Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Missing Star and Cradle in Palestine-Israel

Missing Star and Cradle

Weird Christmas Eve 46 times past
With no holly, blinking red or green lights,

No 'holy' decorations, only the gaudy glare
Of cold Jerusalem's neon theater sign;

We watched Catch 22 with our kibbutz bunch
After being frisked for bombs at the entrance.

Years explode by while politicians yet pitch
Uncradled in the maze of their doctrinal hype;

The sacred cave's still dark and unstable,
For more unwise men, so starless, misrule.

--Dan Wilcox

First pub. in Danse Macabre
and in poetry collection,
Psalms, Yawps, and Howls

Monday, December 7, 2020

Review of the Philosophy Book, War of the Worldviews by the Phyisicist Leonard Mlodinow and Spirituality leader Deepak Chopra

War of the Worldviews: Where Science and Spirituality Meet--and Do Not

This book shows great potential. Consider the depth of the worldview questions that Chopra and Mlodinow answer based upon their counter views of Reality!

How Did the Universe Emerge?

Is the Universe Conscious?

Is the Universe Evolving?

What is the Nature of Time?

Is the Universe Alive?

What Is Life?

Is there Design in the Universe?

What Makes us Human?

How Do Genes Work?

Did Darwin Go Wrong?

What Is the Connection Between Mind and Brain?

Does the Brain Dictate Behavior?

Is the Brain Like a Computer?

Is the Universe Thinking Through Us?

Is God an illusion?

What Is the Future of Belief?

Is There a Fundamental Reality?

And Mlodinow’s explanations are lucid, detailed, and measured. Chopra less so, though he makes a few good points that show the weaknesses of Mlodinow’s worldview, Naturalism.

The huge problem elephant in the room is Chopra’s ‘Spirituality” an Asian religious philosophical worldview, basically a non-organized Hinduism shorn of ritual and mythology based mostly in the Upanishads. He not so subtly fails to explain the central essence of his beliefs-- that all is God.

Though he hints at it by quoting the famous statement in the Upanishads that Reality is ‘THAT’; we humans are THAT! A famous rock group in the late 1960’s wrote a New Age song with that key line as its chorus.

In shocking contrast, Mlodinow’s “Reductionist” view diminishes the human species to only physical particles, though he tries to avoid the nihilism of many modern hard atheist/materialists by being civil in his responses and trying to present a humanistic view of the human species.

But he never explains how IF mind only comes from the brain, and the brain from mindless and meaningless evolution, and at the microlevel reality is deterministic, how in the cosmos can humans have any significance, how can “wonder” and “caring,” exist except as illusions, etc. How can humans have any worth, be more than particles moving about?

At the same time I was listening to the Audible version of this book, I read an intriguing review of British philosopher Christian List’s book, Why Free Will Is Real, and also listened to a deep interview with him by Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine.

Though, at times List is also unclear how one can avoid the opposite abysses of Scylla versus Charybdis—all is aware Mind versus all is meaningless atoms-- at least he does explain a middle way.

Like the famous astrophysicist George Ellis, and other non-reductionists, List explains the key is to realize higher-level activities in reality can’t be reduced to only microlevel atoms (like materialists and other reductionists attempt to do).

For instance, it’s the case of comparing physics at the microphysical level where only atoms are moving about with in contrast, the physicist at the conscious aware level wo is taking a break and deciding whether or not to have tea or coffee:-).

Or think how different only atoms physically determined reality is from at a far more complex different level, a psychologist helps an emotionally disturbed human to choose to change his destructive habits.

Or how different only atoms in a materialistic reality is from at the more complex level where an architect plans whether or not to use steel and glass on the front side of a new office building.

Obviously, the latter 2 examples of humans making choices can’t be reduced to only the movement of deterministic atoms from the Big Bang.

List’s view of reality is very different from both the “Conscious Mind of the Universe” of Chopra and the hard materialism of Mlovodov.

While Mldodov presents his case more moderately than such as Sam Harris with his podcast “Tumors All the Way Down,” the claims seem to be essentially the same-- only atoms are real, not human value and worth, and alternative and creative choices.

Those are illusions. And Jerry Coyne who claims that a human who “chooses” to murder or rape couldn’t have done otherwise since all atoms at the physical level of Reality determines everything.

Overall, though War of Worldview is worth the read, I was dissatisfied with both worldviews, would choose neither.

Evaluation: C+

Dan Wilcox

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Practical Moral Realism versus Theists and NonTheists' Claims that They Know the Nature of Reality

Again, so many nontheists and theists are claiming to “know” the nature of Reality. Heck many of them state that even if the cosmos repeated a “trillion” times, I would still hit the wrong key for a word in the last sentence, the Civil War would be fought, and the Germans and Russians would still mass-murder many millions of humans, etc.

Either because the Cosmos itself is huge deep time determinism or because God foreordained/determined every future event, every movement of even one molecule before time existed.

In contrast, it seems that the Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh has a far better view: "Life is so short. It must not be spent in endless metaphysical speculation that does not bring us any closer to the truth."

Thich doesn't mean that he doesn't speculate sometimes. I've read a bunch of his books and he does at times deal with metaphysical ideas—some even very esoteric. But for the most part Thich is concerned with living ethically at this moment and the next moment.

Notice two key points: Much metaphysical speculation is just that--intellectual guessing about what no finite human knows. I must admit as a thinker, I enjoy intellectual thinking games that theologians/philosophers engage in. They are fascinating. And in some ways they enhance one’s thought life. HOWEVER none of that has ever helped me be more compassionate or patient or just or kind.

No theologian or nontheist philosopher's claims-- either about what ultimate reality was doing before creation or in contrast claiming the cosmos is meaningless matter, energy, and chance has ever helped me live my daily life ethically.

Furthermore, I find myself wondering how the creedal theologians or the nontheist philosophers "know" so much about Reality considering that the cosmos itself is many thousands of light years across, and cosmologists think there may be even a multiverse, etc.

How do creedal Christians ‘know’ that God preordained most humans to eternal torment before the creation of the universe? That all humans are inherently evil?

How do Nontheists know that there is no purpose, no meaning, no ultimate reality to all that is? That all humans have no inherent worth?

I admit, I don't know Reality in this sense.

Rather, I have experienced that matter, chance, and energy are NOT the final word about life. Over 65 years, I have experienced that infants aren’t “in essence, evil.” But I don’t “know” in an intellectual sense.

Lest I take us down a dead-end side-trail, I will avoid giving detailed examples (though it is difficult for me as a retired literature teacher and creative writer not to; I am example-driven:-)

My trust that we experience Ultimate Reality in peak experiences, in altruistic actions, in just methods is only that. It’s not “belief” -driven like the claims of many famous theists and nontheists.

Notice Thich's last word in his wise sentence: "closer to the truth."

I do think that reason, communion, sharing, caring in the Light do bring us closer to ultimate.

But I don’t “know.”

Hope in the Light of Reason, Altruism, Justice, Honesty...

Dan Wilcox

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The Importance of Defining the Term "G-d" When Discussing Philosophy, Worldviews, and Lifestances

The famous philosopher Martin Heidegger seems to show insight for how atheists and theists ought to dialogue: "Who is God? That is perhaps beyond the possibilities of our asking. But what is God? That we should ask."

Too often atheists assume a particular image, usually an anthropomorphic one, as the given for the definition of the term, "God."

And, too often, theists assume (except for fundamentalists and creedalists) that everyone listening to them will not associate their use of the "God" word with mythological versions.

That's one reason I prefer Webster-Merriam Collegiate Dictionary's first definition of the word, God: "the supreme or ultimate reality:"

Then with that start, theists and atheists can more clearly articulate what they do and do not think is true about reality, whether atheism generic is more true, atheism-materialism, particular organized religion's various anthropomorphic versions of "God," various forms of deism, process thought of Whitehead, Asian philosophical views, etc.

Is "ultimate reality" Chance or Determinism or the Good or Intelligence or Impersonal Will or Illusion of Matter or Laws of Physics or Consciousness or Principle or Trinity or Multiple Realities or Infinite Mind or Emergent from Matter or Process or Mystery or Unknown, and so forth?

There is something to be said for Einstein's emphasis that the human species in trying to ferret out the truth about reality is like a small child in a vast almost infinite library who has just started to explore.

In the LIGHT,

Dan Wilcox

Monday, November 30, 2020

"Where would you most like to be right now?" Favorite Scenic Places

1. "Where would I most like to be right now?"*

So many scenic places nipping at me, but none has got the playful jaws to clench the "sight".:-)

Maybe on the Boucher Trail in the Grand Canyon in the spring or fall...

Or hiking along Glacier Point’s rim in the early summer...

Or looking for sea shells and agates on a warm beach day on the southern California coast, Morro Rock Strand or Laguna...

Or somewhere in the bright red and cream-shaded rock landscape of southern Utah in Zion...

Or walking on a mild summer day through the light and shadows amongst the giant sequoia redwoods...

*Question from How Far Will You Go? by Evelyn McFarlane & James Saywell

In the Light, Dan Wilcox

Monday, November 23, 2020


DEFINITION: "The terms equality and equity are often used interchangeably; however, they differ in important ways. Equality is typically defined as treating everyone the same and giving everyone access to the same opportunities. Meanwhile, equity refers to proportional representation (by race, class, gender, etc.)"
Winston-Salem State University

Equality is true and ought to always be lived by, but “equity” as popularly promoted at present isn't good or true. That certain groups, or races, or classes ought to be given special privilege and individuals who because of their class, or race, or group ought to be denied equality--that is wrong. It is a denial of classic liberalism to treat individuals primarily as part of a group, class, and race.

Too often that leads to inequality, injustice, misuse, abuse, unfairness, even divisive division, propaganda, Marxist actions, even hatred, false labeling of all individuals of a certain group or class or race as bad.

Heck, even though I began working and demonstrating against racial injustice long ago back in 1965 and though I support marriage for same sexual couples, etc., recently I was verbally attacked as being of “white supremacy” and of being “homophobic”!

Why?! Because I happen to belong to the white race, and am of the grouping that supports the nuclear family.

BLM and other such organizations (on the extreme left and the extreme right) instead of focusing on individuals, their inherent worth, their differences, etc., view society as competing groups. Two of BLM’s founders claim to be “Marxists.”

Contrary to the drum-beating of equity, the standards, for instance, for admission to a college ought to be the same for everyone!

To give preferential treatment to an individual who happens to be Black or poor or a woman or from a bad neighborhood is to treat him not as an individual but as primarily part of a race, a group, a class, a gender/sex.

This the sort of political propaganda that focuses on—blaming the current major society for the ills of the minority (even though those ills come from a variety of sources, including some of the individuals and their wrong choices within that grouping, besides racism, etc.).

However, this is not to say, that disadvantaged young adults ought not to be helped. Injustice in the past, immoral actions of the past, and so forth ought to be righted now.

BUT the way they ought to be helped isn’t by disadvantaging individuals who happen to belong to other groupings--white or Asian or middle class or male or from a stable, civil neighborhood.

There ought to be equal standards for all—equality.

Then beyond that equality--not disadvantaging a person just because he is white or Asian-- the government and society can still make additional efforts, plans, etc. to help those who have grown up disadvantaged.

For instance, instead of quotas, special privileges, or giving lower standards for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, those individuals who can’t meet the requirements can be given extra tutoring, extra help in getting tools such as computers, etc.

That way everyone is treated equally, but those who because of social and cultural injustice, poor circumstances, or abusive background, etc. are given extra help to meet and achieve the same standards.

Hopefully, balancing equality with extra help for those in need will help achieve the good, true, and just.

In the Light, Dan Wilcox

Friday, October 30, 2020

The Significance of the Human Species from an Enlightenment Perspective

Why do quite a few modern thinkers (from Stephen Jay Gould to Yual Noah Harari to Sam Harris) emphasize minimizing, negating, discounting, dehumanizing, etc.—and that all humans lack inherent worth?

These naysayers deny so many essential characteristics that define what a human is—the reality of human conscious awareness, moral realism, the ability to reason, to think so we can transcend our limited space in time and place, our ability to choose among alternative actions, our moral responsibility, our creativity, hope for an open future, the amazing structure of our brain and body, our DNA, artistic creations, sense of wonder and awe, and so forth.

But enough of the negative. What I wish to write about is the significance of the Enlightenment Story of humans.

This story rejects superstition, tradition, intolerance, injustice, inequality, oppression, dogmatic pride, and instead emphasizes reason, the scientific method, openness, justice, equality, caring and compassion and cognizant humility toward the wonder and mystery of reality, the cosmos, the nature of sentient life, the human species, and human reflecting and seeking.

The story goes like this. Ultimate Reality brought into being and becoming the cosmos (this universe, or the multiverse if indeed there is more than one cosmos) about 13.8 billion years ago.

For transcendent reasons unknown to our limited human minds, over that vast period of time in an expanse beyond most people’s fathoming, U.R., popularly called “God,” brought about a complex movement of the physical which developed into galaxies, solar systems, and planets, etc. about 9 billion years ago.

Our Milky Way galaxy alone has over 100 billion stars, and there are over a trillion other galaxies in the observable universe!

Then, approximately, at least 3.5. billion years ago, 1 billion years after its coming into becoming, basic life first appeared. Life followed evolutionary paths which branched out in many directions until at some point sentient life, and then intelligent life (able to use reason and to reflect and to transcend) came to be and to become.

One form of this intelligent life appeared in a minor solar system on the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy, which is called by us, the human species.

For hundreds of thousands of years, we as a species remained primarily at an instinctive level just surviving in at times hostile environments, but yet sensing a transcendence in our short life that came out as basic reverence and awe at existence and life.

Gradually, humans kept seeking, discovering, and reflecting on reality, especially in the last 10 thousand years. Of course, humans often erred into superstition and delusion when trying to ascertain the meaning of it all. Learning isn't quick nor is it easy.

At present, multi-millions of humans still tend to swing off center to 2 extremes—1. that of an egocentric organized religious view where the human species, despite its brief tiny presence in a vast universe, is the very center of creation


2. the other already mentioned, a secular negating view where the human species is considered, inconsequential, a minor “bush” in the evolutionary jungle of life.

The Enlightenment view seeks a more balanced view, one that recognizes our species’ tiny presence and its very limited understanding of the in depth aspects of reality, let alone to know extensively why or even how it all came about,


which is amazed in wonder and awe that in our brief consciousness, awareness, reflection, reason, and transcendence we get to participate in this incredible adventure of reality.

We get to seek, to study, to test, to question, to grow however slowly toward greater and greater knowledge of this vast existence. And that, my friend, (to quote an old Quaker) is the joy and wonder of our living, and becoming aware.

In the Light,

Dan Wilcox

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

In this time of Simplistic Extremisms, Consider, instead, the PARADOX OF TRUTH

Religous thought often seems dysfunctionally extreme, so very false. On one side are the exclusivists, the theological determinists (who I have already dealt with in past blogs), ones who claim God only wills to save a limited number of humans, and the rest of us are preordained to Hell for his pleasure and glory. Pray tell me where the Good News is in that hopeless despair.

On the other side, are the inclusivists, the universalists who emphasize that all humans will be saved, that Hell will eventually be emptied. This sounds so good and has found strong support among great moral leaders of the past from Origen in the 4th century to the 20th century Greek scholar William Barclay. The position has recently been championed by Quaker writers Phillip Gulley and James Mulholland. But there is a huge problem here as well. See below.

In the New Testament, Jesus, instead, speaks in paradoxes. Consider this statement: Matthew 7:14 NASB "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."

Why does Jesus talk so exclusively at this point when elsewhere in the biblical text, he is the ultimate inclusivist/universalist? He emphasizes how God is not willing for anyone to perish in his or her wrong ways, that God is like a father who longs for the return of his wayward sons and daughters, like a woman who rejoices when her precious possession that was lost is found.

Here’s the key: As appealing as the universalism of the Good News is of what use is it to tell everyone that all people are loved, are of inherent worth, if we don’t help each individual change, overcoming his wrong actions?

For in fact, at this very moment multi-millions of particular individual humans are living in minor or major hells on earth or ‘living like hell’ hurting others.

Of what use are liberal religious platitudes, no matter how wonderful they sound theoretically, if in fact we aren’t seeking to help ourselves and others to change toward the Good, the Just and the Compassionate right now?

Of what use is theology claiming truth when at present Christians and Muslims are killing each other allegedly for God? Of what use is universalism when at present multi-millions of individuals are suffering loss, being selfish, living immorally, being discriminated against, drinking to excess, abusing others or being abused, making war, living in pride, greed, lust, envy...?

The Truth, the Good News, is only universal in the here and now when it is accepted, when we turn from our wrong thoughts, deceitful choices, egocentric ways, bad actions.

The True, Good, and Compassionate is constantly real, but when we as humans refuse to respond to the Truth, the Good, and the Loving in actual living situations, those moral truths are again crucified within us, and others suffer because of our wrong choices.

This is Jesus’ point! For example, Jesus loves the rich young man, but he can’t help him when the young man refuses to give up his hoarding, his greed and personally accept the truth and change, becoming generous and sharing.

The way to Truth is narrow though the Truth of the way is as wide as infinity:-)

In the Light of Truth, Justice, Equality, and Compassion,

Dan Wilcox

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Stepping Through the Door in a Crisis

Most humans spend their time looking through windows…but others take a big step to meet a new challenge or to explore a different world than their past settled ways. They step through the door, cross the threshold and change their future. --Anon

How might you step through the door to meet a new challenge or to explore a different world than your past settled ways?

How have you in the past made a major decision to cross a threshold?

What was the result of your decision?

At present we are facing a number of crises in 2020. Many are looking through windows, trying to keep what is or return to the past.

Write about how you might step through the door to explore a different world than your past.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Heroic: A Passing Teenager Saved a Mother and Children from Their Burning Car


"A teen rescued a mother and three children, including a 1-year-old in a car seat, from a burning car in Waterbury on Wednesday and police have honored him for his bravery.

The parking lot at 24 Swift Place in Waterbury still has charred remains of an SUV, which was fully engulfed in flames when first responders arrived Wednesday afternoon. The scene could’ve been one of a terrible tragedy if not for the courageous act of an 18-year old.

Trapped inside the SUV, just before it burst into flames, were a mother and three small children.
“I felt helpless,” said Latrisha Chambers of Waterbury. “All I could do is pray. I was screaming for help.”

Jaylah, Ellie and Isaiah, ages 9, 4 and 1, were inside with their mother before Justin Gavin ran to their aid.

Gavin, the passing teenager said, “As I saw the car coming, I saw the little kids in the back, I kept yelling, the car’s on fire. The car’s on fire,” said Gavin, who was just getting off a bus in the area when he witnessed what was happening.
"...said he saw the flames flickering beneath the car, beginning to build when he started to help the children from the burning vehicle.
“I told the little girl to unbuckle her seatbelt as fast as she can so when I threw open the door, I could just pull them out,” said Gavin.

Chambers said she was in shock during the frightening moments while Gavin was assisting.

“He’s like get out, get out,” said Chambers. “Everybody’s like you got to get out, it’s on fire and I didn’t know it was on fire.”

Gavin said he doesn’t scare easily but in this case was nervous. “I was kind of scared because I’ve never seen a burning car before.”

To recognize the heroic effort, Waterbury Police honored Gavin Wednesday, giving him something normally reserved for officers themselves, the chief’s commemorative coin.

Meanwhile Chambers has a message for Gavin, the person she refers to as her angel. “There’s nothing I could do to show you or ever repay what you did for me and my children, ever,” she said.

The event may have had an altering effect on Gavin’s life too. Before this he had dropped out of school. Now he is not only considering returning but is thinking about a career as a first responder.

“I probably most likely will join the police force or become a firefighter,” he said. “Because after yesterday I feel like there’s more people that can be helped.”

You can watch the video of police honoring Gavin..."

Friday, September 4, 2020

"Half of U.S. Christians say casual sex between consenting adults is sometimes or always acceptable"--So contrary to what is true; contrary to moral realism

Wow! These PEW statistics show most Americans reject what is a central moral truth--that sexual relations ought to be lived in a life-long committed relationship of a loving couple. That sexual promiscuity is ALWAYS morally wrong.

So bizarre that even half of U.S. Christians say "casual sometimes or always acceptable."

What I am convinced of, however, is that moral realism is true--that fidelity and commitment are true for all humans.

But according to PEW not any longer.

FROM PEW: "Half of Christians say casual sex – defined in the survey as sex between consenting adults who are not in a committed romantic relationship – is sometimes or always acceptable. Six-in-ten Catholics (62%) take this view, as do 56% of Protestants in the historically Black tradition, 54% of mainline Protestants and 36% of evangelical Protestants."

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Memories: a time for in the fall...

A time for...

In the fall a time for springing

festivals of Monet-splashed leaves
that my sister and I raked and piled high
in the deep ditch in front
and jumped down into,

and our large garden behind the parsonage
with pumpkins, melons, and withered corn rows...

and lightning bugs on the wane,
flashing on and off

full of fall...

--Dan Wilcox

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Words of Hope and Moral Choice even in the worst evil

In Every Crisis
when flailed, blind-sided,
going down fast in
a basket abyss shrivel of worth-loss
and hope fails all drowned,
do we launch deeper into the deep?

do we weep,
do we shrive?

for in every crisis

*From crawler to butterfly--chrysalis
Even in the worst, most evil events, each of us still has the difficult possibility of heeding Viktor Frankl’s shocking words about their horrific experiences in Auschwitz Concentration Camp:

“Between stimulus [even trying to survive at Auschwitz!] and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
“As we see it, an analogous relationship between the realm of human freedom and a realm superior to man is quite imaginable,
so that man is endowed with free will...”
Viktor E. Frankl, survivor of Auschwitz Concentration Camp. However, his wife died in Bergen Belsen.

“(26 March 1905 – 2 September 1997 was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, and a Holocaust survivor, of Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Kaufering and T├╝rkheim. Frankl was the founder of logotherapy (literally "healing through meaning") a meaning-centered school of psychotherapy…part of existential and humanistic psychology theories. He is the author of over 39 books; he is most noted for his best-selling book Man's Search for Meaning based on his experiences in various Nazi concentration camps...
"In 1941 he married his first wife Tilly Grosser, who was a station nurse at the Rothschild hospital. Soon after they were married, she became pregnant but they were forced to abort the child. Tilly died in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. His father Gabriel died in the Terezin concentration camp (Theresienstadt) in 1942. His mother and brother, Walter, were both killed in Auschwitz."
from Wikipedia

In the Light of Moral Realism,

Dan Wilcox

Saturday, August 15, 2020

pebbled poems strewn along the shore of this life

First pub. in The Houston Review

utah bolder

eye widening rock
pastels bold in harvest's sun--
basalt garden wonder


dying leaves fluttering
oaks and aspen into glory


at the park's bat box

my grandson scooping up handfuls
of dust
and swinging it loose--
fogged clouds
lighted by sunshine
that disperse
back to cleated ground


gull wings
lightly spraying over gray clod fields

6-year drought--
so 'irrigating'!




date palms swaying up
in crimson's sky
feather dusting


Lapping Ideas

Backstroking across the ceiling
white gulls of light arcing
wing refraction

from the high intensity bulbs above
that shekel-flash on the blue body waves of the pool
bright incandescent—dare we say transcendent—lights

swimming in this liquid marble
strikes of lightening broken
and broken on the waves
like archetypes that shimmer in this cavern
and electrify under water across the blue cement,
chimeras of our mental synapses;

After the swim, stepping out the glass door
into the brilliant sunlight--

Shades of Plato.


shadowed mail box
overwhelmed by green, purple
bloom jungled wonder



a trail of dashes
translucent on our red brick--
night's telltale caller


lines, no white clothes but
birds black in a row clothes-pinned
to telephone wires



starbacked night, coffee-drunk sky:
rows of cars metal
at the red orb,

a lone skateboarder foot-struts,
waiting for the flash of sage green
his board-wheeler a bill of adding
getting a toehold
from the faceless

hidden in their dark auto glass

when all dreams night
into marred perception


Fog rising in the west
Watercolor washed
Horizon faded jean
Sky filled east
By the blazing sun
Central Valley


falling like cold ash--prayer in our last hour


dusked stars, galactic stream--shimmering in twilight


snow falls to crystal
path deep white over my knees--
light inside my head


ice melts
clear splashes on the teak matt
our heat,
'tinder' intense caresses
and our slushious kiss


warped fence boards in sand
lean askew toward green windbreak--
old gnarled cypress


horse trailer rattles
by curved eucalyptus leaves
that skit to gutter


yellow-beaked birds perch
in the wind-shifted branches
clamorous squawking


Cambria fire

green vines wind up fences
bursting with succulent grapes--
but dusted in ash


crinkly gray strands caught
in my black brush of bristles
approaching heir time


Up Early

In the gray-hazed dawn
Pale light blossoms
Softly explode from a violet tree
Rising by a jade-green hedge
Birdsong morning


Night Watch Psalm

Walled granite
One mile
Below the rocked rim
In the rusted Canyon
Rushing Colorado
River russet copper;
Nearby in the evened dusk
I lay ‘stilled,’ a silent psalm
In the shine
Of that lighted granite
Eyes wide in the dawn
Of that Night



Seek the moral compass
Round the world ringed
Don't pass by on the other side;
Be passionate
And encompass
Love's Sphere


when one doesn't
see the dark


Some poems first pub. in The Green Silk Journal, Stylus Poetry Journal, Idlewheel, ink sweat and tears, 4 and 20 poetry, Full of Crow, The Cherry Blossom Review, etc.

In poetry's lightness,

Dan Wilcox

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Book Review: STAMPED FROM THE BEGINNING by Ibram X. Kendi

This non-fiction survey of racism in American history is well worth the read. It is a good introduction to racism in American history and the winner of the National Book Award. The explanations and descriptions of early 16th to 18th racist leaders are seldom written about, so few people know of that era other than brief descriptions of the murderous Middle Passage.

Kendi has a deep passion for what he writes, and he gives new readers a handy way to break down and to remember all of the complex events, leaders, and crises that took place over hundreds of years. His handy key history sheet reduces all humans into about 4 or 5 categories related to the topic of racism--there are racists, or assimilators, or accommodators (not his term, can’t remember, but something like it), and a small number are anti-racists.

So this popular book in a simple basic sense at first, is helpful, especially for those who don't know racism's history.

And, despite his skimming across the surface of most of American history, Kendi does go a bit more deeply into the horrific tragedy of Reconstruction and its racist aftermath when the racist Redeemers took over all Southern governments between 1865 and 1879 (and the U.S. government let them; indeed, the Hays government helped them!:-()

His book was a good review for me of that time period since I read Foner’s Reconstruction, a scholarly tome about 7-10 years ago.
HOWEVER by midpoint Kendi’s basic schematic for categorizing all of humankind begins to show signs of distortion, misleading claims, down-wrong falsehood, and confusion. He obsesses to make everyone fit into his ideological biases, into his few cookie-cutter stereotypical categories.

Cutting every human to fit into one of his 4 or 5 Procustrian beds. He, especially does this when he attempts to blame almost everyone for holding racist views, even calls nearly all abolitionists and Civil Rights workers “racist” including Garrison, Douglas, and Martin Luther King! And then his book gets worse.

#1 Kendi confuses inherent worth of all humans with thinking that all humans essentially have the same immediate achievement ability. He thinks American leaders who thought that illiterate, abused ex-slaves weren’t immediately ready for voting, leading, and achieving were racists because of that. Maybe some of them were.

Contrary to what Kendi asserts, American leaders seeking to help ex-slaves become literate before they were allowed to vote (and become full citizens) weren't "racist," weren't denying their inherent worth. Rather it was an acknowledgment that despite the Blacks' human inherent worth, enslavement had hindered them, had kept them from achievement in many areas, and that therefore, the ex-slaves needed to be given the means and finances and education to work toward achieving what had been previously denied them.

Most of ex-slaves, especially the field workers, weren’t as capable as educated Whites and free Negroes, just like at-risk teens raised in dysfunctional abusive families aren’t immediately capable of the same achievements as teens raised in high-achieving positive, loving families.

Kendi goes onto to claim that unless all Africans were immediately given total control of their nations in Africa in the post-colonial era, then the leaving European leaders were just as racist and oppressive as their forebears who had committed so much evil. Not so.

This shows a severe lack of historical understanding, anthropology, etc. OR more likely, since Kendi is a brilliant individual with a PhD., his claims show how ideological-driven his book is.

He repeatedly commits either/or fallacies, blames all human horrors on only whites, excuses all POC from any responsibilities, and so forth.

A quick cursory glance at African nations, as they are now, 50-100 years later shows that Kendi’s view is delusionary, confused, and wrong.

No African nations, not a single one—at least none that I can think of--have rational, civil, democratic, balanced leaders. YEt most of the the nations have amazing natural resources and great potential. And millions of worthy humans who could accomplish much if given the chance.

But instead these nations' resources have been squandered by a succession of corrupt, often brutal dictators, autocrats, even mass murderers!

Some of these immoral horrors can be blamed on the abuse, misuse, racism, and massive theft of colonialism, but not all, or even most. Think of Uganda under Idi Amin, the Rwanda genocide, the former Congo, Zimbabwe under Mugabe (who has turned the former bread-basket of Africa into a failed malnourished state), Mozambique, Egypt, Algeria, Somalia, etc.

The few somewhat better functioning nations such as Kenya still have much poverty, suffer many killings during violent elections, engage in plenty of irrational behaviors, and lots of unnecessary suffering.

Even mostly democratic South Africa (probably the best example of a modern state in Africa) has since the end of Apartheid, been poorly governed, and even worse run, by the corrupt leader, Jacob Zuma, a polygamist, who built a mansion while millions of citizens still live in shacks and poverty, etc.

Though S.A. has had about 30 years to start making huge changes, restructuring and opening up the nation to ALL of its citizens, Black leaders (with the exception of the elderly Mandela) have failed miserably.

It’s true that many years of racist ruling by the white supremacist Dutch Reformed leaders left behind many severe problems, but Black leaders for the most part haven’t solved those and, instead, have created more problems of their own.

Nor does Kendi deal with horrific African leaders of the historic past such as Shaka and the Zulu. Nor does he engage with the tribal slaughters by Blacks that occurred in Africa for centuries and that still happen.

Instead, Kendi acts like only white Europeans are racist and engage in all manners of evil.

It's tragically true that hundreds of years of oppression, persecution, abuse, enslavement, and slaughter were caused by white Europeans. Kendi is correct there.

Where he misleads is that he fails to identify and deal with the hundreds of years of Black and Brown people's evil actions.

Further, Kendi defends the horrific criminal riots of the late 1960’s in the U.S. calling them anti-racist “rebellions”!

Any quick overview of U.S. history shows this to be completely untrue. Arson-burnings of many blocks of businesses including Black ones, massive lootings, vandalism, killings, etc. aren’t anti-racist “rebellions”! They are criminal riots.

He goes onto support the criminal Black Panthers and other violent Black racists who committed crimes including many killings.

Kendi also seems to defend ‘gangsta rap with its endless obscenities, calls for lethal violence, injustice, and so forth. He defends such rappers as Tupac.

About the only Black leader for civil rights that Kendi thinks gets good marks for anti-racism is Angela Davis! Yet she is a doctrinaire communist! Davis, allegedly, refused to condemn the Soviet Union and other communist nations for their imprisonment of millions of innocent protesters, writers, and scientists, and for their state-murder of millions.

Good grief, Davis admires Lenin, one of the worst leaders of the 20th century, guilty for the death of millions of humans!

Davis even accepted the Lenin Prize. Etc.

While her direct involvement in the kidnapping and murders of people by the Jacksons, and the attempt to help George Jackson to break out of San Quentin was rejected by the jury in her trial, the fact that she allowed the younger Jackson to use her own guns shows negligence. Heck, allegedly, she employed Jonathan as her bodyguard.

What had happened to the Black nonviolence of great leaders like Bayard Rustin who convinced a wavering King to not even have a gun in his home?
Davis also supports South African Winnie Mandela as a woman of "courage"! Sick!..Read about that immoral, unjust leader who advocated murder of others by burning tires around their bodies!

Kendi appears to admire Chairman Mao, one of the worst mass murderers of human history!

Kendi speaks positively of W.E.B. Du Bois going to meet Mao in the late 1950’s. That’s about the time Mao caused the starvation deaths of millions of innocent Chinese. Then there are the millions Mao intentionally slaughtered.

Further, Kendi claims that even Frederick Douglas, William Lloyd Garrison, Dubois, King, Obama, etc. held racist views. I kid you not.

He doesn’t mention the great Civil Rights leader, Bayard Rustin, who began protesting back in the 1940’s! Then advised King and others in the 1950's Please read the powerful biography, Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin.

Nor in all of his over 500 pages does Kendi speak of the huge influence of heretical and liberal Christianity as the source and standard bearer of anti-racism, abolition, civil rights, etc, (except for a few comments on Woolman and Quakerism).

And the further the book goes, the more obsessed, Kendi becomes in his simplistic ideological claims. As Kendi says in a recent interview, he thinks all humans are either racist or anti-racist. Another case of the either/or fallacy.

Worst of all Kendi thinks that the solution for racism is power and self-interest, not altruism or spiritual elevation or moral realism. Forget about King, John Lewis, and so many others who emphasized that the answer to racism and all other evils is altruism.

The central basis of Kendi’s book appears to be Critical Race Theory, though I don’t remember him actually writing about that overtly.

In the 3rd section of the book (an era that I know well), I started skimming for key names and actions because his commentary is superficial and a distortion of 20th century history and leaders. I do agree with his condemnation of the unjust actions of the famous racist leaders.

In conclusion, I am glad I read Stamped, despite its distortions and failures and ideological fanaticism.

I do agree that racism is still with us, and that the long evil shadow of the enslavement past still distorts American culture and society, and that all of us need to work to alter all that is wrong, and that intensive help needs to be given to Blacks and others who have suffered from structural racism of the past.

But the HUGE glaring chasm in Kendi’s book is that he blames only Whites for racism.

He never deals with the fact that Blacks were the ones in Africa who sold millions of other Blacks into slavery, or that long before Europeans came down the coast and started the Middle Passage, Brown Muslims were enslaving millions of Blacks for centuries, etc.

And, most, negligently, Kendi dismisses any Black responsibility for immorality, injustice, and killings. He never deals with Black crime, including the horrific slaughter by Blacks in Chicago, including many children. Instead, he blames everything on white racism!

Kendi also denies that Blacks are responsible for vandalism, abuse, drug-use, prostitution, broken families, missing fathers, illegitimate children, promiscuity, etc. OR sometimes he does even worse, Kendi justifies immoral and the unjust actions by Blacks claiming that those wrong actions aren’t really wrong!

I was tempted to next write that Kendi has done a “white-wash” of American history, but, heck, he would no doubt accuse me of racist speech.


In the Light of Justice, Goodness, and Equality,

Dan Wilcox

Monday, July 27, 2020

Part #3: Significant Influences--Writers Francis Schaeffer and Jack Kerouac's Life Stances

Writers who ‘fathered’ me, giving my young adult self various versions of deep time eyes:

1. Thomas Merton, Liberal Catholic Monk, Meditator, and Social Moralist

2. Friends for 300 Years by Howard Brinton

3. Henry David Thoreau, Transcendentalist who Wrote “Civil Disobedience”

4. ERB, Edgar Rice Burroughs, SF Author of simplistic, but enjoyable stories of Barsoom and other galactic adventures

5. Aldous Huxley, Brilliant Author and Thinker of Brave New World, Island, and Point Counter Point

6. C.S. Lewis, Ex-atheist Liberal Christian Thinker and Fiction Writer

7. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Christian Leader who Opposed Hitler, The Cost of Discipleship

And there were other writers, whose legacy has been only partially good, because they communicated bad and fallacious views, ideas, and harmful actions. They were bad models for young impressionable Dan:

21. Francis and Edith Shaeffer, famous couple who founded L’Abri. He, at first a missionary to the Swiss beginning in the late 1940’s, later became a Christian philosophical apologist and she wrote a famous biographical, inspirational book about their famous Christian community and intellectual center in Switzerland.

In my young adult years, I avidly read most of Schaeffer’s critiques of secular and atheistic life stances and apologetical defenses of mere Christianity. I was deeply impressed with his insights, artistic interests, and caring views.

His emphasis that every Christian needs to have a total commitment to agape love, the way of Jesus, he presented in his short book The Mark of the Christian.

Schaeffer had a deep understanding of key atheist views, their weak philosophical bases, and their destructive implications for humankind. His writings strongly influenced me and millions of other Christians coming of age in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Two of his best books are
The God Who Is There and Escape from Reason.

What I didn’t know back then, because Schaeffer hid this, is that he wasn’t a ‘mere’ Christian (in the sense of C.S. Lewis) like he presented himself, but a hardline Calvinist!

I still find that hard to understand or square with his more liberal artistic and moral views. It turns out, that he was a member of and missionary for an extremely fundamentalistic Calvinistic denomination that had split from a larger conservative one.

This all only came to light later in the early 1980’s when I discovered other facts about him that, also, were so contrary to his public image and his reasoning in his books. For example, another horror, I still find inexplicable is that he strongly supported nuclear weapons. Doing so, of course, is grossly contrary to the moral outlook of his book, The Mark of a Christian.

Schaeffer's wife, Edith Schaeffer, wrote L'Abri,a famous biographical story of their outreach community of L’Abri in Switzerland. She greatly inspired and motivated and misled me!

In her riveting, deeply spiritual biography, Edit emphasizes many instances of supernatural answers to prayer. Based upon her book, my dedication to prayer became much stronger, and my belief in miracles increased (though I still had strong doubts about all of that because there were no cases of proven miracles and no evidential cases of prayer actually changing any events).

Years later, when I read the tell-all autobiography by their son, Frank Schaeffer, Crazy for God and other accounts of their famous story of L'Abri, I discovered, that while she may have been sincere in her beliefs, her claims seem to be shown to be false. In fact, it turns out that her husband Francis was given to severe depression, that he verbally and physically harmed her, and that there were other disheartening facts about their story that were contrary to her idealistic presentation in her biography.

So much for the good and bad influence of these two authors on my life in the past.

That was the Christian influence, a mixture of very good and very bad.

22. Jack Kerouac, infamous Beat novelist and poet who influenced 2 generations of young poeple. He wrote life-changing autobiographical novels including On the Road, The Dharma Bums, and Big Sur.

Though I had wonderful experiences “going on the road,” being influenced to study Buddhism, getting a backpack, hitch-hiking like him repeatedly across sections of the U.S. (and later across Europe and Palestine-Israel),
overall Kerouac was a bad influence.

Fortunately, I adopted some of his life stance views and actions, filtered through the lens of my Baptist Christian faith, so I didn’t succumb to any of his vices and immoral actions.

It still astounds me that I read books such as The Dharma Bums, and centered myself only on his exciting nature hikes, work as a U.S. Forest Service fire lookout, and evocations and descriptions of his love for God (which I mistakenly interpreted as similar to my own devotion to God, though his God was considerably different from the one I believed in).

I skipped over his often positive comments about sexual promiscuity, heavy drinking, drugs, irresponsibility, etc. Those down-sides to his life stance, I very strongly opposed but managed to admire him as one of my heroes. This later changed at the University of Nebraska, when an older grad student warned me of the dangers of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and other Beats, explaining how their gross personal lives contradicted their commitment to God, love, and altruism.

Tragically, there was a bad instance of this older students' negative analysis demonstrated when one of Kerouac's and Ginsberg's close friends got a young student pregnant and then skipped town, just after the Beats were emphasizing to be loving to everyone. Too often, their "love" was selfish lust.

I’m amazed that I could become so enamored of Kerouac such a figure and writer whose life stance was so contrary to my own. Basically, I think it was his creativity and his adventure-some actions that hooked me.

Always, I was somewhat of a wild spirit, even as a fundamentalist Baptist kid. My sister used to tell me later how she thought I really was going to live in the forest in a cave when I grew up like I told her when we were kids;-).

My natural inclination was further spurred in opposite direction of my mom who so strongly sought to discipline and direct me into a very ordered, controlled, secure, unadventurous life. And, also, one mustn’t forget, that in my late teens, like most young men, I was feeling rebellious and probably had lots of male hormone coursing through me.

And, I was disconcerted, and disheartened that my dad let my mom control, inhibit, and cow him, and put him down, and disparage him. I really hated that and didn’t want to be like that, under a controlling woman’s grip.

So, enter Kerouac, via another obsessive reader student in our high school philosophy class. This intellectual often read books such as Kerouac’s in particular, The Dharma Bums, even during lectures from our great teacher, Tom Keene!

But that brilliant student wasn’t a good role model either. He suddenly disappeared from class one week and didn’t return. It turned out that he had taken off to travel west, hitch-hiking and riding the rails like Kerouac.

I followed in their steps, hitch-hiking back and forth across parts of the U.S., then across Europe, Palestine-Israel, etc.

Without Kerouac’s influence, I would have still adventured a little, but would have stayed in college (instead of taking 7 years to graduate), would have gotten my teaching degree at 22, instead of at 32!

Then I would have been prepared for adult-married-fathering life in my early 20’s instead of being a late bloomer, in my early 30’s. My wife and I would have been far more financially secure. I would have probably figured out a way to buy a great real estate deal offered to me--the Speer place without lying to the old owner shortly before he died.

On the other hand, would I have missioned at the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, hitch-hiked across the U.S. and Europe, lived in Palestine-Israel on a kibbutz, lived in Haight-Ashbury, etc.?

Long live reading:-)

In the Light of Truth, Justice, Equality, and Altruism,

Dan Wilcox

Sunday, July 26, 2020

How Black Lives Matter as a call for justice is different from some BLM's acts of vandalism and harm

In the news, Giants baseball player, Sam Coonrod, refuses to kneel for racial justice...

Coonrod ought to have separated Black Lives Matter as a very important call to justice and kindness and reconciliation and against racism, from the bad examples of some BLM leaders and protesters who by their calls for violence, and their vandalism, arson, and hitting 49 police officers in Chicago with heavy objects, etc. harm others and the movement.

Maybe, Coonrod had heard statements such as this by Hawk Newsome, a leader of BLM of New York:
"If this country doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it.
All right? And I could be speaking figuratively. I could be speaking literally. It’s a matter of interpretation...“I don’t condone nor do I condemn rioting,”...Hawk Newsome said during an interview Wednesday evening on “The Story” with Martha MacCallum.

We are living in tragic times now. Most humans are too ideological, too divisive and so many are turning to violence.

Thankfully, however, many are refusing to become ideological and divisive, but kneel, committed to the nonviolent ideals of Bayard Rustin, John Lewis, and other great Civil Rights workers.
FROM "...Coonrod becomes MLB’s Giant target for stance on Black Lives Matter movement"

"LOS ANGELES — Citing his faith as a Christian man and his desire to remain consistent in his beliefs, San Francisco Giants reliever Sam Coonrod explained why he didn’t kneel during a pregame moment of unity at Dodger Stadium Thursday.

“I meant no ill will by it,” the Carrollton native said. “I don’t think I’m better than anybody. I’m just a Christian. I believe I can’t kneel before anything but God, Jesus Christ. I chose not to kneel. I feel if I did kneel I’d be a hypocrite. I don’t want to be a hypocrite.”

"Prior to the playing of the national anthem on Opening Night, every player and coach from both the Dodgers and Giants held a long piece of black fabric, and all but Coonrad also took a knee. Coonrod held the fabric along with everyone else but remained standing.

"The moment of silence was intended to support the Black Lives Matter movement, which Coonrod said he has had difficulty embracing.

“I’m a Christian,” Coonrod said. “I can’t get on board on a couple of things I’ve read about Black Lives Matter, how they lean toward Marxism and said some negative things about the nuclear family.”

"Many are supporting Coonrod’s stance. Many are not."

Story by Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News

In the Light of equality, justice, and reconciliation,

Dan Wilcox

Friday, July 24, 2020

Part #2: "Deep Time Eyes"--Discovering the True MetaStory

In attempting to formulate and promote an evolutionary life stance, a metastory, thinker Micahel Dowd speaks of "deep time eyes."

“Religion has been failing in its most fundamental ask, which is helping us to live in right relationship with primary reality.”
“...I’m an evolutionary theologian...viewing through deep time...”
“I agree with John Michael Greer that there’s two major mythologies that most people are stuck in...the myth of perpetual progress...the other is the myth of the apocalypse...we don’t need to get involved, because the whole thing is going to hell in a hand basket anyway. The truth of the matter is we’re in an evolutionary process...”
We currently have a democracy; a democracy is a conspiracy against the natural world.”

Not true. We human primates are part of the natural world, are part of natural selection and its ruthless slow juggernaut.
Here's a powerful case of a thinker who has insight into the nature of metastories, but whose own metastory has severe problems.

All humans live by metastories. However the most difficult task in existence is figuring out which one (or more) is the True MetaStory, the account that is closest to what is real, to what is good, to what is just.

So, yes, we do need "deep-time eyes." But first we need to eliminate illusions, delusions, errors in judgment, reductionism, the human tendency to jump for simplistic answers when we as a species are only just getting started, having only existed as homo sapiens for about 300,000 to 500,000 years.

Most of that deep time was taken up with basic survival. Not until approximately around the era beginning in 600 BCE with the pre-Socratic philosophers, Plato, Socrates, the Buddha, Zoroaster, Isaiah and the writer of Job, etc. do we find human thinkers searching out the nature of reality, seeking to deeply understand what is moral and immoral, just and unjust, to explain what the Good is.

in process

Monday, July 20, 2020

How Good Writers Influence us—a parable, then examples

Another dead-beat dad abandoned his family before his son was born. Do these tragedies ever end?

A Parable: The small boy clung to his mother, but then she died of breast cancer when he was 6. In mostly bad foster houses where he grew up, he found solace and hope in books, safe at the library. Books gave him wings to escape dysfunction, loneliness, and the death traps of having no father.

When he reached young adulthood and became a writer, after graduating from the University of Michigan, he searched and searched for years looking for any trace of his absentee father, (while still grieving for his gone mother).

Finally, 3 decades later after years of diligent effort, a hire-detective located the man who was now living in Portland, Oregon, married to another woman with 3 offspring who he was ignoring, too.

The fatherless son drove across our troubled, divisive land of the U.S. to Portland, Oregon, where violent protesters were attacking businesses and police. He avoided all of that uproar and hatred, intent only to get past that craziness and tragedy, anxious to meet his unknown dad.

But when he got to downtown, he felt ambivalent and sat down in a graffiti-scrawled park, where vandals had burned the base and statue of a large elk, wondering whether he really wanted to meet this ‘father’ who had deserted his mother and him so many years ago.

Out on the rough dark waters of the Columbia River, huge ships and small boats moved by. Fog shrouded the opposite shore of Washington State.

Following directions, the investigator had given him, the adult orphan took a taxi to the luxurious address soon after dawn, on a drizzly morning, and walked up and down a wide, slick sidewalk out in front of a large mansion. The man-boy kept staring up at the immense locked door wondering if his absent father was in there.

Suddenly its owner--evidently his father--came out slamming the door behind him, and hailed the orphan’s waiting taxi, not even looking at the stranger in front of his gate, got in and sped away. Not so different from years ago.

Again, that abandoned son of so long ago was left. Only now that orphaned boy is an accomplished writer.

The abandoned son: "I stood there at the gate for hours. Only delivery men and the mail carrier came by.

After remembering years past, I reflected on that man's build. It was all wrong, stocky and overweight; and he had walked with a lunge, as if about to attack some invisible enemy. His face was grim, and with a large nose.

Not at all like me—with a skinny frame and my face with prominent cheeks and a pudgy nose; I must have gotten my body from my mother.

Suddenly, a deep knowing clobbered the seeking boy within me. That grim stranger may have spermed me, but he wasn’t my dad, not my actual father, never had been.

I may have gotten a genetic link from this total stranger, but my real father—fathers are the good writers I read growing up in those dysfunctional foster houses.

The authors who are brilliant, creative thinkers who guided me when I had no father and had lost my mother."*

*Idea for story from educator Jim Burke

My Response:
Unlike this orphan, I did have a very dear father, one who used to take me fishing, hunting, and traveling, and guided me as to what was right and helped me later with major decisions. A man who stood by me, a real friend.

And a warm idealistic mother, (very hard-working like my dad, too) who gave me and my sister a deep sense of equality and justice and diligence.

But in another sense, some of the authors I have read over the years have ‘fathered’ (and/or 'mothered') me. Maybe even more deeply than my father and mother who gave me birth and guided me when I was young.

For instance, think of how many scientists got their start as star-eyed kids because of love of and inspiration from science fiction and speculative literature.

And think of famous humanitarians and Enlightenment justice advocates who were first inspired by idealistic heroes in suspenseful stories as children.

For good or for ill, for joy and zest or sadness and some thinkers have stated, envisioning is the creator of our humanity’s future, not mere matter of facts.

Facts are only building blocks to create what isn’t yet. Our creativity and hopes and goals are the schematics, the structures for bringing into being our creative future.

Where would we be without Verne, Wells, Kant, Descartes, Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, Voltaire, Jefferson, Paine, Shakespeare, Eliot, Huxley, Orwell, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Hugo, Basho, Blake, Whitman, Owen, Twain, Melville, Conrad, Kafka, Bradbury, Gandhi, Hegel, Marx, Hume, James, Locke, Darwin, Sagan, Gould, Rustin, King, Farmer, etc.?

Where would I be without Thoreau, Bonhoeffer, Hawthorne, C. Bronte, F. O'Connor, Lewis, Nouwen, Merton, Tillich, Wiesel, Camus, Poe, Vonnegut, Thich Nhat Hanh,
even writers of the darker side, sometimes immoral and unjust, such as Millay, Kerouac, Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Simmons?

Take time to consider: What authors have 'fathered' and/or 'mothered' you in your life?

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Guest post: CRISIS DIVIDE: The Righteous and the Woke--Why Evangelicals and Social Justice Warriors Trigger...

Guest Post on current CRISIS DIVIDE IN THE U.S.
The Righteous and the Woke – Why Evangelicals and Social Justice Warriors Trigger Me in the Same Way
by Valerie Tarico,
Seattle psychologist and writer.

"I was Born Again until nearly the end of graduate school, a sincere Evangelical who went to church on Sunday and Wednesday with my family and to Thursday Bible study on my own. I dialed for converts during the “I Found It” evangelism campaign, served as a counselor at Camp Good News, and graduated from Wheaton College, Billy Graham’s alma mater. I know what it is to be an earnest believer among believers.

"I also know what it is to experience those same dynamics from the outside. Since my fall from grace, I’ve written a book, Trusting Doubt, and several hundred articles exposing harms from Evangelicalism—not just the content of beliefs but also how they spread and shape the psychology of individuals and behavior of communities, doing damage in particular to women, children, and religious minorities.

It occurred to me recently that my time in Evangelicalism and subsequent journey out have a lot to do with why I find myself reactive to the spread of Woke culture among colleagues, political soulmates, and friends. Christianity takes many forms, with Evangelicalism being one of the more single-minded, dogmatic, groupish and enthusiastic among them. The Woke—meaning progressives who have “awoken” to the idea that oppression is the key concept explaining the structure of society, the flow of history, and virtually all of humanity’s woes—share these qualities.

To a former Evangelical, something feels too familiar—or better said, a bunch of somethings feel too familiar.

Righteous and infidels—There are two kinds of people in the world: Saved and damned or Woke and bigots, and anyone who isn’t with you 100% is morally suspect*. Through the lens of dichotomizing ideologies, each of us is seen—first and foremost—not as a complicated individual, but as a member of a group, with moral weight attached to our status as an insider or outsider. (*exceptions made for potential converts)

Insider jargon—Like many other groups, the saved and the Woke signal insider status by using special language. An Evangelical immediately recognizes a fellow tribe-member when he or she hears phrases like Praise the Lord, born again, backsliding, stumbling block, give a testimony, a harvest of souls, or It’s not a religion; it’s a relationship. The Woke signal their wokeness with words like intersectionality, cultural appropriation, trigger warning, microaggression, privilege, fragility, problematic, or decolonization. The language of the Woke may have more meaningful real-world referents than that of Evangelicals, but in both cases, jargon isn’t merely a tool for efficient or precise communication as it is in many professions—it is a sign of belonging and moral virtue.

Born that way—Although theoretically anyone is welcome in either group, the social hierarchies in both Evangelical culture and Woke culture are defined largely by accidents of birth. The Bible lists privileged blood lines—the Chosen People—and teaches that men (more so than women) were made in the image of God. In Woke culture, hierarchy is determined by membership in traditionally oppressed tribes, again based largely on blood lines and chromosomes. Note that this is not about individual experience of oppression or privilege, hardship or ease. Rather, generic average oppression scores get assigned to each tribe and then to each person based on intersecting tribal identities. Thus, a queer female East Indian Harvard grad with a Ph.D. and E.D. position is considered more oppressed than the unemployed third son of a white Appalachian coal miner.

Original sin—In both systems, one consequence of birth is inherited guilt. People are guilty of the sins of their fathers. In the case of Evangelicalism, we all are born sinful, deserving of eternal torture because of Eve’s folly—eating from the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. In Woke culture, white and male people are born with blood guilt, a product of how dominant white and male people have treated other people over the ages and in modern times, (which—it must be said—often has been unspeakably horrible). Again, though, individual guilt isn’t about individual behaviors. A person born with original sin or blood guilt can behave badly and make things worse, but they cannot erase the inborn stain. (Note that this contradicts core tenets of liberal, humanist, and traditional progressive thought.)

Orthodoxies—The Bible is the inerrant Word of God. Jesus died for your sins. Hell awaits sinners. Salvation comes through accepting Jesus as your savior. If you are an Evangelical, doctrines like these must not be questioned. Trust and obey for there’s no other way. Anyone who questions core dogmas commits heresy, and anyone who preaches against them should be de-platformed or silenced. The Woke also have tenets of faith that must not be questioned. Most if not all ills flow from racism or sexism. Only males can be sexist; only white people can be racist. Gender is culturally constructed and independent of sex. Immigration is an economic boon for everyone. Elevating the most oppressed person will solve problems all the way up. Did my challenging that list make you think you might be reading an article by a conservative? If so, that’s exactly what I’m trying to illustrate.

Denial as proof—In Evangelicalism, thinking you don’t need to accept Jesus as your savior is proof that you do. Your denial simply reveals the depth of your sin and hardness of heart. In Woke culture, any pushback is perceived as a sign of white fragility or worse, a sign that one is a racist, sexist, homophobe, Islamophobe, xenophobe, or transphobe. You say that you voted for Barack Obama and your kids are biracial so your problem with BLM isn’t racism? LOL, that’s just what a racist would say. In both cultures, the most charitable interpretation that an insider can offer a skeptic is something along these lines, You seem like a decent, kind person. I’m sure that you just don’t understand. Since Evangelical and Woke dogmas don’t allow for honest, ethical disagreement, the only alternative hypothesis is that the skeptic must be an evildoer or bigot.

Black and white thinking—If you are not for us, you’re against us. In the Evangelical worldview we are all caught up in a spiritual war between the forces of God and Satan, which is playing out on the celestial plane. Who is on the Lord’s side? one hymn asks, because anyone else is on the other. Even mainline Christians—and especially Catholics—may be seen by Evangelicals as part of the enemy force. For many of the Woke, the equivalent of mainline Christians are old school social liberals, like women who wear pink pussy hats. Working toward colorblindness, for example, is not just considered a suboptimal way of addressing racism (which is a position that people can make arguments for). Rather, it is itself a symptom of racism. And there’s no such thing as a moderate conservative. Both Evangelicals and the Woke argue that tolerance is bad. One shouldn’t tolerate evil or fascism, they say, and most people would agree. The problem is that so many outsiders are considered either evil sinners or racist fascists. In this view, pragmatism and compromise are signs of moral taint.

Shaming and shunning—The Woke don’t tar, feather and banish sinners. Neither—mercifully—do Christian puritans anymore. But public shaming and trial by ordeal are used by both clans to keep people in line. Some Christian leaders pressure members into ritual public confession. After all, as theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Nothing can be more cruel than the leniency which abandons others to their sin.” Shaming and shunning have ancient roots as tools of social control, and they elevate the status of the person or group doing the shaming. Maoist struggle sessions (forced public confessions) and Soviet self-criticism are examples of extreme shaming in social-critical movements seeking to upend traditional power structures. So, it should be no surprise that some of the Woke show little hesitation when call-out opportunities present themselves—nor that some remain unrelentingly righteous even when those call-outs leave a life or a family in ruins.

Selective science denial—Disinterest in inconvenient truths—or worse, denial of inconvenient truths, is generally a sign that ideology is at play. Most of us on the left can rattle off a list of truths that Evangelicals find inconvenient. The Bible is full of contradictions. Teens are going to keep having sex. Species evolve. The Earth is four and a half billion years old. Climate change is caused by humans (which suggests that God doesn’t have his hand on the wheel). Prayer works, at best, at the margins of statistical significance. But evidence and facts can be just as inconvenient for the Woke. Gender dimorphism affects how we think, not just how we look. Personal responsibility has real world benefits, even for people who have the odds stacked against them. Lived experience is simply anecdotal evidence. Skin color is often a poor proxy for privilege. Organic foods won’t feed 11 billion.

Evangelism—As infectious ideologies, Evangelicalism and Woke culture rely on both paid evangelists and enthusiastic converts to spread the word. Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) and related organizations spend tens of millions annually seeking converts on college campuses. But many outreach activities are led by earnest student believers. Critical Oppression Theory on campus has its epicenter in gender and race studies but has become a mainstay in schools of public health and law as well as the liberal arts. Once this becomes the dominant lens for human interactions, students police themselves—and each other. Nobody wants to be the ignoramus who deadnames a transgender peer or microaggresses against a foreign student by asking about their culture.

Hypocrisy—Christianity bills itself as a religion centered in humility, but countervailing dogmas promote the opposite. It is hard to imagine a set of beliefs more arrogant than the following: The universe was designed for humans. We uniquely are made in the image of God. All other creatures are ours to consume. Among thousands of religions, I happened to be born into the one that’s correct. The creator of the universe wants a personal relationship with me. Where Evangelicalism traffics in hubris cloaked as humility, Woke culture traffics in discrimination cloaked as inclusion. The far left demands that hiring practices, organizational hierarchies, social affinity groups, political strategizing, and funding flow give primacy to race and gender. Some of the Woke measure people by these checkboxes to a degree matched in the West only by groups like MRAs (Men’s Rights Activists) and white supremacists. The intent is to rectify old wrongs and current inequities–to literally solve discrimination with discrimination. One result is disinterest in suffering that doesn’t derive from traditional structural oppression of one tribe by another.

Gloating about the fate of the wicked—One of humanity’s uglier traits is that we like it when our enemies suffer. Some of the great Christian leaders and great justice warriors of history have inspired people to rise higher (think Desmond Tutu, Eli Wiesel, Vaclav Havel, Nelson Mandela). But neither Evangelicalism nor Woke culture consistently inspires members to transcend tribal vindictiveness because neither, at heart, calls members into our shared humanity. Some Christian leaders have actually proclaimed that the suffering of the damned in hell heightens the joy of the saved in heaven. Some of the Woke curse those they see as fascists to burn in the very same Christian hell, metaphorically if not literally. They dream of restorative justice for criminal offenses but lifelong, ruinous retribution for political sinners: Those hateful Trump voters deserve whatever destitution or illness may come their way. Unemployed young men in rural middle America are turning to Heroin? Too bad. Nobody did anything about the crack epidemic. Oil town’s on fire? Burn baby burn.

I know how compelling those frustrated, vengeful thoughts can be, because I’ve had them. But I think that progressives can do better.

Ideology has an awe-inspiring power to forge identity and community, direct energy, channel rage and determination, love and hate. It has been one of the most transformative forces in human history. But too often ideology in the hands of a social movement simply rebrands and redirects old self-centering impulses while justifying the sense that this particular fight is uniquely holy.

Even so, social movements and religions—including those that are misguided—usually emerge from an impulse that is deeply good, the desire to foster wellbeing in world that is more kind and just, one that brings us closer to humanity’s multi-millennial dream of broad enduring peace and bounty. This, too, is something that the Righteous and the Woke have in common. Both genuinely aspire to societal justice—small s, small j—meaning not the brand but the real deal. Given that they often see themselves at opposite ends of the spectrum, perhaps that is grounds for a little hope.


Note: In this article I didn’t address why, despite these discouraging social and ideological dynamics, I continue to lean left. In the frustration raised by excesses of Woke culture it is easy to lose sight of more substantive issues. Here is some of my list: The best evidence available tells us climate change is human-caused and urgent. Market failures are real. Trickle-down economics has produced greater inequality, which has been growing for decades. Inequality is a factor in social instability. Social democracy (the combination of capitalist enterprise with a strong social safety net) appears to have produced greater average wellbeing than other economic systems. Investments in diplomacy reduce war. Reproductive empowerment is fundamental to individual political and economic participation. The Religious Right more so than classical liberals control social policy on the Right. Government, when functioning properly, is the way we do things that we can’t very well do alone.

I would like to thank Dan Fincke for his input on this article, and Marian Wiggins for her generous editorial time."


Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including The Huffington Post, Salon, The Independent, Free Inquiry, The Humanist, AlterNet, Raw Story, Grist, Jezebel, and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Subscribe at

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