WILLIAM EDELEN: More Robert Ingersoll

 

 

From Our Archives
WILLIAM EDELEN (1922 – 2015)
The Contrary Minister

One of the joyful rewards of writing a column is to receive the delightful letters that arrive in response, with often developing new friendships. After my column on Robert Ingersoll, many wrote, or called, saying the column brought back a bit of nostalgia, because “I remembered how my father (or grandfather, or mother) used to rave about Robert Ingersoll… and I had forgotten.

Since my last column was primarily introducing the man to those who had not heard of him, I did not have space to give examples of the gems that flowed from his pen.

Women: “The men who declare that woman is the intellectual inferior of man, do not and cannot, by offering themselves in evidence, substantiate their declaration. Husbands as a rule, do not know a great deal, and it will not do for every wife to depend on the ignorance of her worst half… It is the women of today who are the great readers. No woman should have to live with a man whom she abhors. I despise the man that has to be begged for money by his wife. ‘Please give me a dollar?’… ‘What did you do with the 50 cents I gave you last Christmas?’ he asks.”

Government: “I despise the doctrine of state sovereignty. States are political conveniences. Rising above states as the Alps above valleys are the rights of man, the sublime rights of the people… Nothing is farther from democracy than the application of the veto power. It should be abolished… I do not believe in being the servant of any political party. I am not the property of any organization, I do not believe in giving a mortgage on yourself or a deed of trust for any purpose. It is better to be free.”

Church and state: “Church and state should be absolutely

What’s the greatest pop song of the 20th Century?

 

From Jeff Cox

So I’m thinking–what’s the greatest pop song of the 20th Century? Is this even a valid question, since the answer might vary from day to day, from mood to mood, from mindset to mindset?

I thought long and hard about it, since I like everything from George M. Cohan tunes to Gershwin, to Harold Arlen to Cole Porter to Richard Rogers, from early rock to psychedelia to the present day. But when it came down to a decision, I chose a tune that combines everything:

Great guitar playing that references the lyrics, and perfect drumming, lyrics that are simultaneously accurate, snarky, satirical, and brilliantly spiritual, Layer upon layer of meaning, References to madness, lyrics and music that hits you in all seven chakras at once, references that shoot all over the place (even to the Beatles with Goo Goo Ga-Joob), references to Yankee baseball and heroic disappearance, all put together with a fantastically ingenious melody, sung by two great harmonizers. And a song so creative and original that there’s never been anything like it since.
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MICHAEL FOLEY: Why I Am Not Marching for Science Today

 

From MICHAEL FOLEY
Willits
[This one’s for Ron. ~ds]

Today’s March for Science is touted as a defense of informed democracy against ignorant tyranny. But the “science based policy making” that liberals defend is often just another form of tyranny, and a poorly informed one at that. Policy should ultimately be based on our values. It must be reality based, to be sure. But “science” does not provide the sure guide to reality that proponents claim. That claim is based on Science as religion, as dogma, not on science as an ever correctible practice. The reason that climate denial is so outrageous is that it defies the only approximation science has to established fact, a scientific consensus. But much of the science invoked in court, in Congressional testimony, and in bureaucratic rule-making lacks that sort of surety.

The case of Annie Dookhan is a dramatic illustration. The Massachusetts chemist was convicted in 2013 of falsifying evidence in the state drug lab where she worked. Some 21,000 people were convicted of drug crimes as a result of her work. It took years of litigation, and the threat that prosecutors would have to retry all those cases, to get those people exonerated. How could this happen? Because courts routinely take “science based” evidence from police and prosecutors as fact, opening the way to just such abuses.

If Euthanasia Had Been Legal In This Country My Mother’s Suicide Could Have Been Avoided…

 

From HuffPost

‘Suicide’ implies irrationality, mental fragility; as opposed to ‘euthanasia’, which implies a deeply considered, mature and rational death.

I’m still angry. That my mother died by suicide. Left me, abandoned me, when she was elderly and I was in the thick of drowning in busy-ness as a middle-aged working mum — desperately trying to keep all the balls, somehow, in the air; and feeling like I was failing at everything.

My life in a nutshell a few years back: Four young kids. A full-on job as a novelist and columnist. A husband. A dog. And an elderly mum with chronic pain. Something had to give. And with my beautiful mother, Elayn Gemmell, it often felt like she came sixth in this very crammed life. Which shouldn’t have been the case.

Elayn had had painful feet for years, after a childhood of ballet classes and decades of wearing the most fashionable high heels. It all came back to haunt her in her seventies. A year before she died she had an operation to fix her foot agony. It made the situation worse, much worse.

“I certainly do not hate the Church… I do, however, think that they are wasting a lot of time, effort, and money on nonsense.”

 

 

From Reddit

The Clergy Project is an online support group that exists for former religious professionals who have found a better fit for their spiritual selves with Atheism. Formed in 2011, the group aims to help ex-clergy deal with the inevitable ethical and philosophical questions that arise when leaving a faith, as well as help them adapt to life away from the spiritual world.

We spoke to several former clergy involved in The Clergy Project about how and why they abandoned their faith.

Shlomo Levin, former Rabbi

As a rabbi, you are responsible for and called upon to answer questions. These questions range from the more profound, like, “Rabbi, what happens after we die?” to the very mundane, “Rabbi, is this yogurt kosher?” As I became older, I began to feel much less confident in my ability to know the answers to all of these questions. I found it very burdensome to have to have all the answers. People will ask after a funeral, “Can this person still hear me?” And I just have no idea. I couldn’t say, “I don’t know.” It really weighed on my conscious to give people answers that I knew could be hurtful to them. I think a lot of people find Orthodox Judaism a source of joy. I’m all for that, if that’s what they want. But at times, it was clearly not. Some people were just made to suffer.

I found it very liberating to not have belief. It’s hard to live knowing that there’s a God in the sky that will punish you if you don’t do a certain ritual at a certain time in a certain way. It’s a lot easier this way. I don’t miss it at all.

Freethinker: George Carlin on Religion (again)

 


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TODD WALTON: Gene and Grandma

 

andmischief

Mischief painting by Todd

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino
[Repost]

“My blanket. My blue blanket. Gimme my blue blanket!” Gene Wilder’s line from The Producers

Gene Wilder died in August. He was eighty-three. Thinking about him took me back to the first time I saw the movie Young Frankenstein on the big screen in San Francisco in 1974. And I remember feeling as I watched the film that I was witnessing one of those extremely rare creations, a work of art that would never grow old and never be successfully imitated—the result of the unique chemistry of six superlative actors and a brilliant director, none of them duplicable: Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Terry Garr, Peter Boyle, Madeline Kahn, and Mel Brooks.

To my surprise and dismay, many people did not agree with my assessment of Young Frankenstein. Indeed, the three people I attended the movie with enjoyed the film, but thought it silly and forgettable. I saw the movie three more times during the initial release and found everything about the film more inspiring with each viewing. Indeed, I was so inspired by Young Frankenstein, I wrote two screenplays and two plays imagining Gene Wilder and Madeline Kahn in leading roles.

Alas I was never able to get my creations to Gene or Madeline, but even now, four decades later, I still imagine them playing parts in my stories and novels and plays. As the neurobiologists say, I resonated profoundly with Gene Wilder. I enjoyed him in later films, but never again loved him as much as I did in Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, and The Producers, all directed by Mel Brooks.

In 2007 I attended a party in Berkeley rife with college professors, and in the heat of talking about movies, and perhaps having had a wee bit too much to drink, I suggested that Young Frankenstein, which I had recently seen again for the tenth time, was as magnificent and timeless as Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

Here’s a Great Video Compilation of Celebrity Atheists…

 


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Is it a religion or a cult?

 

 


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Good Friday, Easter Sunday…

 


From The Freethinker, UK
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I’ve offended someone. And I’m not going to apologise…

 

From The Freethinker, UK

IN last week’s bulletin I reported on the death of Gilbert Baker, who created the rainbow flag for the LGBT community.

I followed that up by dedicating my Easter column in the Costa Blanca‘s Round Town News to Baker – and within hours of the paper hitting the streets the editor, Sam Holliday, received a furious email from a reader. Without identifying the name or gender of the complainant, she asked me if I would care to respond to the angry Christian, who wrote:

“Firstly, I must state that I usually enjoy reading your newspaper. However, this week I find that I must comment upon your column writer Barry Duke’s latest rant. Please note that I am writing this in the most polite fashion I can muster and am biting my tongue as I type!

“We are all entitled to our own opinions, of course. Barry Dukes (sic) is allowed to express his freely in your paper. However, this does NOT give him the right to insult the MANY Christians who read such publications. Yes, there are quite a lot of us out there; probably many more than Barry thinks.

“I realise that he was irritated by the comments of Bryan Fischer but he could have expressed this annoyance without resorting to calling God ‘mythical’. For Christians the world over God is very real indeed.

“For the record, I am not anti-gay and have a number of gay friends but this has gone beyond the pale. WHY did the Editor allow this to be published? Respect for people should work both ways. Mr Dukes (sic)  makes enough fuss about gay rights. How about some courtesy being shown to those of Christian faith?

“An apology would be most welcome.”

I immediately fired back this response:

GENE LOGSDON: The Lovely, Life-Saving Virtue of Laziness

 

From Our Archives
GENE LOGSDON (1931 – 2016)
The Contrary Farmer

Surprise, surprise. The work ethic, before which our culture bows down in adoration, can result in failure perhaps as often as it does success. I came to that conclusion after many years of trying to follow an ecologically-sustainable lifestyle out on the ramparts of society, and after reading hundreds of letters from others trying to do the same.

Real success in this endeavor (if not all endeavors) comes more often from a healthy dose of shrewd, laid-back laziness. We Americans are just too ambitious for our own good and in an effort to gain success (tranquility being the best measure of a successful life) we carry the habits of the commercial workplace into our private lives and over-extend ourselves with activities that are really unnecessary and even harmful. The only cure for it, at least in my case, was getting older and running out of all that eager energy I once possessed. Nowadays, my first order of business in all homestead endeavors is: “Do nothing you can put off until tomorrow. It might not need to be done at all.” In other words, there are times when “work ethic” is an oxymoron.

Freethinker: Christopher Hitchens

 

 

From FFRF

On this date in 1949, writer and columnist Christopher Hitchens was born in Portsmouth, England. He attended Cambridge and graduated from Oxford in 1970, reading in philosophy, politics and economics. From 1971-1981 he worked as a book reviewer for The Times.

In 1981 he emigrated to the United States. Hitchens wrote “Minority Report,” a column for The Nation, from 1982-2002. He then wrote for Slate, The Daily Mirror, as a contributing editor to The Atlantic Monthly and Vanity Fair, and also wrote for Harpers and many other U.S. newspapers and journals.

As a foreign correspondent, he covered events in 60 countries on all five continents. Hitchens wrote a host of books, but is best-known in freethought circles for authoring The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice (1995) and God Is Not Great (2007). His criticisms of Clinton and pro-Iraqi war views made Hitchens increasingly controversial among progressive readership, but he remained a stalwart atheist and iconoclast. In “Papal Power: John Paul II’s other legacy” (Slate.com, April 1, 2005), Hitchens pointed out that the pope “was a part of the cover up and obstruction of justice that allowed the child-rape scandal to continue for so long.” Hitchens became a U.S. citizen in 2007. D. 2011.

“Gullibility and credulity are considered undesirable qualities in every department of human life—except religion . . . Why are we praised by godly men for surrendering our ‘godly gift’ of reason when we cross their mental thresholds? . . . Atheism strikes me as morally superior, as well as intellectually superior, to religion. Since it is obviously inconceivable that all religions can be right, the most reasonable conclusion is that they are all wrong.”

—-Christopher Hitchens, “The Lord and the Intellectuals,” Harper’s (July 1982), cited by James A. Haught in 2,000 Years of Disbelief (1996)

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TODD WALTON: Huckleberries

 

turn left at the moon tw

Turn Left At the Moon painting by Nolan Winkler

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“For when you see that the universe cannot be distinguished from how you act upon it, there is neither fate nor free will, self nor other. There is simply one all-inclusive Happening, in which your personal sensation of being alive occurs in just the same way as the river flowing and the stars shining far out in space. There is no question of submitting or accepting or going with it, for what happens in and as you is no different from what happens as it.” Alan Watts

If even half the blossoms on the huckleberry bushes in the Mendocino area this year become fruit, then the huckleberry harvest will be by far the greatest since I moved here eleven years ago. Bushes on our property and in the surrounding woods that previously sported no blossoms or only a few are now white with hundreds and thousands of the lovely little bell-shaped flowers. And friends in nearby Albion report the huckleberry bushes thereabouts are also heavily freighted with flowers.

My guess is that the great rains of this seemingly interminable winter following four years of drought inspired the huckleberries to such prolificacy, though we must be careful not to celebrate too soon. Those myriad flowers must be pollinated, and the primary pollinators of huckleberry bushes are bumblebees; and the bumblebee population has been in decline due to the use of pesticides that should never have been invented, let alone deployed.

Tax March Saturday April 15 Downtown Ukiah 11 am…

 


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Stoicism 101

 

 

From How To Be A Stoic

If you are into infographics, you may want to check out these quick summaries of basic Stoic ideas:


History. Stoicism was founded by Zeno of Citium (modern Cyprus) around 301 BCE, and it takes its name from the Stoa Poikile (painted porch), a public market in Athens when the Stoics met and engaged in philosophical discussions with anyone who was interested. A second major figure of the so-called “early Stoa” was Chrysippus, who is actually credited with elaborating most of the doctrines that are still associated with Stoicism. The early Stoics were of course influenced by previous philosophical schools and thinkers, in particular by Socrates and the Cynics, but also the Academics (followers of Plato) and the Skeptics.

The second period of Stoic history, referred to as the “middle Stoa,” saw the philosophy introduced to Rome. Cicero (not himself a Stoic, but sympathetic to the idea) is one of our major sources for both the early and the middle Stoa, since otherwise we have only fragments of the writings of the Stoics up to that point. The third and last period is referred to as the “late Stoa,” and it took place during Imperial Rome; it included the famous Stoics whose writings have been preserved in sizable parts: Gaius Musonius Rufus, Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius.

Once Christianity became the official Roman religion Stoicism declined, together with a number of other schools of thought (e.g., Epicureanism). The idea, however, survived in a number of historical figures who were influenced by it (even though they were sometimes critical of it), including some of the early Church Fathers, Boethius, Thomas Aquinas, Giordano Bruno, Thomas More, Erasmus, Montaigne, Francis Bacon, Descartes, Montesquieu, and Spinoza. Modern Existentialism and neo-orthodox Protestant theology have also been influenced by Stoicism. The philosophy is currently seeing a rebirth, and has deeply influenced modern practices such as logo-therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. It also has a number of similarities and overlaps with modern philosophical approaches such as Buddhism and secular humanism.


Stoic EggThe Stoic Egg. The Stoics thought that (practical) ethics was the most important component of their philosophy: it was about how to live one’s life in the best possible way. However, they also believed that it is hard to develop a viable ethics without two other components: understanding  how the world works, and appreciating the power and limits of human reasoning.

Stoicism, therefore, was made of three areas of study: ethics (more on this below), “physics,” and “logic.” By physics the Stoics meant something that by today’s meanings would encompass natural science and metaphysics, or what was once called natural philosophy. Of course, many of the original Stoic notions about the world have been superseded by modern science, which would not have surprised the ancient philosophers (they were very conscious of the limits of human knowledge, and very open to revise their specific beliefs).

Briefly, however, Stoic physics included the idea that the universe began in a cosmic fire (and will end the same way, only to begin anew). [The Stoic fire is represented in the symbol in the image at the top of this page.] They also believed that the world is made of matter, and that causation is a universal phenomenon, i.e., everything that happens has a cause. Finally, the universe is organized according to rational principles, the Logos. This can be interpreted as God (for instance in Epictetus), but also simply as the idea that Nature is understandable by way of rationality (which is why we can scientifically investigate it).

A crucial idea that the Stoics derived from their physics is that life ought to be lived “according to Nature,” which can then in turn be interpreted as “in agreement with what Zeus (God) has ordained,” or simply lived according to reason, developing to its best that most specific attribute of the human animal. Being a secular person, I obviously go for the latter interpretation.

In terms of Stoic logic, the word encompassed the study of logic as we narrowly understanding it today, plus rhetoric, epistemology (i.e., a theory of knowledge), as well as what we would call psychology and related social sciences. The Stoics invented a system of logic alternative to that of Aristotle, which was largely ignored throughout the middle ages and beyond, until it began to be appreciated again with the modern advent of propositional logic (of which the Stoic variety is a type).

The Stoics distinguished between the existence of corporeal and abstract things, like a number of modern philosophers do (say, respectively, physical objects and mathematical concepts). They thought that knowledge can be attained by reason, which is in principle capable of separating true from false (they were certainly more optimistic about this than their contemporary and critics, the Skeptics). Importantly, the Stoics also adopted a very modern belief that knowledge can be achieved only by peer expertise subject to collective judgment (the way modern science works, for instance).


Ethics and practical philosophy. I assume the main reason people are reading this is not because of their interest in Stoic physics or logic – as fascinating as they are in their own regard – but because they want to learn about Stoic ethics, which is more immediately linked to their practical philosophy. So here we go, then.

The first thing to get out of the way is the misconception that Stoicism is about suppressing one’s emotions and going through life with a stiff upper lip. No, Mr. Spock was not a Stoic (despite the fact that, apparently, Gene Roddenberry imagined the character according to his own, simplistic, view of what a Stoic would be like).

Rather, Stoics taught to transform emotions in order to achieve inner calm. Emotions – of fear, or anger, or love, say – are instinctive human reactions to certain situations, and cannot be avoided. But the reflective mind can distance itself from the raw emotion and contemplate whether the emotion in question should (or should not) be given “assent,” i.e., should be appropriated and cultivated.

To be a little more specific, the Stoics distinguished between propathos(instinctive reaction) and
eupathos (feelings resulting from correct judgment), and their goal was to achieve apatheia, or peace of mind, resulting from clear judgment and maintenance of equanimity in life.

The Stoics thought that the good life (eudaimonia, often translated as “flourishing”) consisted in cultivating one’s moral virtues in order to become a good person. The four cardinal virtues recognized by the Stoics were: Wisdom (sophia), Courage (andreia), Justice (dikaiosyne), and Temperance (sophrosyne).

Another crucial Stoic idea, and a corollary of the centrality of virtue in one’s life, is the distinction between preferred and dispreferred “indifferents”: wealth, health, and other goods are indifferent in the sense that they do not affect one’s moral worth (i.e., one can be a moral person regardless of whether one is sick or healthy, poor or rich). But some are helpful in pursuing our goals, and are therefore preferred, while others are an hindrance, and are therefore dispreferred. This makes Stoic doctrine a little less stern than it is usually thought to be (though certainly more so than Epicureanism, or Aristotelian virtue ethics).

Stoics made a sharp (perhaps too sharp) distinction between things that are under our control and things that lay outside of it. The first category included mostly our own thoughts and attitudes, while the second category included pretty much everything else. (For a funny rendition of this distinction, see this short bit by comedian Michael Connell.) The idea was that peace of mind comes from focusing on what we can actually control, rather than wasting emotional energy on what we cannot control. However, do not take this as a counsel for despair about affecting human affairs; remember, many prominent Stoics were politicians, generals, or emperors, and they certainly spent a significant amount of energy and resources attempting to change things for the better. But they also accepted that when things didn’t go their way that was it, and there was no sense in dwelling on it.

Indeed, Stoics thought of their philosophy as a philosophy of love, and they actively cultivated a concern not just for themselves and their family and friends, but for humanity at large, and even for Nature itself (see below). Stoic philosophers were interested in improving humanity’s welfare, and some were even vegetarian.


Stoic practice. And we finally get to the crux of the matter: how, exactly, does one practice Stoicism nowadays? There are a number of modern Stoic practices, or “spiritual” exercises, inspired by the writings of the ancients. Of course, different combinations will work for different people, but these are the ones I do regularly:

* Morning meditation: as soon as I get up I find a quiet, not brightly lit spot in my apartment, seat comfortably, and mentally go over the potential challenges awaiting me during the day ahead, reminding myself about which of the four cardinal virtues I may be called to exercise in response to those challenges.

* Also in the morning, I pick one of my favorite sayings from the ancients (a continuously updated collection can be found here), read it over a few times, and contemplate it as inspiration.

Hierocles concentric circles* Hierocles’ Circle: this is a visualization exercise, during which you begin by thinking about your own self, then mentally expand your circle of concern (see figure) to your family, your friends, people living in your neighborhood and your city, and then gradually to all of humankind, and finally to nature itself. It is a way to remind you that the rest of the world is just as important as you are, and that you should make it a habit of being concerned about it.

* The View from Above: again mentally picture yourself, but then “zoom out” to see your polis from above, then your country, then the planet, then the solar system, then the local group of stars, then the Milky Way, then the local cluster of galaxies, and finally the whole of the cosmos. The idea is to remind yourself of the proper perspective: what happens to you on a speck of dust afloat in the universe is not, after all, that important…

Premeditatio malorum: this exercise consists in visualizing (not just verbally describing) something bad happening to you, in order to overcome your fear of it and to better prepare yourself in case it actually happens. The specific visualization may be something as simple as anticipating your irritation at fellow riders in the subway (or drivers on the road), to the occurrence of your own death (I would recommend to reserve the latter for when you feel more confident in your Stoicism, and to do it only occasionally – it can be disturbing). This is similar to exercises in cognitive behavioral therapy designed to overcome one’s fears or anxieties.

* Mindfulness about (moral) choices: this is to be done throughout the day, and it is a distinctly Stoic type of mindfulness, as opposed to the Buddhist variety, for instance. The Stoics taught us to live “hic et nunc,” in the here and now, i.e., paying attention to what we are doing, achieving what some modern psychologists call “flow” in our actions. But a crucial component of this mindfulness is paying attention to the fact that your choices, even the apparently trivial ones, very likely have an inextricable ethical component to them, and you should be aware of it and chose according to virtue.

* Evening meditation (philosophical diary): before going to bed, do the reverse of the morning meditation, going through the salient events of the day and asking yourself Epictetus’ three questions: What did I do right? What did I do wrong? What duty’s left undone? It helps to carry out this exercise by writing a personal philosophical diary, in the style of Marcus Aurelius (not meant for publication!). The idea is to learn from what has happened during the day, clear your mind, and go to sleep in peace.


Meet the Stoics.

ZenoZeno of Citium (c. 334 – c. 262 BCE) originated from Citium, currently Cyprus, possibly of Phoenician descent. Zeno was the original founder of the Stoic school of philosophy, which he taught in Athens from about 300 BCE. Based on the moral ideas of the Cynics, Stoicism laid great emphasis on goodness and peace of mind, gained from living a life of Virtue in accordance with Nature. It proved very successful, and flourished as the dominant philosophy from the Hellenistic period through to the Roman era.

ChrysippusChrysippus of Soli (c. 279 – c. 206 BCE) was a Greek Stoic philosopher. He was a native of Soli, Cilicia, but moved to Athens as a young man, where he became a pupil of Cleanthes in the Stoic school. When Cleanthes died, around 230 BCE, Chrysippus became the third head of the school. A prolific writer, Chrysippus expanded the fundamental doctrines of Zeno of Citium, the founder of the school, which earned him the title of Second Founder of Stoicism.

CatoMarcus Porcius Cato Uticensis (95 BCE, Rome – April 46 BCE, Utica), commonly known as Cato the Younger (Cato Minor) to distinguish him from his great-grandfather (Cato the Elder), was a politician and statesman in the late Roman Republic, and a follower of the Stoic philosophy. A noted orator, he is remembered for his stubbornness and tenacity (especially in his lengthy conflict with Julius Caesar), as well as his immunity to bribes, his moral integrity, and his famous distaste for the ubiquitous corruption of the period.

PortiaPorcia Catonis (c.70 BCE – June 43 BCE (or October 42 BCE)), Porcia “of Cato”, in full Porcia Catonis filia, “Porcia the daughter of Cato,” also known simply as Porcia, occasionally spelled “Portia” especially in 18th-century English literature, was a Roman woman who lived in the 1st century BCE. She was the daughter of Marcus Porcius Cato Uticencis and his first wife Atilia. She is best known for being the second wife of Marcus Junius Brutus, the most famous of Julius Caesar’s assassins, and for her suicide, reputedly by swallowing live coals.

Seneca and SocratesLucius Annaeus Seneca (often known simply as Seneca; c. 4 BCE – CE 65) was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was a tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero. While he was forced to commit suicide for alleged complicity in the Pisonian conspiracy to assassinate Nero, he may have been innocent. His father was Seneca the Elder, his elder brother was Lucius Junius Gallio Annaeanus, called Gallio in the Bible, and his nephew was the poet Lucan.

MusoniusGaius Musonius Rufus was a Roman Stoic philosopher of the 1st century CE. He taught philosophy in Rome during the reign of Nero, as consequence of which he was sent into exile in 65 CE, only returning to Rome under Galba. He was allowed to stay in Rome when Vespasian banished all the other philosophers from the city in 71 CE, although he was eventually banished anyway, only returning after Vespasian’s death. A collection of extracts from his lectures still survives. He is also remembered for being the teacher of Epictetus.

EpictetusEpictetus (CE. c. 55 – 135) was a Greek Stoic philosopher. He was born a slave at Hierapolis, Phrygia (present day Pamukkale, Turkey), and lived in Rome until his banishment, when he went to Nicopolis in north-western Greece for the rest of his life. His teachings were written down and published by his pupil Arrian in his Discourses. Epictetus taught that philosophy is a way of life and not just a theoretical discipline. To Epictetus, all external events are determined by fate, and are thus beyond our control; we should accept whatever happens calmly and dispassionately. However, individuals are responsible for their own actions, which they can examine and control through rigorous self-discipline.

MarcusMarcus Aurelius (Latin: Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; 26 April 121 – 17 March 180 CE) was Roman Emperor from 161 to 180. He ruled with Lucius Verus as co-emperor from 161 until Verus’ death in 169. He was the last of the Five Good Emperors, and is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers. Marcus Aurelius’ Stoic tome Meditations, written in Greek while on campaign between 170 and 180, is still revered as a literary monument to a philosophy of service and duty, describing how to find and preserve equanimity in the midst of conflict by following nature as a source of guidance and inspiration.

Stoic Fire

 

See Also Stoicism Saved Me

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Stoicism Saved Me…

 

 

From Roger Johnston
Modern Stoicism

Stoicism saved me in a way. My last deployment to Iraq was particularly trying. I was medivacced out with just three weeks left of the deployment. I recall as the helicopter crew chief told me we had crossed the Kuwait border and that I was safe, I was relieved that I survived a war zone, but was under no illusion that I was “safe.” I’m a son of a Vietnam vet. The war did not end for him when he got home, in many ways it had only just begun for me. Relief quickly faded to resolve as I was determined not to suffer the same fate as my father: being angry at the world.

During recovery, back in the States, I could tell that my deployment had changed me. Infuriated would be a good word for how I felt 10 years ago during as I began to mend. Google militant atheist and my picture would show up and I would look pissed in it. I felt betrayed by my country, coopted to fight for profit and gain. I had seen so much suffering. The anger was poisoning everything, and what made the poison spread even further was that I was angry because I was angry. I had turned into my father.

Respecting Beliefs…

 

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Christian Crock: Face-Palm Sunday…

 

From 

An Ideology in Search of a Godling…

Easter may be one of the most beloved holidays of the Christian calendar, but a lot of the celebrations that weekend take totally for granted that the occasion marks the honest-to-goodness death of a real live god who really was tortured, died, buried, and then rose again after a brief time in Hell. In fact, a lot of their religion depends upon there being a real live god at the center of it. But if there isn’t actually a god involved at all in the religion, then nothing works the way it should.

The Torture Porn Starts Looking Especially Grotesque.

Christians get this uniformly adoring look on their faces when their leaders describe the ghastly, horrific, over-the-top torture that they think Jesus suffered before dying. Oh, how their eyes shine! How their lips part in wonderment! How their hearts swell with gratitude!

When others express total disgust for these stories, they’re quick to tell us that because we aren’t inhabited by “Jesus,” we can’t possibly understand how glorious and wonderful his torture was–or appreciate it the way they can.

But if there’s no Jesus inhabiting them, then they’re just getting off to stories of torture, no different from anything one sees in a modern thriller or in accounts regarding the American government. They’re glorifying the humiliation and heartless torture of a totally innocent human being–nobody different from themselves. That they are doubtless totally exaggerating the extent of that mistreatment only makes their giddiness over it look worse.

The Boy From Mar-A-Lago…

 


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Do anything you want, Donald. Doesn’t matter. You betrayed our democracy and will be Impeached!

 


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WILL PARRISH: Stopping the Tar-Sands Invasion

 

From WILL PARRISH
The Monthly

East Bay groups are attempting to prevent the region from playing a major role in a climate disaster. 

In the late afternoon of Aug. 6, 2012, a rupture in a fuel pipe at the Chevron refinery in Richmond released a geyser of hot milky-white vapor that engulfed 19 employees. The workers fled, and two minutes later, the cloud ignited into a torrent of flames that ripped through several buildings. A massive plume of black smoke blew east and northeast, sprinkling residents of Richmond and San Pablo with toxic chemicals and particles. In the weeks that followed, more than 15,000 local residents went to the hospital, mostly with respiratory ailments.

Ninety minutes after the fire began, Chevron spokesperson Heather Kulp attempted to deflect blame for the disaster onto two of the refinery’s most persistent watchdogs: the environmental justice groups Communities for a Better Environment and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. The organizations had jointly won a 2010 lawsuit against Chevron, blocking the refinery’s attempt to develop new infrastructure for handling higher polluting grades of oil. Chevron was in the midst of negotiating with the city of Richmond concerning a scaled-down version of its proposal. In a press conference, the smoke cloud billowing behind her, Kulp blamed the disaster on “environmentalists and the community that have not let us modernize our refinery,” alleging that the company had been forced to operate with aging equipment that consequently burst into flames.

Kulp later retracted her statement, and a U.S. Chemical Safety Board examination ruled that a pivotal factor in the explosion was rapid corrosion of pipe caused by the refinery’s reliance on oil with high sulfur content. Ironically, the same groups that Kulp attempted to scapegoat had warned of this possibility for several years. During their environmental campaigns, they repeatedly pointed out that the refinery’s switch to dirtier crude risked more frequent leaks and spills.

IMPEACH TRUMP!

 


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TODD WALTON: Mutant Ideologies

 

something greather we could be tw

Something Greater We Could Be painting by Nolan Winkler

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“Do not blame others for things that you have brought upon yourself.” Alexander McCall Smith

In 1968, when I was nineteen, I read The Population Bomb by Paul and Ann Ehrlich. That book and several others I read over the next few years, along with a life-changing journey through Mexico and Central America as a translator for a marine biologist, turned me into a zealous proponent of zero population growth, mass transit, organic gardening, and material minimalism.

That was fifty years ago. Since 1968, the world’s human population has more than doubled to over seven billion, the world’s automobile population (non-electric) has more than doubled to 1.2 billion, and organically grown food accounts for less than five per cent of the food grown in America. The earth’s fisheries are depleted, carbon emissions are increasing rather than decreasing, and we have an American government dedicated to undoing what little good our government did for the environment over the last forty years.

When I find myself in conversation with people who are just now becoming alarmed about climate change and the unfolding economic and environmental disasters engulfing us, I am reminded of the anger and disinterest and disingenuous lip service that greeted me for most of the last fifty years whenever I wrote about or discussed these issues and suggested ways to avoid much of what has now befallen the world. And though I am sad and disheartened about the unfolding disasters decimating human societies and life on our precious planet, I am not surprised by these disasters or the lack of substantive response to them.

IMPEACH TRUMP!

 


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 ‘Jihad and martyrdom are mainstream Islam.’ Ayaan Hirsi Ali Explains How To Combat Political Islam…

From Quillette

What happens when we let fear, muddled thinking, ignorance, and political correctness guide us in confronting a threat to our constitutional freedoms?

We lose everything.

In the United States, our ability to enjoy our rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness rests largely on the protection the First Amendment accords to freedom of speech and its corollary, the freedom to exercise the religion of our choice – or, of course, to profess no religion at all. It follows, then, that we should both vigorously defend the First Amendment and subject to withering criticism any challenges to it. If we begin dodging or concealing the truth about a threat to free speech, whether out of fear of appearing improper or even of knowing the consequences, we place ourselves at risk of losing our freedom of speech – and everything else we cherish in a democracy.

Speech consists of words. Words and how we use them matter. So, in the annals of self-defeating political inanities, the Obama administration’s term for Islamist terrorism – “violent extremism” – stands out as unusually obfuscatory, semantically unsound, and craven. (The phrase encompasses other kinds of terrorist doctrines as well, but no one can fail to see which one in particular is being addressed.) Originating as ISIS-inspired attacks were starting to hit the United States, it baldly omits their motivating ideology and purports that “extremism” can exist as a rootless, groundless, free-floating phenomenon. The term was so patently contrived to avoid mention of Islam that Republican candidate Donald J. Trump, during last year’s presidential campaign, could appear courageous to many just by saying “Islamic terrorism.” Yet coining the insipid phrase “violent extremism” was just par for the course. Former President Obama’s repeated declarations that the faith in question had nothing to do with all the bombing, beheading, and machete-slashing carried out to the cry of “Allahu Akbar!” looked, at best, cowardly – and at worst, complicit. Hillary Clinton followed Obama’s lead on the matter – all the way to a historic loss at the polls.

IMPEACH TRUMP!

 


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Freethinker: Emile Zola

 

From FFRF

On this date in 1840, Emile Zola was born in Paris. The novelist pioneered naturalistic writing, believing ugly problems could not be solved as long as they stayed hidden.

As a struggling young writer, Zola supported himself as a clerk. Legend has it he sometimes resorted to trapping birds on his windowsill in order to eat. Zola also moonlighted as a political reporter and critic.

He was fired from a publishing house after an early autobiographical novel created notoriety. His breakthrough novel was Therese Raquin (1867). By the time his book L’Assammoir (“The Drunkard,” 1878) appeared, Zola was France’s most famous writer, yet he was barred his entire life from the Academy. His book Germinal (1885), about conditions in a coal mine leading to a strike, was denounced by the rightwing. Nana (1880) examined sexual exploitation.

Zola’s most enduring work is his open letter “J’Accuse,” about the Dreyfus case. He campaigned with Clemenceau to free the the French Jewish army officer falsely accused of spying. Zola was sentenced to imprisonment for writing “J’Accuse” in 1898, escaping to England until he could safely return after Dreyfus’ name had been cleared.

Zola, who was baptized Catholic, was a notable critic of the Roman Catholic Church (and vice versa). The Church particularly condemned his books Lourdes, Rome, and Paris (1894-98). The agnostic was an honorary associate of the British Press Association in England. D. 1902.

“When truth is buried underground it grows, it chokes, it gathers such an explosive force that on the day it bursts out, it blows up everything with it.

The truth is on the march, and nothing shall stop it.”

—-Emile Zola, “J’Accuse!” L’Aurore, Jan. 13, 1898

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Ingersoll: Denies the Lie Told about God…

 

From The Archives
ROBERT INGERSOLL (1833 – 1899)
The Great Agnostic

This Infinite LIE. No human being has imagination enough to conceive of this infinite horror [hell – eternal pain] All that the human race has suffered in war and want, in pestilence and famine, in fire and flood – all the pangs and pains of every disease and every death – all of this is nothing compared with the agonies to be endured by one lost soul.

This is the consolation of the Christian religion. This is the justice of God – the mercy of Christ.

This frightful dogma, this infinite lie, made me the implacable enemy of Christianity. The truth is that this belief in eternal pain has been the real persecutor.

It founded the Inquisition, forged the chains, and furnished the fagots. It has darkened the lives of many millions. It made the cradle as terrible as the coffin. It enslaved nations and shed the blood of countless thousands.

It sacrificed the wisest, the bravest and the best. It subverted the idea of justice, drove mercy from the heart, changed men to fiends and banished reason from the brain.

Like a venomous serpent it crawls and coils and hisses in every orthodox creed.

It makes man an eternal victim and God an eternal fiend.

It is the one infinite horror.

Every church in which it is taught is a public curse. Every preacher who teaches it is an enemy of mankind.

Below this Christian dogma, savagery cannot go. It is the infinite of malice, hatred, and revenge.

Nothing could add to the horror of hell, except the presence of its creator, God.

While I have life, as long as I draw breath, I shall deny with all my strength, and hate with every drop of my blood, this infinite lie.

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IMPEACH TRUMP! (bring back No Drama Obama)

 


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IMPEACH TRUMP!

 


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America never was a Christian nation…

 


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IMPEACH TRUMP!

 


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IMPEACH TRUMP!

 


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TODD WALTON: The News

 

metaphors

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

(a story from Todd’s novel of stories Under the Table Books)

I don’t have much, but there’s one thing I treat myself to every Wednesday, and that’s a newspaper, fresh from the rack. No one else has touched it. The news is absolutely fresh. You can smell its freshness. The folds of the pages are sharp and clean. This is my greatest luxury, my last strong link to civilization. It may not seem like much to you, but for me buying the Wednesday news is absolutely, without question, the zenith of my week.

Furthermore, it is absolutely essential that I pay for it. If someone gave the newspaper to me, it would have no importance whatsoever. I must get my news through ritual.

Every Wednesday I wake up early, wherever I happen to be, and I take a bath. Sometimes I bathe in the river. Sometimes I use a garden hose, if there’s no one around to tell me not to. Sometimes I am somewhere with a shower, and now and then I find myself in a house with a bathtub. That, of course, is the ultimate luxury, to soak for a while in a tub full of truly hot water.

Then, once my body is washed, I put on my cleanest clothes and set forth to find a newspaper rack. I do not buy my papers from vendors or in stores. I want my news direct, no middlemen. When I have located a rack I like the look of, I approach it slowly, with solemnity. I do not allow myself to read the headlines. To know anything at this point would destroy the purity of the experience.

I take three quarters from my pocket. Seventy-five cents still buys the news in this town, thank God. I will have had these quarters since the day before, at least. I will not beg on Wednesdays. No, the day I buy my paper is a day of dignity for me. On this day I am as good as any other man, even the President, even the Pope.