A Meditation on Hope

A Meditation on Hope

My newest crusade is to have the cleanest, most litter-free potter’s field in the world sprawled in front of me on my morning walks through the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery, not one candy wrapper, cigarette butt or beer bottle surviving the sweep of my gaze as I traverse its hills and dales.

My eyes are mine sweepers, extending 180 degrees through the harbor, left, right, back, up and forth.

My mission: to find and emerge triumphant over every litter bomb, no matter how tiny it is or clever its attempts to hide behind a bush or under mounds of dead fall leaves.

Out with you and into my bag, pocket or hand, you Doublemint wrapper! Quit your cowering pretension that you’re just another tree twig, you lollipop stick!

I am onto your nefarious ways!

It is good to have a noble purpose in life, and I am surpassingly glad to have found mine.

The modern world can be hell on hope. Bad guys wreaking havoc all over the planet, cynics popping up in their wake like poison mushrooms in the night, ...

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Cries for Freedom: The Berlin Wall and Brittany Maynard

The WallBy GiuseppeBognanni

I don’t believe I know one person in my everyday orbit who has even one shred of doubt that Brittany Maynard wasn’t fully entitled to the self-determination she employed on November 1 as she ended her own life under Oregon’s Death With Dignity law.

At a heartbreaking 29 years old, she was making a clear, rational, and yes, spiritually mature decision to end her life on her own terms, in her own time, before the ravages of the inoperable brain tumor she had endured overcame her ability to make any decisions or make any sense whatsoever.

Let me be clear: I regard human life as a precious gift that we must hold in the tenderest, most exalted esteem. What a kick it is, yes? Inexhaustibly enriching, full of beauty, intrigue, challenge, high humor, endless curiosity and capacity for love, wonder and joy.

Except when it isn’t.

And when confronting the end point of the disease that was soon going to kill Maynard, life was none of those salutary qualities for her, but was instead a reci...

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To Be Young and of Fighting Age: Two Takes on the Vietnam Era

Army Man By Jennifer Tomaloff

As a worship associate in my church, I periodically help produce services, assisting the presiding minister by doing readings and planning various other activities that help shape what takes place in the sanctuary every Sunday. In our congregation, it also involves presenting a personal reflection that is tied to the topic of the service.

At yesterday’s Veteran’s Day service, I reflected on my own experience of grappling with the Selective Service System draft as I came of age in the late 1960s, just in time for the Vietnam era. After I got home, I sent the text to my longtime friend (40 years and counting) Kevin Feldman (nickname “Gar”) with a brief note that said:

Hey Gar,

Does any of this overlap with your experience, or did you 2S all the way and then lottery out of the draft?

Seeya,

A

What Kevin wrote me back struck me as such a stirring perspective on the times—different and in many ways far more intense than my own; he is three years older than me—that I thought it a wo...

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Notes on the Irrational

BigSurWave ByClintLosee150

I’m so glad I’m rational and even-handed in all matters, able to view life with a cool dispassion that sees things as they truly are.

You too? That’s what I thought!

But all those others—you know, everyone who’s not you and me, with their roiling passions and fears and distempers, their emotional roller coasters, their tendency to be swayed by unconscious motives, ideologies and unmet emotional needs—God save us from them, yes?

Oh wait, the wiseguy Pogo had something to say about that, didn’t he: “We have met the enemy—and he is us.”

Damn!

Harvesting the fruits of enough introspection and self-knowledge to sidestep the most egregious aspects of irrationality can be a heady but fearsome thing. It’s a lifelong task to step outside yourself, gather feedback from others, behold the mirror of your endowments, your motives, your healed-over scars and still open wounds, not to mention your aging brain.

Merely to think clearly—and to do so consistently, amidst the ceaseless t...

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These Are the Best of Times

EiffelTower ChristianRHamacher

Can we just stop complaining now? Even more important, perhaps: How ‘bout we cut out the fear, the foreboding, the heavy mantle of doom?

Hear me, folks: Never, ever, in the entire history of humankind, have so many had it so good. And whatever the ebbs and flows of your temporary situation or mine, or the tremendous individual suffering that undeniably continues around the world as I type these words, things on a global scale are getting better all the time—as they have been for the last 50,000 years, give or take.

“CONFUSED, CONFLICTED, TIRED NATION” read the recent newspaper headline. O.K, so those ISIS fanatics are awful, pure evil, subhuman in their explicit cruelty.

Ebola will get worse before it gets better (and it will get better; we can be quite confident we’ll die from something else).

And the economy isn’t exactly humming along (only a 4% growth rate!) and the Repubs and Demos are at each other’s throats per usual and we’re worried about our failing schools and deteri...

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“Let’s Go Giiiiiants!” Sports As Modern Religion?

AT&T By Corey Seeman

The whole lot of us, marching down the switchbacks leading from the stadium to street level below, are packed body to body, moving slowly but feeling giddy for all we had just witnessed and felt an intimate part of.

Just minutes before, the San Francisco Giants had beaten the St. Louis Cardinals in their first home game of the National League Championship Series, a heart-stopping 10-inning affair that came to an abrupt end when one of our homeboys laid down a bunt that was followed by the pitcher making a wild throw to first base, allowing the runner who was advancing from second base to race home and end the game. Just like that!

Giants win, 5-4,  setting off a near-deafening, delirious roar among the 42,500 fans. And now, we are making our way back to the world outside, and there are chants erupting as we traverse the cavernous walkways: “Let’s go Giiiiiants, let’s go Giiiiiiiiiiiiants.”

Sing-songy, every person with wide boisterous grins, and every one of the chants begun a...

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“The House Is on Fire”: Belief vs. Data in the Climate Change Debate

Drought150 By

A few months ago, blog reader, longtime friend and PhD scientist/oceanographer Walt McKeown asked me why I hadn’t written anything on climate change, given the clear threat it presents to everything we value in life and, indeed, to life itself on many parts of our globe. I answered that I didn’t feel I had much to add to a topic that has been exhaustively covered by others who have serious credentials in the matter.

So it is with some irony that I note recent comments by Senator Marco Rubio and others of similar bent who acknowledge they have no credentials or training in the matter either. Nevertheless, they freely dispense their opinions and “beliefs” on it, and then, to add injury to insult, actually have and use their legislative power to bend policy to suit those “beliefs.”

On one side of the debate about whether human activity is the chief cause of climate change stand educated, trained, expert scientists whose approach to all their work can be framed in four words: “Lo...

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Walking the Graveyard: A Poem

I have taken to walking the graveyard,
An oak-tree’d resting place
Under whose towering limbs
A treasure of autumn leaves and acorns fall.

Strangely soothing, this gliding above the dead,
Pausing to note a name, an age, doing the math,
Adding or subtracting my own advancing years in
A fruitless assessment of my place in line.

Fall’s fierce abiding beauty comes at a price,
Golden everywhere sans the dark abyss where it points,
Each October a plaintive call to arms and attention,
Open arms of a love, that is, and attention to time, precious time.

Under every stone, a story of one who breathed, perspired,
Dreamed, questioned, loved, risked—and suffered, of course—
As I suffer now running hard up the hill from the potter’s fields,
Toward the stone monuments of nobles who lie there just as dead.

Breathless, I walk again, blood coursing, eyes horizoned,
Seeking a still point around which everyday life turns,
Not to stop time but to better watch its march, its inexorable
Passage ove...

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Is It Ever Right to Hit a Child?

CryingBoyBy JeremyBrooks

In the 21st century, should we be hitting children as just another form of parental discipline?

And what do we mean exactly by “hit?” A pat on the backside to extra-emphasize to a 3-year-old not to run into the street in front of cars? Or the methodical creation and application of a “switch” with which to raise welts on a 4-year-old who apparently was overly aggressive with one of his siblings?

Minnesota Viking running back Adrian Peterson had the latter in mind, apparently, in disciplining his son over the summer, injuriously enough that it came to the attention of law enforcement (and now, resoundingly, the media). He actually sounded unapologetic about it in his early responses, and found plentiful support from among the majority of the American population that still believes corporal punishment is at least sometimes appropriate in disciplining children.

Later, Peterson offered this official “statement” that sounded contrite notes about the physical damage he claims he i...

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The Problem of ISIS and Religious Fanaticism

Artillery

Demilitarization would be nice, of course. Blow up all those munitions in far-flung deserts, toss the rifles into the sea, put the B-52s and Hornets and Raptors on display at the military museums, noting them all as relics of the bygone, violent infancy of human history.

But on the way to that rather starry-eyed but ultimately necessary development, it may be even more important that we engage in a process of deliteralization. Meaning that we learn to take all sacred texts and their often contradictory guidelines for human behavior with the proverbial grains of salt they require if we are to survive the fanaticism of religious zealots like ISIS, now that they’ve figured out how to organize armies and deploy big guns and use social media to spread their toxic message of hate around the world.

These thoughts occur as I grapple with the most recent essay (Sleepwalking Toward Armageddon, available here) by noted atheist Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nat...

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