Sunday, April 26, 2020


I WAS ASKED TO BE GUEST SPEAKER AT A LION'S CLUB AND I WILL LET YOU LISTEN IN TO MY CONCLUDING WORDS.  I THINK IT'S FAIR TO SAY THEY WERE ASTONISHED AT WHAT I HAD TO SAY.  My host told me later that the whole town was abuzz the next day at its content. I was billed as a mobile philosopher who collected wisdom from the road.

The final place I’ll tell you about is Saline Valley, a very remote oasis in the desert of California, now incorporated into Death Valley National Park. It’s been some years since I’ve been there, but it’s so unusual I’ll tell you about it.

Folks call it Saline Hot Springs, and it’s located about 60 miles out in the Mojave Desert. Hot water, lots of it, pours from the top of a small hill. Long ago, hippies built several stair-stepped concrete hot tubs. I drove out there with a full supply of water and food. What I saw and experienced there inspires me yet. A tiny green oasis with grass and trees and a goldfish pond. Free camping with some most unusual companions.

One of the traditions there is that each tub has a conversation level; the lower tub is for gossip and scandal and complaints. The next tub up is for current events, sports talk, cars, movies and such. The third tup up is where you discuss principles and politics–like truth, beauty, etc. The fourth tub is for really deep talk: metaphysics, religion, spirituality, ethics, the meaning of life.

I gossiped in the lower tub, talked current events in the second, and principles in the third. And a great conversation it was! Here’s a sample of third tub conversation: What is money? It is condensed energy. What is wisdom? Knowing that you don’t know. What is progress? The increase of options. Truth? It’s what corresponds to reality. What is creativity? Concept transfer. Imagination? Thinking about what is not. The difference between Democrats and Republicans? One will sacrifice a little freedom for a little more equality. The other will sacrifice a little equality for a little more freedom. What’s the cure for joblessness? Short careers. For homelessness? Cheap houses. Who knows for sure the right way to live? Nobody. Ethics is an evolving process. What we think is right is just the current fabric of agreement.

Then I moved on up to the fourth tub and discussed really heavy, deep questions of metaphysics. What is the meaning of life? Best theory? Eternity, adventuring in time; cosmic drama. Why is there evil? It thickens the plot; drives the action (and the alternative is worse: boredom). Why is there death? It puts urgency in life. Makes us get on with things. What should we do with our lives? Three things: Respond to our fascinations (some things fascinate us, some things don’t), wake up our creativity, and become fascinating (influence someone).

How to deal with our problems? Consider them neither inherently good or bad, just the next thing to do. What is the good life? Solving an endless series of interesting problems. (The bad life is solving the same old problems over and over.)

I conclude by telling you a few things that I have learned. The first is that I don’t know anything for sure. And neither does anyone else. Our theories about life can always be improved.

That freedom is addictive.

That journey is more important than destination. (Movement more important than location.)

I’ve learned how to have a lot of friends: be interested.
How to have no friends at all: be interesting.

That being nice is more important than being smart.

Thank you for your attention. I’m open to questions.