Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Christmas 2019

For this Christmas season, I once again post my short story ‘The Gift’.  Christmas is a time we like to look back at old favorites—this is mine.  Each time posted, this story has been warmly received.  It is the only story that I have written which appeared unexpectedly as ‘a whole’ in my mind.

It was written as a ‘new myth’.  It had always bothered me that although there are shepherds, angels, and wise men at the stable, nowhere is there any help for Mary at the birth.  Surely Joseph prayed for help; in my myth, his prayer was answered and Jesus’ first miracle was for one speaking ‘the Word’ for the first time.

The Gift

            In the time before the star shone over Bethlehem, there lived a shepherd and his wife who had six sons. The husband was very proud to have such a family of sons, but the wife longed for a daughter.   After the fourth boy, she had expressed that wish to her husband.  He scolded her, saying it was sons, not daughters that every good Hebrew should pray for.   Although she dearly loved and cared for each son, she never stopped yearning for a daughter.  After the birth of her sixth boy her heart became heavy, realizing she was passing out of her childbearing years and was not to realize her hope.  But to their surprise, she conceived again, and a year later, she gave birth to a girl!  She immediately declared the child to be God’s blessing, and requested of her husband that the baby be named Johanna, Hebrew for ‘gift of God’.  They so named her.
            The baby was very beautiful, strong and healthy—except for a twisted foot.  Faithfully during the child’s infancy, her mother massaged and molded the foot, which improved from the care, but it was never to be fully cured.  Throughout her life, Johanna was to walk with a limp.  
            The husband—being a good Jew—went frequently to the temple.  As his fellow worshipers became aware of the child’s deformity, some would shake their heads and say this was punishment for his sins.  When he repeated this to his wife—who usually made no retort to his chidings—she scolded him: “Do not question God!  His ways are not our ways . . . this child is a gift; God has plans for her.”  The husband just shook his head and walked away.
            Johanna had a loving nature and sweet disposition, but she did not speak.  At first they thought nothing of it—with six lively and boisterous brothers, there was always commotion to which she was alert, so they simply thought her quiet.  One day a physician said her tongue cleaved to her jaw and she would never speak.  
              “—A curse of God for sure!” said the people.
            As she grew, the girl learned household tasks as befits a Hebrew woman, but she also had a great love of the sheep of her father’s flock and took delight in shepherding them in nearby fields that were not hard to walk to.  Later, as she matured, Johanna took on the task of bedding them at night when they were stabled . . . and she gently soothed the delivering ewes at lambing time.  Several times she saved both ewe and lamb in a difficult labor.  Always she was kind and gentle.  The knowledge of her skill spread through the village and at lambing time all welcomed her.
            As the years went on, each of the brothers in turn took wives . . . but no marriage could be arranged for Johanna.  Only the mean or stupid would accept so flawed a woman for wife, and her parents would not agree to such a match. 
            As her parents grew old, the daughter cared first for her father, then later her mother thru their aged infirmities, always with kindness and a loving disposition.  Her mother never ceased saying Johanna was God’s gift and blessing.
            After the deaths of her parents, Johanna went to live with and assist the elderly devout long-widowed Anna of the tribe of Asher, who spent much time in the temple praying.  In addition to the duties of Anna’s house, Johanna continued to watch over the stables and tend the lambing of the village.
            One December evening, on her rounds of the stables, Johanna came upon a man sitting dejectedly with his head in his hands—at her approach the man leapt to his feet saying, “You are the answer to my prayers . . . Can you help me? I am Joseph; my wife Mary is about to give birth . . .” Johanna gave no response. “I am a carpenter and do not have knowledge of such things.  We came for the census.  I could find no lodgings or midwife for her, but we were given shelter in this stable . . . her time has come.  Now she is napping between her labor pains—and I feel so helpless.  I called upon the Lord God to send help . . . and here you are.  Will you help us?”
            Johanna nodded.  Joseph soon realized she could not speak, but he did not question God.  He thanked God for sending this kind young woman as he handed her the supplies they had carried with them for this need.  She moved with self-assurance and, though not a midwife, all the years of tending the ewes gave her the needed inner confidence.  Her kindness, warmth and gentleness soothed both the travelers.
            At the moment of birth, gently she received the newborn into her hands, cleared the mucus, patted his back to encourage his first breaths of air, wiped him with the linens, and tucked him into Mary’s arms.
            With gratefulness, Mary received the baby and said, “He is to be called, Jesus.”  At that moment the infant’s tiny fingers curled around Johanna’s index finger—she opened her lips and whispered “Welcome, Jesus” . . . 

                                                                      THE END

Friday, November 29, 2019

Moral Compass

After the latest school shootings, a young student from that school asked on air: “Why did this happen?”  People have many answers and of course there are multiple factors involved.  I want to cite something that is not often brought up:  In today’s world, God and goodness are rarely talked about in public.  We as a nation have lost our moral compass.

At its founding, this nation leaned heavily on God.  Most leaders were individuals of belief who read and regularly referred to the Bible.  Many references to God appeared in official documents . . . and even our money was to bear ‘In God We Trust’.  No particular religion was intended but there was an understanding that a Supreme Being, God, gave us our world and the mandate to act morally.  In the past, daily prayers, especially at meals and bedtime, were said—and even family Bible reading was common. 

During the 20th Century, little by little, we became a secular society. God was referred to less and less, and eventually in 1962, prayer was banned in public schools.

I understand that the Bill of Rights guarantees the freedom of religion and a separation of church and state is called for, but that was not meant to imply freedom from religion; rather, no one religion can have control over government affairs.  Unfortunately in the minds of many, over time it came to suggest religion and religious pursuits were either suspect or irrelevant.

In recent years, regular religious activities have lessened and society has coarsened.  As a people we’ve become more and more irreverent.  There is no longer a clear moral order and without societal help that supports moral order, it is so much harder to raise children.

All religions have some undesirable elements and that is because they are human institutions, designed by and run by humans—humans are flawed.  There is a distinction to be made between religion/religions and God.  While religions try to point to ‘the good’, God represents all that IS Good and desirable: love, justice, truth . . . empathy and compassion . . . qualities that form the moral foundation of humanity. 

If religions do their job as they should, they teach of right and wrong, good and bad, truth and falsehood—and about making choices guided by the 10 Commandments or its equivalent   All religions hold some version of those basic moral values.  If a child is not guided to integrate those values from an early age, the child is left with a big hole.  They may seek dangerous ways to fill that hole.

To become literate, a person must go through a formal process involving the learning of letter names and sounds, combining them to make words, recognizing that combinations have specific meaning.  Without going through the process of learning those basic ‘building blocks’, a person will not be able to read and write, he/she will be illiterate.

Similarly, to become a morally responsible person a child must go through a process of differentiating right from wrong, good from bad, truth from falsehood.  That happens in early religious training.  Without a formal process aided by a religion, the setting of a moral foundation falls entirely on the parents and home.  Few are the homes prepared to take up teaching either literacy or moral order.  Schools provide the formal training for literacy and religions provide training in moral decision making.  Without societal support of moral principals, the parental job becomes much harder.

I believe the absence of integrated social references to God, values, and moral training is a critical factor in our present social unrest and pervasive violence.  We have indeed lost our moral compass.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Detriment to Democracy

I strongly take the position that Donald Trump is detrimental to democracy and to America.  Politically I am and have always been an independent voter.  Although I lean toward the democratic side I have voted republican at times and on two occasions wrote in a different name on presidential choice when I could not fully support either candidate.  I state this to emphasize that there are ways to evaluate other than through partisan lenses.

Trump accuses others of being prejudice, partisan and bias or on a witch-hunt to deflect from the fact that there are true reasons for opposing his presidency.  Obscuring facts is Trump’s way to confuse, distort and distract from reasonable analysis.

Prior to the 2016 election I wrote a blog titled ‘The Danger of Donald’ (11/5/16).  In it I stated: “The office of the Presidency can help or hinder the nation’s progress . . . I see the character of the one seeking office to be of prime importance . . . I looked up the word megalomaniac and found ‘delusion about one’s own power and importance and obsession with grandiose or extravagant things’ . . . Donald Trump is only after his own aggrandizement and seeks to undermine public trust in the democratic system that has led our country to greatness.  If you listen to the undertones of his rhetoric you will hear the heartbeat of a dictator.”

Now, three years later, I stand by those words.  I’ve worked in psychiatric hospitals and clinics and have encountered certifiable megalomaniacs—they believe themselves to be superior to everyone else.  They lie with impunity and have unshakable belief that their interpretation is THE truth and no factual evidence will dissuade them.  They know more than the doctors and councilors and know they are beyond all laws and normal justice, for they are a law unto themselves.  People are only pawns for their purposes.  Their skill at manipulation leaves people of normal intelligence confused and sometimes doubting themselves.  

Think of some of Trumps public statements—about his knowing more that anyone else (diplomats, lawyers, military officers).  He brags about his own superlative intelligence and impeccable wisdom, of his being the only one who can ‘fix it’ (broken America), that he is the country’s greatest president and has done more good than anyone else in office.  (Google 50 outrageous Trump quotes)  Those kinds of statements don’t come from the mouth of a normal intelligent and respected man.

This man is a compulsive liar, he is incapable of apologizing, he lack integrity, and he is both amoral and immoral.  He insults and degrades anyone who questions or challenges him, he lack restraint and regularly and maliciously libels his perceived enemies.

A president carries the image of America to the greater world—he has sullied the image of our nation.  He has made concerted efforts to denigrate all of the institutions that underpin our democracy, beginning with our free press (fake news), other aspects of governing (FBI, CIA, etc.), the military (he knows more than the generals), our form of voting (it’s rigged).  He has withdrawn our nation from signed treaties agreed upon with other nations for global protection, and his most recent outrageous single handed decision was to withdraw protection from the Kurds—our strongest ally in the fight against ISIS—leaving them to be slaughtered by the Turks and ceding control to Russia.

To say this man, Donald Trump, is a danger is an understatement.  This is not a partisan issue; this is a problem we all must open our eyes to regardless of political party.  

This is a quote from Time Magazine (7/8/19); from the Southern Baptist Convention 1998: ‘Resolution on Moral Character by leaders of Public office:  . . . Tolerance of serious wrong by leaders sears the conscience of the culture, spawn unrestrained immorality and lawlessness in society . . .” 
I am not a Baptist but I commend that statement and suggest everyone read it carefully.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

A Meaningful Life

What does it mean to have a meaningful life?  Teilhard de Chardin writes of ‘a true act’ and the ‘zest for life’.  A true act is something into which one invests his or her self, believing it to be of abiding value.  The ‘zest for life’ is the fundamental energy—an evolutionary pressure born with reflective awareness that drives humans to create.  All creativity fuels hope and move us toward meaning.  To create can be as simple as finding a new way to tackle an old task or as profound as composing a symphony. 

Meaning doesn’t come from the accumulation of wealth and it can’t be reached with a ‘me first’ attitude.  Many suicides and much of the drug use results from a loss of hope and the failure to find meaning in life.

How does one find meaning?  It begins with having an appreciation for what is here for us that we ourselves haven’t created—which is almost everything . . . from the world in which we live and the air we breathe, to the food we buy in the grocery store, to the music and stories we enjoy, to our fancy gadgets from cars to smart phones, to electric tooth brushes; someone else is responsible for it being there for our use.  Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you say is ‘Thank You’—it is enough.

A search for meaning requires a serious self-exploration asking ‘What truly matters to me?’  Some find their meaning easily but usually it is not readily obvious and takes work to realize requiring much thought, reading, meditation and moving out into the world, trying what is appealing but perhaps is scary and difficult.

The next requirement is to leave self-centeredness behind and begin to look for purpose beyond the self, asking ‘What out there matters to me and how does it affect those around me?’  That expands our awareness to taking others into consideration—from our family and their wants and needs, to friends, to strangers, to life and our world.  Some times in the search for meaning one finds support, but often there is opposition and that raises new questions: ‘How does their opinion effect me?’  ‘Can I stay true to what I seek without damaging others?’ ‘What in all this is truly important to me?’

That expansion allows one to begin to see that we are part of the flow of life in this One World and that One World is what it presently is by the choices and actions of all who came before us.  It is our turn now; we are making the choices and taking the actions that continue the flow of life that will go on beyond us.

As we awaken to meaning, we move out of our selfishness, to invest in something greater than ourselves.  We all need hope, and meaning provides the ground for hope.  To merely hope for a better world is not enough, it isn’t going to ‘just happen’—we must choose to make it happen, to hope and believe ‘I can add to the possibility of a better world.’  That is the beginning of a meaningful life.

Finding the answer to ‘What really matters to me?’ will be different for everyone.  For some it will be small and local such as making a good and loving home for my family.  Others desire a wider pursuit like giving expression in art, music or writing, and for still others, devotion to a worthy cause, but always it will be something beyond selfishness.

There is a deep satisfaction that comes of being able to identify what truly matters personally and pursuing it with devotion.  Life doesn’t become easier, it often opens the door to unexpected disappointments but if it be a ‘true act’, it gives hope and meaning that allows one to face whatever the challenges.

It is more than just an expression to say ‘it is in giving that we receive’; it is only in giving that we find our way to a meaningful life.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Culture of Violence

We have unwittingly produced a culture of violence . . . it bears a relationship to addiction.   No one intended that, it wasn’t consciously willed; it just crept up on us.  Much like in any addiction, there is denial of its danger—the chosen thing seems harmless . . . ‘it’s a stress reliever’, ‘everyone does it’, ‘it is our right’. And excuses abound for supporting its continuation—until something so serious happens the problem can no longer be denied.

A week ago, within a 24-hour period, there were two mass shootings in two different cities leaving 31 people dead.  What words are left to capture the horror of another mass shooting in America? Haven’t all the words already been used for such atrocities?
The first mass shooting of strangers by one person was in 1966 (53 years ago).  Charles Whitman climbed to the observation deck of the Texas University clock tower with a rifle and proceeded to pick off passing students.  There were 18 deaths counting the shooter.  The nation was in shock, it was described as ‘the worst mass killing in American history’.  How could such a thing happen? He was an ex-Marine, it was later determined he suffered from PTSD.  That was in the mid-1900; in the 2000’s there has been a steady increase of mass murders—it is said it has become ‘the norm’.

Can a culture or society be addicted?  I believe it can be.  Not every member of that society need be involved and the addiction shows itself in different expressions, but where a majority supports something that is clearly unhealthy, it constitutes a kind of social addiction.  Violence is unhealthy and a continuous focus on it is psychologically damaging.

When we see evidence of this disorder expressed in a mass killer, people strain to find an explanation, a ‘reason’: guns, mental health, childhood abuse, violent video games, divisive and insulting rhetoric, negative rap music, pornography, violence in movies and on TV, radical right-wing ideology, lure of the forbidden . . . and always there is denial that that thing can’t be it . . .  ‘that’s nothing new’, ‘it has always been around’, etc.  But that misses the point, it isn’t any one thing, it’s the repetitive, all-pervasive presence of many forms of violence in our everyday lives that assaults the psyche of people.  Not any ‘one thing’ alone but the cumulative effect of our obsession with violence . . . then someone here or there demonstrates an intense reaction.

Taking some of the violence issues we live with, perhaps first and foremost is the nation’s love of/obsession with guns—it is matched nowhere else in the world.  There is a misinterpreted constitutional amendment with which gun-lobbyists block any attempts to put controls on guns. Centuries ago when the constitution was written the young country was largely lawless and the amendment was meant to give citizens the ability to protect themselves.  At that time there were only muskets, rifles and pistols—that was the ownership that was protected. Over the centuries technical advances brought forth automatic assault weapon for use in war; surely there was not foresight for these weapon and our forefathers would not have protected private ownership of them.  

Currently there are more guns than people in our country, surely that suggests we are a violent culture. Although there are many laws to protect the public from faulty merchandise that may be harmful, yet all attempts to secure protection for the public against assault weapons are blocked. The near-religious fervor to ‘protect our gun rights’ seems as ‘unhealthy’ as any other addiction.

Another thing that is contributing to the demise of our culture and fueling violence is the coarsening of rhetoric.  Not so many years ago, politeness coupled with sensitivity was a desirable virtue. It was considered a sign of maturity to be able to engage in debate without resorting to name-calling and insults. Such restraint is necessary for diplomacy.  That politeness has been in a downward spiral since the 60’s, but has taken a notable plunge since the 2016 presidential campaign.

One more thing I will single out from my list of signs of a disordered culture is the emphasis upon violence in our entertainment industry.  But before going into the violence, consider the fact that the entertainment industry alone is capable of making instantaneous millionaires: sports stars, movie and TV stars, singers with smash hits are materially rewarded far above the norm of society.  It points to something unhealthy about a society in which entertainers are valued more than scientists, educators, researchers, health professionals . . . anyone else except money manipulators who add nothing to the advancement of society; their purpose is to help make the already rich yet richer, and they profit disproportionately doing it.

Back to the point of violence—movies came into prominence in American culture in the beginning of the 1900’s, TV in the 1950’s.  Very soon it became apparent that the most popular themes were sex and violence;  movies attempted to control both with censorship from the early 1900’s to the ‘50s and 60’s when finally censorship was abandoned in 1966.  I don’t argue for the return of censorship but I do want the public to realize that the constant exposure to violence and immorality is damaging to young minds still in the process of forming . . . sex and violence are exciting and stimulating and we seem to be automatically drawn to them, and that is the same problem that occurs with cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. Wisdom tells us to approach them with care, using self-control.

There has been nothing more influential in contemporary society than television—in our homes with 24/7 availability—that was true until the Internet; those two influences supersede all other influences.  The person one become results form a duel interaction of heredity and environment, and the environment of TV and Internet makes violence readily available.

We humans are the only creatures blessed with reflective awareness, the ability to see forward and back so we can plan and choose.  That constitutes our consciousness—it is a huge responsibility—together humanity makes the world to be what it is.  There have been both good and bad choices.  As we expand our consciousness we learn to make better choices.

The cumulative effect of many negative influences without a positive counter balance creates a culture of violence.  For all intents and purposes any concept of a God has been eliminated from our secular materialistic society.  About mid-way into the 1900’s laws were passed to prohibit prayer in schools and all mention of God in public affairs.  

Now I know and don’t deny ‘religion’ is a volatile issue, wars have been fought in its name, but that results from one religion claiming superiority and insisting all others are wrong. God is so far above religions and so beyond our ability to comprehend, any religion insisting upon its exclusive ‘rightness’ is in error.  A ‘God concept’ embodies all that is good: love, mercy, justice, hope, truth, compassion . . . that goodness needs expression.   You can remove from the public specific religious ideologies, but not God. Call God by whatever name or names you choose, or no name other than ‘the good’.  There is a need in any and all societies to hold up before all people—especially children still in a formative stage—an articulated set of values that are regularly called forth.  Does it really matter if God is preexistent or if God is something we strive and hope for?  In our lives we need a ‘God image’ to carry forward the good we long for.

I recommend Marianne Williamson’s book:  Healing the Soul of America

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Fourth of July 2019

I write this on the eve of the 4thof July 2019 with a heavy heart.  President Trump has called for an unprecedented change in the holiday of our nation’s birth.  We are a nation that seeks Peace not war, we don’t showcase military might—it seems provocative.  It is Trump alone, not the Pentagon or the Armed Forces who have called for this display of tanks, weapon and armored military vehicles with a fleet of fighter jets to do a fly over.  This is costly to operate and 2.5 million dollars intended for our national parks will be diverted to pay for it.

He has had a stage set up in front of the Lincoln Memorial with a section cordoned off with reserved VIP seats for important Republican donors.  He has arranged this in order to feature himself with a speech.  No other president has used the national holiday for his own political agenda.  The celebration of the 4thhas traditionally been to honor the flag, our constitution and the freedom that this nation promises its citizens. Presidents come and go, this holiday is to celebrate our country and flag—not one man.

Many people will just ‘enjoy the show’ without giving consideration to the cost or the implication of highlighting military weapons and the inappropriateness of Trump making himself the focus.  He has planned the kind of display that thrills dictators with not-so-subtle ‘saber rattling’ to inspire awe and intimidate.

This president is an embarrassment to the country but worse than an embarrassment he is a danger to the world.  His term of office is changing the face and values of our country while breaking treaties, embracing dictators and alienating our allies.

Following are 2 similar words as defined on the internet:
1) Megalomania:   a symptom of mental illness marked by delusions of greatness . . . an obsession with doing extravagant or grand things . . . a mania for grandiose performance.
Related words: selfishness, narcissism, egotism, arrogance, overconfidence, vainglory, self-absorption 
2) Egomania:  is preoccupation with one’s self . . . applies to one who follows his own ungoverned impulses and is possessed by delusions of personal greatness and feels a lack of appreciation.  One who is obsessively egotistical and self-centerd.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019


Reparation has become a thorny issue; can it be explored rationally without immediately jumping to one side or the other?  Let’s begin with a simple definition—reparation: making amends for a wrong, by money or otherwise helping (offering assistance).  The question being asked in America: ‘Are members of the black race entitled to compensation for the injustice of slavery’?

Before continuing, I take a brief side trip in history.  For eons slavery was a norm for society, usually a rather local issue.  To quote the International Slavery Museum: “For more than 2000 years people in many different parts of the world forced their fellow humans into slavery.”  

The character of slavery changed as capitalism emerged in Northern Europe in the 16thCentury; it gave rise to the institutionalization of slavery.  Rather than remeining local, vast numbers of people were captured, gathered and shipped far away. 

The majority of those enslaved were from central and western Africa where slavery was historically widespread.  The captives were sold to Western European slave traders and shipped to America under horrible conditions and then offloaded and sold at auction.  This became known as ‘the transatlantic slave trade.’  It went on from the 1600’s to the 1900’s.  Only in the 1800’s in Europe and America did it come into question as a moral and political issue.

Denmark was the first nation to ban the import of slaves in 1792, becoming law in 1807.  The French colonies abolished slavery in 1848 and in the 1860’s the issue of slavery brought America to the bloody Civil War.  On January 1, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves.

The slaves were technically freed, but the injustice caused by slavery continued through decades of segregation and the resulting social inequality has never been directly addressed. The issue of reparation asks that we as a nation address it.  Some point to Holocaust survivors being financially compensated—but that is a different issue, those are individuals who experienced direct suffering whereas there are no longer people alive who experienced direct suffering from slavery.  Yet, just looking around you will see it is indisputable that blacks are still suffering societal injustice.  Some individuals have succeeded against the odds, but the majority has not.  

It does not make sense nor is it reasonable to consider direct financial payment to descendants of slaves from several generations ago, but it would make sense to compensate for the societal injustice with a societal response by providing free education or skills training to any low income black family who requests it.

This is a call for a consciousness change to recognize the decades long injustice and offer assistance—reparation—for the wrong that had been done. 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Revisiting the Abortion Issue

Although the question of abortion in the U.S. seemed settled in the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, with conservatism gaining more visibility since the Trump election, the issue of abortion has again become a contentious issue.  It is posed as a Yes or No question and both sides are highly emotionally charged so it is difficult to engage in rational discussions of the issue.

Much of the objection to abortion revolves around the question of ‘when is the fetus to be considered a human being?’ . . . is it as soon as the egg and sperm come together? . . . or is it with the first detectable heartbeat? . . . or is it when the fetus is viable—able to survive on its own outside the mother’s womb?  Law and science alone can’t give a definitive answer.

Another important issue at the core of the debate is ‘who has the right to make the decision concerning the use of a woman’s body?’  The woman? . . . the medical profession? . . . the Church? . . . the government?  The answer to that seems obvious—it is the woman. 

If we give careful consideration to that question, we see it as being influenced by the long-standing patriarchal perspective—a system of society or government controlled by men—wherein women have no voice, and all aspects of their lives are under the control of men.    That attitude can still be seen in the unwillingness to allow women to make their own choices.

More than a yes or no answer to abortion is needed.  Rather, what is needed is a deeper respect for life in general . . . unprotected sex can yield babies and babies are more than just today’s inconvenience.  We are all part of the flow of life and babies are the future generation.  Seen in those terms, abortion should never be a frivolous matter.  Women, being the carrier of life, hold a heavy responsibility . . . yet there are circumstances that can justify a choice to abort. Girls need be educated to protect their life-giving privilege and only in dire circumstances choose to eliminate a developing life in their body—but it is and must be their right to choose.

Let me bring up a point involving males that also concerns the ‘taking of life’.  There is a commandment ‘Thou shall not kill’ . . . all of civilization agrees that killing is wrong.  Yet since the beginning of time there have been wars—and they are even glorified in many ways.  It is almost exclusively men who initiate war and men who engage in war.  The world, having developed under patriarchy, has made no outcry—until recently—that war is immoral. 

The point I make here is two-fold: 1) men have not been restricted by law or Church to not engage in the killing of war, they have always been free to choose how to use their bodies; and 2) under a patriarchal system women’s freedom had been controlled by men. Historically, their freedom of movement was curtailed (needing male approval); their freedom to be educated, to choose professions, to own property, to vote, was withheld etc. Slowly women have fought to be free of male control and make their own choices—the abortion issue is part of that fight.  

I want my position to be clear on this issue.  I oppose abortion as simply a way to ‘solve the problem’ of an unplanned pregnancy; I believe it is a moral issue and should be resorted to only in a real crisis, but I recognize that there are circumstances that justify it.  This is a decision that only the one directly concerned can make—as are all moral decisions.  This conflict is a gender-freedom issue.  The long-standing patriarchal control strives to take away woman’s authority in this very sensitive matter—we again and still fight for our freedom.  

I do believe there should be reasonable legal limits to the time allowed in which to abort and a limit to humane methods used, but ultimately the decision pro or con regarding a woman’s choice should be in the hands of the woman concerned.  

Saturday, April 20, 2019

For Survival of Planet Earth

There are inherent values to guide human behavior that are essential for human survival on planet earth.

That is a strong sweeping statement.  I wish to unpack it . . . notice there is no mention of God in the statement.  It does not mean that God has been rejected or left out; it means the statement is applicable whether or not one holds a belief in God.

First let me make a statement about God, as I understand it.  When you think about a consciousness (God) that created life, the world and this vast wondrous universe you necessarily realize it is so beyond our capacity to grasp that you have to know that no group of people—no church, no nation; not theologians nor agnostics--can define or explain the phenomenon, so those insisting they know all the answers and have the right formula are wrong.

From that starting point, I say we can take some tentative steps toward recognizing what a creator (if there was one) who brought forth this beautiful delicately balanced world and life, would want from those creatures displaying the marvelous human quality of reflective awareness (reasoning).  It would surely be to appreciate the wonder and continue to create and flourish, not destroy it all.

Next statement I would make concerns inherent values . . . every society since the beginning of time—no, rather let me say since the beginning of reflective awareness—has looked beyond the immediate seeking answers.  Answers to ‘what is the best way to capture the game?’  ‘How should we protect ourselves?’  And ‘what is out there bringing this all about?’  They come to different answers but the quest is universal.  The desire to know and to understand is simply a part of being human.  In that desire to know and understand, if we look, we will find ways of being that support life and ways that oppose it.

Once we didn’t know how to extend communication beyond speech and writing; now we have phones and computers to instantly convey information.
Once we had only horses, oxen, elephants and camels to transport our goods and us; now we have cars, trains and planes for that.
Once we gave consideration to only ourselves, our family and our nation to prosper; but now we must look beyond that and realize we are one world and we have the ability to destroy it . . . and our lack of foresight has allowed that to become a real threat.

We have thus far ignored looking deeply into ethics and values, but now it is incumbent upon us if we are to avoid self-destruction.

About 125 years ago all the world religions began to dialogue, seeking a common core of values. In 1993 The Parliament of World’s Religions, after years of work, produced the document Toward a Global Ethic that was signed by 200 representatives of all world religions.  That document has been translated into nearly all languages and is available on the Internet.

The fact that all religions could come to an agreement, looking beyond their differences and see that we are all interconnected by common values is amazing!  Our humanness is supported by shared inherent values recognizable by our reflective awareness.

The 5 fundamental ethical demands are:
1.    Commitment to a culture of non-violence and respect for life.
2.    Commitment to a culture of solidarity and just economic order
3.    Commitment to a culture of tolerance and a life of truth
4.    Commitment to a culture of equal rights for all races and genders
5.    Commitment to a culture of sustainability and care for the earth

Only when we come to recognize the truth and necessity of these principles can we step back from the impending disaster we are now faced with.

If there is a God (and I believe there is) I think that God would care less about how people pray or if they pray at all, so much as about how they live their lives in accordance to a moral and ethical order, how they cared for and sustained this wonderful life-giving planet, and how they finally learned to love their neighbor as themselves.

I encourage readers to search the Web for Toward a Global Ethic.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Invasion of Privacy

Uncharacteristic of my usual blog content, I want to say a few words about advertising.  It seems odd to me that so much fuss was made about privacy when the government was searching bundles of phone lines to apprehend connections with potential terrorists—that’s not listening in on private conversations, it was seeking to know about connections with foreign powers—yet there was an outcry in the media.

As for the privacy issue, my privacy is invaded on a daily basis through my house phone and cell phone robocalls; through the internet via uninvited and unwanted ads in email and messages; through the mail with a sea of printed advertising, and through TV which seems to have become devoted more to constant ads than programming—I pay to have TV yet I’m subjected to endless advertising.

I have faithfully watched CBS Morning Show for years.  They have important and accurate news, interesting guests on a variety of topics as well as friendly and humorous banter between their reporters—it’s a well-rounded informative show.  But over the years the advertising has increased to the degree that I estimate equal time is now given to ‘stuff’ other than the show itself.  Many ads are the same ones over and over and they have added   more advertising for their other CBS shows.  In addition to repetitive advertising, time is consumed by long weather/traffic reports repeated every 10 to 15 minutes and between ads they insert shots of the reporters around the table to make viewers think the show has returned in case they zoomed ahead to skip the ads.  I no longer want to watch it on live TV.  The effect of the onslaught of advertising from all directions has alienated me to the extent that I deliberately avoid purchasing things that are over-advertised.  

If the government is to protect our privacy, why is there no effort to protect us from the invasion of unwanted advertising over our phones, the Internet, TV we pay to receive, and the US mail?  Why is it OK for advertising sources to collect data to learn an individual’s preferences and aim specific advertising at them?  Why is there no privacy protection there?

It seems to be a confirmation that our consumerism is out of hand.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Patriarchy Challenged

In the book Sapiens, the author Harari states: “All societies are based on imagined hierarchies”.  These imagined orders divide people into make-believe groups—upper levels enjoy privileges and power while lower levels suffer discrimination and oppression. There has been some change over time . . . but, “One hierarchy, however, has been of supreme importance in all known human societies: the hierarchy of gender.” 

“Most human societies have been Patriarchal societies that valued men more highly than women.” “People everywhere have divided themselves into men and women.  And almost everywhere men have gotten the better deal . . . In many societies women were simply the property of men, most often their fathers, husbands and brothers.”  

In rare instances a woman has gained prominence—as in Royal succession—she may inherit the title when there is no male heir; but it is illusionary.  He gives the example of Elizabeth I of England who reigned for 45 years yet during her rule, “all Members of Parliament were men, all officers in the Royal Navy and army were men, all judges and lawyers were men, all bishops and archbishops were men, all theologians and priests were men, all doctors and surgeons were men, all students and professors in all universities and colleges were men, all sheriffs were men and almost all the writers, architects, poets, philosophers, painters musicians and scientists were men.”

“Patriarchy has been the norm in almost all agricultural and industrial societies . . . since it is so universal, it cannot be the product of some vicious circle that was kick-started by chance occurrence.”  How did this happen?  Harari asks, “What accounts for the universality and stability of this system? . . . we just don’t know.”

I want to speculate on a possibility . . . it is evolution.  Teilhard says evolution is the underlying principle of all that is. Life is dynamic, ever changing and time is one directional—an ever expanding process.  Looking at the law of complexity-consciousness, in all things, as the external (the without) grows more complex, the internal (the within) expands in consciousness.

When the Homo sapiens first acquired language and complex thought, it was an untamed brutal world. It stands to reason that men were better equipped with their strength, aggression, and violence to take command in that world.  It was also obvious that since nature gave women the responsibility of bearing, birthing, and nursing the next generation (which was not a one-time thing but continuous) that confined her activities to a smaller circle thereby the domestic scene with its requirements became her primary stage of operation.  Those obvious roles were dictated by nature in a primitive world.

But as the world became more civilized, more complex and with more opportunities, men, having come from that ‘might means right’ brutal world, saw themselves as being ‘in charge’ . . . so as civilization advanced, there was no desire on the part of man to share decision-making authority with woman.  Clearly men had the strength/violence advantage to enforce that, so what began as a natural biologically ordered division of labor became a dictatorial Patriarchal system in which, almost universally, women became second-class citizens with no authoritative input and the ‘voice’ of women was silenced. 

In psychology it is recognized that all human qualities are present in all people, but are exhibited at different strengths in each individual.  It is also understood that taken as a whole, each gender emphasizes certain preferences.  Lists of gender characteristics give males as having: strength, courage, independence, dominance, violence, competitiveness, assertiveness . . . and females as having: gentleness, empathy, sensitivity, compassion, jealousy, nurturance, tolerance . . . Given these characteristics each gender sees the world through different eyes and speaks with a different voice.   

By having long ago adopted Patriarchy as the basic societal hierarchy, half of humanity was eliminated from shaping the forward movement of civilization.  For uncountable generations this system was unchallenged and those dominant male qualities shaped the world to his view—with aggression gaining ever more prominence on the world stage as wars increased in frequency and intensity. 

Slowly female consciousness has awakened to the inequality and danger our world has found itself in.  It was and is an evolutionary awakening of consciousness.  By Patriarchy silencing the female voice during civilization’s advance distorted the outcome; the violence, aggression, dominance, and competitiveness of male characteristics have gone unchecked by female sensitivity, compassion, empathy and tolerance.  That makes no claim of female superiority; rather, it recognizes those qualities present in all humanity but associated more with the female.  They have been left out of the equation by silencing the female ‘voice’ thereby unbalancing our world.

Evolution is kicking in to bring attention to the ‘left out’ dimension, and the changing of the state of women on the world stage gives evidence to it. 

Evolution moves forward by advancing in complexity while increasing in consciousness and transforming to a higher state.  That is our present challenge—to fully embrace the whole of humanity.  There is purpose and direction to be found in evolution . . . we are to build the earth, not destroy it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Is Humanity Evolving?

Herein I make references to the concepts of Teilhard de Chardin, a scientist, Jesuit and Theologian who has stated that evolution is God’s plan ‘which is the underlying principle of all that is.’  Evolution is transformation.

It is easy to see how we have made progress with our technology.  In the life span of our oldest senior citizens society has moved from horse drawn carriages to supersonic jets for transportation; and from the cumbersome stationary telephone to smart phones that we carry in our pockets for communication.  The without—the material things—are so much more obvious, right there before our eyes.  We can weigh, measure and take apart the ‘things’ of the world and come to understand them and make improvements, but that isn’t evolution, it is production. The evolution is represented by the inventiveness.  In the within—the non-material thoughts and feelings—which are out of sight, there is nothing to weigh and measure so until recently they have been overlooked—yet in that within is the driving force of our advances. 

So what is that driving force?  Let’s call it consciousness—a word bantered around much these days but is still ill defined.  The agreed definition is that the word refers to ‘awareness by the mind of itself and the world.’  (Teilhard calls that reflective awareness.)  It was Sigmund Freud (1856 -1939) who initiated interest in the study of the mind by dividing the mind into two parts: the conscious and the unconscious.  Later Carl Jung added the concept of the collective unconscious, defined as ‘the part of the unconscious mind which is derived from ancestral memory and experiences that are common to all mankind.  (The way our humanness preserves consciousness).

Let’s return to our question: Is humanity evolving?  It’s an important question.  I postulate that if the question were asked in a survey, answers would fall into 3 groups. The smallest group would be those who say ‘yes’; the next group, a bit larger but more emphatic, would say ‘NO!’ and the remaining largest group would be made up of those who just shrug or say ‘I never thought about that.’  It’s an important question because a ‘yes’ answer opens the door to hope whereas the ‘no’ answer keeps company with fatalism. 

The essence of evolution is transformation from a lower state to a higher state. Here we need to consider the law of complexity-consciousness.  This law reflects the tendency for creatures to become more complex and at the same time to increase in consciousness.  We can see this operative in species development which, over billions of years, simple one-cell creatures grew increasingly more complex eventually developing spinal cords and brains which enabled them to have more freedom while rudimentary awareness increased to allow a choice of reacting patterns.  Initially evolution focused more on the without until Homo sapiens appeared, then evolution turned inward.  The within in humanity became the focus for evolution.The human is not merely ‘another creature, the human was God’s plan from the beginning.  Teilhard calls mankind ‘the flower on the tree of life.

From 800-400 BC a major evolutionary step was represented by the Axial Age when, throughout the then inhabited world, clusters of humanity simultaneously and independently produced thinkers and philosophers who laid spiritual groundwork which became the foundations of human civilization.

It is easier to see evolutionary advances from a distance . . . look all the way back to the early Homo sapiens.  The emergent humans came with the inherent ability for speech, but speech had to be invented . . . and they found ways to turn their grunts and vocal sounds into words—a gigantic evolutionary step forward without which civilization could not have been accomplished.  Those sounds-become-words needed ways to be captured and preserved . . . marks on objects became letters which became permanentized words . . . with time, more and more ways to preserve words came into being . . . writing on clay tablets, parchment, paper . . . all came to be from human effort.  Then came the marvelous invention of the printing press which hundreds of years later gave way to the computer.  We take those long-past innovations for granted, but stop for a moment and realize how transformative each of those steps was.  Those were evolutionary advances because the scope of what was possible had expanded.  The without of the shapes and forms are only incidental, the wonder lies in the non-material—the expansion of consciousness within the human mind.

It seems hard to accept that humanity is evolving when we can see so much humanly produced evil . . . but it make sense from the point of view of our freedom.  God gave the human free will.  That means God does not control us; we can choose our ‘next step’. The important thing to remember is that with the expansion of consciousness comes the advancement of knowledge.

Let’s think of an early human taking a new path and coming upon a tree with red objects hanging down. His tribe hadn’t encountered apples before.  He picks and bites into one and finds it tasty and good to eat.  He has three choices: He can take some back and share them with his tribe; he can eat his full and return to his tribe saying nothing thereby keeping this secret pleasure to himself; or he can lie to his people, telling of his encounter with a tree with large red berries and many dead animals around who must have eaten the poison berries—thus insuring no one else will eat them.  Humans are free to use their knowledge in any way.

Is humanity advancing? Clearly that is the case, but because of equal opportunity between the negative and positive uses of our abilities we are now in a precarious position unless and until we consciously and collectively choose for the good.