Tag Archives: humanism

Resurrection Realization

With the knowledge that much of the world is celebrating a well known hero and his resurrection story today, I’m taking time to reflect upon the ways that we can apply the story to our lives, even if we don’t spend time in a church pew or singing holy hymns.

In Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s with a Thousand Faces” we learn that over the relatively short span of our existence, we humans have been really good at consistently telling the same story over and over and over again:  We are born, we face trials, we die and go through hell, we are resurrected.   Campbell says the archetypal steps of the story line give us inspiration for our own trials and tribulations:  Who doesn’t go through hell when a loved one is lost?  Who isn’t faced with guilt or shame when a divorce occurs?  How many of us come face to face with our dark selves in the caves of awareness and must wrestle our own demons there in order to escape?

Life is suffering. “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you something.” Yet the human spirit is amazingly resilient and repeatedly has shown strength in the face of great adversity.  This is the miracle we can celebrate today – that we come out on the other side of our descent into hell.  We triumph over grief, we become better partners in our next relationship, we figure out ways to accept and then overcome our weaknesses. We resurrect ourselves, consistently and perpetually .

We echo this sentiment in our cultural story telling.  Our heroes endure isolation and hellish torture, overcome their adversaries, and are ultimately stronger than before. They provide inspiration to us as we go about our daily lives so that when we do endure suffering, we can have hope in the fact that if our heroes have made it out alive and more powerful, then so can we.

So even if we aren’t subscribed to the religion celebrating the hero story of the day, we can still reflect on our propensity as humans to muddle through whatever hell life might throw at us, and our ability to resurrect ourselves to live once more.  We can also be grateful for the strength and resiliency inherent in our spirits to do so.

Yours,

Frankie


“Make it So”

I wrote a while back about the way that science fiction provides examples to us of what a world without religion looks like.   It’s an important point to think on since there’s quite a lot of hullaballoo surrounding the thought that atheists or agnostics can’t be nice or get along and are particularly evil so a future filled with such people is certainly vile, discordant, and unlivable.

Not so.  Many science fiction movies and television shows exemplify that humankind can actually thrive where religion is absent and reason prevails in it’s stead.  Is there evil?  Yep.  We can’t escape it because it is part of ourselves, but we do see in each instance that love or relationships or family overcome and save the day, and tellingly, no supreme being is needed.  (By the way, we really don’t know how else to write the story except that good always defeats evil – such an optimistic species).

With the release of the newest Star Trek movie, a fellow writer picked up on this theme and discusses it in this Atlantic article.   It is hopeful in this time of turbulence – especially as an American watching the current election cycle – to see a standard held for us all to claim:  we can rely on each other, as well as our own reasoning, to create a decent society.

May we ‘make it so.’

Yours,

Frankie

 


Immortal

“You wish to live forever?

You want to be remembered?

You do not want your existence to be for naught?”

 

“That is right.  I do not know what happens when I die.

Immortality solves the problem.  I just don’t leave.”

 

“You misunderstand.  And greatly so.”

 

“What is there to understand.  I do not want to die.

It’s human nature.”

 

“It is never the physical body that lives on, no matter how advanced science becomes.

It  is always the body of work you leave behind:  your words and deeds, the contribution you make to society – whether positive or negative, the energy you choose to release into the world around you.”

 

A long moment of silence passed between them as the sage studied the stars and her student squirmed with thought.

 

“I get it.  I understand.  Immortality is more an idea than a tangible thing, not something seen so much as felt indirectly, perhaps for generations to come.  It’s something we can all achieve, if we are conscious of our work.”

“Precisely.  Now go, make your mark.”   The Immortal One got up from her sitting position, stretched her arms to the sky so the stars could reach down and pluck her back up to the heavens.

 

Her student laughed at the irony.   And then he admitted, contentedly at that, he was only human, but he would be immortal in his own way.

 


The Misinterpretation of Hate and Anger: Instead, Passion

I’m always impressed by the enlightening I can get from the comments section of news stories.  I mean, I never knew that as an atheist I am afraid,angry, and offended; observations made regularly and accompanying some story about us contending over a coach praying at a high school football game or the ten commandments being removed from a courtroom or a cross going up somewhere on public land.

The answer is that we atheists aren’t afraid and neither are we offended. But we are passionate.  We are fervent.  We are dedicated to having a nation free from religious manacles of any kind, whether they be christian, muslim, hindu, or pastafarian, and to that end we will tirelessly address any line-crossing behavior.   We stand on the assurance that our constitution mandates a separation of church and state and passionately invoke it for the sake of our democracy.  I would ask my brothers and sisters not to confuse such passion with offense or fear, and consider that the resistance you meet from us is only as strong as your desire to cross the constitutional boundaries.   We would quietly sit in our homes and binge on Parks and Recreation if given the choice.

Angry, yes, we are angry.   I will strongly contend that our anger is justified however, and even by christian standards, righteous anger is permissible.   It’s okay to be angry when you pass a law against one religion yet you push and shove your own religion onto the national stage.  It’s okay to be angry when you promote asinine propaganda that is meant to instill fear. It’s okay to be angry when you slow down our progress as a nation by insisting on antiquated, edited, fallible texts as a foundation from which to work. It’s okay to be angry when preachers ask for a six million dollar jet while the homeless children population is steadily increasing in our own nation.  It’s okay to be angry when pedophiles are allowed back into ‘the fold’ or when abuse is systematically covered up.   You are correct about our anger, but misinterpret the direction and source of it.   We aren’t angry at a god whose probability for existing decreases with each new scientific discovery.  We are angry at your invocation of that omnipotent being in the face of greed, lies, selfishness, and ignorance; and the overall negative affect that has on our society.

We atheists will be passionate about maintaining the clearly drawn lines between personal belief and public interactions.  But do not mistake that for fear or offense.  I’ll agree that we are angry, but do not mistake its origins; righteous anger is permissible when injustice is blatant.

Now you have my comments on the comments section, here’s to enlightenment for us all.   😉

In peace, as always,

Frankie

 


The Doctor is My Hero

It’s Saturday which means I’m in for another new episode of Dr. Who.  I’m the kind of Whovian that has her DVR scheduled to record it  and my bestie is often over for dinners on Saturday nights to watch the newest episode with me (I’ve simply got to come up with a special dinner menu for the Christmas episode out of respect for the return of Professor River Song – it’s bad, I know).  In the long list of heroes we humans are so creative at inventing, the Doctor provides a modern day model for unrequited compassion and a dedication to justice so perfect that he tortures his own soul for his own shortcomings.

I’ll give a bit of background before I explain.   Working from the  foundation of Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” beautiful book, the characters who have entertained and inspired over the millenniums all share similar traits.  Consider our modern day heroes such as Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter:  both come from meager beginnings yet they’re somehow tied and bound to the evil of their day.  Their personal bond with evil begins with some twist of childhood fate so that the rest of their lives are spent conquering the dark elements of the universe, always, always to overcome (we don’t know how to write the story any other way than to make sure good wills out – I love that about us).

badwolftardis

photo courtesy of rebloggy.com

The Doctor follows a similar plot line. His beginnings were marked with uncertainty and fear, and his path is wrought with a parallel evil that persistently challenges his patience, wit, compassion, and even causes him to question his own goodness and worth – as any decent villain should.  Yet.  He manages to overcome evil while facing his own shortcomings.  For a man who can nonchalantly say things such as “Time isn’t linear, it’s wibbly-wobbly, spacey waycey,” for a man who can hop in a machine and watch the moonrises of Jupiter, for a man who can feel all of time and space at once, The Doctor has made a decision to annhilate his own people, and this haunts him time and again.  He knows he’s had to choose between the few and the many, and he carries the guilt of the choosing.  But if there’s ever a chance to redeem himself, he seizes it without hesitation.   That’s why the Doctor is my hero: in spite of his omniscience, he’s all too human in his failings.   But even in the face of them, he chooses good over evil in the hopes that when balanced, the good is greater than the evil.  Such is the story of most of us, we should have confidence in that ;).

When the twelfth Doctor made one of his first appearances, he asks his assistant if she thought he was a good man.

“I don’t know.  But you try to be and I think that’s probably the whole point.”  The Doctor tries, he demonstrates that horrendous failings don’t have to define us, there is still good within our souls with which we can redeem ourselves.  That’s why he’s my hero.

Allonsy kids!

Frankie


No Religion: What’s to Believe In?

As we continue to progress as a species, more of us human beings are stepping from the dark archaic belief systems of religion to the bright confidence of knowledge afforded us by science.   But the shift from religion to non begs some questions:  What do we do with ourselves?  Where do we put our energy?  What’s to believe in? What becomes our focus?

From my humble perspective, it kind of seems that a default focus would be nationalism; belief in one’s nation and attention to its politics and social/economic issues.  From my humble perspective, we could use a boost in national attention to politics and social/economic issues.   But there lies a danger of jingoism, unabashed love for one’s country without regard for other nations, fervent almost blind belief that ‘my country is the best’.  In a time when we face global challenges such as health epidemics and climate change, we can’t really allow ourselves the pleasure of arrogance.  We must be able to cooperate, to admit that maybe another nation is doing something right and we might consider adjusting our own perceptions.  We are bound together by this planet and its natural laws, we have to work with one another in order to keep our species viable.  While some of our new found energy can and should be focused on national issues, it is necessary to strike a balance with how much energy we invest in our country – there are bigger ideas to focus on as well.

I heartily contend that the biggest idea should be humanism – a focus on mankind and our path of past, present, and future, our connection with one another as dictated by nature’s laws.  If we think about it, we only, always, have each other; and though cultures vary we cannot deny our bloodline and the truth that we are all brothers and sisters.  I believe we owe a certain amount of attention to our race based on this sole premise, with the spirit that we are inherently obligated as human beings to look out for our siblings. As mentioned above, our modern age forces us to examine physical global issues and international cooperation is paramount to finding solutions to these issues.   A humanist focus allows us to set aside cultural prejudices and adopt cooperative attitudes based upon the assumption that we’re all in this together.

Science appears to be the common ground for us all and I’ll assert that the growth of humanism will include many elements of the discipline.   Two plus two will always equal four and no matter where we go in the world we can speak that language to anyone. I am not claiming that science has all the answers although I’m close to agreeing with many modern thinkers who believe it does.  It certainly answers our questions best and provides a universal language with which we can speak to one another, culture set aside.   Besides providing a common language science provides a foundation for finding common solutions to the challenges we face together.  The discipline is a perfect fit with the tenants of humanism.

I’ll even go out on a limb and demonstrate that we already have a vision for the melding of science and humanism and how they work together by invoking the genre of science fiction film and writings.  There are several examples where science fiction has remarkably portended the future as far as gadgets and inventions are concerned.   Even George Orwell was prescient enough to understand that an entirely new language would evolve under political pressures.   Using science fiction as a barometer for the way humanistic tendencies might emerge, one finds an astonishing body of work that illustrates how political and even personal decisions are made based upon available evidence and facts instead of mystical, archaic texts. Pay attention next time you tune into Star Trek, or Dr. Who, or The Fifth Element.

We’ve come a long ways since the days when science and religion walked the same path of curiosity together, searching for answers to the same questions.   At some point their paths split and one has gone on to answer those questions with solid evidence.   As we continue to progress as a species and more of us also leave the anachronistic beliefs behind, we are faced with the necessity of filling the void.   Humanism does so with a neat and comfortable fit.  Here’s to our future and the place that Humanism has within it.

Yours,

Frankie


Through the Pinhole – a Poem

It is the smallest of windows

Wholly created, voluntarily accepted

Without a moment’s thought

Without a soul’s reflection

It is a single portrait viewing

The colors never fade, never change

Never adjust to the light

Still life in a perpetual state of fix

It is a changeless visage

Allows for only redundant interpretation

How oft can the brush stroke be dissected?

Countless opinions fight to death.

It is merely a pinhole picture

A finite vision carved from infinity

Chosen for its narrow path

Endorsed with eternal fear

It is a singular lens

Projected at grain of reality

Produces warped lines

Cages light in a prison

It is the smallest of windows

Wholly created, voluntarily accepted

Without a moment’s thought

Without a soul’s reflection


Must Read from Bill Gates – if you wanna have hope for our future, that is….

I found this on my twitter feed the other day and it lends more hope and insight than anything I’ve read in a while. Takes a few minutes to read, but the information is dynamic and honestly too important to pass up. Mr. Gates confronts three prevalent global myths and deftly proves them wrong with a slew of data and success stories…For instance, here’s what he has to say about the first myth he discusses:    Poor countries are doomed to stay poor.

“So the easiest way to respond to the myth … is to point to one fact: They haven’t stayed poor. Many—though by no means all—of the countries we used to call poor now have thriving economies. And the percentage of very poor people has dropped by more than half since 1990.”

I don’t know about you but I am astounded that we have eradicated the very poor by half in just two decades. THIS is a HUGE achievement!

The second myth Mr. Gates contends with (and its a big contention) is that “Foreign Aid is a Big Waste”. He pretty much makes the ‘don’t throw the baby out with the bath water’ case here, but he adds a great deal of proof to back up his argument, namely our overall health in global terms has increased substantially in the past half-century –

“Let’s put this achievement in historical perspective. A baby born in 1960 had an 18 percent chance of dying before her fifth birthday. For a child born today, the odds are less than 5 percent. In 2035, they will be 1.6 percent. I can’t think of any other 75-year improvement in human welfare that would even come close.”

Foreign aid, coupled with private donations, enable the most indigent of us with vaccines, food, schools, contraception, mosquito nets, and start-up money for national investments. Mr. Gates mentions that foreign aid really creates an overall synergistic environment and that most of those countries who have received aid in the past are now self-sustaining or require less aid than before. A healthy population leads to a healthy economy.

Since  survival rates have increased, it seems logical that perhaps we would need to be concerned with over-population. Mr. Gates carefully draws from demographic data to demonstrate that this thought too is a myth.

“Given all the evidence, my view of a sustainable future is much more optimistic than the Malthusians’ view. The planet does not thrive when the sickest are allowed to die off, but rather when they are able to improve their lives. Human beings are not machines. We don’t reproduce mindlessly. We make decisions based on the circumstances we face.”

“When children are well-nourished, fully vaccinated, and treated for common illnesses like diarrhea, malaria, and pneumonia, the future gets a lot more predictable. Parents start making decisions based on the reasonable expectation that their children will live.”

He’s turned me on to a new term as well, something called the ‘virtuous cycle’…

“The virtuous cycle is not just development jargon. It’s a phenomenon that millions of poor people understand very well, and it guides their decisions from day-to-day. I have the privilege of meeting women and men in poor countries who commit the small acts of love and optimism—like going without so they can pay their children’s school fees—that propel this cycle forward. The future they hope for and work hard for is the future I believe in.”

In other words, any investment we make in our future, big or small, global or local, makes a difference. Let us all be willing to do our part to make our future one we can believe in.

Choose Hope Kids!

Frankie

http://annualletter.gatesfoundation.org/?cid=bg_tw_ll1_012317/#section=home


Sunrise story…….

Image

This beauty appeared a couple of days ago, when I see clouds on the horizon in the morning I know I’m in for some color and I was not disappointed.  I have a funny story about another gorgeous sunrise …. I work as a front desk clerk at a hotel and so my job in the morning is checking guests out.   One gentleman, big guy, booming voice, seventies-ish, mentioned the sunrise and that “Jesus must’ve gotten his paint brushes out this morning.”   Being an atheist, these  comments always put me in an awkward position….I must be respectful, but at the same time I don’t want to perpetuate theism…I have to come up with some way of stating the truth without  offending or condescending.   I chose silence at first, hoping we could move on somehow, but the question begged an answer and the six or seven people standing around all heard it and were awaiting my reply, probably a bit vexed at my silence.  He repeated the question again in some variant form and the best response I could come up with was, “Well, I’m a science kind of girl so when I see a sunrise like that I think of the clouds of water molecules that are reflecting the sun’s light off of them which gives them the colors we see.”   I didn’t include the fact that I also wonder incessantly at the idea that we, of all animals formed from the dust of the stars and living on this earth, can have the conscience to notice such beauty, and that I have this moment and this day to make my time count for something.   I think it would have been overload for him.  As it was, he coughed and muttered and shuffled away as I said in my
kindest voice, “Have a great day!”   We all breathed a few moments as the tension passed and then, to my delight and surprise, the woman behind him came up to check out and said to me in a low whisper “I’m with ya on the science thing.”

Have Peace Kids,

Frankie


The Grace by Which we Live

I came to understand the real grace by which we live the other day. It’s nothing extra-terrestrial.   That is to say that it’s not above us, invisible in the sky.  Nor does it exist in some hero that we’ve created to fill an immature need for a leader.  Really and truly, the grace by which we live is more tenuous, more real, and more meaningful than we have given thought to.  And we have the universe to thank for it….

The real grace by which we live lies in the fact that nature and evolution managed to produce us at all.

Since we’ve come to know evolution in more intimate terms, thanks to developments such as the electron microscope and the doggedness of many scientists, there’s one thing we’ve learned:  if we were to wind the clock back and start the evolution process of earth all over, there’s no guarantee that we humans, as homo sapiens, would emerge.  The turns and twists that accompany the process at any one time could theoretically lead to some other sorts of life, and perhaps without any dent of awareness whatsoever.  Yet, here we are.

Can you see it?  Do you understand what this means?  Millions of years of fine-tuning, millions of years of trying out this or that physical characteristic, millions of years of other species that have come and gone, millions of years of change, millions of years of challenges from climate variations to illness inducing bacteria…and we manage to adapt enough to come out on top, superior to every animal and with the bonus and enormous ability to manipulate our surroundings to suit our lifestyles…… THIS is the grace by which we live.

And when we stop for a second, right now, to consider that out of billions of years’ worth of time extant, we humans have the opportunity to LIVE and be aware and enjoy the benefits of nature, then we really get an idea of the grace we have as such infinitesimally small bits of matter in the whole of the universe.  Our time here is no longer than the seasonal cycle of a leaf upon a poplar tree.  We are here in one blink of the universal eye and then gone the very next.  A very short time indeed, but the grace by which we live at least allows us a moment in the annals of the cosmos.

So then, what of it? What of this brief life we live and the grace by which it comes?

One of my favorite professors used to tell her classes that “we were the elite, one of the few that are educated, we have a certain level of accountability to society as a whole because of it.”  I took that to heart and would even apply the same stance to our short time on earth:  WE of all creatures , having awareness and consciousness, have a certain level of accountability to one another, to our fellow creatures, and to our mother earth.  With the grace of life given to us, we also have a responsibility to live that life as best we possibly can.

We are, thanks to the gracious movements of evolution, a very gifted animal.  We have, thanks to the graciousness of the universe, a brief moment to enjoy our awareness.   This is the grace by which we live – tenuous, real, and more meaningful than we might have thought.  Let’s make it count for something shall we?

Be Well,

Frankie

 

authors note:  this article was inspired by the song ‘sirens’, pearl jam, off of their most recent album, lightening bolt.