Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Lite Photos: Quirks and Slotes

Took this photo on a visit to my father when he was a patient at a hospital before his death.
Notice that before dusk, fading sunshine lights only the fins of dolphins except one.

What a beautiful bas-relief sculpture, Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, California.
[Please identify the artist if you have read about him/her.]


Nature's beauty, my photo in forest on Maui


White Whale rock on California beach by Daniel


Explosive halo off the coast of Kauai.
I shot it a few years ago.


Beauty briefly lands in the dross.
Betsy Wilcox's photo on central California coast at Monarch Butterfly Grove,
Pismo Beach

Sometimes the bizarre shows up in a summer parking lot. Maine coast, 2014

On Gulf coast of northeast Texas, a technological diamond ring
near huge chemical industry
I took the photo on my cross-country trek in May, 2017.


Fog overwhelms us.


Bigfoot tree,
on my walk in Newport Beach


Succulence and 2 leaving

Fingerpaint trees,
such unusual bark; I'm still

Gone with the jungle,
my photo from Olympia National Park, Washington

Near Long Beach, Washington,
Sign showing my age;-)
while I engage in planking

In the light of unusual sights,

Daniel Wilcox

Monday, October 29, 2018

Review of THE STORYTELLER by Jodi Picoult

It's highly ironic/tragic/weird that in the midst of reading novelist Picoult's modern thematic revisiting of the Holocaust and the nature of human evil that the massacre of Jewish people at the Tree of Life in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania occurred.

As William Faulkner wrote, "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

by Jodi Picoult

I don’t like the novel's ending at all; don’t agree with it thematically, morally, or as a fitting climatic plot conclusion. Not at all.

But then I didn’t like the very slow-stalebreadish, unbelievable beginning of the book either!

But the beginning and ending are bad for exactly opposite reasons.

The beginning is bad because Picoult’s character of the atheist Jewish baker who is guilt ridden, scarred from an accident, and selfishly insecure isn’t convincing. Seems artificial and implausible.

Even though Picoult is seeking to root the story of good and evil, right and wrong, truth and deception, guilt and forgiveness in the present by having this weak, surfacey current Jewish narrative begin her long, deep, troubling revisiting of the German-caused Holocaust, I don't think it works, at least not at the start. By the end of the novel, a reader may change his mind, but more on that later.

If I hadn’t been assigned this book for the new club I joined last month, I might have quit by page 100. Too weak of characterization, too many unconvincing plot steps, too many overly detailed long-boring descriptions of Jewish bread-making (all of which seem like Picoult going overboard on trying to show how diligently and thoroughly she studied Jewish baking in order to be accurate).

In contrast, the long horrific retelling of the 20th century horror is all too to vivid, all to real, and the book's shocking ending is too convincing, too disturbing and, too unfinishing!


I understand why Sage doesn’t forgive Joseph, and why she rejects Mary’s advice, and maybe even why she decides to kill Joseph:

1. She thinks Joseph’s massacres of Jews can’t be forgiven, and she is extremely angry at him for killing her grandmother’s best friend, and intending to kill grandmother.

2. Sage isn’t a Christian like Mary, not at all. To forgive would be to belittle, excuse, and end the horror of her grandmother’s horrific lived-story. Besides, Sage wants to keep the bitterness within her against Joseph, because it is one vital link to her grandmother that she would lose if she forgave him.

3. She deeply wants revenge and justice. If Joseph is taken by the U.S. Criminal Justice System and deported, he may get away with his life-long deception of his mass murder, since Leo has already stated that often European governments don’t execute those deported.
And she wants to personally feel and see her revenge carried out. She is closing the book, ending the horrific story now.

4. BUT why does Sage—who seems to care for Leo—lie and deceive him in the end?!
Is she reverting to her past immoral self-centered behavior?

--Is seeking to honor her grandmother’s deep wish that no one know her story since it is beyond words to describe? Leo in contrast says he is going to broadcast the whole horrific account far and wide. And Sage doesn’t want that.

--Does she have doubts about how she really feels about Leo. She says Leo said he loved her, but I don’t recall her ever saying she loves him. He loves her deeply, but maybe she, like with Adam, is only lusting with Leo?

There seem to be hints of that when she balks at his idea of her moving to D.C. to be with him instead of jumping into his arms with joy.

Also, by the downturn in the last paragraph, Picoult continues the plot and theme of unfinished story, continues the personality of Sage as a sometimes self-defeating person, avoids the happily-ever-after plot (that Picoult has been dismissive of as when she had her narrator put down Disney-ish fairy tales instead of the far more ‘grimm’ tales of the past).

And there are probably other unexplored points I’ve not yet considered.

This novel is a feast to chew the cud on, a great one not only of story-telling, but for literary reflection and analysis.

Reflective Questions:

#1 Why does Picoult have Sage get the poison from Mary’s Roman Catholic shrine garden?!!

#2 Why does Picoult bring in the whole “Jesus-loaf” spoof other than as a satire against Christianity and a way to lighten a dark novel? (When the plot step happened I was really turned off by it because it was such a parody of such real news stories, such a stark contrast with the very real Holocaust news.

#3 Why is the odd assistant baker in the store even there with such his weird talking style, in clipped haikus?

#4 Why is the store called the Our Daily Bread?
#5 Why does Sage murder Joseph with poisoned bread?

#6 Why do the blue-black petals of the monkshood “in the pale palm of Mary’s glove” after Sage cuts them look like “stigmata”?!
And all the other blood images in the narrative such as when she cuts herself to become blood sisters with Diarga?

#7 Why is Sage called Sage, especially since she is one?
And Pepper and Saffron?

#8 Why does Picoult make Sage’s fornication a situation of adultery?

#9 Why is Sage made to be so isolated, even from her sisters who don’t seem to be bad individuals?

#10 Is Joseph’s actual German name “Hartmann” a characteronym of theme and meaning?

#11 Why does the novel end with a large number of contradictory possible endings that Joseph (actually Franz) has written for her grandmother Minka’s unfinished story?

So many questions, so little time;-)

Also, I didn’t like Minka's vampire story interweaving through out the book, but then I don't like vampire stories, or any fantasy for that matter. At first I found it to be, while intriguing, often too distracting.

But now looking back I realize that besides being a strong plot step (having Sage's grandmother write a dark horror novel in the real horror of actual evil of German Concentration Camps) it does emphasize many questions as to the nature of humanity and many other themes—
1.good versus evil

2.innocence versus guilt
3.immoral versus moral

4.compassion versus cruelty
5.beauty versus ugliness

6.community versus isolation
7.truth versus deception and lies

8.private versus public

And, let us not forget, Picoult's powerful prose which included a few aphoristic gems.

Evaluation: A+/C

A few of the Zingers:
Sage: “If you end your story, it’s a static work of art, a finite circle. But if you don’t, it belongs to anyone’s imagination. It stays alive forever.” (page 459)
“That’s why we read fiction, isn’t it? To remind us that whatever we suffer, we’re not the only ones?” (page 220)

Leo: ”To be forgiven, the person has to be sorry. In Judaism, that’s called tesbuvah. It means ‘turning away from evil.’ It’s not a one-time deal, either. It’s a course of action. A single act of repentance is something that makes the person who committed the evil feel better, but not the person against whom evil was committed…That’s why Jews don’t just go to Confession, and say the rosary.” (page 188)

Sage: “It’s the question mark that comes with death that we can’t face, not the period.” (page 131)

Picoult's book is a deep abyss of story, horrific narrative, and philosophical reflection.

Don't miss The Storyteller.

In the Light of History, Truth, and Fiction,

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Please Move Away from Killing Sentient Animals

Please consider moving away from meat consumption for getting your necessary daily protein.

Take a look at this informative video on the cruelty of humankind's current high level of animal killing for food:

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

What is HUMAN?


1. Ethics--Morality, OUGHT, Good versus Evil, Justice, Human Rights

2. Reasoning

3. Creative Choice--limited 'free will,' ability and moral responsibility

4. Sense of Awe, Ultimate

5. 4th Dimensional Being--
Self Awareness
Historical Awareness
Futuristic Awareness
Transcendent Awareness

6. Sense of Beauty--Aesthetics

7. Mathematics

8. Scientific Method

9. Invention

10. Exchange of Things by Symbolic Means--Economics

11. Story-Making--Literature, Media

11. Pattern-Seeking

12. Becoming--Evolving


"Those who forget the past are condemned to fulfill it" (repeat, repeat...).
--Philosopher George Santayana

"Those who remember the past are condemned to fulfill it" (repeat, repeat...).
Also,shown in history and current events to be true.

"The past is never dead; it isn't even past."
--Nobel-Winning novelist William Faulkner

"Stories are at the center of the human condition. Everybody dreams. Try and dream in nonfiction."
Journalist Jim Trelease

"I've always tried to be aware of what I say in my films because all of us who make movies are teachers--teachers with loud voices."
--Film director and writer George Lucas, Star Wars Trilogy

"Films are the parables of our time. Ideas underline every film produced and ideas have consequences."
--Terry Lindwall, movie producer

"To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting."
--Edmund Blake


The novelist John Steinbeck wrote that all of his life he wished he had never been born!

Even if one had to stand on a narrow ledge with his face against a cliff for 70 years, it would be better than not to have been born.
--statement by Fyodor Dostoevsky, the Russian writer

"People are froth on the molten mass."
the main character in The Sea Wolf
by Jack London, highest paid writer in the world at the start of the 20th century

All humans have no more worth than a speck of gravel on the bottom of a shoe...
from Online discussion

"We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility."
Humanist Manifesto III

Every human is a "biochemical puppet."
"The Marionette's Lament" and Free Will by Sam Harris

"Murderers and rapists aren't morally responsible."
Biologist Jerry Coyne

In contrast, according to South African astrophysicist George Ellis, when asked if all humans have free will:

George Ellis: "Yes.
Einstein is perpetuating the belief that all causation is bottom up. This simply is not the case, as I can demonstrate with many examples from sociology, neuroscience, physiology, epigenetics, engineering, and physics. Furthermore if Einstein did not have free will in some meaningful sense, then he could not have been responsible for the theory of relativity – it would have been a product of lower level processes but not of an intelligent mind choosing between possible options.
--Retired astrophysicist professor George Ellis is a Quaker. He also co-wrote The Large-Scale Structure of Space-Time with Stephen Hawking

BUT one leading current non-religious historian claims that Liberty, equality, human rights, free will etc. are all "myths."
Historian Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens

In positive contrast to such stark negativity:
Many other thinkers emphasize All humans do have real inherent worth. Liberty, equality, human rights, free will are real. For instance consider the following statements:
"...recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts...
UN Declaration of Human Rights

"One of the deeply held beliefs of Friends (Quakers) is that there is inherent worth in every human being. Peace, therefore, is not just the absence of war, but requires a just society that recognizes this inherent worth. Friends actively engage in the politics of their society to bring a voice of conscience – there is no separation between beliefs and deeds."

"Friends were among the founders of many prominent social justice organizations, including Greenpeace, American Friends Service Committee, and Amnesty International, and served as leaders in the abolitionist, women’s rights and civil rights movements."

And the 7 Principles of Unitarian-Universalists:

"The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part."


In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

My Response: a 'tail' of 2 Divergent Christianities, 2 Different Spiritual Flights to the Good Flock, Friends

From Chuck Fager's intriguing--shocking, probably to most non-Catholics--account of his visit as a senior to a Catholic University in Denver, Colorado, 1959:
"To this end, it was announced one day that we would soon be treated to a field trip, all the way to Denver, to visit the nearest Catholic colleges: Regis, for men, run by the Jesuits...

"I enjoyed the trip, though I was already clear that, as a budding atheist, wherever I went to college, it would be at a secular school. This resolve was greatly strengthened when we visited, of all places, the Regis library.

"I had long had fond feelings for libraries, and at first glance, the one at Regis seemed a fine specimen: well-lighted, relatively new, with many long open shelves. Open shelves of books to me embodied freedom of thought and learning, and its liberating possibilities. But something didn’t jibe with this appealing tableau. Behind the reference desk, my eye was caught by a large area enclosed by heavy mesh metal partitions, like chain link fencing but thicker, with a locked gate. Inside were more books; I could see the shelves through the mesh.
Were they antiquities? Precious manuscripts of historic value? They didn’t look like that.

"No. My question to a cheerful librarian got a straightforward answer: the enclosure was for books on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum: the Catholic Index of Forbidden Books.

"I stared at it in fascinated horror: of course I had heard of the Index. It was hundreds of years old. Where the Church was part of or protected by governments, it went hand in hand with censorship.
"A statue marks the place in Rome where Giordano Bruno was burned in 1600. He was held prisoner for six years before execution, but refused to recant his “heretical” views...But in 1959, there were more philosophers (Kant, Spinoza, and Sartre) on it than racy novelists, or for that matter, astronomers."

READ the rest of Chuck Fager's Friendly blog article at: http://afriendlyletter.com/a-tale-of-two-nightmares-one-asleep-one-wide-awake/

Chuck Fager's experience in Christianity as a teen (Roman Catholic) is so utterly different from my own (free-will Baptist), it shows, again as so often, that there isn't and never was just one Christianity, but many contradictory ones.

It's beyond my understanding that a Catholic university in 1959 would still have a jailed section of its library for some philosophy books!
Whew...Incomprehensible to a free-wheeling moderate fundamentalist boy as myself.

Of course, we Baptists had our own no-no's--no movies, no dances, no cards, no wine, no rock n' roll, etc. BUT I could read anything that I wanted, spent many an hour at the town library, school library, etc. During my senior year, I was into reading zen (Alan Watts), Kerouac, Aldous Huxley, etc.

I'm also shocked that Regis was run by the Jesuits! About the only fact I used to know about that Catholic movement was that it was very liberal, probably far more liberal than us Baptists.

What's intriguing is that while Chuck Fager and I grew up in such completely different religious backgrounds, like many other spiritual seekers, both he and I finally found our brood in the Friends.

What was that disjointed aphorism? Friends from very different brooded feathers flock together;-)

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Jordan Peterson - The Existence of Free Will--meaning conscious moral responsibility

A very thoughtful reflection from Jordan Peterson, Canadian clinical psychologist, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, Ph.D. in clinical psychology, McGill University.

Don't be confused by the contrary claims of various thinkers who state that all humans are only helpless "puppets," incapable of moral responsibility and creative choice, etc.

Seek the Good, the True, the Just, the Altruistic, the Kind, the Equal,

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

STEPPING BACK FROM CERTAINTY: remembering we are finite, seeking what is true

Have you noticed that most of the voices currently shouting for their side (which ever one it is) seem to think they know for sure and that the other side is completely wrong?

As has happened endlessly in history past, leaders of today are forgetting that they are finite humans seeking what is true, but instead claim to know and that anyone who disagrees with them is________ (fill in the demeaned name-calling).

A few words from a brilliant character in Michael Crichton's book, Timeline, would seem good to reflect about and muse on by everyone today:

"The present is like a coral island that sticks above the water, but is built upon millions of dead corals under the surface...in the same way, our everyday world is built upon millions and millions of events and decisions that occurred in the past."

This is why confirmation bias and hostility are so present often in Republicans versus Democrats, Theists versus Atheists, Capitalists versus Socialists, and so on. Each opposing human's view of reality is partially shaped by his/her perceptional view from his/her particular coral reef.

Of course the Timeline quote is hyperbole, overstatement. Our Pasts--whether liberal or conservative, religious or non-religious don't define us completely.

We rational primates have the ability to advance, to make creative new choices, to advance closer to reality.

Most humans can choose to step back and question their presuppositions, their own understandings based upon their own worldview and life-stance which came about in the past,
it ain't easy.

If in doubt, look at how few of us are doing so.

So, let us PAUSE, and study again what we are stating, promoting, in all of these current philosophical and political conflagrations.

1. Are we aware how much of our past is leading us to hold to one position, rather than engaging in careful rational thought about it?

2. Are we remembering to be civil and courteous with those with whom we strongly disagree?

3. Are we open to new thoughts, new perspectives on these contentious arguments?

4. Do we seek to view the best arguments of our enemies with careful consideration?

5. Are we always seeking to be aware of our own confirmation bias?

6. Do we demonstrate benevolence toward those whose views we strongly, rightly, oppose?

Seek what is true,

Daniel Wilcox