Reason to Impeach

No, no, no, no, no. An American president does not ask a foreign president to investigate a fellow American. American investigations of Americans stay in America. And to offer weapons to a foreign president in exchange for investigating an American citizen is also a no-no. I feel weird having to say this. I mean. Duh, right?

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“We should remember…”

“We should remember that the world is wide; that there are a thousand million different human wills, opinions, ambitions, tastes, and loves; that each person has a different history, constitution, culture, character, from all the rest; that human life is the work, the play, the ceaseless action and reaction upon each other of these different atoms. Then, we should go forth into life with the smallest expectations, but with the largest patience; with a keen relish for and appreciation of everything beautiful, great, and good, but with a temper so genial that the friction of the world shall not wear upon our sensibilities; with an equanimity so settled that no passing breath nor accidental disturbance shall agitate or ruffle it; with a charity broad enough to cover the whole world’s evil, and sweet enough to neutralize what is bitter in it, – determined not to be offended when no wrong is meant, nor even when it is…” – Mary Baker Eddy

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Earth (NASA)

Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Heat, Nor Gloom…

Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
– Herodotus

My dear Humoristian hooligans,

Today, as you do battle against the forces of gloom and stodge, may you know that you are making a difference in the world. May your commitment to good will and humor lighten the loads of those burdened with fear and hate. May you bring laughter to the cranky, kindness to the bullied, and cheerful enlightenment to the ignorant. Let neither snow, nor rain, nor bigotry, nor FOX, deter you from your mission of irrepressible, unrelenting joyfulness. Go out there and make some laughter!

– Karen

Where do your beliefs lead you?

Snippet of a dialogue from a discussion forum…

Robert says:
The requirements for an observation to be considered to be evidence are strict: the phenomenon must be repeatedly observable by anyone who is interested, and must be able to show, and actually show, that the thesis under discussion is true, if such is the case — AND must be able to show, and would actually show, that said thesis is false if such is the case. And this arises for good reason: it is extremely easy to fool oneself as to the nature and significance of a subjective phenomenon. Clearly, no subjective phenomena of any sort can qualify as evidence in a scientific sense.

None of this has anything whatever to do with anyone’s position on the rights of women and LGBT people — nor whether one is a theist, atheist, or whatever.

Karen writes:
Robert, you write: “None of this has anything whatever to do with anyone’s position on the rights of women and LGBT people — nor whether one is a theist, atheist, or whatever.”

Exactement!! Exactly! Which brings us back to my original question: Seeing as how my beliefs in God don’t cause me to do harm to others, why do you REALLY care about them? What impels you to want to refute them? Why does it matter to you what I believe? Why is it any of your business?

And if I were to tell you that my belief in God has made me a better person – has helped me become kinder, more compassionate, more tolerant – doesn’t that actually make my belief in God a positive thing? Something to be glad about?

I don’t think it’s our beliefs that are important. I think it’s what we do with them that matters. If your belief in Nogod has made you kinder, more compassionate, and more tolerant – then I celebrate your belief in Nogod with you.

Robert responds:
Good post. “…my beliefs in God don’t cause me to do harm to others…” Most of the time, they probably don’t. But if you ever do ANYTHING for religious reasons, there is a distinct possibility that there will be, somewhere, an adverse effect. But the more salient point is: do not these beliefs cause you to do harm to yourself? Do you spend time in a church, as opposed to doing something productive? Do you contribute time or money to religious things, instead of to things that actually improve peoples’ lives? Do you approve of what is demonstrably irrational thought?

“…my belief in God has made me a better person…” I would ask for your grounds for this. Such beliefs can impel people to do good things — or truly horrible things. And, since there does not (and, provably, cannot) exist any means for validating any such belief, whether you do well or ill in accordance with a religious belief is strictly a crapshoot. No doubt you temper your religion-impelled actions on the basis of your appraisal of their overall effect on the society in which you live, but not everybody does this. (Examples of such perfidy are rife in the news these days.)

“I think it’s what we do with them that matters.” Agreed. But the standards to be applied in determining this cannot be based solely on any religion.

Karen responds:
Robert, you ask: “…do not these beliefs cause you to do harm to yourself? Do you spend time in a church, as opposed to doing something productive? Do you contribute time or money to religious things, instead of to things that actually improve peoples’ lives? Do you approve of what is demonstrably irrational thought?”

I am a teacher in a non-profit alternative high school. Seventh-eighths of the population is composed of minority students. My students and their families are dealing with challenges that a lot of us can’t begin to imagine – and that I can’t really share here. I came to the alternative high school after a 20-year career in public education. I get paid peanuts, but I love my job and love working with these kids. I love helping them find academic success and helping them discover their gifts. There are days when I come home totally emotionally drained – not from my students, but from seeing the crap they have to deal with just to survive in our society. I feel useful there. I really like feeling useful. My work is not in any way connected with a religious institution.

I am involved in supporting political issues that matter to me – I served as a state delegate to the 2012 Democratic convention, and write letters to politicians and newspapers, and write posts on my blogs that take the time to address these issues. I have given money to the ACLU, Amnesty International, the Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, World Wildlife Fund, Habitat for Humanity, Humane Society, and Doctors Without Borders, among others. I have helped build a house for Habitat for Humanity.

I also like to keep moving – hiking, gardening – healthy activities that keep the blood pumping. And I’ve found it’s important to my well-being to set aside time for creative pursuits, too – I’m big into photography, singing, and writing.

I am not, actually, a very religious person. Not all theists are. There are periods in my life when I don’t attend church. And there are periods when I do. Right now I am the Reader at the mid-week testimony meetings, and my job is to pick the week’s topic, find readings on it, and conduct the service. I try to find readings that I think will be helpful and healing to the world. Last week’s readings were on “wrath/anger” and “love/forgiveness.” People seemed really grateful for the inspiration they felt from the readings, and I was glad I could provide that for them.

And now I give the question back to you: How do your beliefs in Nogod help mankind? How do they make the world a better place?

“We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others. Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out on the verandah and beat them with a cricket bat… Be intellectually rigorous. Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privilege.” – Tim Minchin

I really like that quote. I especially like the thought that we need to start with our OWN biases when it comes to thinking critically. How much of your time do you spend on self-reflection? When was the last time you changed the way you thought about something? Or recognized a bias that wasn’t healthy for you to have?

How do we know when we need to change our beliefs about something? Well, for me it starts with looking at where my beliefs are taking me. If they’re leading me towards hate, fear, anger, bigotry, bullying, greed, and selfishness, then those beliefs have got to go. But if my beliefs are leading me towards love – guiding me to a place of courage and compassion, generosity and hope, joy and kindness and forgiveness and integrity – then those are the beliefs I’m going to nurture.

What about you? Where do your beliefs lead you?

Robert responds:

A most excellent post. It appears that you have your life well together — something that is rare in this day and age. I entirely approve of the Minchen quote. I am not young, and have spent much time and intellectual effort on identifying the source and nature of knowledge and what can be done with it.”it starts with looking at where my beliefs are taking me.” In other words, you are looking for evidence. Are your theses sound, or are they refuted by evidence of some sort? This is exactly what you should be doing — and are, with the notable exception of religious beliefs. You are doing appropriate things with respect to society, but your foundation is weak.”Where do your beliefs lead you?” Among other things, to participate in these forums. We have all seen the horrors that religious beliefs have brought to the world society; it is my purpose to show these to be the nonsense that they are. So, that instead of flying airplanes into tall buildings, we can indeed spend our efforts productively in things like teaching the next generation, discovering cures for loathsome diseases, and making it possible for people to live in comfort and peace.Carry on!

Seeker responds to Karen:
I read your post and then the reply from Robert, and I have to say that I don’t see your “foundation” as being weak. Even though I would probably side with Robert on the idea that there is no proof of God, I don’t see religious belief as automatically detrimental. In fact, in proper perspective and using definitions appropriately I have seen great value from those that profit by their faith. That said… it is sad that so many use religion to justify those reprehensible things you mention, “hate, fear, anger, bigotry, bullying, greed, and selfishness”, and do it in the name of religion. What is strange is that most of those failing in these areas ARE the religious. Very sad, and certainly detrimental to those that use faith as you apparently do.

I believe your last question, in context with your examples of guidance, is one that all people should be aware of. So I will ask it again…Where do your beliefs lead you?

Robert writes:
Re Karen T., above and elsewhere: You have well described your various activities, which I consider meritorious. Suppose, now, that you concluded that, since the existence of any god cannot be demonstrated by any means [1], you decide that it is pointless to believe in one. In what way (if at all), would your subsequent activities differ from what you are doing now?

1. Recall that this is provable.

Karen responds:
Thank you, Robert. You don’t know what a relief it is to learn that my life has met with your approval. 🙂

I guess I could lie and tell you that I no longer believe in God – and maybe win your complete approval of me and stuff… but… well, it wouldn’t be honest of me.

My belief in God is based on happenings I have witnessed or experienced first-hand – so, although these experiences are just nice anecdotes to people who didn’t live them or see them, to me they are more than that. For me, they are “proof.”

Remember that I don’t believe in an anthropomorphic god. I believe in a power and presence and Consciousness of Love and Truth. There’s nothing supernatural about this God.

Nando Perrado describes “God” this way (Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home) and I have not found a better description for the God I believe in: “…I did not feel God as most people see Him. I did feel something larger than myself, something in the mountains and the glaciers and the glowing sky that, in rare moments, reassured me, and made me feel that the world was orderly and loving and good… It was simply a silence, a wholeness, an awe-inspiring simplicity. It seemed to reach me through my own feelings of love, and I have often thought that when we feel what we call love, we are really feeling our connection to this awesome presence.”

Seeker responds to Karen:
That’s nice, and I am awed by what can be experienced, too.

The Anger Pandemic and Its Antidote

Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

I just watched a great video on YouTube (“This Video Will Make You Angry”) about the epidemic spread of anger thought-germs on the internet. This video got my “brain” sparking in all kinds of directions: I thought about some of the internet “conversations” I’ve gotten myself involved in the last several years; took a look at how internet dialogues have changed since I first began participating in them seven or eight years ago; compared some of the thoughts shared in the video with thoughts shared by Mary Baker Eddy back in the late 1800’s – long before the invention of the internet, but, I think, still pertinent today; and began looking around me for some good news – signs of hope and salvation from the anger pandemic that seems to be infecting the globe.

In the video, the narrator tells us: “Anger by-passes your mental immune system…The internet is the best thing to happen to thought-germs…The more they (anger-germs)  are shared they under-go the same process (as biological germs), changing and distorting to become more aggravating. These have a better chance of spreading than their possibly more accurate rivals.”

– Ohmygosh! I’m guessing we can all recognize the truth of those words! According to this video there are two emotions that are highly contagious to humans – anger and awe. Anger and awe are almost irresistible. When anger or awe go hopping by us we are like the dog in Up! and…squirrel!  – we have to look, right?

The narrator in the video continues: “Once everyone agrees (on something), it’s hard to keep talking (about it)… but if there’s an opposing thought-germ then the thinking doesn’t have to stop. The more visible an argument gets, the more by-standers it draws in – which makes it more visible. These thought germs aren’t competing, they’re cooperating… working together they reach more brains… Thought-germs on opposite sides of an argument can be symbiotic… its divisiveness also  grows its symbiotic partner… gaining more allies also gains more enemies… Though the participants think they’re involved in a fiery battle to the death, from the anger germ’s perspective one field is a field of flowers and the other a flock of butterflies… ”

– I suppose most of us would now agree that the earth is roundish. Can you remember the last time you got in an in-depth conversation about the roundishness of the planet? No, right? We don’t generally talk about stuff we all acknowledge as true. But I can guarantee that if there suddenly appeared a large group of people – not outliers, but a mainstream group – that rose up and declared the earth was flat, there’d be a hot fiery debate about it all over Facebook. Flat-earthers would be calling round-earthers arrogant and smug, round-earthers would be calling flat-earthers ignorant and stoopid, and the oblate-spheroid-earthers would be denouncing everyone but themselves as unrealistic fuzzy thinkers.

The narrator continues: “When opposing groups get big they don’t really argue with each other, they mostly argue with themselves about how angry the other group makes them… We can actually graph fights on the internet to see this in action – each becomes its own quasi-isolated internet – sharing thoughts about the other…each group breeds thought-germs about the other…the group almost can’t help but construct a totem of the other so enraging they’ll talk about it all the time…”

– And don’t we see this in politics ALL THE TIME?!! Republicans are this. Democrats are that. Socialists are the other. And don’t even get me started on the Libertarians. 🙂  We take a certain pride in our alliances and our loyalty to our team. And we insulate ourselves from other perspectives and hang out with our own group. We lump everyone who belongs to another group into one monolithic unit – no longer seeing individuals – and rant about the short-comings of everyone who isn’t “us.” In short, we become bigots.

The narrator ends the video with these thoughts: “It’s useful to be aware of how thoughts can use our emotions to spread… If you want to maintain a healthy brain it pays to be cautious of thoughts that have passed through a lot of brains… it’s your brain – be hygienic with it.”  

– And this brings me to the writings of Mary Baker Eddy. In her Miscellaneous Writings, Eddy writes: “Beloved Christian Scientists, keep your minds so filled with Truth and Love, that sin, disease, and death cannot enter them. It is plain that nothing can be added to the mind already full. There is no door through which evil can enter, and no space for evil to fill in a mind filled with goodness. Good thoughts are an impervious armor; clad therewith you are completely shielded from the attacks of error of every sort. And not only yourselves are safe, but all whom your thoughts rest upon are thereby benefited.”

And in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Eddy writes: “The weapons of bigotry, ignorance, envy, fall before an honest heart.”

I have found this to be true. 🙂

 “We should remember that the world is wide; that there are a thousand million different human wills, opinions, ambitions, tastes, and loves; that each person has a different history, constitution, culture, character, from all the rest; that human life is the work, the play, the ceaseless action and reaction upon each other of these different atoms. Then, we should go forth into life with the smallest expectations, but with the largest patience; with a keen relish for and appreciation of everything beautiful, great, and good, but with a temper so genial that the friction of the world shall not wear upon our sensibilities; with an equanimity so settled that no passing breath nor accidental disturbance shall agitate or ruffle it; with a charity broad enough to cover the whole world’s evil, and sweet enough to neutralize what is bitter in it, – determined not to be offended when no wrong is meant, nor even when it is…” – Mary Baker Eddy

Reluctant Heroes and Reluctant Leaders

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.
– William Shakespeare

 “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
– Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

I’ve always enjoyed the “reluctant heroes” and “reluctant leaders” of literature and film, and real life – the people who don’t really seek to be heroes or leaders; who don’t really want to risk their lives; who have some concept of what might happen to them if they step forward and do the right thing, and sigh and take a deep breath, and do it anyway. These aren’t the people who are seeking the limelight. They aren’t looking for glory. They don’t want medals and awards and accolades and power. They’re doing the right thing in spite of their trepidation. They’re doing the right thing simply because they don’t have it in them to NOT try to save someone else’s life, or rescue the puppy, or stand up for what is right and fair, or to lead when there is a need. They are, in my mind, the best kinds of heroes and leaders.

In literature, one of my favorite “reluctant heroes” is Frodo Baggins. Frodo clearly does not want the responsibility of The Ring. He’d much rather have given that responsibility to someone else, and gone home to his quiet life in the Shire. But he realizes that he’s the only one equipped – mentally and emotionally – to take on the responsibility. He’s the only one humble enough. In short, his very reluctance to be the hero is exactly why he’s the best one fit to BE the hero.

In “Are You a Reluctant Leader?” Walt Grassle writes: “…often, reluctant leaders are the best leaders. They lead from a desire to serve, not a desire for power.” And in “The Reluctant Leader” Lainie Heneghan writes: “Adaptability, humility, a capacity to bring others along in their efforts, and a plain old willingness to listen are defining qualities of reluctant leaders.”

In thinking about reluctant leadership, the death of one of my dad’s climbing friends in an avalanche on Mount Rainier comes to mind. Dad’s friend, Willy, had been leading a group of climbers from Evergreen State College up Mount Rainier when an avalanche struck the team.  Willy and another climber were buried under the avalanche. The other team members were able to uncover the snow from the two victims’ bodies, and tried to resuscitate them, but without success. The team’s leader, Willy, was gone, and the remaining members were in a perilous situation – exhausted, traumatized, and in shock. It was then, according to Dad, that Ian, one of the student-members of the climbing team, stepped forward and assumed leadership. As I understand it, this student had been one of the quieter members of the team until that moment – a strong climber who had earlier helped Willy scout out the route to the summit – but not someone who had sought attention for himself. I’m sure that Iain would rather not have been in a situation where he had to assume leadership.  But, as Dad tells it, Ian was an observer and he’d seen there was a need – recognized that someone needed to step forward and give direction to the team – and he had done what he knew needed to be done to get the surviving members of the team safely off the mountain.

I’m guessing the world is full or reluctant heroes and leaders – people quietly making the lives of other people better; people stepping up to the plate when a leader is needed, or a hero; people who recognize that in their neighborhood, or workplace, or political organization they are the ones best equipped to create a positive atmosphere or lead in a positive direction – and then quietly go about doing so. Without fanfare. Without hope of recognition or credit. Just because it’s the right thing to do.

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant…” – Matthew 20: 25-27

Walt Grassle’s article: http://researchcareersblog.com/2014/12/08/are-you-a-reluctant-leader/#sthash.ifYrR64X.dpbs

Lainie Heneghan’s article: http://www.jmw.com/assets/JMW_Reluctant_Leader.pdf

reluctant heroes

Photo of cannon at Fort Ticonderoga, NY (Karen Molenaar Terrell)