Web Log

Here members may post (through B G Johnson, Xiomara Roma, or Mercy Gruenewald) essays, articles, homilies, poetry, or reviews.  Opinions expressed here are those of individual members and do not represent the club's position.  The Griffoun Society is about the arts and humanities.  We vigorously promote intellectual stimulation and encourage the exploration of new ideas, but as a club, we avoid taking a position on religion or politics.  Nevertheless, any individual member might write and post on any subject.  

Book Review of Autobiography of Bat masterson

March 21, 2020
Book Review of Autobiography of Bat masterson

A Fascinating True Story

Book Review by Xiomara Antonia Roma
Title:  Autobiography of Bat Masterson
Author: M W Ashe
Page Count:  164
Retail Price:  $8.50
ISBN 978-1-7347814-0-3

First of all, let me say that this little book is very short. I don't think it took me more than an hour to read the whole thing. Or perhaps I just lost track of time because the story was so fascinating.

Written in the first person (as the title suggests), this work is saturated with authenticity. I could easily imagine that the words I was reading were actually written by Bat Masterson himself. A fan of historical fiction, I did a little fact-checking as I read, and never once did I find that the author had taken liberties with established facts.

But this is more than the story of one individual's life. It is a more-or-less-complete history of the taming of the west (post Civil War). We have all heard of the gunfight at the OK Corral, the Battle of Little Big Horn, the killing of Billy the Kid, the surrender of Geronimo, and the massacre at Wounded Knee. What I most appreciate about this book is the way it weaves all these events (and others) into a single narrative to show what was going on in different parts of the country at the same time and which events preceded which other events.

I give this novella my highest recommendation.

Roma locuta est.


Author Interview with M W Ashe

March 21, 2020
Author Interview with M W Ashe

Mercy Gruenewald’s

Telephone Interview with Author

M W Ashe

MERCY GRUENEWALD: First of all, thank you for taking my call and agreeing to be interviewed this way.

M W ASHE: My pleasure, absolutely. Thank you for your interest. This call promises to be the most-exhilarating occurrence of my entire week. With the world in lockdown, one gets pretty desperate for amusement.

MERCY GRUENEWALD: Where are you passing this lockdown? Or is that something you’d rather not say?

M W ASHE: Oh, I don’t mind telling you. I’m in Exeter at my paternal grandparents’ home. I shan’t give you the address, of course. My grandfather would throttle me. I was in the process of moving from Mexico City to Paris when this corona virus threat became really serious. Actually, I guess it was always serious. But I was laying over here when it dawned on me that I needed to take the threat more seriously. I’ve now missed my scheduled trip across Europe on the Venice Simplon, and I was really looking forward to that.

MERCY GRUENEWALD: Let’s talk about your latest book.

M W ASHE: Oh, yes, let’s indeed.

MERCY GRUENEWALD: The title is Autobiography of Bat Masterson. I’ve read it, of course. And I certainly did enjoy it. If, as claimed on the verso, it is all true, then Masterson’s life was infinitely more fascinating than any work of melodrama or fiction in which he has appeared as a character.

M W ASHE: Bat Masterson’s own adventures were numerous enough to fill several novels, but in addition, he was personally acquainted with many others whose fame or notoriety equals or eclipses his own: Wyatt Earp, for instance, Doc Holliday, Bill Tilghman, Ben Thompson, Charlie Bassett, Dave Rudabaugh, Luke Short, Chalk Beeson, Nelson Miles, Billy Dixon, and Buffalo Bill Cody, to name only a few. Masterson was invited by President Theodore Roosevelt to visit the White House and was even offered a presidential appointment. He was an acquaintance of prizefighters John L Sullivan and Gentleman Jim Corbett. He was a close good friend of playwright Damon Runyon. Did you know, by the way, that the character Skye Masterson in Damon Runyon’s play Guys and Dolls is actually a representation of Bat Masterson?

MERCY GRUENEWALD: No, I had no idea. But that detail is not in your book.

M W ASHE: No, because that came later in Masterson’s life. My story is told from the perspective of 1907, when Masterson, age fifty-four, was a newspaper journalist in New York City.

MERCY GRUENEWALD: One aspect of your little book (and it is a very short read, barely 23,000 words) that particularly appealed to me is that it seems to put all the great events related to the taming of the West into their proper order. I mean to say, we all know about the battle of the Little Big Horn, the gunfight at the OK Corral, the siege of Adobe Walls, the surrender of Geronimo, the massacre at Wounded Knee, but only as isolated incidents, not how they relate to one another and which preceded which. After reading your book, I have a much clearer understanding of how these events actually unfolded.

M W ASHE: Good! Then I have accomplished what I set out to do. History, to me, is enthralling, but I realize that not everyone shares my passion. What I try to do is make history interesting for everyone by making it personal to one particular character. In this case, that one particular character was himself a true-life figure. In my earlier book, Scouting for the Texians, I created a fictional character, Manuela Ballardo, whom I then allowed to interact with a number of historical figures and to participate in several great historical events herself.

MERCY GRUENEWALD: I have to tell you, I have never enjoyed any book more than I did Scouting for the Texians. By the time I finished the last chapter, I felt as though I had actually lived through the years 1830 through 1845 in old Texas. I studied Texas history in junior high. No way was it then as fascinating as living it vicariously through the experiences of a fictional character.

M W ASHE: Stop, stop! My ego is expanding so rapidly, I fear it might burst.

MERCY GRUENEWALD: I’ll let you go then. But first, can you give me a hint what your next project might be.

M W ASHE: I have three more historical novels in the works already. Juneteenth O’Reiley is about a girl born on the day that slavery ended in Texas. I have already written the first chapter, but I am undecided exactly how I wish to proceed from there. So that one will probably have to wait. Arizona Female Scout was suggested to me by a historical photograph by A Frank Randall so labeled in the photographer’s own hand. I have written the first chapter of that one as well, and I know just how I want the story to unfold, but I think that I shall put off finishing it for now, simply because I really want to devote myself first to Cries In Her Sleep, the story of a fictional Native American artist, who graduates from the Carlisle Indian School, lives and paints in Greenwich Village, then moves to Paris, and finally returns to America to become part of the artists’ commune in Taos, New Mexico.

MERCY GRUENEWALD: All three sound fascinating. I look forward to reading them. Thank you for chatting with me.

M W ASHE: Thank you for the attention. Bye.


Excerpt from novel SCOUTING FOR THE TEXIANS by M W Ashe

December 7, 2018
Excerpt from novel SCOUTING FOR THE TEXIANS by M W Ashe

A Short Passage from Chapter 17


It seemed as if this Comanche War would last forever, but I knew that it could not.  Being a war of attrition, it would end when the Comanche people had ceased to exist, for they were infinitely outnumbered, and we were slaying three or four of them for every one of us they killed.  It depressed me mightily to imagine the Comanche people’s becoming extinct, for, even though they are traditional enemies of the Lipans, I could remember when Mexicans and Tejanos counted them as friends and allies.  The Comanches’ only hope, I knew, was new leadership wise enough to see, before it was too late, the futility of continuing to wage war.  Surrender was not in their nature, but survival would mean adapting, changing, embracing the new and unfamiliar.

On the tenth of August, Henry and I, with twenty others were astonished to find ourselves under attack by more than two hundred Comanches.  This would be the single largest engagement of the Comanche War to date.  It came to be called the Battle of Arroyo Seco.   At the very outset Henry was wounded in the leg by an arrow. 

Out on patrol, we had stopped to rest our horses in the shade of a huge cottonwood tree that stood next to a dry gully.  Arroyo Seco, by the way, actually means Dry Gully. In any event, the enemy seemed to materialize out of thin air.  They were within feet of us before we were aware of their presence.  Drawing our handguns, we opened fire, and in a matter of minutes, killed scores of our attackers.  A few of our company were wounded, but none critically.  A war chief, later identified as Essowakkenny, seemed to be directing the attack from a distant bluff.  Seeing so many of his warriors dropped, he signaled a retreat.  Had he simply maintained the attack, our weapons would soon have been empty. 

“We ain’t seen the last of ’em,” Ben Cage asserted.  “They’ll be back.”

Several of our mounts had been hit and had to be put down.  The rest we led into the relative shelter of the gully, where we too took cover.  Henry organized us into three fire parties, one of which I commanded.  The other two were directed by Ben Cage and Jack Hays.  When the next attack came, only one fire party at a time was to respond.  The single disadvantage of our repeating arms was the inordinate amount of time required to reload.  Henry would command the battle and keep watch in all directions, lest we be flanked. 

The charge came moments later, and it appeared unstoppable.  I was sure that we were all about to die.  And yet, when we opened fire, horses and men went down in a bloody heap.  It was as if our attackers had run into an invisible wall.  The survivors retreated in disarray.  After a hasty conference of war, they came at us again, this time from two sides at once.  Again we suffered no casualties whilst inflicting many. 

“How many more times will they try that, do you reckon?” someone asked.

“I think we can end it right now,” Jack asserted.  “Ben, loan me your Kentucky rifle.  I want to try for that captain yonder.”

All Rangers now carried Patterson Colt revolvers, and many of us had acquired revolving rifles as well.  But Ben Cage and a few others had been loath to give up their single-shot long rifles, which afforded the advantages of greater range, better accuracy, and more reliability than did the newer eight-shot rifles.  Unfortunately, Ben was not the marksman that I was.  I had no idea how good a shot Jack might be.  He was new to our company.

“Want me to take the shot?” I offered.

“I believe I can do it, son” said Hays without rancor.

Jack was two years my junior, but the other men sometimes addressed me as son, and so he did too.  To be perfectly fair about it, I think they imagined me to be no older than fourteen or fifteen years.  My actual age at that time was twenty-three.

In any event, Jack made the shot.  We all cheered when the war chief on the far bluff toppled dead from his horse.  The surviving Comanches then gave up their ambitions to slay us and withdrew dejected.

Whilst I have Jack Hays on my mind, let me tell you a little story about his initiation into our Ranger company.  Henry introduced him to us by his full name, John Coffee Hays.  I, as Henry’s segundo, always assigned camp duties.  Citing the fact that Jack’s middle name was Coffee, I gave him the task of making coffee each evening and each morning.  “And do a good job of it,” I advised.  “We strung up the last fellow that served us bad coffee.”

“You certainly do know how to inspire me to do my best,” Jack said good-naturedly.

      Unfortunately, his best did not even come close to being adequate.  Twice a day for an entire week, he made for us the worst coffee imaginable.  Henry threatened to re-name him John Bad-Coffee Hays.  I watched like a hawk to try to catch Jack deliberately sabotaging the coffee in order to get out from under the responsibility for making it.  Either he was too clever for me or he simply did not have a knack of making coffee.  I never figured out which, but I soon gave up thinking about it and went back to making the coffee myself.

Copyright © 2018 M W Ashe


On Masculine Sex Appeal

August 23, 2013

On Masculine Sex Appeal


Trudy Silverheels

How girls look is a lot more important to men than is how men look is to girls. Men's personality and sense of humor and character matters a lot more than appearance. If a girl likes who you are, she automatically (without even thinking about or knowing she's doing it) upgrades your sex-appeal index in her mind by 2 or 3 points, maybe even more. 

     In my whole life, I've only a very few times felt a strong physical attraction to any guy before we started getting to know each other. Of the men I am currently in love with, most are over 50, some are more than a little overweight, and a couple are almost bald. But I like and admire them so much that in my eyes they are incredibly sexy. I really and truly love how they look.

     This is true to some extent for all females. Of course, some girls are so silly and shallow that what impresses them is fighting ability or skill at sports or something else that I might not be impressed with.  Still, there is almost always something more important to girls than mere looks.


Marriage, Family, and Alternative Lifestyles

August 11, 2013

Marriage, Family, and Alternative Lifestyles


Leo Madrigal and Damien Wynter 

For most persons marriage means only one thing: traditional monogamy.  For many others, however, less-conventional domestic arrangements are clearly preferable.  In the long history of civilization, every conceivable form of marriage has been idealized, and most have, at one time or another, enjoyed currency in one part of the world or another.  But today public sentiment and the law, at least in the West, remain steadfastly opposed to all alternatives to exclusive heterosexual monogamy.  Nevertheless, non-conformist groups will always experiment, and freethinking individuals will always pursue lifestyles most conducive to their own personal fulfillment.

          In the nineteenth century it was de rigueur for men of the Mormon faith to take several wives each.  This custom so outraged the rest of American society that Mormons became the object of derision and persecution.  In 1864 the United States Congress made polygamy (including both polygyny and polyandry) against the law, and for many years the predominantly Mormon Utah Territory was denied statehood because of this very issue.  Then in 1891 the governing body of the Mormon Church, yielding to public pressure, issued an edict to the effect that Mormons would no longer contract illegal marriages.  Utah was admitted to the Union six years later.  Of course, some Mormons—mostly those belonging to splinter groups—continued in secret defiance of the edict and the law to practice polygyny.

          Meanwhile, another non-centrist Christian sect was practicing its own peculiar form of complex or plural marriage.  Within this group every woman was considered wed to every man.  Under the leadership of John Noyes, these Perfectionists, as they called themselves, established a successful community of more than one hundred faithful at Oneida, New York, and supported themselves for decades with several commonly owned industries, the most-successful and best known of which is the Oneida Silver Company.

          As the century drew to a close, an intoxicating spirit of freedom and adventure asserted itself and gave rise to a marital alternative then known as the gay life (years later to be called the swinging-singles lifestyle).  Gay in the 1890s had not yet come to denote homosexuality.  In any case, this sexually promiscuous non-marriage enjoyed revival in the 1920s and again in the 1950s. 

          The 1960s witnessed a trend toward even greater permissiveness, which led in turn to wider experimentation with alternative forms of marriage.  During that decade of free love, thousands of communes were established across the North American continent.  According to one poll, some three million young people participated in the loosely structured cooperative lifestyle typical of these communes.  Superficially similar to group marriages, yet with no serious commitment on the part of their gypsy constituents and little expectation of permanence, most communes failed within a year or so.  The few that still survive are exceptional for the sense of family they have managed to create.

          Several writers have explored, in works of fiction and non-fiction, numerous matrimonial options.  In Open Marriage Nena and George O’Neill chronicled their quest for wedded bliss through non-exclusive monogamy.  Dr. Lawrence Casler attempted in Is Marriage Necessary? to demonstrate that in most cases “holy monogamy gives way to holy monotony.”  And Robert A. Heinlein in any number of science-fiction epics, most notably The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, introduced us to a peculiar version of group marriage that he called line marriage, and to which I shall shortly return, for it deserves special attention. 

          Without doubt, the most respected guru of alternative lifestyles was Robert H. Rimmer.  In The Harrad Experiment and later in Harrad Summer, he dealt with a specific form of plural marriage whereby two or more couples joined together to create a tribal group, each participant, therefore, having a primary mate and one or more secondary mates.  In Thursday, My Love, his subject was non-exclusive monogamy.  And in The Rebellion of Yale Marratt, he made a case for polygyny.

          Since the advent of AIDS, the swinging-singles lifestyle has become too risky for any but the most reckless, as has open marriage.  To feel completely safe from sexually transmitted diseases, one’s circle of sexual contacts must be closed.  However, that circle need not be limited to just one other person.  Polygamous and group marriages, as long as they remain absolutely exclusive, are every bit as safe as monogamous unions, perhaps even safer, since the temptation to cheat is diminished.

          Of course, it is not entirely beyond the realm of possibility that one mate could provide all the companionship, emotional support, intellectual stimulation, and sexual gratification longed for in a lifetime, but such an expectation seems less then likely to be fulfilled.  Researcher Carol Botwin claims to have established that sixty to seventy per cent of married men and forty per cent of married women engage in extramarital affairs.  Variety, the spice of life, it would seem, is also the spice of love.  Without that spice, couples tend very quickly to become bored with each other and then to drift apart.  Traditional marriages fail at a rate of one in three.  And how many of those marriages that survive can be said to be happy?  Certainly not all; probably not even most.

          Yet fairy-tale expectations persist.  Lovers, imagining that they will live together happily ever after, do blithely vow to forsake all others until death doth them part.  If any marriage ends not in divorce, then one or the other of the couple must eventually face bereavement.

          Objections to polygamy might include the argument that such one-sided relationships are inherently unfair.  I would not necessarily agree, but neither am I confident that polygamy answers all the deficits of monogamy.

          Perhaps, though, group marriage does, or rather I should say that line marriage does.  Imagine if you can a multi-generational family—a tribal continuum—all adult members of which are joined together in wedlock: co-wives and co-husbands.  The principle of synergy works to the benefit of all and guarantees economic security.  Real property (though not personal property) is held in common, and limited economic cooperation provides advantages no traditional family could reasonably hope to achieve.  Children and their care are the responsibility of all, and all participate in their upbringing.  Members grow old surrounded by fellow members, any one of whom might, as need requires, fill the role of friend, confidant, advisor, sibling, helpmeet, or lover.  From time to time there is loss to death, but grief shared is somehow a little more bearable.  Nor is anyone ever left to face life alone, for there is also revitalization as new, younger members are welcomed into the group.  Line marriages, you see, as distinguished from other group marriages, are intended to be perpetual.

          Obviously, not every person is suited to this type of arrangement.  Some individuals are too immature to accept responsibility.  Others are too neurotic or insecure, given to jealousy and possessiveness.  Therefore, a careful screening process is wanted for prospective members and probably a period of engagement, during which a sexual quarantine is imposed.  Interestingly, it is those best qualified to become monogamous mates that would be most desirable to a group marriage.

          Every marriage must define itself, and every individual must seek the kind of family life that is most appealing to him or her.  Still, it would be unfortunate if obedience to tradition and intolerance for the unconventional were to prejudice decisions that might well be amongst life’s most important.  It must never be forgotten that the institutions of marriage and family were created to serve the needs of human beings, to contribute to their happiness and wellbeing, and not to enslave them.

Copyright  DW & LM


Dialogue on Free Will

August 11, 2013

Dialogue on Free Will

The following dialogue takes place in the New Braunfels, Texas, home of Leo Madrigal and involves Leo himself and eleven-year-old Pagan Wright, one of the founding members of the Little Heathens’ Underground Tract Society and Free Press: 

Pagan:   Leo, I’m in trouble.  I’m supposed to write an essay on free will, and I don’t have any ideas.  Could you sort of get me started?

Leo:  Well, that’s a first, Pagan.  You have opinions on everything.

Pagan:  I know.  But this is different.  See, what I don’t understand is how anybody could doubt that we have free will.  I mean, it seems so obvious that there just isn’t anything to argue about.

Leo:  Perhaps.  But someone observed once—I think it was Bertrand Russell—that obviousness is often the enemy of correctness.

Pagan:  So does anybody not believe in free will?

Leo:  The question of whether free will indeed exists or is only an illusion has taunted sages and philosophers for centuries.  Some religious sects believe that fate or kismet controls everything we do.

Pagan:  You mean, without our even knowing it?

Leo:  Oh, yes.  And some theologians have speculated that the entire history of the world is but a play, of which God is the author, and that every word we speak is from a script written down by Him before the beginning of time.

Pagan:  Calvinism, right?  I’d forgotten about that.  My father preaches against Calvinism all the time.  I think he hates Calvinism even more than he hate Romanism, which is almost as much as he hates the devil.

Leo:  Nevertheless, there are people who believe in predestination, though not I.  And obviously, not you. 

Pagan:  How could I when I don’t even believe in God?

Leo:  There is another argument against free will, one that’s actually scientific.  Maybe it’ll appeal to you more.  It goes like this:  Events influence events in ways that are absolutely inevitable.

Pagan:  Oh, wow!  That’s like the old saying: One thing leads to another.  I never thought that had anything to do with free will, but now I can see that it sort of does.

Leo:  And you yourself are a product not only of your genes, but also of your upbringing and of every chance encounter you’ve ever had.  Therefore, the next decision you make (whatever it concerns) will be the only one possible for you at that particular moment.

Pagan:  Mmmm.  I wonder if that could be true.  Let’s take a “for instance.”  What if somebody were going to flip a coin, and he asked me to guess whether it would land heads or tails?  What kind of things might influence which I’d pick?

Leo:  I can’t imagine.  Indeed, it might well be argued that totally inconsequential decisions and those, such as you just mentioned, that involve guessing at purely random occurrences might be the only ones you have complete free will to make.

Pagan:  And for other decisions, I suppose weather and time of day and geography would all be factors.

Leo:  Sure.

Pagan:  Like if I were up in Alaska in the middle of winter, I’d hardly choose to put on shorts to go out and play.

Leo:  Unless events in your life had made you very perverse.

Pagan:  Right.

Leo:  This theory that happenings and circumstances conspire to determine what choices one makes is called determinism, and I think you’ll have to admit that it’s not entirely unreasonable.

Pagan:  It sounds pretty sensible.  But I still feel like I have free will.  Maybe I just don’t want to give up believing that I have the power to make my own decisions.

Leo:  Nor should you, for without that power, you become helpless, and life becomes pointless.

Pagan:  So what are you saying?  That both sides are true?  Aren’t free will and determinism opposites?

Leo:  Perhaps they are not so mutually exclusive as at first they seem.  Couldn’t they just be different perspectives on the same reality?

Pagan:  I like that idea.  All kinds of things have made me who I am.  But I still enjoy free will, even though somebody that understood me totally could predict exactly what I would do in every situation.

Leo:  I doubt that.  No one could ever identify all the factors that have contributed to making you the person you are; so no one could anticipate any but your most obvious choices.

Pagan:  That’s reassuring.  It would be like having somebody read my mind.

Leo:  Don’t worry.  Your privacy isn’t threatened by determinism.

Pagan:  Hey!  I just thought of something funny.  I mean ironic, not humorous.  Believing or not believing in free will would itself be a deterministic factor, because you couldn’t decide to become a better person, unless you believed that you could really make all the choices you needed to make.

Leo:  A wise person, it seems to me, is one who lives his life with absolute confidence in his own free will while at the same time accepting that the foibles and shortcomings of others have resulted from deterministic influences quite beyond their control.

Pagan:  I get it.  If you’re smart, you take responsibility for your own life and who you are, but you don’t blame others for not being as smart as you and maybe not having as much character.

Leo:  Exactly.

Pagan:  I think that’s very generous and kind.  Also pragmatic.  It’s a good attitude to have.  From now on, it’s the attitude I’m going to try to have.

Leo:  Good for you.  But what about your essay?  Do you think you can write it now?

Pagan:  Oh, yeah, no problem.  In fact, what I might do is just copy down this conversation and call it a dialogue, such as Plato wrote about the conversations Socrates had with his friends.

Leo:  That ought to be interesting.  I’d like to see how that comes out.

Pagan:  Oh, I’ll show it to you, and you’ll get half the credit for writing it, because I’ll be using your actual words.

Leo:  Good luck with it.

Pagan:  Thank you.  And thanks for all the help too.

Leo:  My pleasure.


The Gospel of Humanism

August 11, 2013

The Gospel of Humanism


Leo Madrigal

In this world filled with ignorance, hatred, suspicion, greed, strife, and oppression, there is but one justifiable cause for optimism.  And that cause is proclaimed gloriously in the Gospel of Humanism.  Now, I know that the word gospel is usually considered anathema to everything related to humanism, that it is most often associated with Christianity’s promise of eternal salvation through faith, a promise, incidentally, that religious liberals universally dismiss as sheer nonsense.  But the word gospel, it should be remembered, has not necessarily any such theological implications.  It means only good tidings.  And the good tidings of liberal religion are to be found in its Gospel of Humanism.

          This message of hope is addressed to every living person:  “Be glad!  Rejoice in your humanity, for greatness is your destiny.”  Nor has this destined greatness anything whatever to do with wealth, fame, or power.  It is an inner or spiritual greatness characterized by childlike innocence, uncommon courage, independence of conscience, tolerance, creativity, intense devotion to Truth, and concern for the welfare of all humankind.

          That such greatness exists will not, I think, be doubted.  One need only call to mind the examples of Marcus Aurelius, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Schweitzer, Clarence Darrow, Mohandas Gandhi, and countless others.  That this greatness is a desirable thing for one’s own life, I suppose, might be doubted.  After all, many of the truly great are, in their own lifetimes, controversial figures, feared, despised, persecuted.  It is only in the perspective of decades or even centuries that they begin to appear godlike to lesser beings.  Yet, they alone—the great in spirit—experience happiness in its fullest measure, for they are at peace with themselves, if not with the world, and their lives have purpose.

          Quite obviously, not all individuals achieve this spiritual greatness, but that sad fact in no way indicates that it is not theirs to claim.  Indeed, this magnificent destiny is the absolute birthright of every human being.  Unfortunately, most persons simply refuse to accept their destiny.  Of course, they would never own that they were doing anything so perverse, but false beliefs and false values, which have contributed to their smallness of spirit, radically distort their perceptions of reality.

          How such false values and false beliefs ever became established is difficult to imagine.  Perhaps they once represented logical solutions to problems peculiar to an age now long forgotten.  Or perhaps they never made sense.  In any event, what is abundantly clear is that the small in spirit, who cling to those false beliefs and values today, revere them as sacred truths, which must be held onto, even in the face of evidence that would seem to discredit them, and which must be perpetuated by their progeny.

          That anyone ever achieves his or her destined greatness is something of a miracle, for all of respectable society conspires against it.  Parents and educators, in particular, demand that children discard their innocence—their naturalness—before entering adulthood, that they embrace accepted values, never entertain an original thought, and aspire only to be normal or average in every way.

          Still, a precious few do somehow transcend society’s expectations to become all that they were meant to be.  And a good thing for humanity it is, for every contribution to progress and every advance toward general enlightenment have been inspired by at least one of these remarkable human beings.

          Both Aristotle and Confucius recognized the superior man and noted the qualities that set him apart from the average man.  Similarly, other sages have described great souls and spoken of Buddha-selves.  They were merely identifying those rare human beings that, in spite of overwhelming negative influences, rise above the rest to claim their rightful inheritance.

          Psychologists of the humanistic and existentialistic schools refer to this destined greatness as self-actualization or self-realization.  Abraham Maslow has even provided a model by which better to understand the phenomenon.  According to that model, there exists a hierarchy of human needs, the most basic of which are physiological, as for food, shelter, and warmth. Above these are the emotional needs for love, belonging, and the esteem of others.  At the top of the hierarchy is self-esteem.  While more-basic needs remain unsatisfied, one cannot easily afford the luxury of being concerned with higher needs.  But if all one’s needs are met in a timely fashion, then self-actualization is assured.  It is a natural step in one’s psychological development.

          In the terminology of humanistic psychology, the self-actualizing person is said to have become being-motivated.  Untroubled by awareness of needs not met, he is free to devote himself to the richness of life, to the sheer enjoyment of being.  The non-self-actualizing person, on the other hand, remains deficiency-motivated.  He may, in fact, be facing no immediate deficiency, but only be remembering some need that went too long unanswered.  Until he can get out of the habit of serving that need, he cannot aspire to self-actualization.

          Certainly, chance provides deprivation enough to impede the psychological development of many, but a vastly more-formidable obstacle is the deliberate and concerted effort by society to require rigid conformity of all its members.  Adults impose conditions of worth on children, withholding positive regard in order to force those children to internalize values contrary to their natural interests and to accept beliefs inconsistent with their actual experience.

          This process of molding individuals to suit society, this systematic indoctrination, is called socialization.  It involves the use of songs and symbols, poetry and pageantry, folk lore, novels, motion pictures, and television to legitimize and reinforce values and beliefs that have been imposed, and it requires many years to be carried out successfully.  Though somewhat more subtle than what is popularly termed brainwashing, socialization is menticide nonetheless, for it disconnects its victims from their honest thoughts and true feelings.  It reduces them to a condition less than fully human.

          Some who manage to retain their innocence into adulthood, and along the way, attain their destined greatness can thank enlightened, unconventional parenting.  Of others, who can say?  Perhaps genetics made them more resilient than most or more refractory.  Perhaps they followed the examples of self-actualizing adults of their acquaintance.  However it happens that they come to fulfill their destiny, the great in spirit invariably assume a tremendous responsibility to do whatever they can to improve the lot of humankind.  A few will be satisfied to serve in strictly humanitarian fields, while others will be called to science or to the arts.  Some may avoid public scorn and conflict with authority, but more will not, for their very compassion will compel them to defy society by encouraging others to try to recover their lost innocence and by offering to any that seek after wisdom what guidance they can.

          There was a time when society would not have suffered such dangerous radicals to go on living and spreading their heterodox opinions.  Consider, for instance, the fate of Socrates.  Yet martyrs, it has finally been recognized, often gain approval and tend, whether their causes be worthy or not, to win converts.  Only by his death on a Roman cross did an otherwise-insignificant country preacher from Nazareth come to be hailed by millions as their Messiah.

          Today procrustean society has a more-effective means of neutralizing the perceived threat to civilization posed by non-conformists, and ironically, it was the mental- health profession that provided it.  The personality disorder once identified as psychopathic it has now become stylish to call sociopathic or antisocial.  Psychopathic was a perfectly good term.  Its meaning was clear to most everyone in and out of the mental-health professions.  A person so diagnosed was rightly understood to be completely bereft of conscience, pathologically incapable of loving or empathizing with others.  But the words sociopathic and antisocial, which should convey exactly the same meaning as psychopathic, are, in fact, much more loosely applied, as if being out of phase with the rest of society were itself a symptom of this extreme disorder.  Qualities of the self-actualizing individual are frequently perceived as antisocial tendencies.  Indeed, anyone not fully and satisfactorily socialized is at risk of being labeled an antisocial personality, his ideas and suggestions casually dismissed.  For who takes seriously the ravings of a mental case?

          Nevertheless, greatness is not to be discouraged.  It does not require others to recognize it.  It is a celebration of self, and no one who has ever so much as imagined its possibility could settle for anything less.  No cost could be too high; no effort, too great; no obstacle, too challenging.

© 2009 LM


Taking Leave of Life

May 19, 2013

Taking Leave of Life
As Related by Claudia Godwin

In the beginning there was no pain.  That would come later; and with it fear, self-pity, regret, and all the rest.  But on that first fleeting awareness, no physical sensation whatever intruded.  My disembodied self floated aimlessly in an endless void until at length a sharp medicinal odor penetrated my semi-consciousness, recalling me to my broken body.  Incredibly, there was still no pain.  There ought to have been pain.  I was covered in warm, sticky blood, much of it my own.  A vague, passive curiosity was all I felt, that and the cold hard surface on which I lay.
     Sweet Jesus!  I was naked, laid out, I could only surmise, for autopsy.  Was I really dead?  No, I was not, for the delinquent pain was now making itself known.  Through closed eyelids I could tell there was a bright light overhead.  Far away I heard voices, then soft footsteps.  To whom did they belong?  Forensic pathologist perhaps?  Or medical students? Whoever they were, they were coming closer; and my imagination, inspired, no doubt, by the ominous clinking of saws, scissors, and knives, dressed them in butchers’ aprons.
     No! I screamed silently, helplessly.  Please, oh, please, don’t cut me.  Can’t you see I’m alive?
     Reclaimed by the nothingness, I drifted for upward of a thousand years in darkness such as the living never experience, darkness that is the total absence of light.  This time I was drawn back into the world of pain by someone’s shaving my legs.
     Fuck off, you imbecile!  Do you think I care about my appearance at a time like this?
     But she persisted, then capped this first madness by painting my legs.  What kind of ritual is this?
     Oh shit!  I’m going to be a human sacrifice.
     Another thousand years or so passed in blessed oblivion before I found myself being wheeled into yet another operating room.  How many separate surgeries had I undergone?  More, I thought, than I could actually recount.  Why did they bother, these gods of medicine?  Could they not see the obvious?  I, from the inside, from the very core of my being, could feel how futile all their efforts were.
     When next I opened my eyes, there was my baby, my little girl, almost grown, but not quite.  She still needed me.  What was going to come of her without me to look after her?  Maybe she would find somebody who would do a better job than I had done, but no one could ever love her more than I had.  It was sad, so terribly sad, but I was too tired to think any more about it today.  I closed my eyes and slept.

Copyright © 2013 Trudy Silverheels
Excerpt from yet-to-be-published novel Nuevo Biloxi


The Voice of Reason

May 19, 2013

The Voice of Reason


Damien Wynter 

The Voice of Reason is but a murmur easily obscured by the noisy confusion of day-to-day living.  It does not clamor for one’s ear.  Nor does it demand to be obeyed.  Many there are who have managed never to have heard it and more yet who have learned to ignore it.  For the Voice of Reason cannot be counted upon to say only what one wishes to hear.

To the believer, the Voice of Reason whispers doubt: terrifying, confusing, and sinful.  It challenges, in its quiet, unobtrusive way, all the promises of revealed religion and will, if permitted, shatter one's hope for eternal life, one's belief in God, one's trust in prophesy and Holy Writ.  No wonder it is so often mistaken for the voice of the devil himself.  No wonder it is feared and hated and resisted by so many.

Still, the Voice of Reason always and only serves Truth.  It can be misunderstood.  It can even seem to be misleading, but only, I suspect, to a listener who is inattentive, distracted perhaps by emotional storms raging within.  To one at peace and unafraid to face naked Truth, the Voice of Reason is clear and sweet.

It can, of course, be amplified by courage, or it can be silenced—though only temporarily—by fear or anger.  It may go unheeded for years, yet return faithfully again and again to urge one to think, to nag one to discard prejudice and superstition, to indict one for illogical behavior.

By only a few—the very wisest of humankind—is the Voice of Reason fully appreciated.  Only by them is it consulted on every important decision, never despised, but cultivated instead, so that its good counsel will be ever and constantly available to them, even under the least-favorable of conditions.

Let us then, as those sages do, hearken always to the Voice of Reason.  Let us never shut it out, and let us never turn away from it.  Amen.

Copyright 2009 Damien Wynter




A Humanist Bible

May 18, 2013

A Humanist Bible


Xiomara Antonia Roma

Almost any list of the world’s greatest wisdom literature would begin with the
Tao Te Ching of Lao-tzu, the Analects of Confucius, Moral Sayings of Publilius Syrus, the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, and the Maxims of the duc de la Rochefoucauld. Some lists might include Pensées by Blaise Pascal; others, such humorous works as The Sayings of Poor Richard by Benjamin Franklin or The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce. Whatever the extent of your own list, you will want to add a new title: Observations and Contemplations of a Humanist. Religious fundamentalists, of course, will protest that the only works of wisdom literature worthy of the name are the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament.  Those who share that opinion will not likely find much of value in Observations and Contemplations of a Humanist. Indeed, if they read it at all, it will be only in order to better know the enemy of their faith.  To describe this sure-to-be-controversial book as the Bible of Humanism would hardly be an exaggeration. Liberal religion and its secular twin, humanist philosophy, have until now frustrated all attempts to make them approachable and understandable to any but the scholarly elite. In all fairness, it should be pointed out that Corliss Lamont’s Philosophy of Humanism is both readable and easily comprehensible. However, it has never been widely read, except within the humanist fold. The reason for this unfortunate fact is probably that the form the book takes—that of a collection of long essays—tends to intimidate non-intellectuals, even those who by instinct are themselves humanists. Observations and Contemplations of a Humanist promises to be vastly more popular. In the first place, the layout and typography are visually pleasing. Then too, the entries are short and easily digested. The longest fits on a single page; most are but one sentence.  The Cuban-born, British-educated author, whose full name is Moisés Rafael Leopoldo Madrigal Delgado, is an impoverished and virtually unknown figure painter living and working in the Texas Hill Country. Since moving to the United States a few years ago he has kept a journal of his insights, ideas, and attitudes about art, truth, education, enlightenment, sexuality, religion, society, politics, economics, virtue, and interpersonal relationships. The two hundred thirty-eight entries of that original diary―previously published at $100 in a hand-bound collector’s edition of only sixty―constitute the text of the work presently under discussion.  Mind you, Observations and Contemplations of a Humanist is not a Bible in the sense that it attempts to dictate humanist dogma. The ideas and values expressed by the author are clearly his own, but they are typical of those held by humanists and religious liberals around the world. His use of language is eloquent; his arguments are entirely logical. Furthermore, his overall philosophy is beautifully coherent with none of the inconsistencies that plague so many other systems of belief. 


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