Way to Go, Supreme Court: Another #facepalm

A Primo #Facepalm Moment To be a citizen of the United States is to experience many face palm moments. And recent Supreme Court decisions have provided some spectacular face palm moments. Full disclosure: I take oppression of workers a bit personally. I escaped wage slavery only by luck. And my mother worked in the sort [Read More...]

Roadmaps for the Soul (or: Hunting, Gathering, Singing)

In “Tombstone Blues,” a song released in 1965, Bob Dylan sang, “The National Bank at a profit sells roadmaps for the soul / To the old folks home and the college.” In the context of the song, Bob clearly doesn’t think this is a good thing. Commodifying the meaning of life? Yes, well . . [Read More...]

Making Sense of Life (or: Three Decorating Ideas for the Mind)

Wallace Stevens once said, “How full of trifles everything is! It is only one’s thoughts that fill a room with something more than furniture.” At first glance, this perhaps sounds like a Disneyesque reflection on the uses of a hearty imaginal life. Or—since Stevens was a poet—a reflection on the power of metaphor to set [Read More...]

The Proof’s in the Pudding (or What’s Churchy about Church?)

Imagine I’m sometimes asked how humanists can have “church” without invoking god. Here’s how I think about it: Imagine this scenario: When Imhotep in ancient Egypt invoked the great god Ra, he was invoking the human consciousness, not Ra Almighty. Imagine this: When Zadok, son of Ahitub, entered the holy of holies of Solomon’s brand [Read More...]

#Development—It’s Nothing Personal

Pragmatic philosopher John Dewey once said, “Growth itself is the only moral end.” To philosophers a word like “only” means a lot more than it does to most of us. And here, in the Twenty-First Century, looking back on the wreckage and horror of the Twentieth, it’s easy to dismiss such a sentiment with a [Read More...]

Spiritual But Not . . . Keep Talking

Literary critic Terry Eagleton said, “The din of conversation is as much meaning as we shall ever have.” I like that. On first glance, it appears to be bleak—human conversation is all the meaning there is? But imagine what human conversation has given us. Imagine the din of conversation under the porches and under the [Read More...]

Tinfoil Hats and the Examined Life

Let’s say I tell you I’m wearing a tinfoil hat today . . . What does that say to you? Crazy? Paranoid? Safe from the mental meddling of governments and/or extraterrestrials? It’s shorthand, isn’t it? A tinfoil hat says crazy or paranoid or safe, not because of anything inherent in the tinfoil hat, but because [Read More...]

Bomb Throwers, Navel Gazers, and Goin’ All Thoreau: Doing Justice

Let’s consider an extreme example, a stark instance of the decision between doing something and talking about it. The abolitionist John Brown, fed up with the endless wrangling and political maneuvering over slavery in the early Nineteenth Century, decided to take matters in his own hands. He led a group that attacked a US military [Read More...]

Salvation Hits the Couch

Buddhism had been known in the United States since the mid-Nineteenth Century, but really came into its own with the return of Pacific War vets who had spent some time in Japan. (The creation of Red China insured that Chinese Buddhism would not be generally available to the Western World for some time.) One of [Read More...]

Carrots, Sticks, Paddles, and Autopilot

Buddhist wisdom says there are three ways we naturally approach anything—desire, aversion, or indifference. For the sake of convenience, I call them, “yum!” “eeeeewwww” and “zzzzzz.” I see a slice of cheese cake. “Yum!” I love cheese cake. So, I desire the slice of cheese cake. I grab it. Five hundred calories down my gullet. [Read More...]


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