Thursday, December 01, 2011

Stop Raising Tuitions/Vartnaw New Laureate/Beckman Poem/Edelen & The Virtue of NonBelief

(P1) Political

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(P2) Poetical

Bill Vartnaw: Seventh Sonoma County Poet Laureate

Congratulations friend, Bill Vartnaw upon your selection and for following in the line of laureates including Don Emblen, David Bromige, Terry Ehret, Geri DiGiorno, Mike Tuggle, and Gwynn O'Gara.

Here is Bill's poem "Tree. Stands. Out." which leads off his fine book In Concern: for Angels (Taurean Horn, 1984)

Tree. Stands. Out.
Conversant with the mind
of light. & its shifting interference—

in motion, winding:
like a splash. Firmly rooted?
So it seems . . .
Tree, a master of disguises
spins dervishlike. In synch
with times, familiar—
& throughout simultaneous existence,
to provide consistency. The ground
is not so solid & is no anchor.
We have always dug our treasure
inside-out. Tree is no exception.

from In Concern: for Angels

Bill Varnaw

Petaluma poet Bill Vartnaw established Taurean Horn Press in San Francisco following the Bay Area Poets Coalition's Summer Solstice Festival in 1974. Besides In Concern: for Angels (1984), he has also published Suburbs of my Childhood (2009, Beatitude Press), Postcards (2009, Round Barn Press) & Finnish-American Poetry with Rauhala, Vartnaw, Hagelberg (2010, UFKB&S).

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Here is a David Beckman poem which appears in the 2011 Marin Poetry Center Anthology

November Behind the Flamingo Hotel

Autumn comes inebriate,

dirty dancing on cankered feet,

leaving two dead leaves,

Aristophanes’ lost other halves

unraked and wrinkled

by the covered pool

-- David Beckman

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(P3 Philosophical

- Toward the Mystery - -

Atheists and agnostics

Posted By Bill On Nov 20, 11 @ 2:00 am In Weekly Column | Comments Disabled

The senior George Bush, when he was president, said, “I do not consider atheists to be American citizens.” From there his historical ignorance went downhill.

I recently read an article in the LA Times that made me want to scream with anger at the arrogant stupidity of the Christian chaplains in the military. Capt Ryan Jean, of the U.S. Army, wrote on his form about “religious preference” that he was a atheist. He was immediately called into the office of the head chaplain and scolded about his lack of “faith” and was told that if he did not get right “with God” he was a “worthless” individual. And that if he did not believe in Jesus he was a disgrace to his uniform, as this U.S. Army was GOD’S Army”. This militant ignorance of the chaplain was not unusual, but was a common theme. I know, for I was in the Marine Corps for twelve years and exposed to this religious quackery among Navy chaplains.

When the political right wing mentality pronounces loudly that, “There are no atheists in fox holes” they are so full of bull manure it would be impossible to dig through it. For the twelve years I flew as a Marine Corps pilot I knew MANY, that is MANY Marines who were atheists.

An atheist says flatly there are no Gods or a God. An agnostic just says, “I don’t know… nobody does… it’s not an issue.” A mystic believes, as I do, that some energy is at work on a cosmic level, some “Mystery” (as Einstein put it), “something unknown doing we know not what” as the Nobel physicist Eddington wrote so eloquently. Many of the most profound thinkers of history have been included in one of these three categories. But, make no mistake, the “Mystery” of the mystics is NOT a God, out there, nor in Deism is there a “God” out there.

As Ernest Hemingway once wrote: “All thinking human beings are atheists.” A Rabbi that was on the staff with me in the Department of Religion at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, told me that most of the Rabbis he knew were really atheists who supported Hebrew cultural positions, without God. Rabbi Wine of Detroit started a congregation of Humanistic Jews where the word God or belief in a God were taken out of all the liturgy.

Winston Churchill once observed, “Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its virtues being extolled. But some people’s idea of free speech is that THEY are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything BACK, that is an outrage.”

The Greek word “a-theos,” means “one who denies the existence of any god.” Ancient Christian theologians thought that atheism denied belief in God, and also belief in devils. Oriental thinkers were less simplistic about it. The more advanced sages taught that non-belief was more “religious” than belief and that atheism can make better human beings than faith can make. The sages said that non-belief can be as profoundly spiritual as theism, for the essence of religion, or spirituality, lies in the EXPERIENCE, and not in any BELIEF at all. And that all so-called religious beliefs or doctrines are merely theories about the religious, or spiritual experience.

The only religious traditions that actually believe in an anthropomorphic “God” “out there” as divine window-peeker, are Islam, parts of Judaism, and Christianity. Every other tradition would be considered atheistic, by those three, including the American Indian, Buddhism, Zen, Taoism, classical Hinduism and on through all the others.

Some observations:

“The total absence of humor from the bible is one of the most singular things in all of literature.” Alfred North Whitehead

“An atheist is a guy who watches a Notre Dame football game and doesn’t care who wins.” Dwight Eisenhower

“Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” Mark Twain

“Our Christianity is a terrible religion. The fleets of the world could sail in spacious comfort in the innocent blood it has spilt.” Mark Twain

“If Jesus were here now, there is one thing he would never be, and that is a Christian.” Mark Twain

For more than 25 years, the beloved Senior Minister of the famed City Temple of London (Methodist) was Leslie Weatherhead. His books have sold and been read by millions. In the Christian Agnostic he opens with this: “Not for much longer will the world put up with the lies, the distortions and the superstitions with which the simple message of Jesus has been overlaid, with creeds, doctrines and ceremonies to such a degree that any original thoughts have been lost ages ago.” Then he goes on to say that any minister standing in a pulpit who is NOT AN AGNOSTIC is dangerous. Why is he dangerous? Because “he pretends to have answers he does not have. He lives in the 20th century parroting back a third century biblical mentality, as though nothing had been learned, thought, or discovered in the last 1700 years.”

The key to Renaissance thought is the questioning spirit and the willingness to entertain doubt (agnosticism) with Atheism, Deism and Mysticism. I have no use for any religion that does not liberate the human mind to ask great questions. I am appalled by any religion that pretends to have firm, final and absolute answers.

That giant thinker Robert Ingersoll gives us our final word:

“If a man today would follow the teachings of the Old Testament, he would be a criminal.
If he would strictly follow the teachings of the New Testament, he would be insane.”

Article printed from Toward the Mystery:

URL to article:

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David Beckman said...

This edition is a gem, and I'm proud to be part of it. Many thanks!


Philip Hackett said...

Congratulations Bill, et al!!! Thank you, Ed. Sincerely, Philip

Diana Davis said...

I'm proud to be part of it. Many thanks!
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