What I Said About What They Said

What I Said About What They Said
by Ron Steelman
2-2-19

I have loved quotes since I was 15 years old. My favorite quotation book from that time is still on my bookshelf with my favorites underlined. When I read a good quote I save it in my “keeper file” hoping to find a good place to work it into a piece I’m writing. But I’ve got so many now, it popped into my brain that I could simply use my current batch of quotes all in one blog post, annotating along the way with some of the Affirmations/Principles of Humanism. I can do this because I have a very large. . .artistic license. So here goes. . . 


Paula Poundstone 3rd cd cover“I’m an atheist. The good news about atheists is that we have no mandate to convert anyone. So you’ll never find me on your doorstep on a Saturday morning with a big smile, saying, ‘Just stopped by to tell you there is no word. I brought along this little blank book I was hoping you could take a look at.’ ”
      —Paula Poundstone, There’s Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say, 2006.

I always say the same thing at this point. Yes, I’m an atheist, but more importantly, I’m a Secular Humanist. I don’t go door to door proselytizing, but I’m happy to explore Humanism with anyone who stumbles onto my blog. Welcome!


winnie-e1472495518630“The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbelief—call it what you will—than any book ever written; it has emptied more churches than all the counter-attractions of cinema, motor bicycle and golf course.”
      —A.A. Milne (creator of Winnie-the-Pooh )

Thousands upon thousands of people have become Humanists because of the Bible. Many other famous writers are atheists. Famous Humanist writers include Kurt Vonnegut, Joyce Carol Oates, and Alice Walker. Also many composers, who ironically had to write “sacred” music for the church in order to make a living, were atheists:  Brahms, Verdi, Vaughn Williams, Camille Saint-Saëns, Rimsky-Korsakov, Dimitri Shostakovich, Richard Wagner, Tchaikovsky, and on and on.


Alice_Walker“I understood at a very early age that in nature, I felt everything I should feel in church but never did. Walking in the woods, I felt in touch with the universe and with the spirit of the universe.”
– Alice Walker

For many years I hiked in the mountains with my wife and my good friend Rick.  It was better than church. And we were allowed to talk if we wanted! Although most of the time we were just there, quietly sensing our little place on those mountains and on this big earth. We were in awe of the mountains and the sky. And for four years in the 1980’s when we were able to sail on Long Island Sound, the power of the wind to move our boat through the water was truly a spiritual experience.


Nietzsche“There’s not enough love and goodness in the world to permit giving it away to imaginary beings.”
          – Nietzsche

“Humanists are committed to the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems.” I haven’t had an imaginary friend since I was five.  These days I try to be ‘Good Without God’ and let empathy help direct my goodness to others in the world.


true-friends“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.”
–  Lucius Annaeus Seneca
I’ve always said that my oldest friends were the best, but with my new friends from my Humanist group, I feel we try harder to understand each other. And in turn that has led to some beautiful, true friendships.


large_rec-201701251556“Things are never quite as scary when you’ve got a best friend.” –  Bill Watterson

Yes, Bill Watterson drew that cartoon, and gave Calvin his imaginary best friend, Hobbes.  I think people loved his cartoons for the humor, but also enjoyed how these two were such good friends.


Not All There robertfrost-copy
“I turned to speak to God

About the world’s despair
But to make bad matters worse
I found God wasn’t there.”

A Masque of Mercy
”The kind of Unitarian 
Who having by elimination got 
From many gods to Three, and Three to One, 
Thinks why not taper off to none at all.”
        —Robert Frost

Sometimes poetry can cut to the chase like a surgeon’s knife. It’s true, nothing fails like prayer. . .because there is no God. However, we also think that we Humanists can overcome the world’s despair because,  “We believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings.”  It’s up to us to solve the world’s problems and the God we are waiting for has failed miserably. It’s in our hands and we are the ones who must try.


595px-Ruperthughes“As for those who protest that I am robbing people of the great comfort and consolation they gain from Christianity, I can only say that Christianity includes hell, eternal torture for the vast majority of humanity, for most of your relatives and friends. Christianity includes a devil who is really more powerful than God, and who keeps gathering into his furnaces most of the creatures whom God turns out and for whom he sent his son to the cross in vain. If I could feel that I had robbed anybody of his faith in hell, I should not be ashamed or regretful.”

—— Rupert Hughes, “Why I Quit Going to Church,” 1924

I’ll comment by quoting from another of the Affirmations of Humanism:  “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.”

And finally:

“Humanism is a philosophy of joyous service for the greater good of all humanity, of application of new ideas of scientific progress for the benefit of all.”
– Linus Pauling (Nobel Prize in ChemistryNobel Peace Prize, Humanist of
the Year – 1961)

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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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Encouragement to Keep Living

Encouragement to Keep Living
by Ron Steelman
3-23-18


In my last two posts I highlighted the Principles of Humanism. As an actor, writer, director, and producer, my entire life has been all about creativity. So, it’s probably not a surprise that I have cherry-picked these two Humanist principles out of the list to begin this post:

◊ We believe in enjoying life here and now and in developing our creative talents to their fullest.

◊ We are engaged by the arts no less than by the sciences.



Who Is Austin Kleon?

My musician/artist brother, Scott, introduced me to Austin’s book, “Steal Like An Artist.” But today I’m dying to tell you how much I am enjoying his weekly newsletters. They are packed with many links and comments about art and creativity and books and films and music and, and, and, and. When it arrives I happily find numerous things that intrigue me. 

kleon-200pxx1

Austin Kleon

Kleon is an artist/writer who lives in Austin, Texas. . .in the same neighborhood where that insane terrorist (locally bred) put a number of deadly bombs in places so that people would get killed. He did and they did. Clearly, Kleon and his family are still quite shaken.

The link that caught my eye in Kleon’s newsletter this week was simply the word, “Bach.” I was curious because his newsletters are filled with surprises, so I clicked it to see where it would take me. Taa-Dah! It was his short essay about dealing with all the violence we face in life, and about how the beauty of Bach’s music gives him hope.

Kleon closes with, “Artists like Bach do us the greatest service of any true artist: they give us encouragement to keep living, to keep going.”

I have no idea if Austin is at all religious or even a humanist. That doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that I believe human creativity is in all of us. Austin is extremely creative. Your creativity can manifest itself in many different ways. And this is very important, your creativity is not “a God-given talent.” It is simply a facet of your humanity. It is not magic, and yet it is magical.

At the end of Austin’s essay is a video with pianist James Rhodes that you must watch. I almost quit right after the music, but you mustn’t do that. Rhodes gives a little pitch saying that you too can learn to play Bach. He also describes the beauty of Bach’s music, why it is so beautiful, and why it makes him so happy. And it worked. Bach and Rhodes made me happy as well.

Austin Kleon’s “Prelude”

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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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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)

MY FAVORITE CIVIL WAR MONUMENTS

I see so many excellent graphics, articles and videos on Facebook, many of which have to do with morals and ethics. One of the reasons I’m a Humanist is to study the human condition and continue to learn how to be “Good Without God.”

Unfortunately, our morally bankrupt President is incapable of conforming to the rules of right conduct. Daily he flaunts his illegal and immoral behavior.

I saw this eloquent tweet displayed on FB and I thought that it brings us all back to the moral humanistic power of our wonderful U.S. Constitution:

Tweet

We must be proud of these, protect them, and make sure they’re honored completely, regardless of the political party in power. Here they are for quick reference (Via Wikipedia with links):

– 13th Amendment, 1865 –

Abolishes slavery, and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for
a crime.

– 14th Amendment, 1866 –

Defines citizenship, contains the Privileges or Immunities Clause, the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and deals with post–Civil War issues.

– 15th Amendment, 1869 –

Prohibits the denial of the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude.


( I’m new to Facebook. I avoided it until recently. It’s a habit-forming drug. It’s so hard to turn the damn thing off.  
Given the news these days, I need a fix every hour. If you have a technique for turning down FB, please let me know, or make a comment. )

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