Wednesday, December 30, 2009


As out of all the passing scenery appears
One rectangle to frame and photograph,
Sometimes my mind’s miasma brightly clears
To show a grain of truth amidst the chaff.

These sudden moments of illumination,
Of contact with a keener way of seeing,
Befall uncalled for and do not occasion
An obvious transformation of my being.

The best that I can do to bid them come
Is to sit quiet in the pre-dawn dark,
Pad on my lap, letting my fingers drum
On the chair arm to help a vision spark.

The readiness is all, and patient waiting,
For me to meet the mystery of creating.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009


What is it I have yet to learn about
Myself that I should know before I die?
Of all those things that still remain in doubt—
The what, the where, the when, the how, the why,
And most of all the who—what do I need
To comprehend or understand or find
To satisfy the contract I agreed
To carry out, the one that I designed?

For so it is, I’ve heard: we cycle through
Life after life, each time to find out more
About ourselves and do all we must do
To learn what our bright consciousness is for
Until at last we fully realize
Our true identity without disguise.


Sunday, December 27, 2009


“We” is we human beings, or many of us.

“Doing wrong” means not doing what it would be better to do, means making harmful decisions and means behaving unwisely.

My reason for asking what we are doing wrong is to focus our attention on reasonable, sane alternatives to our present perilous practices. It is to offer sensible options, compelling enough to persuade us to change our minds, our attitudes and our actions.

Here is my initial list:

(1) It is wrong for any human being to lack the means to thrive in health of body, mind and spirit.

(2) It is wrong to use violence against sentient, conscious creatures, and the more so the higher up they are on the evolutionary ladder.

(3) It is wrong to deplete the viability and multiplicity of life forms on Earth, especially by human over-population and by unnecessary resource demands.

(4) It is wrong not to make urgent personal and collective progress in developing our sciences for comprehending all aspects of knowledge (of who, what, where, when, how and why), and of becoming more fully and capably conscious.

(5) It is wrong not to act to rectify the foregoing wrongs to the fullness of one’s growing abilities (a sin of omission).

More to follow . . .


Saturday, December 26, 2009


(a proposal)

1. To institute the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) worldwide.

2. To institute the Global Ethic (1993) worldwide.

3. To prioritize the pursuits of science and humane technology under the guidance of wise values.

4. To develop a Science of Wisdom that guides the wisdom of science by its ever-refining values.

5. To articulate and institute an Ecological Ethic (developed from the Earth Charter of 2000) respecting the rights of all life forms on Earth to be protected from despoiling by reckless and predatory human behavior.

6. To articulate and institute a Universal Declaration of Diversity to protect against arbitrary motives of conformity and regimentation beyond the dictates of wise values, and honoring nature’s tendency to innovate and proliferate experimentally.


Friday, December 25, 2009


An unexamined meme is not worth thinking,
No more than some unlabeled dram’s worth drinking:
Who knows the potion’s ultimate effects
Or that a sly idea won’t prove a hex?

Ideas are insidious, and memes
Infect unwary victims with dire dreams
That bloom into their lives’ scenarios,
Based only on the fancies they suppose.

Though memes are unavoidable events
In our mindscapes, and how we conjure sense,
We still can choose the dreams by which we live
And know the wisest by the lives they give.

A well-considered story can redeem
The damage of a maladaptive meme.


Thursday, December 24, 2009


If “Death’s the only deadline worth respect,”
And death is coming sooner now than when
I wrote that line, it’s time to recollect
What I’ve now done, especially with my pen.

Of all the prose and verse I’ve ever made,
Stacked thick in binders, organized in sheaves,
Does any of it earn a passing grade
And that respect the best of art achieves?

Or should I just not care? Posterity
Will do its fickle thing, and some will win
The winnowing and earn eternity,
While most return to dust where all begin.

Why not instead just seize the present time:
Be happy as this rhythm meets this rhyme?


Tuesday, December 22, 2009


For a verse the reverse of Miltonic
Writ with wit not the least bit Byronic,
Gnash your teeth on Og Nash
Who penned verses for cash
But ended proclaimed as iconic.

Though some named his strained verses moronic
At the opposite end from canonic,
Those who bothered to bash
The perdurable Nash
Found their laughter reduced to sardonic.



It’s mainly in the night my inner light
Shines forth, when quietly I meditate
Or ruminate or muse and find the sight
Of things unseen by day to contemplate.

It’s then I best commune with my own soul,
My higher self, asleep throughout the day
When mundane drives and motives take control
And hold my subtle holy sprite at bay.

But now, all still, surrounded by the dark,
I open up my soul, a treasure chest,
And peer inside in hopes a gleam or spark
Will blaze to consciousness and make me blessed,

For now it is the far end of December,
A time for souls and bodies to re-member.


20 December 2009


What is our human aim but to aspire,
To rise above our former selves still higher
Until we realize the ultimate
We might attain, above the common rut.

And what is that? What might our souls become
When we’ve at last accrued the wished-for sum
Of wisdom necessary to release
Us from our fretful toils and bring us peace?

It is the bliss of blessed serenity,
The tranquil mind amidst the roiling sea,
The stasis in the center of the storm,
And words that find their true poetic form.

Although we know that center cannot hold,
We’re warm and bright awhile, and then turn cold.


12 October 2009


As in the wandering woods diverge two roads,
So life presents two elemental modes,
And we may choose unique or uniform,
To be oneself or blindly to conform.

Or is it that we need to compromise
Because our true identities arise
When we adopt the idols of our tribe
And then adapt to what our souls deride.

Thus do we prove our dual sapience,
Being led by insight and experience,
What’s proved by centuries of trials and errors
And what’s imbued to save us from our terrors.

Though common in our core humanity,
Without our souls we’re merely vanity.


9 October 2009


What keeps humanity from being humane
Or humankind from acting truly kind?
Ingraft insanity makes us insane;
We grow the way our nature is inclined.

So say determinists who think us base
By birth, hard-wired to be egotists
And only to be saved by heavenly grace
That overwhelms what devilish power resists.

What if, however, not original sin,
But innate grace and primal dignity
May be assumed the way that we begin—
In innocence, but not immunity?

Unless our dignity is well maintained,
That innocence we’re born with will be stained.


3 October 2009


Two ways there are to treat another being:

The one is binding and the other freeing;
The first puts down, the other raises up;
One desiccates, one serves a loving cup;

One undermines, the other lends support;
One is dismaying, the other blithe with sport.
While one would starve, the other cultivates;
One wears a frown, the other one elates;

One darkens with despite, the second lights,
For hate subverts and love lifts to the heights.
The one undignifies, disdains, denies,
Demeans, defeats, belittles and belies—

Choose which: to be a rude contrarian

Or something new: a Dignitarian.


19 September 2009


When I do count the characters I tweet,
I find that I can stack them straight and neat
Into a pair of couplets, line by line,
One hundred forty long in this design. (128)

Yet if I should prefer another kind
Of verse in which to tweet that’s just as neat
As couplets, rhyming quatrains come to mind,
Counting not only characters but feet. (137)

Add one more tweet onto these foregone twit[ters,]
More polished than before, a tweet that glit[ters]
And shows the art of ancient craftly fit[ters]
Who, sticking to their last, were never quit[ters.] (140)

They plied their trade and measured well to sing
As sweet as songbirds twittering in the spring. (79)


Friday, December 18, 2009

15 September 2009


Once the ideas of rankism and dignitarianism take root in your mind, new shoots of thought begin to ramify, new instances and applications sprout.

For instance, animals, or the Earth itself: “Don’t treat the Earth like dirt,” exhorts a bumper sticker I’ve seen. Does not the lovely, living ecosystem of this planet deserve respect from its most predatory species—us?

Our rape of “resources” and our wanton decimation of other species abuses the dignity of other precious life-forms. Our inhumane maltreatment of animals, mammals especially, demeans our own humanity, undignifying us.

“But,” you say, “in a dog-eat-dog world, such tender sensibilities would only lead to our extinction. We must fight to survive. It’s eat or be eaten. Ask Darwin.”

It’s not always that stark, I reply, and our intelligence allows us to think more widely and wisely, if we so choose. We can observe how cooperation among populations and species often works more to the advantage of all than does domination and exploitation.

For the sake of cultivating kindness in ourselves (an essential virtue), we need to consider how our attitudes and actions can become more Earth friendly and more ecologically savvy, which includes developing empathy and reverence for all the valuable life-forms that Earth’s evolution has engendered.

How high on the food-chain can we eat with good health and in good conscience? With what reverence and respect do we honor what nourishes us? These, I think, are vital dignitarian questions to ponder as we reform the rankist practices now prevailing.


15 September 2009


“Gates irate; Crowley growly” —Fax News

The night that Henry Louis Gates
Let slip his secret, bridled hates
Upon a hapless Cambridge cop
Who took him for a thief to stop
From breaking into someone’s house
And called him something worse than “louse,”
It turned out it was Gates’ own home,
That he’d been somewhere—China, Rome—
And, now returned, had lost his keys,
Broke in—to be nabbed by police.
All hell broke loose as tempers flared,
Insults were bandied, neighbors stared,
Handcuffs were clasped, the Harvard prof,
Shoved in a car, was carried off.

How did this end? You’d never guess:
This brouhaha made such a mess
Of headlines that the President
(A friend of Gates) broke precedent,
Took sides, assuming the police
Had acted “stupidly” at least,
That racial profiling was used
And Gates’ dignity abused.

It ends this way, as on the lawn
Of the White House, where are gone
Hot words, cool heads now appear
On all the parties and their beer.


11 September 2009

IT’S 9/11

It’s 9/11 and that makes me think
of terrorism’s grasp upon our brains.
For eight years now we’ve lived under its curse,
Grown scared of planes and strangers, foreign ways,
And ideologies that preach hatred
Against the unrighteousness of Western deeds.
What is it they despise in how we live?
What have we done to them that they should strike
Such terror in our hearts, retaliate
For what? They cannot think us innocent;
They think us infidels, unfaithful ones.
Are they misled by dogma from the past?
Or are we somehow rightly to be blamed?
After eight years, what do we answer now?

Robert W. Fuller

3 September 2009


What Robert W. Fuller's terms “rankism” and “a dignitarian society” seem to me to come down to is respect vs. disrespect, for others and for ourselves.

Etymologically, to respect is to look again, which implies taking a second look or noticing with attention and regard, which may be seen as the beginning of an ascending sequence: respect > regard > concern > care > affection > love. Respect, then, is positive regard for someone or something, an attitude that, with cultivation, may culminate in love, that “brotherly love” which Philadelphia is named for, or which fraternities and sororities ideally exemplify.

Nobody wants to be a nobody. Everybody wants to be a somebody. We all need the dignity of such self-esteem, as much as we need vitamins. We thrive on the respect of unconditional positive regard, respect for simply being human. To disrespect us causes anguish, defensiveness, and possible hostility: having been thus insulted, our reflex urge is to lash back, which easily leads to an escalating cycle of retaliation in which respect vanishes and disrespect, disregard, and dissonance defeat civility. Antagonism then rules.

Yet, for all its prominence in the daily news, antagonism and hostility are not the norm, I think, in most societies, which are generally “civil societies.” Civility and neighborliness are behaviors most people cherish and desire in their communities and practice habitually. Flare-ups of antagonism distress everyone involved, and peacemakers work earnestly to calm and reconcile the parties in dispute. That is our natural instinct, to bring about among adversaries conflict resolution and renewed cooperation.

A Dignitarian Society, a better society than has yet evolved in most human communities, is still our aspiration as a race hoping to mature into the sapience we’re named for (Homo sapiens sapiens). The incalculable preciousness of all human beings, no matter how warped and wayward adversities may have made them, will then be prized and appreciated, honored and esteemed—and redeemed.

That time of promise ahead seems now barely imaginable. Yet what’s imagination for if not to make such leaps and flights to follow after?


31 August 2009


A sonnet’s my alethiometer,
A Golden Compass into which I stare,
Watching the needle swing where Fates prefer,
Then plunge into its visions rich and rare.

Without this cunning mystical device,
My consciousness remains in the mundane,
Yet with this instrument I can entice
Imaginary vistas from my brain.

The needle arcs from one rhyme to the next,
The meter beats its wings to stay aloft,
And wit, of numerous possibilities, selects
The fittest sounds, from thunderous to soft.

The Lethe in alethiometer

Must be the land of dreams where poems occur.


31 August 2009


The Water Oaks that soared above our yard
And swayed at ease or shook in hurricanes
And shaded us below, seeming to guard
Our house, are faltering now from age’s strains.

As rain collects in crevices that rot
And heavy downpours load the weakened limbs,
They crack then crash, if luckily, on our lot,
If not, onto our roof, by Fortune’s whims.

Then, oak by oak, they’re plucked from all around,
Their broad arms chain-sawed into thudding logs,
Their branches chipped and mulched, their stout stumps ground,
Their mates displaced: the squirrels, birds and frogs.

How will it be when not one oak is left?
We too will need to leave—forlorn, bereft.


Sunday, November 29, 2009


To all those bards whose deathless words remain
Within the cognizance of living minds,
Whose artful labors were not spent in vain—
All praise from us, the unremembered grinds.

We followed in your paths and wrote and sang
But left no lasting tracks upon the soil,
Which swiftly turned to dust, as joy to pang,
And vanished in the wind with all our toil.

Yet even though our words have passed away,
To all posterity and glory lost,
They once gave us "a momentary stay
Against confusion," as did his to Frost.

And thus there's solace even writing this,
A bit of bliss before the vast abyss.


Saturday, August 29, 2009


From roaming in the pasture, summer long,
I’ve now again strapped on my racing gear
And braced myself to run among the throng
For fourteen laps till next I’m in the clear.

Inspiring and exhausting and constrained,
Semesters, like a sonnet, are a game
Where strategy and wit must be sustained
To fit a course of learning in its frame.

So round we go as marking posts whiz by—
It’s all a blur of energy and strain—
The catching up, the catching on, the try
To cross the line and beat the clock: the pain!

But then, relief and joy in work well done,
When finally the struggle feels like fun.


Thursday, August 27, 2009


“All of us will live on in the future we make.”

—Senator Edward. M. Kennedy (1932-2009)

When I ask myself again why I am now devising and teaching a course about “Human Frontiers,” aimed at anticipating the new territories that humanity will inhabit (metaphorically speaking) in the future, I find an answer in Ted Kennedy’s words above.

I find two answers. One is that we can help make the future; it doesn’t simply befall us. The other is that, to the extent that each of us contributes personally to the creation of better ways of living in the coming decades, as did the just-departed senator from Massachusetts, we’ll be remembered for our deeds.

And it’s a good time now to make our contributions to a brighter future, since, more than ever, as the old song says, “The times, they are a-changin’.” These are times of major shifts: cosmological, ecological, economical, governmental, cultural, and personal. Much is in flux. New ways and institutions are forming and reforming. And each of us gets to choose whether to dig in and resist the changes or hop on board and help steer global civilization toward the Frontier of Sanity.

It’s our prime concern in this course to imagine as clearly as we can what a sane and wise society would be. We can take heart from the progress humanity has already made (in some regions more than others) in building social systems that help people realize their potentials for healthy growth and development, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

We can also be encouraged that our Earth itself is winning more respect from us, rather than being regarded as a planet to plunder. We are growing wiser ecologically in recognizing Earth as a delicately balanced living system (which some name “Gaia,” after an ancient goddess, “Mother Earth”). To the extent that we tamper willfully and rapaciously with her ecology, we invite disaster. But we seem to be wising up somewhat now and rectifying our recklessness.

Your job, my job, our job together this term is to think for ourselves and seek in our readings for clearer ideas of the global society that needs to shape up in the future we’re making. Imagine that.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009


The most prosaic sonnet that I know
Is this one, since it’s only meant to prove
How easily pentameters can flow
If you just get yourself into the groove.

There’s no big trick to this. The only hitch
Is that at every twentieth syllable
You have to make a rhyme, the choice of which
Is sometimes small, a hat from which you pull

A rabbit! Magic! The trick is to relax.
Don’t sweat the process. Simply trust your Muse
(Whom you respectfully invoke) will Fax
Into your brain the word you’ll want to use.

But once you’ve gained this craft’s facility,
The hard part comes: to make it poetry.


Monday, August 24, 2009


Another term begins as school cranks up:
Three rounds of courses that I’ll cycle through,
Three balls to juggle, drills to march—Hup, Hup!—
For fourteen weeks, till their last work is due.

The rhythm of it all is old routine,
As regular as sonnets in their course,
As line by line and week by week a scene
Unfolds which sequent weeks will reinforce.

Yet each term takes a turn toward something new,
A function of the faces in each class,
For though the readings all are tried and true,
With tinkling symbols and bright sounding brass,

The ways they’re taken and responded to
Bring something never seen to our fresh view.


Saturday, August 22, 2009


Looking back now from 2039, my 100th year, I can clearly see how humankind has finally completed its 10,000-year transition from an imperial Dominator ethos to a communal Dignitarian ethos and has happily shaped a global society united by principles long advocated by ancient sages and visionary avatars, but only slowly grown into by the popular culture.

The anguished adolescence of our neurotic species has thankfully passed into the sanity of adulthood, and none too soon. Indeed, it may have taken the extravagance of our collective madness—pushing us to the edge of ecocide and threatening each other with nuclear holocaust—to snap us out of the insane spell possessing us.

Women can claim most of the credit for turning the ominous tide of the former era. Having finally thrown off the shackles of 10,000 years of patriarchy, they dismantled the masculinist mentality of domination and reinstituted matriarchal precepts of nurturance and respect, of kindness, reconciliation and cooperation long overshadowed by the androgenic Will to Power.

Our new dignitarian global society fulfils the vision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, promulgated by the fledgling United Nations in 1948. But, further, it embraces the Global Ethic document articulated in 1993 by the World Parliament of Religions. Even more comprehensively, with respect to our planet as a whole and all its vital systems, Dignitarianism abides by the Earth Charter of 2000 and recognizes humankind’s fundamental duty of wise stewardship toward our celestial Home.

I’ll leave the details of this Marvelous Transition (as it is now named) for historians to analyze, narrate and justly glorify. Suffice it in summary to say that, since the beginning of the 21st Century, most of the world’s major institutions have changed radically: governance, economics, religions, ideologies, and (most basically) attitudes, manners, and customs.

The premise of Dignitarianism, once accepted and embraced, recognized the sacredness of life on Earth and the holiness of all human beings: innately worthy of love, care and kindness; kindred in preciousness with all others of their kind.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Ostensibly, you take a Composition and Rhetoric course of this kind to improve and polish basic skills you already possess yet wish to elevate to the demands of college-level writing in your other courses.

Most fundamentally, you need to master the basics of grammar, syntax, word usage and punctuation (which should have been nailed down in grammar school and high school, but often aren’t). Here, with the aid of two textbooks, English Simplified and Sin and Syntax, as well as with your editing revisions of the essays you write, you have the opportunity to gain that compositional mastery.

On the rhetorical side of Comp & Rhet, you’ll practice making your writing impressive to your readers. You’ll write your essays with readers in mind, readers you mean to engage and persuade, which is the art of rhetoric. The main way you’ll develop your rhetorical skills will be by keeping your classmates in mind as your audience when you write. Several times this term you’ll actually read aloud your essays to us as your auditors, as well as making your written texts available to us all electronically.

But there are motives for your writing this term beyond building Comp & Rhet skills: personally enriching motives of the kind that make me write voluntarily and regularly. I’d like you to come to share those personal motives. If so, you’ll learn that writing is discovering. Writing is finding out what’s on your mind and making that insight and knowledge clearer and fuller to yourself first, and to others later.

An old and apt saying goes, “How do I know what I think till I see what I say?” Thoughts need verbal expression to manifest themselves clearly and publicly. Speaking can accomplish that manifestation more or less well, but writing does it better because the process is slower, more deliberate, and revisable.

My strong hope is that, by the end of this semester, you will have developed the habit of writing as a way to commune with recesses and resources in your own mind that you haven’t yet visited enough. The act of writing can become an “Open, Sesame” to interior riches you’re hardly aware you possess—and may never discover without the magic wand of your pen to guide you there.

Write and see.


Monday, August 17, 2009


Is it likely, or even possible, that people in society can disregard status and rank? Can they not be status-seekers, inclined in one way or another to improve or upgrade their standing, step by step?

Perhaps in more rigidly caste-based and static societies, now or in the past, the motive of social mobility was an unthinkable meme, and people didn’t consider “advancing” in rank any more than pugs think to become greyhounds. One’s lot was one’s lot, God given.

But then, even Eve and Adam, as the old story goes, aspired above their appointed station, envying God and the angels their superior knowledge. And Cain was emulous of Able’s status in their father’s eyes.

Thus it is unlikely we’ll ever not be status conscious, and we’ll always yearn to become more Somebody and less Nobody in the eyes of others and by our own reckoning.

Thus is born one-upsmanship and all the “games people play” to prove their own superiority and others’ inferiority.

How likely, then, is the prospect of a “dignitarian” society’s evolving, a post-Nobody society in which all people are deemed equally worthy of recognition and respect, concern and care?

To be hopeful, if not optimistic, I’ll answer that progress in that direction can indeed be made, even though a fully dignitarian society seems utopian: nowhere to be found or made but in our dreams.


Saturday, August 15, 2009


What’s fundamental to all dignitarians is their full respect for the human rights of others, respect for their inherent worth, equal to others. However, some dignitarians go further and prove themselves exemplary in their humility and generosity.

I think immediately of Evelyn, a cashier for many years at “Beans,” the Rollins College dining hall. While other cashiers might have smiled and been friendly, Evelyn somehow made all those she served feel better about themselves.

By greeting them personally with endearments like “Honey” and “Sweetie,” and sometimes with details she’d picked up about their lives (“How’d your term paper turn out?”), Evelyn boosted egos and cheered hearts all around her.

More than just acknowledging her customers, she evidently noticed them in particular, remembered them, and cared about them.

It’s one thing to respect the basic kinship of all human beings, but another to be kind to them, as if they were your kindred.

And that’s what Evelyn did.*

*Regrettably, the photo above is not Evelyn and not at Beans, but it's a reasonable facsimile.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


On an attitudinal scale that runs from fear and loathing for another person to the other end of love and admiration, one would find respect somewhere in between.

In a dignitarian society respect for another is a reasonable and feasible aim, respect for another’s full personhood and human rights.

It is unreasonable, however, to expect all people to like each other, much less to love one another as Christianity exhorts.

Yet respect in itself is, at best, a tepid kind of affection. It is merely recognition and positive regard, and it may even be, as the phrase goes, “grudging respect,” a chilly attitude.

Something firmer than respect must be expected of us if we are to treat everyone with due dignity, since respect as an emotion is too fickle and variable.

Instead, the Golden Rule needs to be invoked: Treat others as you want others to treat you; don’t mistreat them any more than you want to be mistreated. Except for masochists that should suffice.

“How would you like it if . . . .?”

That’s the question dignitarians need to ask demeaners and belittlers of others.

Turn the tables on them.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009


When a student graduates from college, he or she will probably find a phrase on the diploma declaring entitlement to “all the rights and privileges thereto appertaining.”

How, one might ask, does one distinguish between a right and a privilege? Allow me to speculate.

A right would seem to be a claim you’re merited to make by virtue (in the case of a college graduate) of having earned a degree. Therefore, in applying for a job, say, you may rightfully claim the distinction of having met the academic standards for graduation from college.

Yet other claims to rights could be made merely by virtue of being human. The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) is a noble effort to articulate such innate rights, and The Global Ethic of the Parliament of the World’s Religions (1993) is another.

By extension, even the Earth, arguably a living entity, might declare (through us as spokesfolks) its own right to flourish bountifully.

Those, then, are examples of rights; but what are privileges? Something less mandatory, I would suppose, or less imperative. Not the cake but the frosting. Not the dozen muffins, but the lagniappe of the thirteenth in a baker’s dozen. A courtesy.

Not so, it turns out, at least by what a dictionary reveals. In fact, privilege seems less courteous than a right; rather, it is a demand made by rank (as in “Rank hath its privileges.”), “held as a prerogative of status or rank and exercised to the exclusion or detriment of others” (The American Heritage College Dictionary).

Thus to be privileged is to be allowed, whereas the underprivileged are disallowed or discounted or disregarded. That stinks. That’s rank.

Or, rather, rankism.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Scio and credo are Latin for I know and I believe, and they give us the English words science and creed.

I’m interested in considering these related ideas of knowing and believing as they are generally understood and distinguished from one another.

In both cases, when I know something to be so or when I believe something to be so, I am making a claim about what’s real or true.

Typically, though, “knowing” implies certainty whereas “believing” implies a degree of doubt, as in, “I can’t be certain I saw someone breaking in to that house, but I believe that’s what I saw, though I don’t know for sure."

A belief is a supposition: something supposed or assumed or “taken on faith,” something hypothetical rather than verifiable. What is held to be credible is reliable, but not absolutely real.

A belief is a swaying footbridge made of ropes and planks rather than the Golden Gate Bridge of knowledge.

But we depend on our rope-and-plank bridges to cross gaps from here to there. More or less reliably they let us traverse chasms of doubt and fear. They get us through the night.

We hope to know, but we need our creeds.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009


  • how to keep people from freely choosing what’s bad for them and others
  • how to maximize freedom of choice and diversity of expressed opinions without causing undue detriment
  • how to move beyond “Live Free or Die” to “Live Free and Wisely.”


Saturday, August 1, 2009


This course is intended to open and change minds—yours and mine—because minds need to be changed about important things now.

In studying the topic of “Human Frontiers,” you might guess that this theme implies exploring new territories and facing new challenges, as did American frontiersmen and women in the early years of this country. In our case, our frontiers are mental not geographical: territories of new thoughts, new behaviors, and new customs, based on new values.

In Huck Finn’s terms, why in this course are we “fixin’ to light out to the territories” this semester? Because, like Huck, we need a fresh start, and we need to leave behind a lot of truck, a lot of cultural and historical baggage that has been troubling the world for too long. We need to explore some new ideas and perspectives on how all human beings can prosper better on a prospering planet.

Frankly, as I suppose you already understand to a degree, we’re not doing so well these days as a race. As the most potent and noxious species on Earth, Homo sapiens sapiens is far from sapient, or wise, in managing our personal and communal affairs, or in tending the planetary garden (our ecosphere) that sustains us and all Earthlife.

But rather than just conceding that all this trouble is to be expected of a “fallen race,” cursed with innate depravity (as Puritans and others believe), I assume that, as an evolving species, we’re developing analogously to the growth path of an individual human being but have only reached, to date, our adolescence. Adulthood lies ahead for our still immature species.

What, then, would it mean for the human race to grow up? That is the wide frontier we’ll be exploring this semester. In which directions (we’ll ask) must we proceed so as to reach the higher potentials of human being and to realize feats of individual, social, cultural and political wisdom befitting Homo sapiens sapiens? That’s what we’ll be asking and will be working together to answer .

Two texts to guide our explorations will be Duane Elgin’s Promise Ahead: A Vision of Hope and Action for Humanity’s Future and David C. Korten’s The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community.


Friday, July 31, 2009


Today, the local chapter of
the Knights in Shining Harms
gathered at Midtown Harmory
surrounded by harmored vehicles
to discuss the Harm’s Race in general
and the right to bear harms in particular.
The subject of harmistice was never raised.


Thursday, July 30, 2009


"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting."
—William Wordsworth

Here it is, in a nutshell, what all of us are seeking: the bright glowing point of Loving Kindness poised at the center of our being.

That is Home.

That is where we long to be, however we may veer and rove eccentrically off course.

That is the Still Point in our souls from which we’ve strayed in error and misery since birth first sheared us from our womb of Loving Kindness and nurturing sustenance, an image of the spiritual matrix from which we all descend.

To return Home, to reunite with the source of Loving Kindness in all its warm tranquility, and to bask in the sightless light of spiritual illumination, just close your eyes and sit serenely, shutting out the busy, booming world about you till it fades.

Attend then to the subtle nudges of your intuition, leading you to deeper insights from your core, your heart of perfect knowing, still within, the Source of Loving Kindness, your own soul—where Love and Joy and Truth and Beauty live.

Welcome back.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009


More than any other animals, we live by ideas and ideals, as well as by instincts.

The conceptualizing power of our brains uniquely allows us to direct our behavior by rational schemes rendered into language that clarifies and communi- cates our motives to ourselves and others.

For us, between the stimulus and response of instinctive reactivity, there’s an intermediate conceptual function of considering possibilities and weighing options before deciding our reaction. And to the extent that we considerately evaluate how we might react, we determine our behavior by our ideals, which represent the values we choose to live by.

Choosing our values well is then a vital task for human beings, since there are foolish values as well as wise values. Which values, we must ask, will guide us best and prove most vital to the world?

That is our quest and task as a species to determine, since our effectual intelligence makes us responsible for sustaining Earth’s viability as a thriving ecosystem—a job we’re badly botching at the present.

Individually and collectively, we’re now challenged by diverse dangers to rectify our values, inculcate them well, and then live by our brightest ideals.



Regarding the fate of humanity, let me argue the other side, not for hope but for despair, not for comedy but tragedy.

Let me say that the chances seem slim of our waking up and growing up to a sufficient degree of collective sanity to save our race from what in our disposition is inclined to omnicide.

Too much power controlled by too much egomania and too little wisdom will likely end Life’s experiment in advanced intelligence on Earth. Before our intelli- gence can advance to wisdom, grosser human motives, armed by unscrupulous science, are likely to let all hell break loose and havoc reign.

It’s not that there aren’t glints and glimpses of compassion, sanity and wisdom to be seen in our history, in our scriptures, and in many saints and sages living even now. There’s wisdom in our midst, but few to see and follow it.

And wisdom can’t be rushed, it seems. It is a kind of ripening and maturity to be seasoned into by experience, a developmental stage transcending earlier stages, each needing to be lived through, but often not, and thus is wisdom thwarted.

Many, too, are the mad pathologies that plague and stunt us in our wising up, keeping us mean, self-centered, and fatally short sighted.

Is there, though, a way to wise up faster, to waken and ripen multitudes of people to a new level of enlightened consciousness that transcends pathology and nurtures compassion and altruism and harmonious community, where ego previously ruled?

Many religious revival movements in the past have swept societies toward sanctity and sanity, though not for long, once short-winded enthusiasms have puffed away, and the wasteland underneath the glamour reappears.

What then might we barely hope for, in the face of such long odds?

Hope for wising up yourself as well as you can, and helping others to do likewise. Study what it may mean to grow wiser. Study those who appear to have reached higher levels of consciousness and who practice behaviors expressing such enlightenment. Follow their examples and advice. Walk in their ways.

Then hope against hope for the best.



When it comes to saving the world from human depredations, the bottom-line question is if and how it’s possible to change our minds and behaviors to accomplish that feat.

First, have we identified all of the harms and stresses that our species’ presence inflicts on the Earth, on the well-being of our ecological habitat?

After that, have we developed sufficient ways to lessen our negative impacts? If so, what changes are required, and how will people comply?

Our root problem, though, comes from those who live in cultures that promote striving for all we can get, where maximizing our acquisitive consumption is a virtue, rather than a disorder called affluenza.

Thus, our clearer thinking about how we damage our habitat and how we might avoid doing that avails us not unless we can unlearn the self-aggrandizing values that drive our present recklessness, and unless we can learn the values of sustainable frugality grounded in the egalitarian principle that justice requires that all people deserve a fair share of the pie. And that the rights of all species to flourish matter just as well.

Our master meme and dream of Eldorado will die hard, however. Once we’ve seen and lusted after lavish Luxury (or if not that deity, then the lesser gods of Comfort and Convenience), how can we wish for less? Who will opt for Voluntary Simplicity other than an occasional oddball like Thoreau? Robinson Crusoe made do with little, but not voluntarily.

But then, might we be persuaded toward Higher Ways than those of material luxury? Nuns and monks renounce worldly surplus for spiritual sustenance, living not for lusts but for Love, not for abundance but for Beatitude and supernal Bliss.

In this conflict between Greatness and Grace, can we grow disenchanted with the ideal of opulence and settle happily for simplicity—the simple graces of sufficiency and sharing, modesty and the Golden Mean—instead of Eldorado?


Sunday, July 26, 2009


The consensus of forward-thinking authors I read is that humanity is overdue for a major upgrade in our collective mindsets, or in our funda-mentality.

Given the perverse pressures on this planet exerted by our teeming population—consuming resources voraciously, fouling the soil, the sea and the atmosphere, and wreaking high-tech havoc on each other—we require more than an attitude adjustment; we need radical reprogramming.

Short of genetic engineering, we need memetic reengineering. But how can that be done?

More simply: we need to change our minds—big time. Continuing business as usual is a lethal option, but how do we break the cycle of our deeply enculturated ways and means so as to imagine healthier, saner, wiser options and then to inculcate them as our new modes of operation? Call this procedure memetic engineering: the changing out of faulty memes for well-functioning memes.

Now that we’ve adoped the concept of memes as the psychic correlate to the genetic element of genes, we have a new way to imagine how our thoughts and attitudes are constituted of idea-units (memes) that enter minds as viruses invade bodies, replicating themselves through a population and altering behaviors accordingly.

But to the larger issue: what new memes does the world now need to be hosted by human psyches? Which are the failed memes to be up-rooted, and which memes are viable and vital for planting a New Humanity? Here are my proposals:

  1. rankism
  2. empire
  3. affluenza
  4. a dead universe
  5. reckless thrill-seeking
  6. raging animosity
  7. chronic anxiety
  8. depression/hopelessness
  9. emptiness/nihilism

  1. dignitarianism (Robert W. Fuller)
  2. community (David C. Korten)
  3. voluntary simplicity (Duane Elgin)
  4. a living universe (Duane Elgin)
  5. blissful serenity
  6. blissful serenity
  7. blissful serenity
  8. blissful serenity
  9. wholeness/holiness/health



Ours is a time of crisis, a word that implies both danger and opportunity.

The dangers facing our Earth community—the ecosphere and its inhabitants—are many and urgent, and the list is a familiar litany to anyone who scans the headlines.

Our human population swells toward seven billion and our appetite for resources is ravaging the planet’s lungs (its rain forests), depleting and poisoning its fertile soils, killing its oceans, polluting and draining its fresh waters, carbonizing its over-heated atmosphere, and fomenting violent rivalries planet-wide.

Collectively, we have governed ourselves unwisely and have been bad stewards to the planet that births and nurtures us, our Mother Earth. It’s an easy analogy to liken the rapacious spread of our species around the planet to a consumptive, cancerous growth in its ecosystem.

So much for danger.

As for opportunity, it’s hopeful that we seem to be wising up (if all too slowly) to the danger our depredations pose to Earth’s viability. A major shift in human consciousness appears imminent and has begun to manifest itself in some harbingers of a New Humanity, a generation of people whose prime perspective is global, not provincial, and who see this planet not as a treasure trove to be plundered, but as a living being, the womb and nurse of all Earthlife— Gaia.

This new breed of Harmonious Humanity, instead of wreaking mindless havoc, like an autistic teenager, has grown mindful of the intricate and delicate interconnections among all Earth’s beings, comparable to those among all the cells in one’s body, woven in synchrony by a network, a mind-web of collective interconnections.

Our technological World Wide Web of electronic communications offers a metaphor for the psychic mind-field now manifesting in our consciousness as we mature into Homo sapiens sapiens sapiens (humanity to the third power)—our third power being not merely consciousness and self-consciousness, but wisdom.


Thursday, July 23, 2009


A Brief Self-Inquiry

What do I want to endeavor, accomplish, achieve, become, realize—before I die?

Or, what, at the end, will I most regret having left undone?

  • having amiable relationships with all
  • expressing and putting my innate gifts and potentials to best use
  • being deeply fascinated by the wonder of being, the marvel of the immense journey of the universe

Who am I mainly?

  • a seeker/learner
  • a thinker/writer
  • a teacher/sharer
  • an inventor/improver
  • a reconciler/harmonizer


Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Let’s just assume that the Cosmos is alive and unfathomably intelligent, without necessarily personifying the universe as “God.”

Why not, then, converse with the universe to seek guidance on issues you face and decisions to make?

Get comfortable, but stay alert and receptive in mood, relaxed and undistracted, then bring to mind your query or concern.

Assume that just as a laptop computer connects with the Worldwide Web to feed its own small hard drive with a vast influx of information, so can your brain tap into the subtle flow of cosmic intelligence, what some call the Akashic field, a psychospiritual repository infinitely resourceful.

Make your request, assume that what you’re seeking will in due time arrive, and then again relax. Keep your doors of perception open, and trust your intuition to come up with what you need—Ah, ha!

It often works for me, so why not you?



Intelligence or aptitude in human beings manifests in many modes: verbal, mathematical, musical, athletic, social, and emotional, among others that researchers have recognized, including some more arcane, such as telepathic, telekinetic, and transcendental intelligence.

Telepathy and telekinesis—the abilities to sense information remotely or to exert physical force at a distance by thought alone—I leave to scientists to verify (as they have indeed, or so I read). What, though, would constitute transcendental intelligence or aptitude? Let me suppose.

I’ll say that some people experience what they would call a kind of knowing that stands beyond our ordinary knowing which can be confirmed communally (“Did you see that, too?”) or scientifically, by controlled observations.

Such extraordinary knowing or awareness is subjective rather than objective, personal rather than communal, numinous rather than phenomenal—and yet, to the perceiver, real: palpable, impressive and persuasive—not delusional, not hallucinatory.

Such was the experience of lunar astronaut Edgar Mitchell, a left-brained aeronautical engineer and rocket jockey, as he peered out of his spaceship window in 1971 while flying from the Moon to Earth: “On the return trip home, gazing through 240,000 miles of space toward the stars and the planet from which I had come, I suddenly experienced the Universe as intelligent, loving, harmonious.”

So blown away by that impression was Mitchell that he later founded IONS, the Institute of Noetic Sciences (“noetic,” like gnosis, implying ways of knowing beyond the narrowly empirical kinds that science validates). IONS investigates such “noetic” intelligence as was expressed in Edgar Mitchell (and several other lunar astronauts), which, in traditional language might be called spiritual intelligence.

What more can we know than our conventional definition of knowledge and methods of verification permit? What wider or deeper intelligence does human consciousness harbor than convention sanctions? What latencies of transcendental knowing have yet to awaken in more than those few luminaries who light our dim way to insights yet unseen?

Inquiring minds want to know.



“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are the prime values America stands for—“happiness,” not “property,” as John Locke originally phrased his triad of paramount human values.

What, then, is this elusive “happiness” that needs to be pursued? Is it one condition befitting all human beings alike, or many individual kinds of good fortune or private bliss?

Our Founders have left us to determine the nature of happiness, an enduring question that human beings the Earth over continue to debate, proposing sundry answers.

Were we to understand “human nature” thoroughly, might we find fundamental, species-wide criteria for happiness, the knowledge of which would prove illuminating and instructive in the shaping of our communal institutions of education, governance, and economy?

If we clearly knew the essential criteria of human happiness and pursued no spurious surrogates, would not this sorry world be better off?

Should we not then turn to the best of our psychospiritual scholars, those who have studied most revealingly the nature of human minds, from the most basic to the most elevated and subtle?

What do ancient Wisdom Traditions (such as Taoism and Buddhism) tell us about human happiness, and what do the academic disciplines (such as Integral Psychology and Positive Psychology) say to confirm or modify that ancient lore?

Before pursuing happiness per se, it seems, we must first pursue the idea of happiness and learn the end of all our questing. True happiness can’t be the will-o-the-wisp so many have futilely chased before, or merely good hap. It must be what we need above all else.

Now what is that?

* * *


If it’s true that we live by stories, by fictions or myths that offer us meaning and purpose which we crave but cannot prove, then why not assume authorship of our myth-making process?

Why not spin the yarns of our own lives and weave the patterned fabrications of our own philosophies?

Though others may be well enough satisfied by modeling their life stories to imitate what’s familiar and fashionable, customary and conventional, I prefer to make own myth independently and inventively.

Changing my metaphor from weaving to house building, I’d proceed in this myth-making process by supposing the foundation I’d want to build on, the fundamental cosmological ideas I wish to assume.

In my case, I’ll assume that the universe is alive with infinitely interconnected consciousness, directed by principles of harmony and love.

Furthermore, I’ll assume (as many throughout history have declared) that my present earthly personage expresses in this physical, temporal world a spiritual, eternal essence.

Who I am essentially survives my bodily demise, has previously chosen to incarnate as me in order to evolve through this temporal experience, and will carry lessons learned here back to eternity.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.