Soul Man, Soul Mate

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In high school, and even as a fraternity member in college, I was not much of a dancer. Squirming and gyrating to pop rock seemed awkward and a little phony. Simple jumping up and down to the beat, as the male and female groups do today, seems more fitting. At fraternity parties I tended to dance with the Nashville couples who had set steps, sort of like line dancing. Eventually, however, I did get a reputation as a wild dancer. But I won’t claim that it was dancing at all.

There was one man to emulate when it came to dancing: James Brown. With the funky beat of his band, it was hard not to feel the music directing the feet and the whole body from inside out and the floor up. Hearing a James Brown hit today immediately generates the same reaction – full abandon.

The figure of the soul man was significant in the late-1960s in Memphis. The attributes, attractions, and limitations of his type are worth further study.

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Adopt an Elder

To liberals and conservatives alike, I say you cannot love (or, you are no warrior) until you have cared and fought for someone you know and owe – not a vague abstraction, but someone close by. Most of my friends and family have experienced this revelation. I am a Johnny-come-lately in this forced march, but I am willing to advocate for it as if I discovered something awesomely new.

Decline is inevitable. It is the future of us all.

Young people, love and cherish your elders before it is too late. Record and remember their sacrifices, foibles, follies, triumphs, and wisdom.

Time is relative, supposedly, but it is an unrelenting hunter. Do unto others as you would have others down the food chain do unto you. When you come to embrace the majestic, unexpected degradation of life, you will come to understand it; only then will you apply to it the full measure of your diminishing capabilities.

Some differ on the focus of their crusades for life. From my perspective, the life not present and formed can have no place of precedence if the life that is nearby is not completely honored. And the life that has given to others many times over cannot be relegated to obscurity and daily want if life to come is to thrive.

We are and have been a busy, self-regarding generation. Those after are perhaps busier. Business is our nature and our fog. Too often we are busy about nothing – nothing of significance at all. Wisdom is recognizing obligation and noting one’s hair’s-breadth remove from insignificance.

Young nieces and nephews – grand nieces and nephews – young friends and strangers, I marvel at your energy and health, your white teeth and strong voices, and your time left for mistakes and successes. But the train of old age is coming at you much faster than you know; you will only know it when it hits. Be prepared for a new near-life. Be prepared to be a model for your descendants in gracefully negotiating the years that were supposed to come so slowly. And pray like mad that your children and their children, and the great souls of your community, will mercifully adopt an elder.

Born Again

With some frequency, I have mentioned that I once returned to college many years after leaving it. I never deliberately dropped out: eventually, after more than four years of hard study there, I was excreted.

The first time I left, though, I was propelled from college. Something was happening to me which I did not understand. Friendships were dissolving, personalities were shape-shifting, my body was bloating, the world was gnawing. And it was spring. But more significantly, I had hit a wall. I enrolled in a course on Renaissance Europe at Memphis State University. I had taken four very good required survey history courses prior to this particular course but had mainly taken courses in business and psychology. More inclined toward the latter – and seeing the former, based in no small part on the other people pursuing it, as a misfit for my temperament, principles, and evolving interests – I sought out new study paths late in my junior year.

The readings for the Renaissance course were complex and overwhelming on many levels. Though my professor was a spellbinding storyteller, I felt lost in material that I could neither digest nor piece together. I was captivated by images and tales of men and women who made my own life seem under-lived and completely uninteresting; I encountered ideas that made those surrounding me and my time appear clearly insufficient. Yet, I felt the time speak to me – call to me. Having read and attended with all my ability, I went to my professor and told him of my decision to withdraw from school. I told him that I would risk all, even risk being drafted for duty in Vietnam, to see the world and find my place in it. This man, who seemed to hold the world in his large hands, his imposing stature, and his deep, authoritative voice – a true believer in the power and fundamental necessity of education – did not attempt to dissuade me. He was genuinely supportive of the reasoning upon which I based my move outward.

I will be honest. I left school in pursuit of craft. The very word loomed noble and superior to bland consumption. Emphatically, I did not leave for humanism. I never would have dreamed that humanism could, through the twisted witchcraft of modern-day religion, be cast in popular American culture as the most wicked scourge ever to plague mankind. I was humanism through and through. I did not need to pursue it. And there was nothing that could drive it from me. It was the grand gift that had seeped into my pores from the moment that I was born. It was the alpha and omega of my education. It was the beginning and sustenance of my values. And nothing solidified humanism’s hold on me like the benevolent Protestant upbringing in my household that surrounded me since birth. To me, Jesus was humanism writ large. He would not stand so pervasively and personally approachable without the ideals, contributions, and sacrifices of humanism, and humanism would not thrive without the model and teachings of Jesus.

Consistent with my practice of posting manuscripts related to the Middle Ages, I have attached essays pertaining to my exploration of the Renaissance.

The mighty figures and events of the Renaissance would mock our petty conceits. And we justly deride many of theirs. But we easily see ourselves among them. We find their assumptions familiar. Their excesses are recognizably human in our eyes.

The Renaissance in History
Lawyers and Statecraft
Michelangelo
Letter About Machiavelli’s The Prince
Review of Renaissance Letters

(Refer to the key offered in the previous post on dooms to view these learning journals. Read them or ignore them at will.)

When Letters Could Talk

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I treasure letters. I save most personal correspondence I receive. And I try to save drafts of some letters that I send. Fragments of letters encapsulate evidence of the fullness of living. It pains me to imagine chunks of history daily cast away. Still more, it awes me to consider the trillions of stories that were never part of our shared record.

Digital messaging is something we think we cannot live without. I greatly appreciate its speed and convenience. I am grateful that I continue to receive emails – occasionally even containing multiple paragraphs – that approach the detail, color, feeling, and depth of handwritten letters. But they are fewer and fewer. Though I have tried to keep personal email exchanges over for the past twenty years, emails have become more akin to business telegrams than letters. Blogs are really not like letters either, but they can be richer than emails – though less personal. When I write something for what others insist on calling my “blog,” I generally write portions as if they were letters to individuals with whom I am very familiar. Often the messages I send to them in this indirect way are urgent though quiet. Even though I have substantial experience using digital technology for communication, the first time I got a response to a “blog” story from someone I didn’t know, it creeped me out; I felt as if my personal space had been violated in some way. Maybe I am over that to some extent, but in a significant way I am not. I write to people I know. [1]

Despite having little to say most of the time, I endeavor to be both informative and entertaining in my letters. Whether I succeed in achieving either is an open question. I am not a very inventive letter writer in terms of fiction and fantasy, but I am a passable exaggerator.

Recently I found a bundle of letters written in late 1982 and early 1983. They are particularly interesting to me because they illustrate how my wife and I lived before the advent of our son. These paragraphs that you are reading are a sidewinding preface to selected parts of three of those letters.

There is an incident – not mentioned in the letters – that links the first two recipients. It happened as a close friend, my wife, and I leisurely drove back to Nashville from Boston. My wife and I were returning home after travel north to briefly visit our friend. His girlfriend’s parents lived near the water’s edge of eastern Long Island. We had only just met her days before in Boston, and she had returned to her parent’s comfortable house for an extended summer stay. She and her parents put the three of us up for a night to help relieve our drive south.

My friend had a mischievous streak and was a studied deceiver. He delighted in the discomfort of others, especially familiars. As we were driving across Long Island, he casually mentioned, as if it were a slip of his tongue, that his girlfriend’s brother had deep-rooted psychological problems and had recently been found wandering, if not stalking, the beach holding an ax. When we arrived, we met her friendly family, and while we were on the beach, we ran across her younger brother. He did indeed act peculiarly. After dinner and a beach walk, my wife and I returned to our guest accommodations in the basement of the house. The brother’s bedroom was a small side room off of the main basement room, separated only by a flimsy, hollow-core interior door. From the stairwell he had to walk across the room about ten feet from the foot of our double bed to get to his room. That night, after we got in bed, turned out the lights, and began to nod off, he returned home and walked a little too noisily to his room and shut the door. The light remained on for the entire night, and there was occasional shuffling in the room, accented by periodic human utterances. My eyes and ears were alert all that night. I had one of the most fitful sleeps ever, continually glancing at that door with the light seeping from the inch-wide crack at the bottom, listening for signs of imminent attack. We had been warned by our friend not to mention the brother’s condition; so as thoroughly polite and grateful guests, we issued not a hint, before or after our evening, about our planted suspicions, though craving all the while confirmation or denial of our friend’s darkly sketched story. The next day, our friend reluctantly and “innocently” confessed his tale, after hearing of my restless sleep and seeing my haggard eyes. His girlfriend was not amused by his trick or our long-suffering discomfort.

Letter writing and friendship are similar to that story. It’s difficult to sort what is fact from embellishment. Often we don’t really want to know the absolute truth because it would ruin the experience. If we demand only truth and facts, there might be no story – nor life – to speak of.

FOOTNOTE:

1. Since its inception, TennesseeSoul Mate has not been open to external search engines. That polite curtain of modesty is a cellophane barrier I have been unwilling to lift. Thus, though it is open to whoever stumbles upon it, the TennesseeSoul Mate portion of the TennesseeSoul network possesses an imaginary privacy. Otherwise, TennesseeSoul overall is strongly shielded by obscurity, general lack of interest, and too much other stuff to do.

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Entirely Myself

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There is ever unfinished business.

Uncertainty is a nagging demon, inflaming doubt, tempting inaction. Calm determination and experience give us the tools to weigh importance. They give us steady balance and courage to step from shadows, beyond the captivating flatness of certainty, to practice and play in our given fields – the ones we inherit, the ones we earn. They give us the sense to discern when to venture out, when to stay home.

Never so foolish as when ever safe, never so damned as when never tied.

There are ever matters to finish – until there are no matters at all.

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Gray Claws

No thing reveals the fate of a nation more than the plight of its old. In America, at the dawn of the 21st century, people who sought expansion of personal horizons and independence are suddenly finding themselves confined and utterly dependent.

Doubling the trouble is the tendency of the utterly feeble to rely on the decrepit twin highwaymen of our political system – to wit, the Republican Party and its bastard sibling, the Tea Party – to cling to privilege and to restore a lost golden age that never was. This is not to say that the Democratic Party lacks its own deficiencies. But at least the Democratic Party contains the diversity of microbes necessary to digest change and excrete failure through the natural family processes of internal bickering, back-stabbing, inheritance hunting, and deathbed watching.

Through all the bitterness over the Affordable Care Act, I was guilty of not being sufficiently livid at the obstructionists who spent untold effort trying to prevent, overturn, repeal, slander, and otherwise block implementation of health reform. That is until I witnessed first-hand the desperation of the old and uninsured who need good information and more rational and fair health insurance coverage. To the dimwits who fought the Affordable Care Act tooth and nail with every underhanded deceit known to man, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart for calling it Obamacare. You have insured that one of the most significant advancements in health services in this country will be forever linked with the president whom you refused to give a chance and the Democratic Party, which sacrificed much to hold the tiller firmly during a gale of lies, whining, privilege-seeking, and self-indulgence. May you not suffer in your old age as you would have others suffer.

The old – and that bracket includes baby boomers – don’t have much to fall back on in terms of the children next in line: many of our children are lost in cyberspace and consumed by their own selfish concerns and presumptions of superiority. And, too, progeny in every developed country are but one Internet or electrical-grid failure away from complete helplessness themselves.

It is assumed by those who wish it so that the old will whimper, rollover, and die. An alternative plan on the political right and left is for the old to claw back in elder rage and irrationality that further dooms the long view and the arduous climb out of the hole we have dug for ourselves.

There is another way, as usual. The old can accept their duty to mentor and pass the baton responsibly to another generation. They might delay retirement but be ready to step aside and let jobs go to the young who need to start their overdue careers. They might vote and speak as if they acquired common sense over their many years of prosperous existence. The young can accept greater responsibility and maintain sensible engagement in politics and the lives of the old.

Never has it been so apparent how maturing Americans have inched themselves, and our society, out on a flimsy limb far away from practical community. It is not the fault of this generation of elderly or the past one. It is not the fault of evolving youth culture, either. That is except where the habits and culture of each generation have fused seamlessly and energetically with the unbridled consumerism of the past century and a half and neglected the future.

The most giving and creative society can indeed simultaneously be the most selfish and shortsighted. Too tired to try, the old fall back on bitching and recliners. Though high time for generational change, few new friends of mankind stand out: no figure, no group, no ideology, no method leaps to mind to make our evolutionary path easier or surer.

One cannot hear the sounds of the environment with embedded ear buds. One cannot see one’s surroundings in the illumination of a hand-held device. One cannot connect when constantly plugged in and tuned out. Neither can the old hear, see, or connect from the cave of their dens, strangers to the Internet, immobile, and steeped in denial until it is too late.

No external solutions exist, only the basic everyday ones. The momentum is with each household and tribe pursuing its daily survival. That is how we have gotten by for centuries. That is how we will rise or fail together – one by one.

Precipitously, our old fall off the playing field. Nothing changes – except that the wisdom of the ages is diminished in a steady dribble. Forgetting is what we do best. It is what we do worst. The brittle gray claws of the old crumble and break. And the spaces left when they decamp are beyond filling.

Fathers and Guns

Patricia Waters launched a blog this summer called Green Roots TN. It was originally aimed at a particular environmental concern: fracking on property managed by the University of Tennessee. Very soon she branched out to address a multitude of her interests in the full panoply of her persuasive powers. At the end of her first month as a blogger, she posted a copy of a letter she sent to her local newspaper editor regarding a Tea Party member’s “full editorial page rant against” a friend’s letter to the editor about gun violence. Her letter is well worth the read. Here is a link to her letter. Below the link, I have posted a response to her essay.

http://greenrootstn.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/the-western-and-gun-violence/

Continuity and conservation versus “hell no” and gunpowder – only one side seems interested in asking fundamental questions. Patricia’s letter on guns in our culture is a terrific read. The passions rooted in Tennessee, American history and popular culture, and ancient antecedents drive home the insidiousness and pathetic pettiness of Tea Party misdirection and flippancy.

But Patricia, in her erudite, lucid, principled, and personal argument, does not tell the full story as it relates to true conservatism – what relates to our heritage, our fathers, and our real lives. I know that her story has a deep connection to her father and his love of Western fiction – and his intense patriotism as a World War II B-29 flight engineer (20th Air Force, 313 Bomb Wing, 505 Bomb Group) who served in the Pacific Theater (North Field, Tinian, in the Northern Mariana Islands). Though he had two hunting rifles and a shotgun, he did not possess a functioning handgun until late in life when he was living on his own after his wife passed away.

My father-in-law was a bomber pilot in the Pacific in World War II and had a full rack of rifles and shotguns for his entire adult life. He was a Ross Perot Republican, yet he did not possess a handgun after the war. He would have been appalled at the liberality of gun laws in Tennessee and across the country today. He thought movies were a complete waste of time. For him a real man read and worked to support his family and settled his differences with his arms and hands (not a gun) only if all reasonable alternatives had failed.

My father was a hunter in his youth and a Tennessee lawmaker who thought government very useful in building highways and schools. He never renounced guns, but they were never a visible or important part of family life. He instilled in me a love of the old movies that we shared together and the values they imparted. He modeled respect for learning and guided my initiation into retail politics and civil activism.

The ways of the Tea Party are not just an affront to our fathers and their legacy, they are an affront to conservatism. They reject the civil behavior represented by our fathers and for which they honorably struggled. Tea Party ways are intended to be a rejection of our primary legacy in a cynical ploy to gain political power for a wealthy few.

Tea Party intransigence, though considered a convenient tactic by its exponents and controllers, is not merely ignorant and clownish: it is profoundly immoral. Calculated immorality at an empowered level is intended to shatter reason and order so as to subject others – not to law but to the will of the powerful. Certainly there are large numbers of Tea Party followers who are genuine – and genuinely manipulated by bankrollers who care not a fig for their general welfare. (These same bankrollers are sponsoring advertisements urging young people not to buy health insurance.) Some undoubtedly think they are being funny, just getting a rising out of mainstream people (and many in mainstream too quickly take the bait, pursuing gab instead of effective concerted action). At worst they are the most pernicious kind of evil: the evil that seems normal but perpetrates the kind of scorched-earth policies that Patricia cited as evident in latter-day classic movies. This is perhaps an evil with global dimensions and permanent consequences for life on earth.

There is much tongue-wagging and screaming about the threat of our national government. But like Oliver Goldsmith, if there will be tyrants, I prefer my tyrants to be far away, not in my local and state government. National government has to accommodate a multitude of powers and interests under great scrutiny with significant checks and balances. Local governments are not so naturally constrained.

Do-nothings or evildoers in politics get away with it because liberals and centrists and real conservatives can’t be bothered with stopping nonsense at the polls, at the courthouse, at the legislature, at the TV set, at the checkout counter. Our elusive hope is that some hero will step forward and fix it for us, like in the Westerns, or that in time the jokers will overplay their hands and bring on their own demise. So, it’s high noon and the town’s folk have scattered for cover. But the Gary Cooper and John Wayne types are no where in sight, except for Patricia, who is packing two holsters chock full of legacy and literacy and the skill and guts to use them against lunacy masquerading as law in the clear light of day.

Raising Ruins

Patterns from a Rooftop: Chapter 5

Hovering over a pool of one’s bright red blood, in the dead of night, gives one pause. Freshly oxygenated blood from the lungs is a strangely beautiful sight – and a surreal experience. But it does focus the mind on fundamentals.

When I undertook extensive foreign travel as a young man, I did not know what I was looking for. But most assuredly, I was seeking something. My long journey came on the heels of shocking personal experiences related to health, giving rise to legitimate questions about my prospects for the future. Essentially, I was looking for an acceptable direction for my life, having given up on the path of more education in exchange for an open search elsewhere in more Romantic climes.

In Guatemala, in late spring of 1973, I discovered a path home. In fact, the discovery was home. What started in Europe and wound a circuitous, uneasy route through Mexico and Belize, started to emerge as an answer in the jungle of Tikal. The vision was crystallized at Lake Atitlan, and decisive action was begun while sitting on a bench in the middle of the afternoon in Antigua.

Suddenly, there the answer was before my mind’s eye. Like most revelations, it had been there in front of my face all along, but I had failed to see it in all its glory and detail. I think that observing the daily lives of the Mayans of Guatemala helped guide my way.

Tennessee beckoned as it never had before. A person dominated my thoughts who had not been quite so prominent before. All the pieces of the puzzle were visible. But it would take two more years to see if and how they might fit together.

NOTE: I have not repeated the overview of how TennesseeSoul works with TennesseeSoul Mate since the latter’s inception. It might be worth repeating now, as I sense there may be some misunderstanding. TennesseeSoul Mate is the jumping off place for long-time readers of TennesseeSoul. I send out a link to an introduction and at the end of the introduction is a link to an entirely different website where the full story might be found. In the story, there is a link to the introduction, referred to as the Preface, which returns one to TennesseeSoul Mate. At any time, readers (intrepid, friendly explorers really) can view a table of contents for all the stories ever published in TennesseeSoul by clicking on the TennesseeSoul logo on homepage of the main website (TennesseeSoul.com) or the heading Archives on the left sidebar of all other pages. I hope the explanation is not more confusing. It is truly a web and everything goes around, over and through – and eventually connects.

Click here to read this new chapter.

Start the full journey here for the series Patterns from a Rooftop.

Party Crashing a Mission Town
Patterns from a Rooftop: Chapter 1
Read it here.
Preface & Reader Response

Resurrecting Small
Patterns from a Rooftop: Chapter 2
Read it here.
Preface & Reader Response

Drawn to Scale
Patterns from a Rooftop: Chapter 3
Read it here.
Preface & Reader Response

On the Lip of Languor
Patterns from a Rooftop: Chapter 4
Read it here.
Preface & Reader Response

Raising Ruins
Patterns from a Rooftop: Chapter 5
Read it here.
Preface & Reader Response

Epiphany at Atitlan
Patterns from a Rooftop: Chapter 6
Read it here.
Preface & Reader Response

Wheels Up, Trujillo
Patterns from a Rooftop: Chapter 7
Read it here.
Preface & Reader Response

Lyceum Film Theater

Downtown After Dark: Dark No More

Hey, kids, let’s put on a show!

A long run is not always clear from the beginning. For certain, bridging the distance starts, and continues, in small, ordinary steps. But the power of enthusiasm can slow with drudgery and diminishing returns.

Pretense is a powerful force in human affairs. It touches the functioning of friendships, families, social groups, communities – and even nations. One starts out pretending to be a head of household and then a parent. Then one day, others in one’s family enforce one’s provisional assumption of roles by pretending to act as if those roles are genuine and fitting – as if to say that one’s expression of duties conform in some way to conventional standards of behavior acceptable to one’s community.

In such a way, Fronts Street Arts, in Downtown Memphis, pretended to assert local cultural significance. And then gradually, others in the community pretended that in some regard it mattered. I pretended to be an impresario, a general director, a person with novel ideas about Downtown recovery in which average people played a part. Then, a few others, particularly very generous friends, pretended to act their parts in concert with my pretenses. Pretending made it so for a long six-year run for me personally. In the end, that community theater of group make believe was snuffed out by accumulated drudgery and divergent interests: new pretenses arose and were applied elsewhere.

Baby Boomers have a reputation as being all for themselves, at least that is what some of the generation wedged between the World War II generation and the Baby Boomers claim – as do those overly repentant Baby Boomers who have let a pendulum of irrationality swing wildly to the right. But Baby Boomers had a curious way of wrapping some kind of community or passionate political involvement into their self-interests. For thirty years, some of us have clearly not been as vigorously attached as before, but many Baby Boomers did act in their twenties. And some exemplary few continued to draw and maintain a consistent line of connection between their self-interests and the public interest.

A child of Baby Boomers might well ask himself, What might I do to enrich the public arena in ways that suit my self-interests and capabilities? Aside from commitments to professional public service and charity, what can younger generations do to effect change at the level of their own brick-and-mortar communities – the world they actually live in? Local seems, and is, so small, but it is everything in the aggregate. And nothing much happens for good locally without personal initiative and inventive group coordination and passion.

In movies and books, I cannot abide an otherwise good story that resolves itself with gunshots or an explosion. Those are cheap shots that do not build and do not satisfy: they change nothing for the better – they are a manufactured stop rather than a fruitful pretense forward. Contrary to rightist mythology, it is not the gun that is the great equalizer of mankind: it is creativity. That creativity can stand in solitary surroundings, but even on its own it tips the balance in favor of community good. Creativity is the thunderous sound that requires no ears to hear it. It is the blood pulsing through our veins. Creative individuals are the building blocks of community whether they like it or not. If they share their fire with others in common cause, concerted acts redound positively to posterity. Though these pretenses may end, perhaps in drudgery and diminishing returns – more often than not, they are much better stories than those that lead to gunshots and explosions.

Read the story of Lyceum Film Theater here.

Uncommon Companions

With my joy theme in a previous essay, I sought to stake ground on religion from a reasoned position before life events dispose me not to. One might ask – if one is unplugged – “Why all the uncomfortable religious stuff in the middle of a festive holiday season?”

To enumerate a few reasons, I start with three selfish ones: First, on the off chance that others sometimes feel like life is formless or in disarray, I elect to explain my way out of the primordial soup to discover adaptive insights. Second, I need to stake more cheerful ground now before age dispossesses me of the ability to get my spirits up; I try to lock myself into an upbeat posture. Third, I need to state my sense of being in the cosmos quickly before my mind turns to mush: that point where one might remember sometime but have difficulty distinguishing whether it happened or not, and when. And if one does momentarily straighten it out mentally, one can’t retain it in memory for over an hour before other thoughts wash it off the field of attention. (If you don’t know what I am talking about, just wait, you aren’t old enough yet to sense your mind go soft – where images are vividly recalled but not well placed in context or historical fact.)

The whole endeavor of religious exposition, from my point of view, is a metaphysical exploration of the universe using a tiny brain. In the case of my own mind, you cannot grasp – assuming you are inclined to try – its world unless you take on the dimly lit philosophical factory that keeps churning around the clock. A dialogue is just that: more than one side talking. But if I am the only body participating in the exercise, I have got to fully reveal my divided thinking on subjects. But answers are elusive and never as one-sided as one word, one phrase, one complete sentence – or one brain.

There is another reason, too, for continuing a pattern of pursuing unusual discussion in an unconventional way. Published eccentricity has its advantages. Chief among them is privacy in plain view. When one broaches taboo subjects in responsible speech, barriers dissolve and expression expands.

In the past twenty years or so, religion has insinuated itself again, sometimes negatively and belligerently, into the politics of public policy. The disappointment of the past election – to some – should inform the religious and the non-religious alike that this is a time for changed dialogue about religion and its place in a modern Western society. The religious need to see more clearly how good non-church-going people view religion as it is now expressed. And non-religious participants in society need to stretch beyond their comfort zones, and intellectual self-satisfaction, to see how religious views and customs enrich individual lives and civil society.

There is a significant role for religion in public life. For instance, during the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, it was not an intimate knowledge of history or a close reading of the Constitution that moved many toward expanded rights for minorities. But rather it was the impulses of religious upbringing – perhaps fortified by adolescent hormones – that shaped and nourished passions and fortified certainty in the rightness of a cause aimed at more personal freedom of action, fuller political participation, and heightened standards of social responsibility.

A fresh discussion reaches down into basic understanding of where religious and non-religious views touch philosophy and fundamental properties of human existence. That’s why now! There is vast meeting ground but low attendance in the revival of such dialogue. I am convinced that these great questions still pull at modern people who think. They will gnaw at us until we perish – all the while supplying inspiration and guidance.

But wait! There is much, much more to the story. I neglected to mention our invisible friends – other interlocutors whom we can enlist in our personal deliberations.

Read it here.