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In order to regain its moral and spiritual passions, Liberal America does not have to to embrace the forms traditional religion has used to represent the issues of good and evil. That reconnection can be achieved, by moving further forward along the path of rational, empirically-based scientific knowledge.
In other words, the path of evidence and reason can provide us good answers to those vital questions of value — answers that can connect us to those deep parts of our human core from which comes the passionate intensity required for this urgent battle.
another dark wood
In a class on Dante I’m currently enrolled in, Professor Frank Ambrosio of Georgetown University quoted the nineteenth century philosopher Friedric Nietzsche that human beings, as far as we know, are the only animals that make promises. I only add that humans are also the sole ones who break them.
According to Ambrosio, Nietzsche puts the significance of human promising and its place with regard to freedom this way: “In man, nature set itself the task to breed an animal worthy of making promises.”
finley, dylan and the beatles
John Lennon and Charlie Finley arguing over money and how many songs the Beatles would play at a concert Finley was promoting? It was a moment worthy of what the great satirist, Edward Sorel, might have dreamed up for one of his great Atlantic Monthly illustrations. As John Lennon often said, You had to be there.”
Recently my wife and I attended a reunion of her first cousins (and their spouses). These cousins are the children of the children of a couple of Swedish immigrants who settled in Iowa to farm in the late 19th century. What a wonderful family event! Just enough people to fill all the seats around a table not so big we couldn’t all converse together. In all our time together, there wasn’t a single hurtful word. Even the spouses, like me, were embraced in the family feeling, all glad to be together.
are we so gullible
Despicable. That’s the only word for it. I refer to the recent official email “Responding to the Ebola Crisis” of October 17 from my congressional representative, Bob Goodlatte, of Virginia’s 6th District. It begins by stating that “Ebola now spreading in the United States is of extreme concern [emphasis added].” The update then goes on to imply that millions of Americans have lost or will lose their health care under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”)…
People like Bill O’Reilly call upon people to raise themselves up while helping keep a foot on their necks. Conservatives like O’Reilly do have some kernels of truth on their side. They rightly think people should develop good character, including virtues such as discipline and responsibility for oneself. And they are rightly concerned to assure that social policies don’t discourage people from developing such virtues.
down the drain
The ethical man keeps his hands to himself and does not destroy what he admires and loves. The ethical man does not subscribe to the excuse that “you always hurt the one you love. The ethical hurts no-one at all. Most of the electorate is probably too young to remember the perverse responses Jimmy Carter’s admission of having lusted in his heart occasioned among Republicans. In retrospect, it seems rather obvious that people, who live and die by the euphemism, were ready to believe that Carter had uttered a prevarication…
Mary Alice told her joke by asking, “What is black and yellow and goes zub, zub, zub?” Of course, the answer is a bee going in reverse. Thus we rode this joke off into another round of high-energy talking, joking, and drinking some less than satin wine. If I were to compare her to some famous author, perhaps the Nobel-prize winning Doris Lessing would come to mind. She’s funny, yet serious at the same time.
Are you, like me, unhappy about where you sense our nation is heading? Do you, like me, fear that the prospects for our children and grandchildren will be darker than what we have known? For years, the polls show, a substantial majority of Americans have been unhappy about where our nation is headed. But we don’t all see the same dangers or agree on what to do about them. For example, the fear of millions that Obamacare is another step toward a socialist tyranny has little to do with reality. This distraction is indeed just one more symptom of what’s gone wrong.
One wryly fascinating aspect of achieving “seniority” is that my senses have become more adept at finding free entertainment. Locating alternative sources of amusement has become almost a necessity these days. Daytime television remains abominable, cable TV is objectionally priced (probably by those same pirates who sell inkjet print cartridges) and the ransom one has to give up for seats to professional sporting events is unconscionable. Also, our local news daily, though not unreasonably priced is but a shell of its former self. It is no longer a joy to read.
insults to nature
How does that happen? Mostly, it’s the result of a mixture of hubris and inadvertence. Humans, stuck on themselves, think they know it all. Others are convinced “all it takes is the idea” (the ExxonMobil slogan) and, as it was in the beginning, man says the word and nature is obedient.
Fortunately, the age of electronics has made it possible to virtually eliminate inadvertence. We can look ahead and simulate what will happen, if we repeat the mistakes of the past. That’s what James Holland is doing…
honest v. integrity
When you get interested in painting you naturally look around to see what others who got this bug have done. Finding out what painters are doing in the U.S. today is like listening to rock on the radio. You have to wade through a lot of “forgettables” before you hear one that will be an “oldie” in ten years. Museums show oldies. Most of their collections have been filtered. The forgettables have been thrown out. On this painting journey you will run across an opinion that painting is dead, irrelevant, old paradigm…
This piece begins a discussion that is addressed especially to those who believe that there is no such thing — and can be no such thing — in the world as an “evil force.”
The crucial battle in America today is being fought in the political arena, but the heart of it goes deeper than politics. It is at the moral and spiritual level. The issue in America today is this: will constructive or destructive, life-serving or life-degrading forces prevail in shaping this nation’s future?
It is the morning of October 3rd. As I have for the past more than forty October 3rds, I take from the cupboard a special kind of candle and light it. As I do so, I think about my father.
It was in the early morning hours of October 3, 1967, in a hospital in Minneapolis, that my father died. It was a great loss. He was not yet 49, I was 21, and his death came way too soon for me to be done needing him.
reading between the lines
I read the obituaries. But I no longer read a printed newspaper every day and the obits just are not the same in on line versions of newspapers. So I am forced to catch up on weekends when my satisfyingly fat Sunday papers arrive. I do not turn to the obituaries first due to a compulsive need to read the paper in proper order. When I finally get there I read them all, savoring the details, cringing at those my own age, and grieving the brief, one sentence send offs.
Some are born lucky. Others are born rich or marry into money. Still others create endless streams of opportunity. And perhaps when we can’t answer yes to the aforementioned, we can easily feel entitled.
But in other ways, the playing field remains level. Certain attributes of the human condition we have control over, starting with the meaning we assign to the events of our life. And yes, positive events lead us to assign more pleasant meanings.
Some of my liberal friends say they have lost all hope for American democracy, and a great many others act as if they had. They see that Big Money is wresting power from the people and, with the help of the Supreme Court, making it ever harder for the people to retrieve what has been taken from them. They see that one of our two major political parties is systematically blocking Congress from implementing solutions to our nation’s problems.
The tiny old man wheezed and warned me to leave him alone since he was just looking for a wall to lean against. He was an examination of human frailty, revealed in blurred and jagged fragments. He told me to beware of joy. Thus ended another of my dreams that left me a bit shaken and in need of understanding. In some of my dreams, such as this one, everything is frequently miniaturized and even immaterial …
the natural world
My spouse of fifty years has a quirky brain. It looks for things that aren’t there. Which is probably why one of his favorite poems is Antigonish or “The man who wasn’t there,” by Hughes Mearns.
Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today,
I wish, I wish he’d go away…
The the destructive force that has arisen on the right is only one side of America’s present national crisis. The other side is the weakness of the response from Liberal America to this profound threat to our nation’s well-being. I’ve described President Obama’s failure to wage the battle that must be waged. But the problem of liberal weakness – and of its blindness – is not confined to the president. These defects were evident among Democratic leaders before Mr. Obama assumed the presidency, and they are manifested, I would assert, by Liberal America taken as a whole.
I’ve undertaken to present this “Press the Battle” series because, believing it might make an important contribution, I feel a moral obligation to do so. At the age of 68, and after a whole decade of fighting against this ugly force that’s taken over the right, I’m certainly not doing it for fun.
Maybe now is a good time to explain why I think what I’m presenting here might just possibly help turn the tide of battle. A reader recently wrote me privately wondering when I was going to stop the preliminaries and explain what I’m proposing to do…
150 years later
The Confederate flags are now gone from around the incumbent marble Robert E. Lee, at eternal rest with his riding boots on in the innermost sanctuary of Lee Chapel in Lexington, Va. That is as it should be, for many reasons. One is historical. Our campus was a sanctuary of recovery from the Civil War, where “the sun falls through the ruined boughs of locusts/ Up to the president’s office.” That president was Lee, “in a dark civilian suit who walks,/ An outlaw fumbling for the latch, a voice/ Commanding in a dream where no flag flies.”
controlling the present
After stating in his introduction that “history is written and marketed… to enforce existing political orthodoxy” and that “Those who control the present take great pains to control our understanding of the past.” Michael Parenti goes on to attempt to persuade the skeptical reader of the truth of those assertions. The persuasion takes the form of chapters on how those who have written history are of a certain class with predictable biases, how the victor’s narrative is often the only one available…
Let it not be said that our far Northwest state, Alaska, has a monopoly on Nowhere. While their “Bridge to Nowhere” garnered much national attention on the political and comedy circuit, here in Southeast Georgia, we’ve got a whole lot of nowhere. Not only have we got the state Department of Transportation doing a major expansion of a road to nowhere from two lanes to four, we’ve got a peninsula on our island (bet you didn’t know that it was possible to have a peninsula on an insula), sporting more than fifteen mapped roads that aren’t to be found on the ground.
chronic v. infectious
This is a very short opinion piece because I don’t think it need must explanation. I want you to think the recent events in Dallas regarding the transmission of Ebola on to American soil. I see it as a big wake up call to all Americans, but specifically to affluent America. Why do I say that? For the vast majority of the 20th century our medical care system was based on a public health model…
The latest issue of Explore — the Journal of Science and Healing — contains a bombshell of an essay. It’s titled “Manifesto for a Post-Materialist Science,” and it could be to science what Luther’s 95 Theses were to religion. All eight co-authors are eminent; all but two hold PhDs. Their fields include biology, neuroscience, psychology, medicine, and psychiatry. One of the two MDs is Larry Dossey, a pioneer of mind-body medicine and a regular contributor to Huffington Post.
The realities and consequences of our sitting all day become obvious… yet overlooked… except to our bodies. Actually, our bodies emerge as the brave soldiers here, now doing what they were never designed to do: SIT. Hour after day after week… too bad our IRA’s are not accumulating assets like this. Sitting is sometimes compared to smoking. Is that legit? Well, yes and no. Yes, from the standpoint that the ultimate cost of sitting…
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
People like Bill O'Reilly call upon people to raise themselves up while helping keep a foot on their necks. Conservatives like O'Reilly do have some kernels of truth on their side. They rightly think people should develop good character, including virtues such as discipline and responsibility for oneself. And they are rightly concerned to assure that social policies don't discourage people from developing such virtues. But after those kernels of truth, their map of the world is dominated by a river of denial. First, as Jon Stewart pointed out in his confrontation with O'Reilly, they deny how much their own ascent was boosted Read on →
In a class on Dante I'm currently enrolled in, Professor Frank Ambrosio of Georgetown University quoted the nineteenth century philosopher Friedric Nietzsche that human beings, as far as we know, are the only animals who make promises. I only add that humans are also the sole ones who break them. According to Ambrosio, Nietzsche puts the significance of human promising and its place with regard to freedom this way: "In man, nature set itself the task to breed an animal worthy of making promises." It's an extraordinary idea. What is it that allows an animal that lives in the here and now to Read on →
Recently my wife and I attended a reunion of her first cousins (and their spouses). These cousins are the children of the children of a couple of Swedish immigrants who settled in Iowa to farm in the late 19th century. What a wonderful family event! Just enough people to fill all the seats around a table not so big we couldn't all converse together. In all our time together, there wasn't a single hurtful word. Even the spouses, like me, were embraced in the family feeling, all glad to be together. All these cousins -- except for the two children of those Read on →
When you get interested in painting you naturally look around to see what others who got this bug have done. Finding out what painters are doing in the U.S. today is like listening to rock on the radio. You have to wade through a lot of “forgettables” before you hear one that will be an “oldie” in ten years. Museums show oldies. Most of their collections have been filtered. The forgettables have been thrown out. On this painting journey you will run across an opinion that painting is dead, irrelevant, old paradigm. You can ignore that, and be sure you will en Read on →