the demise of the cosmos in billions of years future. (See several of my posts on philosopher Charles Hartshorne and others for more on that.)

Today, let's bring the image down to where our very finite shoe sole meets the ground in front of us, now, here, this second.

Think of yourself now, and others now, individuals you personally know now--the transcendental reality here at this moment, this hour, this very day.

Cosmology is fascinating, but so much of it is abstraction
and hypothesis.

In contrast, our conscious moment, right now, is an actual
fact--you and I exist right now
(except for atheists such as
Sam Harris who claim we don’t,
that each of our “I”s is an illusion).

This next second, minute, hour, day is our first step into the future. With that typed key, I did step.

And possibly it could be our last second, last minute, last hour, last day (and eventually some finite moment, depending on when we were conceived in the past, will be our last). 150,000 humans died today and many thousands were conceived.

252 births, 107 deaths per minute.

All we have for sure is now, this next moment.

So live as if this is always true—this moment, this minute, this hour, this day—is our first of what is to become.

Because this moment is all we have.

Why do we so often become preoccupied with superficial stuff, choose wrongly, let our inner self be twisted by immoral media or our dark side? Why do we focus on resentments, hurts, fears? Do we have time?

This next moment, sooner or later, in the not too distant future will be the last of who we have been.

So live NOW! Every moment in one sense is our first and last--never to become again.

Live for what is transcendent in this present now.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Romancing Fidelity

Loving is action. Love is choosing. Love is friendship caught fire.

But with exceptionally high divorce rates, high numbers of humans sexually active without commitment, many writers actively negating the ethic of monogamy,
the media emphasis on promiscuity,
polyamory, pornography, prostitution,
etc., it would seem
that romance and fidelity,
commitment and monogamy are in serious trouble.

“…about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.”
American Psychological Association

“A 2011 study at the University of Iowa found that a woman's loss of virginity before age 18 was correlated with a greater number of occurrences of divorce within the first 10 years of marriage.”

“A 2012 study cited by Pew Research center found that an estimated 78% of women with bachelor's degrees, and 65% of men with bachelor's degrees who marred between 2006-2010 can expect their marriages to last at least two decades. Women with a high school degree or less, on the other hand, face a meager 40% probability of their marriages surviving the same period.”

That’s the very negative news of the recent past.

In this New Year of 2016, let's move toward Romancing Fidelity. Aim for the true goal.

Fidelity: Becoming loyal, reliable, consistent.

Love: Choosing commitment.

Romancing love is “friendship that has caught fire.”

Consider the fiery words of Sherman Alexie from one of his famous short stories. Roman and Grace are a married Spokane Indian 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 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.

Love is
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

Howard Zinn, who was married for 64 years to Roslyn Shechter, until her death in 2008, has a short pithy comment about individual choice despite the negative world around:

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…

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.
― Howard Zinn

In the Love,

Daniel Wilcox