John Burroughs’ Review

Today we received notice of an unexpected review by John Burroughs.

Burroughs’ Bookshelf

Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness
Gordon C. Stewart
Wipf and Stock Publishers
199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401-2960
http://wipfandstock.com
9781532600678, $41.00, HC, 190pp, http://www.amazon.com

Synopsis: In “Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness”, author and public theologian “Gordon C. Stewart echoes the call of the Navajo sage and the psalmist who invited their hearers to stop — “If we keep going this way, we’re going to get where we’re going” — and be still — “Be still, and know. . . .”.

Like pictures in a photo album taken from a unique lens, the 48 succinctly presented essays zoom in on singular moments of time where the world is making headlines, drawing attention to the sin of exceptionalism in its national, racial, religious, cultural, and species manifestations.

Informed by Japanese Christian theologian Kosuke Koyama, Elie Wiesel, Wendell Berry, and others, “Be Still!” invites the reader to slow down, be still, and depart from “collective madness” before the Navajo sage is right. Told in the voice familiar to listeners of All Things Considered and Minnesota Public Radio, these poetic essays sometimes feel as familiar as an old family photo album, but the pictures themselves are taken from a thought-provoking angle.

Critique: Thoughtful and thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring, “Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness” is an extraordinary read that is enhanced for scholarship with the inclusion of a six page Bibliography and a twelve page Index. While unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that “Be Still!” is also available in a paperback edition (9781532600654, $21.00) and in a Kindle format ($9.99). – John Burroughs, July, 2017, Reviewer’s Bookwatch, Midwest Book Review.

Some days are good days. Although the John Burroughs who wrote the review is not the famous naturalist of encyclopedic fame, he’s the only John Burroughs who has noticed “Be Still!”, and, for that reason, he goes to the top of this author’s friendly strangers. Every author depends on the kindness of strangers!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, July 19, 2017.

Tapering off my MacBook Air

The word ‘taper’ is today’s Daily Post prompt, i.e. a topical challenge to writers.

43A1720B-BC80-0060-873FBDFD04548E20Since watching last Sunday’s “60 Minutes” episode on “Brain Hacking” — an essay on cell-phone addiction — I’ve been trying to taper off how often I turn to my MacBook Air. Okay, so it’s not a cell phone, but I’m as addicted to the MacBook Air as cell phone owners are to cell phones. Time away does weird things to the brain, like withdrawal from addiction to drugs or alcohol. Since Sunday night, I’ve been trying to taper off.

apple-laptop-notebook-notesBut I can’t. Writing is what I do. I can’t stop. The MacBook Air is my lifeline, my unfailing connection with my imaginary friend, the addict’s needle, always within arms reach. Besides, like Echo in the myth of Narcissus, the MacBook Air always tells me what I want to hear – my own voice . . . except when the beep beep of an uninvited text interrupts our conversations.

I’ve been trying to taper off on the emails and texts, as well as the writing. But I don’t taper off easily. It’s not in my DNA.

Speaking of DNA, learning last week that some relatives inherited a gene that has left them vulnerable to auto-immune diseases left me wondering about my PMR, an auto-immune thing, and the Prednisone I’ve been taking for three months. No other drug addresses the symptoms of PMR.  But it’s a short-term fix with its a long list of side-effects. There’s no assurance the PMR will be gone when I taper off the Prednisone.

91d40efa6017040fa5159b5e83aa94b7Thursday’s appointment with the rheumatologist will determine whether I taper off again from 10 mg to eight from the original 20. If so, I might take it as a sign to limit the MacBook Air time to eight hours per day, or to make Views from the Edge readers happy by posting no more than eight times a day . . .  until I leave you completely alone with your brain-hacking cell phone when I taper off completely . . . into complete withdrawal.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 13, 2017.

More or Less Connected?

This morning we reply to The Daily Post’s invitation to create a post on the word “connection.”

Because Views from the Edge has been silent the last few days – my only connection has been an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder preoccupation with preparing a book proposal for submission to a publisher – and feeling no urgency to add more punditry dribble to the presidential campaign coverage, my immediate response was the antonym for connection: “separation.”

I’ve been totally connected to the book proposal; almost totally disconnected – separated, walled off – from Kay, Barclay, and the news. I’ve also been less physically present except for short breaks for meals and answering the bell Barclay rings when he needs to go outside to do his duty. I’ve been dutiful indoors with little connection to anything but the book proposal – more connected and more separate all at the same time.

Theologian Paul Tillich translated “sin” as “separation” from the Ground of Being, nature, neighbors, and one’s self. I’ve been living in sin! And, now that I’ve broken the silence in response to the Daily Post’s invitation, I’m going back to sin until the connection with the publisher is finally made – by means of the internet which has managed to produce a new paradox: wider connection and deeper separation than previously imagined.

Temporarily less connected until next Tuesday’s submission…unless Steve connects with a poem,

Gordon

 

A Sense of Decency

Pernicious Predatory Political Practices, published here this afternoon exposing a series of right-wing pernicious, predatory mailings preying on Senior Citizens, takes some of us back to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s tactics of fear and character assassination, and the famous line that stopped him in his tracks in 1944. Imagine the American people asking the same question to every political candidate this Super Tuesday:

“You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” – Joseph Welsh, Special Counsel for the Army

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN 55318

Reader Comment:

“McCarthy, Wisconsin’s Jr. Senator didn’t respond. Trump & Cruz respond F. Y. Of course Rubio, the empty suit distinguished by ambition and absenteeism, was calculating his next slur on his ‘feckless’ President Obama. Had breakfast yesterday with retired Chair of History Department. His view is close to Ezra Klein’s Germany 1933. Scapegoating, authoritarianism, desperate and uneducated voters. Hitler won.” Jim

Pernicious Predatory Political Practices

An 85 year-old friend calls with a bit of panic in his voice. “I think I’ve gotten myself into something in Washington,” he said. He’s getting mailings that look he’s part of a lawsuit.

We meet for coffee to look over the mailings. He shows me the piece that worries him. It’s a law suit. It strikes him as very official. [See the return address in the top envelope below: Congressman Trey Goudy and my friend’s name  v. President Barack Obama, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and Homeland Security Secretary Johnson]. It has a case number: 584-9760 US.

Trey Goudy

Trey Goudy (R-SC) is Chair of the Congressional Committee on Benghazi, the one who was criticized by the next-in-line to be Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), because the committee was driven by a partisan political agenda. The letter speaks with urgency and asks for money to prosecute the case.

Next He pulls from his satchel a long tube from The National Campaign to Guarantee Social Security “warning” him of cuts to his Social Security benefits and possible elimination of Social Security. Only near the end of the three page letter does the campaign identify liberals as the enemies of Social Security. The letter solicits a sum of $200 before March 10 when the National Campaign to Guarantee Social Security’s creditors expect them to pay past bills.

National Campaign - SS

Most of the mailings have the same return address:  1600 Diagonal Road, Suite 600, Alexandria, VA, the offices of the Federation of Responsible Citizens.

A search of the Federation of Responsible Citizens and other mail solicitors that target seniors led us to this podcast and article aired by Minnesota Pubic Radio in Dec., 2013.

http://www.mprnews.org/story/2013/01/03/news/mediscare-fundraising-mailers

My friend and I consulted with the MN Attorney General’s Office. We were told to tear up any such mailings. “Just throw them away. You’ll see this slow down or stop after the election.” But what about the millions of seniors who at one time made a small contribution to some such mailing, believing it was in their best interest to do so? Is there a lawsuit out there to stop this pernicious predatory political practice? Someone please say yes.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 26, 2016

Not Lemonade

“When life gives you lemons… make something else. Tell us about a time you used an object or resolved a tricky situation in an unorthodox way.” – Not Lemonade

The invitation brought to mind an altogether different memory. It’s unorthodox, but not what the Daily Post had in mind.

The memory is “Lemonade-on-the-Lawn” at Knox Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati. During the summer months worshipers gathered on the church lawn at the corner of Observatory and Michigan for conversation over lemonade.

Visitors frequently misunderstood the pulpit announcements to be an invitation to eliminate on the lawn. They were relieved to learn about the lemonade.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, former Pastor, Knox Presbyterian Church, Cincinnati, January 26, 2016.

 

 

 

Hermeneutics

Never heard of it? It’s not one of the big words we hear every day. But ‘hermeneutics’ is a basic activity we’re engaged in every day. It’s like breathing – one of those basic things we don’t notice until someone disagrees with us.

The word’s origins date back to Greek philosophy, long before Peewee Herman, Herman Goehring, or George Herman (“Babe”) Ruth did it. But I digress. Their names were spelled with an ‘a’; there was no ancestor named Hermen.

But Peewee, Herman, and George each engaged in hermeneutics, the theory and practice of interpretation. They interpreted life, respectively, as comedy, tragedy, and sport. They looked at the human experience through their own interpretative lenses.

Every time we read a text, watch a film, listen to a speech, or view a painting, we interpret it. We are doing hermeneutics. We put into practice the largely unconscious principles that shape how we experience the world.

The study of hermeneutics, a Latinized version of the Greek hermeneutice, reaching back to Plato and Aristotle, has been part of the great thinkers of Western civilization down to our own times. Click The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy for the history of the term.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Tampa, FL, January 21, 2016.

Thanks to Wonderfulwordsblog for inviting readers to create a post on a lesser known word.

 

 

 

Looking and Seeing – Thoreau

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you see, not what you look at, is what you get. Or is it?

Is something there you don’t see? Is what you see there because you put it there?

The relation between subject and object is an ancient philosophical question that’s not about to go away.

When I saw the Thoreau poster, I saw the darkness behind the words. Then it drew me to the light – the sunrise or sunset. But, which is it: a sunset preceding darkness, or sunrise bringing the light? Or are we seeing cars, pavement, poles, and signs? What would Thoreau see?

 

 

 

The Way We Eat

A prompt on Modern Families got me to thinking. 

“If one of your late ancestors were to come back from the dead and join you for dinner, what things about your family would this person find the most shocking?” 

How would you answer? Here’s my shot at the question. 

Well…for starters, most folks don’t join each other for dinner anymore.

My grandparents and parents honored a long-standing family tradition.  They ate dinner around the dining room table. ALL of them. At the same time. In the same place.

But we didn’t just eat together. We lingered together. We served each other. We passed the food in large bowls – mashed potatoes, green beans, peas, stuffing, salad – family style. No one ate until all had been served.

In their generations, the roles were clearly defined. Mom wore and apron and cooked the meal. She sat at one end of the table. Dad, sitting  at the opposite end (the head of the table) with the carving knife served the entree on plates to the other members of the family. If it was a turkey, for instance, he carved the bird in front of us at the table.

“Skip, you like dark meat.” He’d carve from the thigh or the leg. “Don, you like both white and dark.” “Bob, you like the leg and a wing.” And so it went, until we all had been served according to our liking, and we all had served each other.

Mom and Dad lived long enough to see the change in their children’s family eating habits and graciously, if sadly, accepted the fact that there was no longer a set time for dinner, there were soccer games, Little League games, concerts, and the demands of this, that, and the other that tore apart the cherished hour when the kids and parents all checked in on the day and discussed the big issues of the news.

My grandparents would be shocked by the fraying of common life, the loss of careful attentiveness to each member of the family’s preferences, likes and dislikes, the substitution of the automat for the dining room table.

If they came back from the dead, they would wonder how and why sharing and serving around the table and nightly dinner conversations have vanished, replaced by family members staring at their iPhones, texting people who aren’t in the room. They might re-frame Shakespeare’s question in Hamlet, “To be, or not to be?” They might say:

“To eat alone, quickly, or to eat at the dinner table with others, slowly?” – that is the question.

I think I’ll turn on the TV, go to the fridge to see what’s there, send a text or two, and enjoy the ballgame.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 18, 2016