Revisited

The videos from Ferguson, Missouri, of unarmed demonstrators and neighborhood people being confronted by lines of advancing police using military hardware revived memories of my own experiences in 1966 and again in 1968. I was at the time a student enrolled in a special summertime program for disadvantaged high school students in Cleveland, Ohio, living in dormitories and attending classes at Case Western Reserve University on the East Side of a very segregated city. One of my most vivid memories of that time is of returning late from an evening concert, finding all of the lights out and the doors locked in the dormitory and everyone talking in hushed whispers. There had been gunshots heard somewhere nearby. I remember taking the elevator to my floor, walking down a hallway and entering a room where several of my fellow students, mostly black, were gazing out of wide windows that faced the city’s near horizon, a horizon that appeared to be largely on fire. In the following days the campus where we lived was used as a staging area, surrounded as it was on three sides by ghetto neighborhoods and on the other by the Heights where perched the National Guard Armory. Every night we watched as military convoys went out into darkened neighborhoods to patrol the angry streets.

 
The earlier event in my memory, known as the Hough Riots, was a result of long simmering tensions in segregated neighborhoods where most of the population was black and most of the police force was white. It was a precursor to many such events in ensuing years in cities across the country. Detroit and Newark and hundreds of other cities exploded in 1967 alone. In 1968 the so-called Glenville Shootout (which was another full scale riot) took place in the summer following the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, a direct product of the buildup of frustration, rage and helplessness. It was accompanied by similar explosions in Baltimore  Washington D.C., New YorkChicago and Louisville.
 
The memory of those streets, the convoys, and most of all those fires remain vivid to me. 
 
Looking at the coverage of events in Ferguson I’m struck both by what’s similar and what’s changed. First of all, even though this had all of the elements that could turn the situation into a full scale riot, so far it has not. An immediate explosion of rage in response to the shooting of a teenager lead to some looting and destruction that was followed by an organized and peaceful demonstration broadly representing the citizenry, involving people both black and white. The response to this was a brutal and invasive military reaction by the police. They advanced into neighborhoods using sophisticated armored equipment, firing tear gas at demonstrators, residents, reporters and bystanders. National coverage resulted in a spontaneous national response in solidarity (for the most part) from people with a broad range of social and political perspectives. The national dialogue emerging from this is ongoing. There is some question whether the underlying factors contributing to what went on will be adequately addressed. Race is an obvious factor but to anyone looking beneath the surface the steady demolition of the middle class and the unavailability of economic opportunity is as much a contributor. The anger boiling under the surface of American life crosses racial lines and a much wider proportion of the population can feel some solidarity with those in Ferguson than in 1968. 
 
More than a chaotic and destructive acting out of long stifled frustration, the events in Missouri remind me in some ways of another event that took place in 1968, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. During what became known as a “Police Riot” over 10,000 protestors of all races, classes and denominations gathered to protest the Vietnam War and faced an all-out assault by police that drew in demonstrators, observers and innocent bystanders and was broadcast on every major television channel all over the world. This event was a marker that signified a major change in the political climate and was a precursor to the extremely polarized politics that dominate our national debates today.  The issues we are dealing with are the same: race, inequality, war and economic injustice. Add to this the ongoing demolition of the middle class and the inability of a divided government to address any of it with a common sense of purpose and you have a mix that leads inevitably to social turmoil. 
 
For me this past week’s events brought up not only memories from as long ago as 1968, but of another moment in which I saw and heard an echo of those times and those events. I’m reprinting here the first post on this Arclist blog, made on December 29, 2001, four months after the events of 9/11 in New York City. At the time it felt to me like the tragedies of the day were a sign of where we were heading if we didn’t wake up as a nation wake to who we were and what was our impact on the world. It was a low point in my visions of the immediate future. My outlook today isn’t nearly as dire. As a nation I believe we’ve advanced in our awareness, although it may not be obvious from what we are shown on the news. In spite of ongoing paranoia and prejudice I think we are more of a nation now than we were back then, more able to see one another, even those that we distrust, as human beings that ultimately depend on one another. 
 
_____________________________________
 
I post this then, as both a recollection and as a warning. The fast growing problems driven by economic inequality and environmental degradation transcend our own borders, as the attacks of 9/11 violently brought home. We can no longer deal with them effectively through the obstructed lenses of arrogance and bigotry. We must address our own shadows while engaging with the whole world. In the past decade we have learned much and perhaps begun to grow up out of our national adolescence. Something in me believes that however dire the onrushing darkness, we are becoming engaged and more capable of bringing in the light.    
 
_____________________________________
 
December 12th, 2001
Arclist
Subject: Cities On Fire
 
As we creep up on the New Year I grow increasingly weary of being told by politicians and propagandists what “we” the American people have learned over this past year. The whole world has changed we are told, but outside the once protected borders of our national fairytale I don’t think things have changed very much at all. From the images and words broadcast over our national media I have to conclude that Americans have learned very little, other than to be more afraid. There is nothing I find reassuring in the faces of George and Laura (brought to you by Enron, Inc.) and Rudy (brought to you by Time Warner) found on the covers of every supermarket magazine. I keep wondering who is this great “we” promulgated by every talking head and pundit from Susan Stamberg to Charlie Rose.

When we are told that the best way to perform our patriotic duty is to go on consuming as if nothing will ever change us or slow us down, I only see more disillusion ahead. The symbol we currently wave in the face of the world’s poor is an enormous gas guzzling SUV proudly displaying the Stars and Stripes from it’s antennas. Our nation in relation to much of the rest of the world resembles a spoiled teenage bully who refuses to grow up, stoked on drugs and arrogance and technology. Our response to attacks on what we see as our inalienable right to consume is to declare war on anyone standing in our way.  

I keep hearing about the responsibility of the world’s only ‘superpower’. What does that mean? It’s as if the only thing necessary for world conquest is to declare yourself the winner and then to kick the ass of anyone who disagrees. Like our surrogate Isreal in the Middle East, we’ve become the co-creators of our own worst nightmare. My best wish for this country in the New Year is that we wake up from the tailored national fantasy bought and paid for by the corporate powers now in charge. If not, we are likely to encounter more horrible lessons from the real world. 

Wed Dec 19, 2001

Cities on Fire
 
Look up.
 
It’s gone.
 
They are gone.
 
All the people
 
All the concrete
 
All the glass
 
All the metal
 
All the money
 
All the lunch crowds
 
All the car exhausts
 
All the noise.
 
Only the silent hole 
 
the arc lights
 
filling the emptiness
 
with emptiness.
 
We act as if something we can do
 
will change it all
 
will bring it back.
 
Nothing will change 
 
it is no more
 
it will never be again.
 
When I was very young
 
the cities burned.
 
Thirty years ago
 
instead of crumbling steel monuments
 
there were burning wooden tenements
 
ruined neighborhoods
 
armies patrolling the streets at midnight
 
in American cities,
 
the streets since knocked down
 
to build steel towers
 
over the graves of neighborhoods,
 
and memories
 
of slave quarters and refugee camps.
 
All the places where furies dwell.
 
We built the towers
 
to exhibit a nation’s soul.
 
Did we think the furies would go away
 
forgotten
 
like the ghosts of empty houses?
 
They came back to us
 
didn’t they?
 
They returned in the dark screaming faces
 
falling from burning towers
 
hurtling in suffocating vertigo
 
like the fall of empires.
 
The furies always come back.
 
Now we search for them in ruins
 
trying to torture them out of the earth
 
like screams
 
like shadows
 
as if the earth created them
 
but they are ours.
 
Have you ever seen a city on fire?
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Drought

It was that year when the southern weather crossed a certain threshold and so did my age, when I no longer wanted to embrace the dying forests. Those brutally long hikes that took me to the edge, baptized in exhausted sweat to reveal the wide world from mountaintops were no longer attractive. Too much drought afflicted the way. We had already destroyed the world we once knew, and all of those dead and dying forests only spoke of reproof and dismissal as witness to our homage.

Or was the imagined drought only the inward turning of a being used to “taking it all outside” of himself as projection and dramatization of his own infirmities? I know this forest, these walkways, the texture of every root and branch, the color of every flower. Am I merely loath to repeat experience already sufficiently gained? How many more rainstorms to be caught within? How many wrong turns upon the trail? Is this merely the inevitable weariness that comes with age?

The only way I can see toward new pathways is through the always surprising encounter with passion in the form of love and in the incantations of desire. Once, very early on I found myself in a room filled with fellow students, staring out of an empty picture window at the reflections of campus streetlights, having emptied myself of all reasons for taking another breath. I could no longer motivate myself to move a muscle, to act, to feel. A young woman of my warm acquaintance in those days of impatience, detecting my condition moved closer to my side and questioned my motionless silence. I could only force out the single word, “Why?” I wonder now how she guessed the context of the question, if by telepathy or merely an interpretation of my observed catatonia. She whispered, “Because you want to.”   
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Three Short Pieces

ALL OF THIS

When the drama has faded
and there’s less distraction
something still remains:

That feeling in the first moments
before there was doubt.

Both surprised to learn
the curious attraction
love
endures only
in a world outside of fairytales.

* * *

I sit writing on the train. This landscape, New Mexico, the high desert, a curative for me, for all the usual feelings of alienation and loneliness and getting old and being without a woman’s touch and everything. Something about dragging one’s vision along the rising and falling lines of mountain and plain from this second floor window seems to even things out. I take the ride from one end of the line, Santa Fe, all the way to the southern end at Belen, and then back again. Sometimes I stop for a few hours in Albuquerque. Late in the day the shadows collect in the canyons by the Rio Grande where low adobe houses collect along the river while massively beautiful cloud formations collect above the horizons waiting to be painted by the lowering sun. There’s a combination of colors this late in the day, where the soft greens of desert sage and the dark green of scattered pinions appear almost to glow against the russet colors of the dry desert soil. There’s nothing more magical that I’ve ever seen in this world.

By the time I return the depression I felt has lifted, and I’ve even gotten some writing done. It works a lot better than drugs or drinking.

* * *

Recently I took a trial journey into the universe of EVE Online, probably the most massive multi-participant internet game in the online universe. I’ve always been fascinated with the emergence of parallel universes that we collectively generate in the more imaginative corners of the media sphere. Going at least as far back as the invention of comic books and accelerating with each iteration of the digital age many of us spend large amounts of time participating in some way in massive virtual worlds. From Star Trek and Star Wars conventions to the proliferation of Renaissance Fairs and countless novelistic adaptations in the genres of science fiction and fantasy, based on movies and computer games and television shows the worlds of the almost real abound. With the perfection of digital media these worlds take on increasing concreteness that interacts with the ‘real’ world in weird and interesting ways.

I’d gotten the come-on ads for EVE a couple of years ago when it started up but never took the time to check out more than a few publicity animations posted on You Tube. Listening to a story on NPR’s On The Media the other day about one of the Americans killed at the embassy in Benghazi I found out that he was a major player in the EVE universe, having actually acted as a diplomat in the virtual world, building political structures based on his experiences working in the State Department. What further intrigued me was a mention that EVE accommodated upwards of half million international participants. Worth checking out.

When I looked up the site there was an offer for a 14 day free trail. With little to loose I signed up and downloaded the game (which took an ungodly amount of time – it’s a huge file – over 17 gigabytes). When I signed on I began by creating my avatar/character, selecting a gender, an ethnicity and a culture, a family name, and a look (mine resembles a younger and more handsome and sharply dressed version of myself). When I’d gotten all of this set up I launched the tutorial, and found myself piloting a smallish seedlike capsule, floating in a vast virtual space with other ships and objects drifting around me in the distance.

Almost immediately I arrived at the first and for me, possibly terminal snags. First of all I needed a mouse to properly manage the controls and I haven’t used a mouse in years, having moved around on laptops and trackpads or touch screens long ago. Then, the first real training directive I was given was to find a ‘mission box’ somewhere on the left of the screen, where a large stack of controls and options were arranged, and I couldn’t for the life of me locate it. The result was that I couldn’t summon the mission destination or engage the ‘warp’ drive in order to get there.

So I was left drifting, a floating seed in outer space growing increasingly distant from the mothership from which I’d been launched. Since I knew no one on the site and hadn’t quite gotten the knack of how to effectively communicate the only thing I could do effectively was to rotate the ship in several directions while I drifted, and listen to the strange sound effects and the suggestion of distant disembodied voices. I couldn’t even find a way to sign off.

Eventually I closed the thing down by going offline. I don’t know if or when I’ll go back and try again (perhaps if I purchase a mouse). As I think about the image of a disconnected seed floating free in space it occurs to me that the evocation was itself the most valuable part of my adventure. It gives me a perfect metaphor for the state in which I find my life these days. Mostly disconnected from people, the news, friends, and even for the most part from the internet and its versions of ‘social’ media, I feel my sensory life to be gradually opening up in new ways.

As the years have accrued I’ve gotten so caught up in webs of expectation and projection that I’d lost contact with my own creative vehicle. After years of drifting down rivers channeled by other people; lovers and friends and other voices in the world, I’d forgotten how to listen to the voice inside of me. Rather than trying to crash myself through the walls of loneliness I’ve begun to see that the very fear of being alone is based on illusions and the only way through the walls is to find the part of me that is never really separated from everything.

And I’m thinking as I drift in the game, totally free and out of control, what a great metaphor for my life as I experience it these days, sort of peaceful and content, with most of the activity somewhere at the periphery of my attention. Maybe it’s kind of like a slow and peaceful way of dying. I wonder what if I leave the game on and drift aimlessly until eventually one of those wandering space jockeys comes by and shoots me out of the picture for sheer pleasure or out of annoyance, or maybe just for practice. By that time I don’t imagine I’ll care.

As I continue in this mode I reflect on the people I encounter, with all of their expectations and desires. They appear to me more and more like ghost spirits. They are like the motes in this game that drift in and out of my field of vision, reflections in a cage I draw around myself to tell myself what is and isn’t possible. Can a hungry ghost loose his appetite? Most remarkable, in the middle of this vague emptiness a new character appears, one I’ve never really met before. It’s me.

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Three Short Pieces

ALL OF THIS

When the drama has faded
and there’s less distraction
something still remains:

That feeling in the first moments
before there was doubt.

Both surprised to learn
the curious attraction
love 
endures only
in a world outside of fairytales.

 
 
*    *    *
 
 
I sit writing on the train. This landscape, New Mexico, the high desert, a curative for me, for all the usual feelings of alienation and loneliness and getting old and being without a woman’s touch and everything. Something about dragging one’s vision along the rising and falling lines of mountain and plain from this second floor window seems to even things out. I take the ride from one end of the line, Santa Fe, all the way to the southern end at Belen, and then back again. Sometimes I stop for a few hours in Albuquerque. Late in the day the shadows collect in the canyons by the Rio Grande where low adobe houses collect along the river while massively beautiful cloud formations collect above the horizons waiting to be painted by the lowering sun. There’s a combination of colors this late in the day, where the soft greens of desert sage and the dark green of scattered pinions appear almost to glow against the russet colors of the dry desert soil. There’s nothing more magical that I’ve ever seen in this world.  
 
By the time I return the depression I felt has lifted, and I’ve even gotten some writing done. It works a lot better than drugs or drinking. 
 
*    *    *
 
 
Recently I took a trial journey into the universe of EVE Online, probably the most massive multi-participant internet game in the online universe. I’ve always been fascinated with the emergence of parallel universes that we collectively generate in the more imaginative corners of the media sphere. Going at least as far back as the invention of comic books and accelerating with each iteration of the digital age many of us spend large amounts of time participating in some way in massive virtual worlds. From Star Trek and Star Wars conventions to the proliferation of Renaissance Fairs and countless novelistic adaptations in the genres of science fiction and fantasy, based on movies and computer games and television shows the worlds of the almost real abound. With the perfection of digital media these worlds take on increasing concreteness that interacts with the ‘real’ world in weird and interesting ways. 
 
I’d gotten the come-on ads for EVE a couple of years ago when it started up but never took the time to check out more than a few publicity animations posted on You Tube. Listening to a story on NPR’s On The Media the other day about one of the Americans killed at the embassy in Benghazi I found out that he was a major player in the EVE universe, having actually acted as a diplomat in the virtual world, building political structures based on his experiences working in the State Department. What further intrigued me was a mention that EVE accommodated upwards of half million international participants. Worth checking out. 
 
When I looked up the site there was an offer for a 14 day free trail. With little to lose I signed up and downloaded the game (which took an ungodly amount of time – it’s a huge file – over 17 gigabytes). When I signed on I began by creating my avatar/character, selecting a gender, an ethnicity and a culture, a family name, and a look (mine resembles a younger and more handsome and sharply dressed version of myself). When I’d gotten all of this set up I launched the tutorial, and found myself piloting a smallish seedlike capsule, floating in a vast virtual space with other ships and objects drifting around me in the distance. 
 
Almost immediately I arrived at the first and for me, possibly terminal snags. First of all I needed a mouse to properly manage the controls and I haven’t used a mouse in years, having moved around on laptops and trackpads or touch screens long ago. Then, the first real training directive I was given was to find a ‘mission box’ somewhere on the left of the screen, where a large stack of controls and options were arranged, and I couldn’t for the life of me locate it. The result was that I couldn’t summon the mission destination or engage the ‘warp’ drive in order to get there. 
 
So I was left drifting, a floating seed in outer space growing increasingly distant from the mothership from which I’d been launched. Since I knew no one on the site and hadn’t quite gotten the knack of how to effectively communicate the only thing I could do effectively was to rotate the ship in several directions while I drifted, and listen to the strange sound effects and the suggestion of distant disembodied voices. I couldn’t even find a way to sign off. 
 
Eventually I closed the thing down by going offline. I don’t know if or when I’ll go back and try again (perhaps if I purchase a mouse). As I think about the image of a disconnected seed floating free in space it occurs to me that the evocation was itself the most valuable part of my adventure. It gives me a perfect metaphor for the state in which I find my life these days. Mostly disconnected from people, the news, friends, and even for the most part from the internet and its versions of ‘social’ media, I feel my sensory life to be gradually opening up in new ways. 
 
As the years have accrued I’ve gotten so caught up in webs of expectation and projection that I’d lost contact with my own creative vehicle. After years of drifting down rivers channeled by other people; lovers and friends and other voices in the world, I’d forgotten how to listen to the voice inside of me. Rather than trying to crash myself through the walls of loneliness I’ve begun to see that the very fear of being alone is based on illusions and the only way through the walls is to find the part of me that is never really separated from everything.
 
And I’m thinking as I drift in the game, totally free and out of control, what a great metaphor for my life as I experience it these days, sort of peaceful and content, with most of the activity somewhere at the periphery of my attention. Maybe it’s kind of like a slow and peaceful way of dying. I wonder what if I leave the game on and drift aimlessly until eventually one of those wandering space jockeys comes by and shoots me out of the picture for sheer pleasure or out of annoyance, or maybe just for practice. By that time I don’t imagine I’ll care.  
 
As I continue in this mode I reflect on the people I encounter, with all of their expectations and desires. They appear to me more and more like ghost spirits. They are like the motes in this game that drift in and out of my field of vision, reflections in a cage I draw around myself to tell myself what is and isn’t possible. Can a hungry ghost loose his appetite? Most remarkable, in the middle of this vague emptiness a new character appears, one I’ve never really met before. It’s me.    
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Fate

The city that pretends to be paradise
opens its arms and is destroyed
by it’s own virtues.

Among the roses we are wandering,
through adventures in buying and selling,
we are wondering about the meaning of man.

Everything is out of place,
everything beautiful is cancelled by dust,
here in the City of Commerce
skeletons of buildings arise
and licenses are revoked.

Or when we make it on someone’s checklist
in the Home of the Brave,
we remember what we never wanted
and still proceed with opportunities.

I plunge into the crowds of forgetting,
the grey days all on the outside
while we are sheltered from the rain.

Trains of the lost are rumbling past,
desperate eyes are fleeting away in glances.
We’ve gotten good at this, wearing the mask,
protected and grateful,
having learned the Keeper’s codes.

I won’t revise this poem about cities,
I’ve made my own rules for it
while the boneheaded sharks hovered
around scaffoldings of nervousness.

Hours after, when I’m bathed in acquisitions,
my body drawn limp at the conclusion of desire,
I lose myself in satisfaction, all memories then occluded.

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To Soften The Heart

To soften the heart.

To be at peace.

To cease one’s war with everything.

To accept surprise.

To approach with wonder.

To find patience.

To honor what is.

To allow for love.

To relinquish control.

To become oneself.

To blossom into joy.

To give without demanding.

To be true.

To surrender.

To live.

To soften the heart.

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If It Smells Like Religion….

New Rule: ‘If it looks like a religion and acts like a religion and smells like a religion…it’s probably a religion.

Our brave hidalgo mounts the southbound train and proceeds upon adventures that will bring him face to face not with windmills, as they are of an archaic character and are only of service to cows, but with the true adversaries of this day. Although it’s true that the landscapes of this time and place resemble those in which that earlier hero, Quixote wandered, with its broad and brilliantly lit plains ringed by dark mountains and forested thickets, our hero won’t encounter imaginary giants or dark knights in castles. Instead he finds himself in a wilderness of competing doctrines and beliefs that both claim to explain his reality and threaten to freeze his thinking. 

The land is layered in religions and their histories going back even farther than that of ancient Spain. Our train crosses pueblo lands inhabited by clans decked out in turquoise and squash blossoms. There are the cathedrals of the Spanish with their churches of forgiveness and absolution. Then the conquering armies of the Protestant northlands arrive with all of their self-rendered judgements and ever splintering dogmas and styles. Finally the religion of the technocrats arrives, presuming to know with certainty both our past and our future. These are all parts of the soul of New Mexico, for this is a place that exists where many boundaries intersect.  

Our hero knows that the country that stretches desolate and dry on either side of this train will never give up their spirit or their mystery. Being a warrior he choses to place himself at the boundary between what we can know and what we will never know. Although he respects science and rationality as sacred tools, honed through long struggles and only recently released from the shackles of superstition, he senses that in any presumption of absolute purity there are seeds to destroy the world.   

Observe the Richard Dawkins website.  Here are links to many of the carefully constructed arguments denying that atheism is a religion. Surely Richard Dawkins believes that the purpose of his site is only to defend science against the threatening inroads of fundamentalism. And yet, observe, here is a manual for proselytizing the faith that echoes precisely the rhetoric of religion. (Almost like the Tea Party using Saul Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals as an organizing tool.) Articles on science weave among condemnatory commentary against religions. There are blogs where atheists can talk with other atheists and where we can learn that the scientific method is the only valid means for discerning the truth and that religion has caused most of the problems today afflicting the world. Most importantly we will learn about the impregnable boundaries beyond which reason is excluded (this is dogma).

 
Digging deeper one will undoubtedly link to the argument that atheists don’t have to prove the nonexistence of God for there is no way to prove a negative. On the other hand, why would one bother? In this argument we are then told that it’s the burden of religion to prove the existence of things like God and the spirit world, but that only the rules of scientific enquiry will be acceptable. Again, why would one bother? When whatever can’t be measured or replicated within the limits of the laboratory or the statistical survey is discarded as superstition there isn’t much room for things that can only be experienced on a personal level. Whatever our experience, we are asked to remove it to someplace deemed ‘the personal’ with the implication that we should keep it strictly to ourselves. If we let it out that would be considered irrational, even mad, a religious act, and therefore it behooves all people in all cultures to submit to a single system of assumptions or humanity is doomed.  

Submission is the word and the demand. Militant atheists say they are not a religion, but like every fundamentalist faith their goal is absolute submission, with little respect or regard for those who resist. Some atheists entertain us by calling other cultures and other beliefs “stupid” or “inferior.” They claim the right because science has cured disease and made life longer, if not better. Scientific thinking represents progress and is the salvation of the race. Ignored is the fact that it may also contribute to its doom. There’s little or no acknowledgement of the mistakes and abuses and unintended consequences that have afflicted the history of ‘rational’ thought and no recognition that the worship of progress has led to horrors inflicted on people declared to be primitive and thus evolutionarily ‘inferior.’ While many modern advances in tolerance and human freedom have been led by people of faith, scientists have sometimes been guilty of reinforcing the worst prejudices against those who don’t fit the dominant cultural criteria. 

Many atheists complain that they’ve been oppressed by the dominance of superstitious belief, and it is true that they have been, as we all have been. Just about every religion has been oppressed at one time or another and whenever religion is used as a utilitarian tool for governing there are abuses against those who deviate from dogma. On the other hand atheists complain about having to sit and listen to prayers while in effect many are advocating cultural genocide. It is assumed that rule by strict technocracy will be somehow better. One can look perhaps at Communist China to find an answer to that. Militant atheists say that their intention is to advance reason, but beneath the veneer of reason and intolerance of religion one can sometimes detect the stench of cultural bigotry. Atheism, even in its etymology is a belief system defined by other belief systems that it attempts to negate. 

Not all atheists are zealots and not all Christians or Muslims are fundamentalists. All religions have their priests and their zealots. Atheism is no exception. Among atheists there is a tribe of militants who follow the prophets on a mission to stamp out religion. They apparently believe that their way is the only way, and that the world will not find peace until the absolute superiority of scientific thinking is accepted by all. When faced with contradictions or paradox they are as mystified as anyone, but they will deny to the last that there is anything in the universe which can’t be measured or known, there are no miracles and the all that we perceive can be reduced to equations. They are intrigued by mysteries but they will never trust in them.

What’s admirable in the scientific mind is that it proceeds with doubt, always testing and challenging its own hypothesis and never claiming to have achieved more than theory. The scientists’ frustration with those who claim to know the boundaries of everything, be they religious fanatics or conspiracy theorists or New Age charlatans, is quite understandable. However,  every major advance in science has challenged the established boundaries, beliefs and assumptions of a particular era. When it ceases to do this it becomes a religion, just like atheism has become a religion. 

As our hero drifts across the countryside in this very late autumn, looking down into poor backyards and water filled arroyos, with the crowns of churches poking over reservation trees and the train whistle sounding, he settles once more into the knowledge that he will never know the truth of things. Not the whole truth. All of the books he reads and the faces he meets only open up new mysteries. Our brave hidalgo will always battle dragons because he likes a good battle, but I earnestly wish that he will avoid inflexibility, for the universe is fluid and ever changing. Whatever we think is absolutely certain will likely be challenged and then change again and then again and finally drift off like smoke in the wind. Even science in its long history of trial and error has discovered this.    

 
- Ralph E. Melcher

*************************

You Can’t Stop The Signal

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