Steelman Presents Aging Video

Here is the flyer from Red Bank Humanists promoting the presentation of the aging video I created . . .”with the help of my friends.” I blogged about it last May. If you haven’t seen it, come to the RBH Forum and put in your own two cents, or watch it here:

AGING VIDEO

PS – That picture is when I still had a little hair:)

RBH_Flyer

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A REAL HUMANIST

A REAL HUMANIST
by Ron Steelman

* ( Languishing in my Drafts folder since July 29, 2018)

 

I love NPR (National Public Radio, listening primarily through WNYC in NYC, where I am a sustaining member)! I heard this on the radio yesterday and wanted to share it because it is a living example of the Secular Humanist philosophy (although I have no idea if Mr. Il Soo Choi is a Secular Humanist).

 

From NPR’s “Weekend Edition – Saturday” – July 28, 2018 

Segment Title:  “A Postman Signs Off”

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Il Soo Choi retired this week after 22 years carrying letters, magazines, catalogs and packages to 643 addresses on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. He’s an immigrant from South Korea. His wife has worked in nail salons. Their daughter is a minister. The postman left a note in the mailboxes of the people along his route this week as reported by The Wall Street Journal. It is a kind of hymn to New York.

Interacting with people of various ethnicities, cultures and religious backgrounds, I’ve gained a love, respect and appreciation for humanity, Il Soo Choi wrote. I’ve encountered a billionaire, a TV anchor, a foreign diplomat, countless doctors and professors. I’ve interacted with both the wealthy and the poor working in Manhattan. The homeless lady, who used to sit by the Vietnamese restaurant, was both a friend and mentor. I believe that we can learn a great deal about ourselves in life when we open up to the world around us in this land, in this city. I’ve learned and gained so much by encountering each of you. It has been a privilege to serve as your mailman.

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

LISTEN TO IT HERE

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I COULD GO ON FOREVER (Video)

I COULD GO ON FOREVER (Ask me what time it is) (VIDEO)
by Ron Steelman
May 9, 2018

Below is a video I made to discuss the wit and wisdom of aging. AKA: “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” I interviewed six “Old” friends who are all members of Red Bank Humanists, an organization I founded in New Jersey in 2003. I edited the several hours of video we shot at our kitchen table, down to 33-minutes. There were so many fascinating comments from which to choose. However, my goal was to keep the overall length under 35-minutes. It was a real struggle to eliminate so many of the insightful answers to my 26 questions, yet this allowed me to end up with the best of the best.

“WHY?!” you may ask, did Steelman ask these folks all these questions?

My goal was to see if what my friends had to say might be useful to others struggling with/or worried about aging. I hoped it might appeal to all “humans,” including the old, middle-aged, or even younger people just starting their journey through life. I think the wit and wisdom shared here gives honest answers to some difficult, universal  questions. We made a montage of their quick answers, making sure we had lots of wit to go along with the wisdom. Most importantly, we think their answers are entertaining!

Get a cup of coffee. Sit back and relax. We hope you enjoy our kitchen-table video:

 

 

Happy to report a good review from the American Humanist Association
in Washington, DC.

Thanks Ron! This is really cool, fun, and nicely edited!

I’m copying a few folks since I see this as having value for multiple purposes. Not only might it be used on social media and possibly our ezine, framed so folks know what it’s about, but I also see it as something we should save in our Humanist Heritage program where we save histories of active humanists in order to capture our history, our evolution of humanism, and make material available for future research and discovery.  
-Roy

 


Roy Speckhardt
Executive Director
American Humanist Association

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What Humanists Espouse

WHAT HUMANISTS ESPOUSE
By Ron Steelman

Humanist pc Front Final web

If you want to know what secular humanism is all about, simply read two short documents below.

The message in these two documents is pretty much the same, but stated in slightly different ways.  The “Affirmations/Principles” document below, from the Council for Secular Humanism, is the first piece about Humanism I read back in 2001. When I finished reading it, I stood up and saluted. These were positions I had been thinking about for a long time.

For years I had gone off searching for a set of morals and values that were not connected to any brand of theology. vitruvian-man-leonardo-da-vinciAnd yet, I wanted a connection to something larger than myself. And what I found here on these pages was a name for that connection: Humanism.  I just didn’t know there was a name for it. I had heard about Renaissance humanism, but didn’t know how it had evolved in our modern era. There it was and it contained every aspect of the type of philosophy I could support.

I am a member of the Council For Secular Humanism (CFI)  and the American Humanist Association.

If you haven’t read these before, please let me know what you think of them in the comments.


From the Council For Secular Humanism
3106964_origNow a program of the Center For Inquiry 

Affirmations of Humanism – A Statement of Principles
Drafted by Paul Kurtz

  • We are committed to the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems.
  • We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence, to seek to explain the world in supernatural terms, and to look outside nature for salvation.
  • We believe that scientific discovery and technology can contribute to the betterment of human life.
  • We believe in an open and pluralistic society and that democracy is the best guarantee of protecting human rights from authoritarian elites and repressive majorities.
  • We are committed to the principle of the separation of church and state.
  • We cultivate the arts of negotiation and compromise as a means of resolving differences and achieving mutual understanding.
  • We are concerned with securing justice and fairness in society and with eliminating discrimination and intolerance.
  • We believe in supporting the disadvantaged and the handicapped so that they will be able to help themselves.
  • We attempt to transcend divisive parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, nationality, creed, class, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, and strive to work together for the common good of humanity.
  • We want to protect and enhance the earth, to preserve it for future generations, and to avoid inflicting needless suffering on other species.
  • We believe in enjoying life here and now and in developing our creative talents to their fullest.
  • We believe in the cultivation of moral excellence.
  • We respect the right to privacy. Mature adults should be allowed to fulfill their aspirations, to express their sexual preferences, to exercise reproductive freedom, to have access to comprehensive and informed health-care, and to die with dignity.
  • We believe in the common moral decencies: altruism, integrity, honesty, truthfulness, responsibility. Humanist ethics is amenable to critical, rational guidance. There are normative standards that we discover together. Moral principles are tested by their consequences.
  • We are deeply concerned with the moral education of our children. We want to nourish reason and compassion.
  • We are engaged by the arts no less than by the sciences.
  • We are citizens of the universe and are excited by discoveries still to be made in the cosmos.
  • We are skeptical of untested claims to knowledge, and we are open to novel ideas and seek new departures in our thinking.
  • We affirm humanism as a realistic alternative to theologies of despair and ideologies of violence and as a source of rich personal significance and genuine satisfaction in the service to others.
  • We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality.
  • We believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings.

From American Humanist Association 
“This is not what we must believe but a consensus of what we do believe.”
220px-Official_AHA_logo

Humanism and Its Aspirations: Humanist Manifesto III, a Successor to the Humanist Manifesto of 1933

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

The lifestance of Humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance.

This document is part of an ongoing effort to manifest in clear and positive terms the conceptual boundaries of Humanism, not what we must believe but a consensus of what we do believe. It is in this sense that we affirm the following:

Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.

Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.

Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.

Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.

Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.

Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.

Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.

Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.


Humanist Manifesto is a trademark of the American Humanist Association
© 2003 American Humanist Association

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DESTINY IS A DIRTY WORD

Destiny
“DESTINY” IS A DIRTY WORD
a rant by Ron Steelman, © 2005, 2010
Written for and Performed at the Red Bank Humanists Forum
(read loud, fast, & faux angry)

Destiny is such a small word, and yet it causes so much trouble. Recently I’ve been pondering its insidiousness. Why does it keep forcing its way into my thoughts from a dozen different directions? From where does it come? Who is responsible for it? And how can I keep its promise from becoming a foregone conclusion, which, as the dictionary says, is “a conclusion formed in advance of argument or consideration?” Is my life simply a fait accompli, an open and shut case, a done deal, a fact of life, a grim reality, an irreversible act, a matter of fact? I DON’T THINK SO!

It’s always good to begin with a definition. What does it say about “destiny” in the dictionary? I’ll tell you. It’s the “inevitable or necessary fate to which a particular person or thing is destined; one’s LOT.” Then, more importantly, it goes on to clarify: “a predetermined course of events considered as something beyond human power or control.” And finally, “Destiny: the power or agency thought to predetermine events.” Wait a minute. Who is it, exactly, that’s got the power? “Or Agency?” Agency? Could it be the IRS?

This hideous (dripping with sarcasm) “destiny concept”. . .forces itself into our lives and is reinforced in phrases that we use in everyday conversation:

The-Three-Fates

The Three Fates – Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropo

* A man dies. What do we say, “I guess his number was up.” Or, “It was meant to be.” Or, “His time had come.” And so we shrug and say, “That’s his fate.” His fate?! Look it up! Are you saying the man dropped dead because of three half naked Greek Goddesses named Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos? It must have been some party, huh! I don’t buy it.

* A little boy grows up to become a brilliant concert pianist and the mother says, “He was born to be a concert pianist.” Now there she’s half right because we know that a good portion of his talent came from his genes, from all of his ancestors boiled down into him. But the other part of his brilliance didn’t come from DESTINY, it came from a lot of hard work on his part. And then she really ruins it by saying, “what a wonderful God-given talent.” No, he got his talent from his parents and from years of practice.

* An infant dies of a rare disease. People say, “It was for the best.” Or, “There has to be a good reason. We just don’t know what it is. In time, it will be revealed to us.” SORRY, when an infant dies, it’s a tragedy, pure and simple. Of course, we need to find a way to cope with our loss, but pretending that a supernatural deity did it on purpose and is then making us guess why…is just the (sing-songy) SILLIEST THING! …and I cleaned that up!

* Your house burns down. Your friend says, “It’s part of a larger plan.” Right. It was arson.

* And of course with the hurricane Katrina tragedy, I already heard on the radio that religious fanatics are claiming that the devastation along the Gulf Coast was a punishment by God for the sinful ways of all those people.

Ifh2g4ES

Zeus

Plan, schman!? That is not only crazy, but incredibly stupid. All these clichés are the residual effect of thousands of years of primitive superstitions and religious make-believe. Of course it’s human nature to try to explain things you don’t understand. But, come on…it’s the 21st Century. Even if we can’t explain everything, why do we have to hold on to this ancient fantasy of an all powerful Zeus somewhere up there on a mountaintop controlling everything we do? We’re so pathetic. Why don’t we just perpetuate belief in the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and angels? Oops…we do.

Unfortunately, the concept of destiny is everywhere. And it’s sneaky. Destiny is like an evangelist in sheep’s clothing. Propaganda, pure and simple. It’s everything I reject. It’s antithetical to my philosophy of life. Yet I can’t get away from it. I have to deal with it every day. People want to talk about fate, about horoscopes, about karma, or past lives. 

As a Humanist, a freethinker, the first thing I must do is THINK. OK, so after countless cups of coffee I achieved my target heart rate for the day, and I concluded that there are two reasons humans hold onto destiny with such a death grip. The first reason has to be EGO! Here’s a quote from The Happy Heretic, Judith Hayes. It’s from a piece she wrote entitled “Body and Soul”: “The human soul. It is invisible. Undetectable by any human means… But the majority of the human population nevertheless is convinced that it exists. They believe there is such a thing as the human “soul.”…we don’t want to be just like all other animals…who simply die. Who wants to stay dead? Surely we are far more important than other animals. Surely we are connected somehow to the eternal Cosmos. Surely we have a “soul.”…The human ego knows few bounds. My, we’re important!”

The idea of Destiny is PURE EGO. Our ginormous egos tell us we’re so important that there’s a god up there somewhere so concerned about ME that he took the time to make a specific life-plan with my name on it. And the plan is called my “destiny.” I guess I rate pretty high in his book, huh? It’s true. “The human ego knows few bounds.”

And the second reason we love the whole destiny trip is because if our destiny is written somewhere, we think we have to go find out what it is. So how do we find out what our destiny is?! We have to go on a SPIRITUAL QUEST.

06maharishi.600.1

The Beatles with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

There’s this romantic notion from the 60’s & 70’s that there are many ways to find your spiritual center. After all, the Beatles tried several different ways. Oh, pa-lease! “Spiritual.” What does THAT word mean? Just look it up. Here ya go; right out of the Dictionary…

(italics are my own comments):
Spiritual:

1. having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material. (we can’t prove it exists)
2. concerned with, or affecting the soul. (something we don’t have)
3. relating to God; deific. (I don’t believe in deities)
4. belonging to a church or religion; sacred. (I don’t believe in churches or religions)
5. having the nature of spirits or a spirit; supernatural (I don’t believe in the supernatural)

(yelling up at the heavens) Can we have some SCIENCE, PLEASE! Science was invented some time ago now, you know. Cause and effect have been written about and studied in every high school, college, and university. Shouldn’t science have eliminated this supernatural canker, Destiny? By now it should be gone, but it isn’t.

The destiny concept is actually so deeply embedded in our culture…that. . .(loudly and creepy like a soothsayer “It may take a Humanist exorcism to save us…”

(step toward the audience, making a mock Humanist blessing gesture [there is no such thing] and sprinkle some water on a volunteer helper [it’s just fun to get them wet].)

And now the ritual sayings:

I summon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi:
We achieve everything by our efforts alone. Our fate is not decided by an almighty God. We decide our own fate by our actions. You have to gain mastery over yourself… It is not a matter of sitting back and accepting.

I summon Franklin D. Roosevelt:
Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.

I summon John F. Kennedy:
Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

I summon William Jennings Bryan:
Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.

Hmmm….. “destiny is a thing for me to achieve.”

(exorcism over)  I feel better already.

I suggest the way to find a “spiritual center” without the mythical spirit is to explore our human nature, the beauty of human art and music, the discoveries of science, and the wonders of our natural world. They fill you up inside. They offer the inspiration, awe, joy, and solace that we’re looking for in our quest for a spiritual life. Humanists have such a fantastic life right in front of us, without relying on mythical deities to supply it for us. It’s right here. Enjoy it.

Luckily, my spiritual quest led me to Humanism. And I am inspired by it principles. For those who say, “Well, if you don’t believe in God, then you don’t believe in anything,” they need to be laughed at. They need to be told “Humanists believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings.”

We need to share our values with them: “We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, and compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality.”

These Humanist concepts were not given to us by an outside force. We had these good ideas within us. We humans don’t need the threat of punishment to do good. We know right and wrong when we see it. We don’t need the promise of an afterlife to be good. The point is to do good now, not because we get a prize later, but because it’s the right thing to do. We’re smart enough and fully capable of being good…and doing good…simply by exploring the good side of our human nature.

I don’t believe in ancient superstitions. The words “destiny” or “fate” are dirty little words because they lead us down a path away from our responsibility to be “the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings.”

I have promised myself that I will attempt to refrain from uttering all clichés related to the concepts of destiny or fate, and that, when necessary and appropriate, I will share the Humanist point of view with others.

I was not born a Humanist. I did not have Humanism thrust upon me. I chose to achieve the best that I’m capable of as a human being. . .all by myself.

Promise never to say the word “destiny” or we’ll just have to wash your mouth out with soap!

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HOPE REVISITED

(Today I saw a FB post about an interview with Leonard Bernstein. In it, it made clear Bernstein’s feeling that hope is the best weapon to conquer cynicism. It reminded me of my post from five years ago. Perhaps you missed it. I like it because it reminds me of my mother.)

HOPE
by Ron Steelman

Sometimes life can wear you out, beat you up, and leave you sittin’ by the side of the road. You’re down in the dumps. You’re wonderin’ just how you’re gonna keep smilin’ and where you’re gonna find the will to stand up, dust yourself off and get back on that road again. But right then, somethin’ unexpected happens. Somethin’ you never contemplated happens right on cue. That’s right. It starts to pour down rain! wile-e-coyoteSo now you’re sittin’ there in the mud. Oh, thank you, big machine of random cosmic timing. I think we’ve all been there at one time or another, feeling like life couldn’t get any worse. At times like this you just want to roll up into a little ball and crawl under a rock.

In honor of my mother I’ve always tried to be an optimist. She woke up every day with enough cockeyed optimism to give everyone in our family a double dose to start out the day. We all laughed at her dogged determination to create a happy little party, but every morning she distracted us from our worries, coaxed smiles onto our faces. I want my Mommy now!

Getting older though has taken a toll on my optimism, especially given all the things we’ve lived through in recent years. So many people and events in our world have left me somewhat discouraged. At times I feel like I’m teetering on the abyss of cynicism. I really don’t want to become a cynic, though. Cynicism is so cheap and easy. One simply has to be negative and snide about everything. I will continue to be a skeptic, just not a cynic — for believing that selfishness is the only thing that motivates human actions does not sync with my philosophy of life.

Luckily, in my quest to find something to hang on to, something between cockeyed optimism and cynicism, I discovered HOPE.

Vaclav Havel

In 1989 Vaclav Havel, writer and dramatist and the first President of the Czech Republic, wrote: “Hope is an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced. . . Hope is not the willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but, rather, an ability to work for something because it is good. Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

I think I understand now why hope is one of the three themes of the new Humanist holiday, HumanLight: reason, compassion, and hope. Hope gives us a clearer perspective on reason, and it certainly informs our commitment to compassion. I do love my Mother’s cockeyed optimism, yet I think it’s time now for a more mature hopefulness. I am focusing my hope on the goal of Humanism, which is to “lead an ethical life that aspires to the greater good of humanity.” That’s the kind of thing that’s worth hoping for, because as Mr. Havel said, it “. . .makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

So the next time you’re sittin’ there in the mud, I hope you can summon the hope you need to pick yourself up and get on down that road.

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(originally published for the HumanLight essay contest, December, 2009)