June 5, 2022

"Earth's Habitability" - An Owl & Ibis Presentation by John Hendershot

Kudos to John Hendershot for his outstanding presentation at the May 28, 2022, Owl & Ibis - A Confluence of Minds!

In his in-depth review and critique, John focused on climate change and how it is impacting the habitability of our planet as presented in the book, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells, 2019.

Following is a link and passcode to a video recording of John's Owl & Ibis presentation:


Passcode: *rupR!0V

Fantastic job, John!


}:> & ~:)

May 6, 2022

"What is Jazz?" - An Owl & Ibis Presentation by Marcia Dunscomb

A sincere thank you and much praise to Marcia Dunscomb, jazz pianist, composer, author, and piano teacher, for her April 30, 2022 Owl & Ibis - A Confluence of Minds presentation, What is Jazz?

Marcia’s narrative is here and links to videos she showed are below. There is music in all of us, some of it dormant, some as appreciation, and some as we are able to make it.

Marcia rekindled our focus on this foremost expression of our emotional life with her superb presentation on but one of music’s modes, that uniquely American music form we call jazz.

Thank you, Marcia!

Jazz in America, Herbie Hancock


(50) Collective Improvisation in New Orleans Jazz - YouTube

Count Basie Blues in Hoss Flat

(50) Count Basie Orchestra - Blues in Hoss Flat - YouTube

Count Basie in a Mel Brooks movie you may remember:

(50) Mel Brooks & Count Basie - Blazing saddles (1974) Le Sherif est en Prison - YouTube

Dizzy Gillespie and Paquito D'Rivera

(50) Dizzy Gillespie - Be Bop - YouTube

(50) "Django"(John Lewis),Modern Jazz Quartet in London - YouTube

(50) Dave Brubeck - Take Five - YouTube

Herbie Hancock speaking to Elvis Costello and then playing Watermelon Man

(50) Herbie Hancock - Watermelon Man - YouTube

}:> & ~:)

April 18, 2022

"From Gulliver's Travels to Star Trek - Alternate Realities or a Mirror?" - An Owl & Ibis Presentation by Mona Leiter


Kudos to Mona Leiter for her superb March 25, 2022, Owl & Ibis – A Confluence of Minds multi-media presentation, “From Gulliver’s Travels to Star Trek – Alternate Realities or a Mirror?” A list of links to the videos she showed and her original narrative follow.

A veteran presenter at O&I, Mona described this, her most recent effort this way:

I really appreciated having the chance to work on this as I covered some of the things that mean the most to me - Star Wars, Star Trek, and Twilight Zone. These movies/shows had a big impact on me and the shaping of who I became. I definitely appreciate the power of story and the ability of speculative fiction to help us reflect on where we have been, where we are, and where we may be headed. – Mona

List of Video Links for “From Gulliver’s Travels to Star Trek – Alternate Realities or a Mirror?”

1. Star Wars Trailer from 1977 (before the movie came out)

a. https://youtu.be/1g3_CFmnU7k

2. Luke Meets Ben (from Star Wars)

a. https://youtu.be/oTV2tS4nRPE

3. The Features of speculative fiction

a. https://youtu.be/LJFBHnFRdHE

4. Frankenstein Part 2 from Crash Course Literature 206

a. https://youtu.be/hRDjmyEvmBI

5. Animated interview with Rod Serling from PBS Digital Studios

a. https://youtu.be/7ywWdT6IL3o

6. Why Twilight Zone is still relevant (5 Episodes that prove the Twilight Zone has always tackled the big issues)

a. https://youtu.be/JjyWpoAiXOA

7. Mike Wallace interview with Rod Serling (Serling on Censorship)

a. https://youtu.be/VQlqjONEsKQ

8. Clip from Star Trek – Let That Be Your Last Battlefield (Star Trek tackling racism)

a. https://youtu.be/vi7QQ5pO7_A

9. Clips from Twilight Zone: Eye of the Beholder

a. The only way I could find to share segments from this, my favorite Twilight Zone episode, was through using these series of clips (a portion of which I did not share in my presentation) Here they are in order:

1. https://youtu.be/5I1QAHq2vek

2. https://youtu.be/-v__P2CP-3o

3. https://youtu.be/9yV2x990Nqk

4. https://youtu.be/TcwzHcrSX1k

5. https://youtu.be/kMG407LE_I4

6. https://youtu.be/WPgGnGTjfHs

7. https://youtu.be/mIhHYwUhkyY


Mirrors Script for “From Gulliver’s Travels to Star Trek – Alternate Realities or a Mirror?”


1. Titles


2. Star Wars Trailer


3. George Lucas and his background

        a. As a filmmaker in his late 20s George Lucas hit the big time when he made the 1973 film American Graffiti – a movie based on experiences of his teen years – as the tagline says “Where Were You in 62”. George wanted as his follow-up project, to make a film of Flash Gordon – as he loved watching the 1930s Flash Gordon movie serials on the tv when he was a child of the 50s. But he could not get the movie rights. So he set out to make his own “space spectacular” which became Star Wars - released in 1977.


4. In addition to the Flash Gordon inspiration, Star Wars definitely wore George Lucas’ influences on its sleeve – including Akira Kurosawa films such as Hidden Fortress. Also throughout you can see touches of westerns, swashbuklers, fantasy, and even world war ii – the space battle footage at the finale was staged similarly to world war ii film dogfights.

March 23, 2022

Spinoza on Human Nature and Morality, Part 1



The human pursuit of power, wealth, and empire derives from a fundamental aspect of life on Earth. It originated with life itself as a response to the need to survive and a desire to flourish. At its birth, its coming to life, every organism grows and exploits to the fullest every useable resource it encounters to serve its need to survive and desire to flourish. It does so until it encounters other living and/or physical environmental constraints. This results in that life form being contained or killed, or its continuing to exploit all it encounters to the point of destroying the resources and life systems that give and sustain its life.

Humans have been no exception. With our “sapient” emergence beginning about 300,000 years ago we brought this fundamental drive to survive and desire to flourish with us – something genetically inherited and behaviorally learned from all other life forms that preceded and nourished us. What Old World primate has not encountered a tree full of ripe figs and once fully engorged herself with sweet fruit, not imagined encountering other such trees, perhaps an entire forest of them, tomorrow?

It has been thus for Homo sapiens, the wandering, searching, exploiting, dreaming primate, from our beginning up to today. Hallmark events and periods exhibiting this have been semi-settled agriculture after 9,000BCE and city-state collective farming beginning 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, independent agrarian-based civilizational empire building elsewhere in Asia, and in Europe and the Americas that followed, and the European Age of Exploration and Colonization. In every instance we find the pattern of pursuing power and wealth in the service of the ostensible need to survive and the desire, the dream, of flourishing. In each context the pattern of confronting constraints resulting in flourishing, containment, or annihilation has also happened. Underlying it all, in every instance, has been the language and symbols humans have created for what surviving and flourishing mean; and the various stories and rationalizations that have been used to try and make them manifest in the minds of others and the physical realities of Earth. An imposition of human power in order to survive, flourish, and persevere. Words and meanings have and continue to be woven into stories that over time and through enculturation become lasting myths and figurative and literal institutions. Consider nation-states and doctrines such as US Manifest Destiny.

One period and its story that has surpassed all others in its impact on all humankind and all of Earth’s environments has been modernity. That being dominant notions and events in the history of Europe – the Scientific Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and notions of human flourishing and perfectibility as found religiously in Christianity and secularly in the Enlightenment. In the West, modernity had its conceptual origin in patterns of conquest and colonization begun in the Middle East (including Egypt), and subsequently in Ancient Greece and Imperial Rome.

By the 15th Century European ship building, navigation, and weaponry had reached a point of sophistication and power to allow circumnavigation of the Earth and the besiegement, conquest, and subjugation or enslavement of most of the indigenous peoples the Europeans encountered. The story of European conquest and enrichment was begun and led by the wealthy and powerful. Those who felt entitled and sanctioned by their God and the civilizing prescriptions of the Enlightenment, and rationalized by their self-declared European cultural superiority as evidenced by their science and technology.

The European myths of the North American frontier - masculine heroism, personal freedom, White privilege, and entitlement - live on. More than that, they have been resuscitated, dusted off, and patched up from the harsh countercultural criticism they had been taking in the US before and especially since the 1960s. That is, from ideological and legal challenges mounted by civilizing, liberating, fair-playing-field agendas of governments, women and minority activists, and most educated urban liberals.

The Canadian truck blockaders of February 2022 in Ottawa, Alberta and elsewhere, no doubt thought of themselves as heroic illiberal Hopalongs. American actor William Boyd and his Wild West good-guy movie and TV character Hopalong Cassidy in the mid-20th Century US were champions of certain Western virtues and morals, including racial equality & justice. Many White Americans and others at the time idolized Boyd and Hopalong but disagreed with and kept mum on the actor’s liberal views, especially his anti-racism.

Not anymore. Ultra conservative Hopalongs have become the John Waynes and Dirty Harrys of the Proud Boys and others, such as those in the US Senate and House of Representatives, and their racism has become open for some and thinly coded for others. Consider the almost daily language and symbol skirmishes raging within the US culture wars and smoldering in Canada, Europe, and elsewhere. To this confusion add that a large part of the world’s working public has insufficient time or energy or is unwilling to think deeply about anything. During his first presidential campaign Donald Trump declared he was the "least racist person you'll ever meet" while at the same time courting and evoking the tribal emotions of White supremacists, and later telling them to “stand by.” Most of his supporters from various quarters on the right had no problem with that.

On November 9, 2016, enough of the US voting public gave assent to his agenda to put Trump in the White House via the electoral college. On January 6, 2021, he emboldened his followers to invade the US Capitol to nullify a democratic election he lost. In doing so he demonstrated his willingness to subvert the Constitution, violate US law, and undermine historically inviolable American institutions and storied practices. All to keep himself, his minority party, and their minority point of view and vision in power. Their goal being to end the democratic process the US has had since it was founded. In varying degrees from place to place around the world, populist politicians like Trump present a veneer of freedom, justice, and flourishing for all. The truth at its core, however, is carefully hidden – a doubling down on the story of privilege and patriarchy.

We are story-animated animals. Stories, and the myths and legends that time and events turn them into, are necessary. We cannot live without them. They are shorthand guides humans use to comprehend, navigate, and survive modern life’s overwhelming, incomprehensible complexity and at times, absurdity. They do not, as some claim, come from and are based on a cosmic moral arc tending toward good. There is no unequivocally convincing evidence for such a teleological universe. Stories are invented by those living among us. Most often stories with the greatest effect are those presented by persons and institutions having immense power and wealth. The filters we use to learn about and critique our culture's stories and myths, as youths and throughout our adult lives, are targeted and manipulated by the powerful. For example, seeking higher education and engaging in independent, skeptical thinking are denigrated by many conservative populists as elitist, unpatriotic pursuits.

Few are those who can step outside of such manipulation and intimidation and objectively critique their society’s stories, myths, and institutions. Many of the best at it teach at our universities. Far more are without credentials and outside academia. From inherent intelligence, common sense, a strong will, and a determination to think clearly and independently, a majority of the public can see when their culture’s ideals are perverted to the will of nationalist, racist populism supporting White privilege and patriarchy.

We all must throughout our lives remain skeptical of the myths and stories we are told, the cultural sustenance by which we can claim humaneness. We live according to what we allow our minds to be fed and what we accept as truth. Story narratives are necessary, but they are not sufficient for human survival and flourishing. They must also present a moral stance, a declaration of what are good and bad relations between people. Some stories are better at this than others.


Portuguese Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) has far more to offer than his view that God is Nature. He also proposes a model describing how humans live out their groups’ stories, personally and socially. His “model of human nature” describes a process of striving on the part of the individual to increase his/her power to persevere. He called this the individual’s conatus [koh-NAH-tuhs]. This model or template, claimed Spinoza, is inherent in every individual. It is also a story of individual freedom and virtue having a moral stance. The following is from a 2020 book about Spinoza's moral philosophy by American philosopher Steven Nadler.

March 19, 2022

Cultural Authenticity

Image: Francks Deceus, Arco Gallery 

To understand culture and any particular culture one must first examine how culture content accommodates the needs of mainstream society and its individuals, because the fit and rules of culture are meant to best accommodate the mainstream. One must also look at how a society’s culture is responded to by groups and persons not in the mainstream. It is here that the authenticity of the beliefs, values, and norms of a given time are often questioned and challenged. Does the culture content remain suitable for enough people for the society’s survival and possible flourishing?

Sometimes efforts, informal or formal, are undertaken to change the content and power of a culture to better suit the times and needs of more or fewer members of a society. Democratic societies seek to make their respective cultures more inclusive; autocracies favor less inclusion. When minority persons join the mainstream, they expand the inclusivity of society. In doing so they call into question the authenticity of mainstream culture. Members of minority groups, especially those from groups that have been historically enslaved, persecuted, and discriminated against, must consider not only the tenets of mainstream culture as it suits the whole of society as any responsible citizen must. They must also consider how mainstream beliefs, values, and norms impact their lives in principle and through mainstream social behavior and the enactment and enforcement of laws affecting them.

White Americans evaluate the fit and appropriateness of American culture differently from Black Americans. For Whites, American beliefs, values, and norms are the standards they aspire to, live by, and deem appropriate for everyone. Historically, when the content of America culture became lacking in this sense and in need of change it was most often transformed for what they believed was for the wellbeing of society, especially them. When an African American considers the authenticity of American culture at any given time, he must do so ideologically as well as from a reactionary stance.

In his brilliant 2021 essay “The Fake Book of Negroes”[1] Gerald Early, professor of English and African and African American studies at Washington University in St. Louis, explores individualism, originality, and collective identity pertaining to African American realities. Black Americans, he says, have “long mythologized their experience as one of exile and return.” Claiming this may serve to sharpen their sense of destiny, Early says Black Americans “still embrace the exodus story as a defining trope of their collective experience.” Central to that narrative, he claims, is the idealized figure of Moses who “scorns the blandishments of his people’s oppressors, strikes down the slave master, and rejects assimilation, choosing instead to assert his authentic identity and lead his people from the land of oppression to the promised land of freedom.” Early reminds us that Harriet Tubman and Marcus Garvey were called Moses, as was Martin Luther King, Jr. In leading the US civil rights movement King was “leading not just his own people but an entire nation to the promised land of a more perfect union.”

Image: Francks Deceus, Arco Gallery

Early suggests “instead of thinking of going home as a form of authentication, of rebirth, blacks should fully accept the idea that they have arrived, and where they are at home. They have had their rebirth.” Early does not deny Moses his place as epic hero of anti-slavery and civil rights movements. But he sides with African American novelists Albert Murray and Ralph Ellison in expressing skepticism about “charismatic race liberators” and believes blacks must “stop thinking of themselves as damaged goods in need of repair. They are a new people.”

For Early, African American authenticity within white-dominated US culture may only be found by “taking what you choose from your oppressor and making it part of who you are.” He cites Murray’s view that every Black American should use his “inner resources and the means at hand to take advantage of the most unlikely opportunities to succeed in the circumstances in which he finds himself; [in doing so] he also makes himself indispensable to the welfare of the nation as a whole.” That authenticity, as Early puts it, derives from a person’s “capacity for self-invention, self-definition.”

This capacity was expressed in the mid-1600s by philosopher Baruch Spinoza as his “model of human nature.” This model or template, claimed Spinoza, is true for and inherent in every individual, regardless of one’s culture, time, place, education, intelligence, or political persuasion. It also contains a moral stance. An individual, on the basis of his “adequate ideas” – a clear and distinct and true understanding of things, as opposed to the inadequate ideas that come (passively) by way of sense experience and the imagination – actively does and pursues only what is truly beneficial and useful for himself as well as for others. This clear, distinct, and true understanding of things and moral stance do not allow one person or group to take away another person or group’s freedom to strive and persevere toward a state of joy, happiness, and freedom. The moral stance of Spinoza’s model of human nature is based on his notion of the free person. Becoming a free person is to have maximal striving power and to act according to the dictate of reason. A person becomes free through his active personal effort to obtain adequate ideas, not in response to external causes.[2]

Image: Francks Deceus, Arco Gallery

Ralph Ellison’s thinking on self-actualization and cultural authenticity is expressed in his 1952 novel, Invisible Man. There the Black narrator relates the words of his grandfather as the elder lies on his deathbed. 

Son, after I’m gone I want you to keep up the good fight. I never told you, but our life is a war and I have been a traitor all my born days, a spy in the enemy’s country ever since I give up my gun back in the Reconstruction. Live with your head in the lion’s mouth. I want you to overcome ’em with yeses, undermine ’em with grins, agree ’em to death and destruction, let ’em swoller you till they vomit or bust wide open. 

In calling himself a spy in a war where his grinning and agreeing is meant for the enemy, says Early, the grandfather is trading in a spy’s “inauthenticity of identity, its mutability” to mount a form of resistance different from the more valorized forthright, uncompromising resistance of Moses.

This reckoning of Black Americans with US society and culture is ongoing. For an African American to establish her identity and find authenticity within an American society dominated by White culture, is having to make a difficult choice characterized by relatively less of the freedoms of the founding documents of the US. One must choose between joining a majority of Black liberals who condemn any resemblance of kowtowing to White dominance or exercising their individualism as Black conservatives and incurring name calling such as Uncle Tom, house nigger from Black and White liberals.

Conversely, name calling, says Early, “provides the clarity of contempt, makes explicit the stakes of claims to authenticity or accusations of inauthenticity. In response, conservative or moderate blacks have come up with their own names for the black activists, academics, and leaders who hate them: race hustlers, race whores, race charlatans. While lacking the lash-like sting of ‘Uncle Tom’ or ‘house nigger,’ the epithets are cutting and clearly racial. ‘I think the NAACP are the classic house niggers,’ the conservative, free-market economist Thomas Sowell commented in the early 1980s. ‘Their support comes from white liberals in the press and philanthropy.’ Sowell accused liberal and leftist Blacks of selling out to an array of foundations, universities, government agencies, corporations, and rich donors and celebrities, a network that he suggested was far more extensive than the ones supporting conservative blacks. In other words, he was saying, those blacks were the inauthentic, phony ones.”

Image: Francks Deceus, Arco Gallery

Early continues by claiming “perhaps the savagery of this conflict results from a secret realization: that for blacks there is no escape from the need for white validation. Even to rage militantly, uncompromisingly, against whites is a perverse way of courting them, of drawing their attention, of appealing to their sense of power by insisting they pay for their wrongs. … In the black quarrel over authenticity, each side accuses the other of selling the fruits of racism as good. Interestingly, they both sell blacks as victims: One side says blacks are victims of white oppression, the other, that blacks are victims of the dependency fostered by white welfarism. Each side calls itself heroic, and each vigorously asserts its own victimhood.” 

First of all, my position is a split one. I’m black. I’m a man of the West. These hard facts are bound to condition, to some degree, my outlook. I see and understand the West; but I also see and understand that non- or anti-Western point of view. How is this possible? This double vision of mine stems from my being a product of Western civilization and from my racial identity, long and deeply conditioned, which is organically born of my being a product of that civilization. Being a Negro living in a white Western Christian society, I’ve never been allowed to blend, in a natural and healthy manner, with the culture and civilization of the West. This contradiction of being both Western and a man of color creates a psychological distance, so to speak, between me and my environment. I’m self-conscious. – Richard Wright, 1957[3] 

Earlier, Wright said “there is in progress between black and white Americans a struggle over the nature of reality.”[4] He was correct, and the struggle continues. The early 21st Century controversy over critical race theory, Early rightly notes, is only the latest skirmish in that struggle. Among Black Americans, says Early, “the conflict between a desire for individual self-authentication, on one hand, and a longing for authentic solidarity, on the other, has become an inescapable and often exhausting feature of the black American condition.”

For any society and anyone trying to study it, the question of what a society’s authentic culture is has no easy answer. When thinking about a culture, including one’s own, one must try to think of it from every angle, every subgroup’s perspective. From every facet dark or noble it presents to its members and nonmembers. Done properly, this is a lifelong self-enriching effort, best engaged in daily by every citizen during every person-to-person encounter. JEL

[1] “The Fake Book of Negroes” by Gerald Early, The Hedgehog Review, Fall 2021.

[2] For more on Spinoza’s model of human nature, adequate ideas, and the free person see Think Least of Death - Spinoza on How to Live and How to Die by American philosopher Steven Nadler. Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition, 2020.

[3] Richard Wright, “Tradition and Industrialization: The Historic Meaning of the Plight of the Tragic Elite in Asia and Africa,” in White Man, Listen! (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1964), 47. First published 1957.

[4] Richard Wright, “Twentieth-Century Fiction and the Black Mask of Humanity,” 1953, in Within the Circle: An Anthology of African American Literary Criticism from the Harlem Renaissance to the Present, Angelyn Mitchell (ed.), Duke University Press, 1994.

March 1, 2022

"Strategies for Creating African American Museums and Cultural Spaces," an Owl & Ibis Presentation by John Cruickshank

Image: Courtesy of John Cruickshank

Kudos to John Cruickshank for his outstanding presentation, "Strategies for Creating African American Museums and Cultural Spaces." Here is a PDF version of John's PowerPoint slideshow.

In his comprehensive presentation John covered the institutional history of African American museums, background on Julius Rosenwald and the schools he created, and the views of two prominent African American museum directors, Lonnie Bunch and Bryan Stevenson.

John's presentation was particularly focused on the Our Legacy: The Griffin-Spalding African American History Museum in Griffin, Georgia. John is a member of that museum's steering committee.

John's Statement of Argumentation
In the United States, we have generally done a very poor job of
creating cultural spaces that help us understand our history, who we
are, the nature of our problems and how those problems emerged.
The American South is littered with iconography designed to
memorialize and honor the architects and defenders of the
Confederacy. They are symbols of a false narrative of the virtue of
racial hierarchy, of the acceptability of white supremacy. Artists and
cultural leaders and institutions have in many ways been complicit by
not creating an honest accounting of this history.

John’s Conclusions

~ Museums should be a place that gives the public not just what it wants, but what it needs
~ Museums have a social justice role to play
~ Museums always take a point of view by what they choose to exhibit and what they decide not to exhibit and what gives the public not just what it wants, but what it needs
~ Museums should use African American history as a corrective, to help people understand the fullness, the complexity, the nuance of their history
~ Museums should be driven by scholarship and the community

Thanks, John!


February 19, 2022

“On Top of Old Topper – A Surprising and Inspiring 'Backstory' of an American Cultural Icon of the 1950s!" by Pam Dewey


William Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy                           Hopalong on his horse, Topper 

Attached here is a wonderful new documentary on famous American cowboy actor William Boyd, and the movie and TV Western hero he portrayed and came to emulate in his personal life, Hopalong Cassidy.

Pam Dewey, author, documentary producer, and US social historian, has masterfully put together yet another account of 19th and 20th Century America’s story, and the myths and legends of its making. In her presentation, Pam's attention to historical detail and infusion of aspects of her early life in the US Midwest during the middle of the 20th Century make this production highly educational and authentic.

The male heroic themes Ms. Dewey explores have continued to resonate in North America and in slightly altered forms worldwide, from the 1980s into the early 21st Century. One need look no further than US presidents Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, and other populist leaders around the world at present who portray themselves as savior heroes, and the large numbers of people who support them.

The February 2022 Canadian truck blockaders in Ottawa and Alberta no doubt think of themselves as heroic Hopalongs. It is notable that actor William Boyd was a champion of certain Western Civilization virtues and morality, including racial and cultural equality and justice. Yet many White Americans and others in the 1950s disagreed with him but kept mum on the actor's liberal views, especially his anti-racism.

For Ms. Dewey’s other great documentaries and “docucommentaries,” as she terms her more pointed productions, visit her YouTube page here: Meet Myth America.


February 8, 2022

God, Secular Ethical Living, and Happiness: Kierkegaard Partially Digested

Sacrifice of Isaac. Michelangelo Merisi, detto il Caravaggio (Caravaggio, Milano 1571 – Porto Ercole, Grosseto 1610)

Ruminant stomachs have four compartments. So do the minds of some featherless bipeds. I have gnawed and swallowed Ryan Kemp’s essay on Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), “An Unlikely Meditation on Modern Happiness.” I have now regurgitated it from my mental rumen and begun chewing its cognitive cud. Next it will pass to my subsequent deeper mental stomachs to be fully digested. Ultimately to be assimilated into my being as knowledge or plopped behind me as, well, bullshit. Here are my initial ruminations.

I will not know, until I read and understand it, what Kierkegaard means in Fear and Trembling when he uses the expression “infinite resignation” to describe how he chose submitting to God. Based on my frustrations reading and comprehending other of K’s works, I am not looking forward to trying. But I will try unless life’s clock runs out on me before his book reaches the top of my must-read stack.

So, to Kemp. He says K succumbed to reasoned resignation over blind faith as his path to God believing there was no option. According to Kemp’s understanding of K, loving God “leaves no room for enjoying life, including the small pleasures of marriage or the consolations of friendship.”

Last week I concluded viewing the eleven episodes of the 1981 TV adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited on BritBox, an inexpensive service of Amazon Prime. This is an outstanding production in every way. Laurence Olivier’s appearance in two episodes proved once again he is the best actor of all those I have seen, stage and screen, large and small.

At the end of the series, Waugh’s Julia Flyte decides she cannot marry Charles Ryder because her Catholicism does not allow her love to be divided between God and her beloved, godless Charles. For Julia such is the only choice she believes she has, an infinite loving of God to the exclusion of all other loves. But as I will come to soon not everyone sees this life-altering choice as an either-or proposition. I don’t.

Kemp says K reasoned that “faith, far from tempting a person toward worldly resignation, actually draws a person into a more gratifying relationship with it. Only the person of faith is positioned to truly embrace this life.” Therefore, K accepted an “infinite resignation” to a trusting faith in God.

Kemp next introduces Swedish philosopher and literary critic Martin Hägglund’s disagreement with Kierkegaard. For Hägglund, faith in a transcendent being, God, is an otherworldly distraction that thwarts humankind’s ability to, writes Kemp, “muster an enduring and wholehearted interest in this life and the people and things that populate it. So they, and not people of religious faith, are best disposed to engage meaningfully and happily with the world. Put succinctly, [Abraham’s] Isaac would have been much better off the son of the village atheist.”

From Hägglund, by extension, we can also conclude that the Hindu and Buddhist concept of karma, in its general cause and effect aspect, exists only as a human invention, not an inherent inviolable principle of human social life. And cosmically, there is no such thing as a moral arc inherent in the matter or processes of the universe contrary to American abolitionist minister Theodore Parker’s sermon in 1853, Abraham Lincoln participating with a group singing about it in the 1860s, Martin Luther King’s endorsement a century later, and Barack Obama mentioning such during his campaign and presidency. Such distractions are best understood as wrong and unnecessary encumbrances to our seeing the world as it is and doing what is by reason and evidence indicated for our, other lifeforms, and the planet's wellbeing. I agree.

Here is my disagreement with Kemp. He describes an ethical person as someone who

though by no means crudely egoistic, approaches life with specific ideas of what she is owed if she plays by life’s rules. Those rules are largely moral: If I respect you, you owe me respect in return. Many of these rules receive, if only implicitly, a cosmic emphasis when a person regards right conduct as having earned her a life free of pain and hardship, at least of the most traumatic kind. When the universe breaks the rules (a cancer diagnosis, car accident, or failed relationships), bitterness and resentment are justified. This is why one will often say of a particularly good person who is also dealt a bad hand, “He deserved better!” The fact that the language of “desert” recommends itself in these moments suggests that many of us move through life in this mode of ownership. Since most of us at least tacitly acknowledge that the universe doesn’t really respect these rules of ownership, we also carry around a constant low-level anxiety that the things we love can be robbed at any moment. … Kierkegaard supposes, credibly it seems, that the ethical person’s tacitly precarious sense of ownership actually diminishes her ability to engage wholeheartedly with the goods of the world. This means, against Hägglund, that the person best positioned to love and enjoy life is precisely the one who has made peace with its loss. In the language of Fear and Trembling, Abraham can’t really love Isaac until he is prepared to give him up.

Kemp’s understanding of an ethical person in modern times as he expresses it here is extremely limited. I had cancer five years ago. I did not feel bitter or resentful because I had been living a mostly ethical, moral life yet fell victim to the cancer. Following Cicero and the Stoics, I think virtue is its own reward.

Per Kemp, K proposes that “the ability to love the world and experience joy within it requires one to first love something that transcends it: that the move from a focus on earthly happiness to God is, against all expectations, the surest path to a kind of deep and stable joy.” That the alternative, “a life that exists solely in the ownership mode is one of despair, a spiritual sickness that finally becomes so acute a person begins to consider, even if they can’t yet comprehend, a religious solution.” Kemp then temps the reader by claiming that faith in God and attaining happiness might be inseparable. But Kemp concludes that the only reader of Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling certain to take K seriously is “one who has tried and failed to discover happiness through life’s more traditional channels.”

Kemp claims someone living ethically “approaches life with specific ideas of what she is owed if she plays by life’s rules,” a transactional way of life that is inherently selfishly, reciprocal. But I and many others don’t live by an ownership code of ethics. Yes, I do engage in a hopeful transactional expectation of reciprocity from others I treat morally. But I am fully prepared for them not reciprocating or my not receiving any kind of reward. Others, life, or the cosmos are not here to live up to my expectations. Many other moderns among us think the same way. It is not an either-or choice as Kierkegaard and Kemp seem to portray it – resign to faith or live in an ownership/desert mode. Even Kemp hints at this when he says “many of us move through life in this ownership mode” – many maybe, but far from all.

As for those perplexed souls such as Waugh’s Julia, those who have “tried and failed to find happiness through life’s traditional channels,” surely there must be reasons for their failure. Surely there are events in their life experiences that upon further reflection offer options for re-trying secular ethical living without opting to dive headlong into “infinite resignation” to a faith in God.

I personally cannot accept that the best way to find happiness in modern life is to first believe in a transcendent God. But I can accept that for some it is. Perhaps there is something on this in Hägglund’s 2019 book Kemp refers to, This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom. But my must-read stack, like all else of my life, has entered the two-minute warning stage. I therefore feel compelled to pass K’s and Kemp’s cud to my third and fourth stomachs where it will become fully digested as knowledge or wisdom, or not.

December 1, 2021

"On the Trail of a Major Story" - A History of the Trail of Tears by Pam Dewey

Mural (8-by15 foot) by Elizabeth Janes (1938-39) depicting the

arrival of Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma in the 1830s, on

display at the Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

The Trail of Tears was part of the Indian removal, a series of forced displacements and ethnic cleansing of approximately 60,000 Native Americans of the Five Civilized Tribes between 1830 and 1850 by the United States government. Tribal members "moved gradually, with complete migration occurring over a period of nearly a decade.”

Members of the so-called Five Civilized Tribes – the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations (including thousands of their black slaves) were forcibly removed from their ancestral homelands in the Southeastern United States to areas to the west of the Mississippi River that had been designated Indian Territory. The forced relocations were carried out by government authorities after the passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830. The Cherokee removal in 1838 (the last forced removal east of the Mississippi) was brought on by the discovery of gold near Dahlonega, Georgia in 1828, resulting in the Georgia Gold Rush.

The Trail of Tears was part of a larger pattern of behavior, called Indian removal, beginning in 1830 with the Indian Removal Act and continuing all the way through the 20th Century with the American Indian boarding schools program. The pattern was calculated to eradicate the Native culture. The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian describes it as a genocide.

The relocated peoples suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation while en route to their newly designated Indian reserve. Thousands died from disease before reaching their destinations or shortly after. – Wikipedia

Pamela Starr Dewey, social historian and author, has put together an eye-opening, heart-rending multi-media documentary, what she calls a “docu-commentary,” on the Trail of Tears in the context of the social history of the US. This is essential viewing for anyone who wants to know the full history of the US. Go to the following YouTube link:

On the Trail of a Major Story


Pam Dewey

Go to Pam’s YouTube web site, Meet Myth America, for free access the other forty-two of her docu-commentaries, and other material on US history. - JL

November 3, 2021

'Electric Vehicles and Net Zero Carbon Emissions' An Owl & Ibis Presentation by Doug Nichols

Many thanks to Doug Nichols for his outstanding presentation at the October 30, 2021 Owl & Ibis - A Confluence. Doug called his talk "Will Electric Vehicles Serve a Major Role in Reaching Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050?"

Doug's comprehensive coverage of electric vehicles (EVs) focused mainly on passenger cars. Here is a link to his Apple Keynote slideshow. It takes a few minutes to open on a PC but it and the videos it contains will open and play.

During his talk Doug covered the following topics and much more. Most of the information contained in his narration is contained in his slides. 

  • Battery life, safety, recycling, and recharging at home and on the road.
  • Ongoing battery research & development and information about component minerals and mining industry providers.
  • EV cost by vehicle and manufacturer, and the steady downward trend in cost to consumers.
  • EV operating and maintenance costs.
  • Comparison of EV and ICE (internal combustion) emissions.
  • Speed, acceleration, comfort, and towing capacity of EVs.
  • Types of EVs: Battery EV (BEV); Hybrid EV (HEV); Plug-In Hybrid EV (PHEV); and Fuel Cell EV (FEV).
  • Currently EVs have 5% of the new car sales market.
  • EV - A Disruptive Technology:

1.      Electric motors are fundamentally more efficient.

2.     Even with a dirty coal power plant, an EV is cleaner than an ICE.

3.     Electric motors have full torque at zero RPM.

4.    EVs are far cheaper to maintain and fuel.

A link to Doug's presenter notes is here. In his notes Doug answers the question in his title....

Here are some links recommended by Doug:

Electric Vehicles

Best overall EV information summaries by model:


List of EVs available in the U.S (Feb 2021).:


Hydrogen Powered Toyota Mirai:




EVs are not presently net zero — Forbes:


Forbes overview:


Charging Apps:

Plugshare: https://www.plugshare.com

Chargeway: https://www.chargeway.net/easy-to-use/

EVgo: https://www.evgo.com

ChargeHub: https://chargehub.com/en/charging-stations-map.html

Chargepoint: https://www.chargepoint.com/drivers/mobile/

Open Charge: https://openchargemap.org/site

Blink: https://blinkcharging.com/drivers/ev-drivers/

SemaConnect: https://semaconnect.com/resources/station-locator/


Environmental Side



President of COP 26, Alok Sharma, TED Talk:


UNEP 2021 Emissions Gap Report Fact Sheet:


The role of equitable low carbon lifestyles:


How the fossil fuel industry deliberately mislead on climate change:


 ~ ~ ~

Again, great presentation, Doug. My next car will be an EV!

}:> & ~:) 

Archive for "Being Human"