Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Is a story a message?

Is Heinlein the atheist's philosopher? - : "If the message in art or storytelling seems more important than the story or the art the package will fail. However, a story without a message is destined to the dustbin of pulp fiction, read once and discarded without a thought. It is no wonder that the function of pulp fiction, that is mindless escape from the real world has been taken over by Video and UTube. Before you beat me with that dolly again, there are Videos with important messages behind the storyboard, and maybe there is even an important UTube out there, but you can bet it is entertaining as well as meaningful. The very few that are willing to think about the meaning behind the entertainment will keep it circulating in blogspace or the next big thing for people who can and do think."

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Literature or Philosophy?

Is Heinlein the atheist's philosopher? : "One of the best and most popular courses in my brief stint as a philosophy major was a course entitled 'Philosophy in Literature.' The premise was that perhaps Shakespeare, Aquinas, Homer, Milton, Sartre, and Joyce were telling us more about the philosophy of their time than the academics, either historians or philosophers. One of the reasons I quit Philosophy as a major was the isolation from real life of the philosophers I was studying. I found myself going to the literature and music of the time to find out what was really going on. If you think about it, a novelist or other artist that wants to survive on herm art had better have a pretty good handle on the prevailing philosophy of the time. Not incidentally it is much more interesting studying philosophy in the context of a rollicking good story, than plowing through paragraph long sentences of meaningless words."

J'C: I find it much the same in music. The academics were pushing the cerebral envelope with studies of atonality, noise and silence, while the tenor of the times was being expressed in the movie scores and advert music. I find it amusing that modern "Classical" music is almost entirely movie scores. Of course Tchaikovsky only wrote popular music of his time also.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sir Alex and his Squire

Facebook | Videos Posted by Elizabeth Black: Sir Alex and his Squire

Grandson Alex with his new toy Thanks to Greg Stone and Jack Van Breen who helped get the right bass within the budget.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

On Blank Books

Is Life Pointless?: "
I pick up this book of blank pages, and I say 'There's no story here.'

I think I will pick up a book of blank pages and see if I can write a better story that works for me. I just received an incredible gift from my sister, a small blank book with a poem on every page. Each page made many points of meaning for me and our friends and relatives. I will spend more time on that 'blank' book than on any book of ancient myths that are no longer even relevant to living."


Our holiday started at the solstice with greetings all around for a wonder filled new year for all, and ended with a concert recital at a beautiful local Chamber Hall for her students at the concert level. The youngest being her usual 6 yr old prodigy playing Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Mozart, the oldest only 14 this year, and her 8 yr old star playing all sorts of things 8 yr olds can't play like a Beethoven Sonata Allegro and Rachmaninoff. An incredibly good day topped off with the Christmas Eve present opening.

It all bodes well for a great new year filled with wonderful music and the daily wonders that randomly make life worth greeting each sunrise with elation, expectation, and joy. It is no accident that my bed faces East.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Was Mary Magdalene "Q"

Who do people say the Son of Man is?:

"As I understand the 'Q document' its very existence as a 'document' is an inference. I find it much more likely that Q was a companion of Jesus for much or all of his ministry, had a good memory for what he said at the various gatherings and related those to the disciples along with other lore that may have been less important to the disciples in their cult building. Hesh probably was what would be termed today a groupie, probably was not literate, as it is unlikely that hesh had any relationship with the priesthood. The reason I am using the gender inclusive pronoun is that I find it probable that Q was female." And yes, I think of "Q" as Mary Magdalene.

Also I think Mary was much more important to the ministry of Jesus than the men who wrote the histories would even think of giving her credit for. I suspect that social conversations between the two were instrumental in developing Jesus' overall gospel of respect and love for ones neighbor.

Friday, December 19, 2008


Christmas :

"As we approach the Solstice (7:04am EST Sunday), and all of the various holidays that have appropriated the end of the darkest night as a promise of better things to come:

Da Capo al fine

and let us not forget all the Scrooges, Grinches, and other Curmudgeons:


and may the spirit of the season infect you as well to bring you to Da Capo

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Is Obama different?

The following is an excerpt from an email to me from the transition team:

Dear [J'Carlin]

Over the coming weeks, thousands of Americans will be leading Health Care Community Discussions -- small local gatherings in which Americans are sharing thoughts and ideas about reforming health care. President-elect Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Tom Daschle are counting on Americans from every walk of life to help identify what's broken and provide ideas for how to fix it.

You can help shape that reform by leading your own Health Care Community Discussion anytime between now and December 31st.

All this and more, for $25 that's right, no zeros after the $25 to the transition team and an email with a suggestion about health care to the campaign team.

Incredible. Hey, I always wanted to be like Cheney and hold my own policy meeting, now I can.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Is tribal morality an evolutionary selection parameter?

A question on morality :

"It is hard to say anything is wrong in an evolutionary sense, since either it will work and the species will flourish, or it won't and the species will die out. For social animals the situation becomes more complicated as the evolutionary unit seems to be the herd, pack, or in the case of humans, tribe, village, or parish. From an evolutionary standpoint that which enhances the survivability of the tribe, becomes good, or if you will, evolutionarily favorable.

Morality, that is compliance with the rules and customs of social interaction of the tribe becomes simply another evolutionary selection parameter. Tribes with functional morals survive, those with dysfunctional morals die out.

The main advantage of God is that Hesh conserves (ossifies) moral systems that helped the particular tribe flourish under a certain set of conditions. As long as conditions don't change much and the tribe flourishes under those conditions, one can say that God based morality is an evolutionary advantage.

I can't think of conditions that would favor a child torturing tribe, but under conditions that favor properly nurtured and highly educated adults, if the torturers had to compete for resources with tribes that didn't torture their children I predict they would lose out in a few generations.

It seems to me that such an evolutionary situation is playing out right now in the treatment of women in society. Some tribes are systematically removing half their population from the knowledge based competition for intellectual property. (Some tribes seem to be eliminating their entire population from this competition, but that is a different issue.) It will be interesting to see whether these tribes are able to compete in the cosmopolitan world that seems to be the evolutionary niche humans are beginning to occupy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas time again

Christmas :
What are we celebrating? Winter solstice? A symbolic 're-birth?'

I celebrate the one known miracle that happens every day: the birth of a human being. Having the baby Jesus stand in for all of us doesn't bother me a bit, he was after all human. The Herald Angels of myth sing for all birthings, and it is good to be reminded of that at Christmas, and to be reminded that they sing for all births, the lowly cradled in a manger as well as those cradled in the latest hi tech birthing suites.

The overlay of all the solstice celebrations is 'Wolcum' as well with the food and the drinks to warm everybody to the season. My traditional greeting is "Wolcum Yole" from Britten's Ceremony of Carols which is a staple of my Christmas mix.

A righteous celebration for the season, I enjoy it immensely."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

There's no such thing as an atheist.

There's no such thing :

"True atheists are quite common although you are right that they seldom describe themselves as such. Many atheists go to church for the fellowship, networking, and social functions, and go through the motions of praying, and 'worshiping' but are quite aware that God is a tradition and not an entity. They depend on God for nothing in their lives, expect no response from God to their prayers, and worship, and manage their lives as if God does not exist. Very few, however take the next step and build a network of independent people to take the place of the church and finally break the dependence on religion. Only then will they start to self-identify as an atheist.

Other than occasionally on beliefnet discussions I can go months at a time without even thinking about being an atheist. God is just not a part of anything I do or think about. Morality and purpose come from those I call my society and although some of those I call my society are theists, their God has nothing to do with my life other than helping them be good people."

Played Carnegie Hall one more time!

As a registered alumnus of the New York Choral Society, an unbelievable email appeared in my inbox recently. The alumni who sang with Peter Paul and Mary in earlier concerts were invited to join them on stage at Carnegie Hall for the sing-along half of the concert.

No question of my not being there, and logistics were doable, so in conjunction with a Christmas visit with family in St. Louis another whirlwind trip to NYC happened.

It was, as they say, priceless. Despite worries about her health Mary put on her usual fantastic show and Peter Yarrow's Light One Candle is as relevant today as it was when it was written with its
Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never become our own foe.

To be a part of the show and see friends still active in the chorus after 20 years since I left New York was simply wonderful and a memory that will last as long as I do.

Always been an atheist?

Always been an atheist? :

I would like to know if you have, pretty much, always been an atheist.

All of my family members who were important to me were atheists, at a time when that was not particularly common. My immediate family were Unitarians when there were Unitarian Churches available and participated for social and fellowship reasons rather than religious reasons. When I was very young we lived in a small town where the liberal Presbyterian church (I think) was their substitute. The Unitarian Sunday School had a heavy emphasis on 'The Church Across the Street' and we would frequently go to neighboring religious institutions on a Sunday or Saturday if appropriate and then come back and discuss what we learned for a few Sundays before it was time to visit the next group. We were also encouraged to accompany friends to worship services and report back to the class what we learned.

It never occurred to me that God was anything but a unifying myth for the other churches, and I never was tempted to "believe." I did however gain an intense interest in the content of the myths and spent much of my spare time trying to figure out what it was that the various groups got from their worship. I spent more time with Catholic myths due to my choral music avocation, as large choral works are mainly settings of Catholic prayers and the Mass. Catholics since the Renaissance have recognized that "music is fundamental" and have encouraged musical expressions of their beliefs.

The result is an atheist with no need for God or any god for that matter, but I do appreciate the various religious myths and have no issues with those that choose to believe in them. The Abrahamic myths which are not tempered by a clear understanding of the Synoptic Gospels are misogynistic and hateful IMO and to the extent that they try to impose their misogyny and hate on the rest of us they should be opposed, but I don't see much that can be done within their church walls. Hate and misogyny fill the plate and attract the weak males that pay the bills, so I doubt an outsider can do much to change anything. When they come onto a forum like beliefnet we can hammer them with the facts of the rest of the world (I would have used truth, but they think they have a trademark on the word.)