Monday, September 29, 2008


I got hot in Sedona–cast my eyes 20 miles north to the Mogollion rim (7000 ft) and 20 miles south to Mingus mountain (7,500 ft)–chose to go south, heeding my own poetic advice about cool:
Where the Cool Is

To all who sizzle at a hundred three,
Come to the mountains and camp with me.
See on your road map the color green
Shows the mountains cool and clean.
For every thousand feet you climb,
Four degrees are left behind.
Keep on climbing and it’s for sure,
You’ll find the perfect temperature
Somewhere between the heat below
And the chill of mountain snow.
Find a spot near aspen trees;
Let God cool you with his breeze.

I paused to appreciate again the premier ghost town of Jerome, a superbly preserved mining town of 450 artist, shopkeepers, restauranteurs and lost souls built on the side of a steep mountain. Every house has a 40 mile view of Verde valley. Once 15,000 people lived here mining the richest vein of copper in the world. How rich was it? A hundred pounds of ore yielded one pound of copper. That’s 48 times richer than copper mines currently operating. Not surprisingly, most of the copper needed for wwII came from here.

I engaged a lost soul, (once prosperous lawyer, got ill, lost everything, now living in his van) got the story—and a bonus–a tip for a terrific camping spot just out of town. So great was it that I stayed 2 nights. The mine Manager came by got charmed by the stealth camper and stayed awhile to give me the facts quoted above. He lives in the house visible across the way. Great view!

Still a bit warm Wednesday, 9/24/08, I decided to go to the top of the mountain at 7,500 ft. Scenic drive up with something over 1000 curves. (locals tell this with pride) Quizzed a trucker enroute who told me where the “magic spot” was. I settled in near the 20 or so transmission towers “invisible to all” and I’ve been here 5 nights in forbidden comfort with 5 bar reception.

4 days in, I got to see a hang glider leap into space and amazingly rise up to 10,000 ft on thermals. Two different types of gliders launch here as the picts show.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


What Branson, Mo is to country music, Sedona, Az is to the new age movement. The physical environment is spectacularly beautiful and the emotional ambiance almost equals it. Goodwill, peace and optimism are in the air. Everyone seems agreed: a good thing is happening here!

I settled myself more or less downtown in a tire store parking lot. (closed sat nite and all day Sunday–perfect. Weekends are especially easy for stealthy campers)

Met a beautiful lady in a bookstore and ended up spending the afternoon and part of the night with her in a conversational marathon. Later, I’ll do an essay on this remarkable exchange because something important is illustrated.

Downtown Sunday I engaged all sorts of people on all sorts of subjects. Talked real estate with a speculator.(house prices range from 1 to 2 million–but are now down 25%) Talked new age doctrine with a shopkeeper, art with a gallery owner. Especially enjoyed the statues scattered around town–the best municipal offering I’ve ever seen. (if only Diana were here to take a decent picture of them) The statue of Sacajewea roused me to lust.

Sedona became a new age Mecca in a self-reinforcing spiral of popularity like Branson.

Here in Summary is what New Age religion is about: It is a mixture of numerous religious and philosophical ideas–an emotional response to inadequacies of secular culture and discontent with traditional religion. (Happily) It has no holy text, central organization, membership, formal clergy, dogma or creed. It’s a free-flowing spiritual movement–a network of believers and practitioners sharing somewhat similar beliefs and practices. It does not threaten our liberty like Christianity does.

Especially in turbulent times, people head for two extremes: fundamentalism and personal spiritual experiences. New agers tend to cluster around metaphysical book stores and spiritual teachers. Here’s some relevant statistics:

8% of Americans believe in Astrology
7% believe crystals help healing
9% believe tarot cards are a reliable base for life decisions.
25% believe in a non-traditional concept of God
3% believe that each person IS God
20% of religious believers are new agers–the third largest religious group

As you can see–we’re talking millions of people. They are nicer than Bible thumpers and represent a counterbalance to them. They will help save us from theocracy.

Here are some of their core beliefs:

Monism: All that exist is derived from a single source of divine energy.
Pantheism: All that exist is God. (so seek God within yourself)
Panentheism: All that exist is God but He also transcends the cosmos
Reincarnation: rebirth after death in a series of lives
Karma: What goes ‘round comes ‘round. Cosmic balance of action and consequence
Aura: A field of force emanating from our body
Personal transformation through certain practices–eventually planet wide transformation.
Special Spiritual places–energy vortexes etc.
Ecological responsibility
Universal religion: like many paths up one mountain
New World order working against disease, hunger, poverty, pollution

And here is what they do:

Channeling: evoking dead people
Meditation–various types of “sit down and shut up”
Divination: foretelling the future
Holistic health practices
Human Potential movement–Seminars etc

In summary, New Age religion is Hinduism with a twist of lime. Of all the religious people these are the most nearly harmless. Since they have no authoritative text, they do not inhibit the natural evolution of ethics. They have a childlike belief in what amount to magic, but they have made real contributions to human well being through practices like meditation, holistic health and through assorted human potential practices. They live and let live–they evolve–I like em!

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Meet Tom, a very interesting Irishman that I met in a field of flowers brightening the high country above Sedona, Az. After traveling around the world, literally, he was drawn toward the spiritual life and not surprisingly toward Sedona. Giving Hawiian massages pays his expenses. We ate a meal together and talked several hours. I asked about growing up in Ireland, about the Irish Republican Army etc. He told me that during that protracted conflict there was no civilian crime to speak of. Malefactors were dealt with swiftly and fiercely by this secret force. I detected some pride in their proficiency, eventually forcing a power sharing settlement.

He was equally proud of Irelands writers, poets, dancers and music. They have indeed charmed the world. He too writes poetry and we exchanged a few verses as we walked the nearby woods.

And yes, he does look a bit like Fabio and knows it. I quizzed him gently about his new age experiences and was pleased at his humility. I find new agers so much more pleasant than fundamentalist.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


When Quizzed by the preacher he stuttered, stumbled then said the question was above his pay grade. It is not above mine! The question he was really asking was: WHEN, IF EVER , IS IT OK TO TERMINATE A PREGNANCY?
Having studied theology, biology and ethics I composed this answer which was published on the front page of The Santa Fe New Mexican, July 31,1994. Here's a summary of the article entitled:


Hidden beneath the abortion and euthanasia debate is a value judgment society is being forced to make: Does human life “pop” or “taper” into significance? Does it “pop” or taper out of significance. Oddly, the welfare of humanity hinges on our choice.

Under the pop theory, human life springs into full significance at conception and retains full importance until the instant of death. The “pop” group wants us to treat with equal respect and resources the newly fertilized egg, the newborn baby, the full grown adult and those very near death. The “pop” group are pro-lifers. They believe a fertilized egg, smaller than a dot, should never be destroyed, not for rape, incest, deformity, inconvenience or population control. This is like believing that acorns are as important as oak trees. Forbidding all abortions, they would spend millions of tax dollars on deformed babies and the comatose dying, depriving the broad middle of humanity of medical care. Preserving that dot of human tissue is more important to them than the good of the world. They would likewise forbid doctor assisted suicide regardless of the patients wishes or suffering. They are wild extremist. They will wreck our world if we let them.

The “taper” group holds thatl LIFE TAPERS INTO AND OUT OF SIGNIFICANCE; that an acorn is not as important as an oak tree. Both human and oak life grow gradually into significance through a long series of organic steps–A newly fertilized egg is not as important as a 27 week old fetus. Likewise, we should not spend as much on folks near death as on our children.

The taper group believes in LIMITS OF EXPENDABILITY–points beyond which even human life is expendable for the greater good. Most societies have limits of expendability whether they acknowledge it or not. Poor societies tend to have narrow limits and wealthy ones broader limits. Nomadic tribes, for example, will abandon anyone permanently crippled. (Often respectfully and with food and thorn fences for protection, but left to die none the less)
wealthy societies can afford much broader limits, caring for the mentally and physically challenged.

What no society can afford, however, is to totally abolish ALL limits of expendability. We cannot afford to extend full legal and resource protection to the infinitesimal extremities of life. Medical cost skyrocket at the extremities of life. We will quickly bankrupt the nation and overpopulate the earth. We cannot take seriously the pro life position that all human life is equally important. Their position is cruel, fanatical, unrealistic and destructive.

So what should be our society”s limit of expendability? The current limit for oak trees is is five inches in diameter (city ordinance–Tampa Fla) and for human embryos up to 26 weeks development. Beyond these points, society prohibits the destruction of oaks or embryos because it offends our sensibilities.

26 weeks is admittedly a somewhat arbitrary limit. Why not 25 or 27. Perhaps that is when an embryo is potentially viable outside the womb. Nevertheless it is an arbitrary line AND OUR SOCIETY WAS COURAGEOUS TO HAVE DRAWN IT!

We have not similarly established limits of expendability for dying and suffering people. Our failure to do so is causing enormous waste and pain. Almost a third of our medical expenditure is for end-game treatment. Our children and working citizens are outrageously neglected by this crazy misallocation of resources. The health care industry profiteers on our sentimentality.

America must draw a line at the south end of human life as we have done at the north. We must boldly establish limits of expendability–limits that are as fair and humane as we can afford.

To those who shrink from drawing lines, I point out that ESTABLISHING CLEAR BUT SOMEWHAT ARBITRARY LIMITS IS WHAT DEFINES A CIVILIZATION. How fast shall we drive on the interstate? Why not 69 or 71? How much theft shall constitute a felony? At what age shall we allow the vote, marriage or consumption of alcohol? These limits are societies “best guesses”. They are all somewhat arbitrary, but absolutely necessary. We must guess, draw lines, set limits. The alternative is chaos.

Often we reset the limits as when we increased the speed limit. We might yet move the abortion limit back to 22 weeks or so. But to move it back to zero as the pro lifers advocate would be dangerous and cruel sentimentality.

Fanaticism, idealism or sentimentalism can wreck a nation. Fanaticism is wrecking Iran, Idealism wrecked the Soviet Union. I fear sentimentalism may wreck America.

CHALLENGE TO PRO LIFERS: Here's a question no pro lifer on earth can answer honestly :

Suppose a fire breaks out in a fertility clinic and you have only enough time to save a 6 year old child or a petri dish containing 10 fertilized eggs. Which would you save? (yeah--I thought so--
you really do believe that life TAPERS into significence)

Friday, September 05, 2008



I'm pleased to share this opinion with Emerson and some mornings I wake up spoiling for a fight. The most legitimate enemy I know are religious leaders. So I went looking for a deserving offender. I do not tamper with feeble and tender minded religious folks, they are just “users” and victims of indoctrination. I go after the “pushers” and big time “dealers” of this addictive poison—preachers and seminary professors. I load my intellectual shotgun with my “seven deadly questions” and go hunting. I will use birdshot if I can but buckshot if I must to tell them that they propagate great evil and cruelty.

It is they (and the Republican party) who want to force a rape victim to bear an unwanted child.

It is they who refuse to take their children to the doctor. (Christian Scientist)

It is they who who forbid reasonable birth control and divorce, and discriminate against women and homosexuals. (Catholicism)

It is they who refuse to serve in the army and who will let their children die rather than allow a blood transfusion. (Jehovas Witness)

It is they who want to put creationism in our science classes and religion in our classrooms. (Evangelicals)

It is they who spawned the evils of polygamy and made women subservient to men.(Mormons)

The list is long. I could continue but you get the idea. Most of these religious hucksters go through life unchallenged. Now the 20% of Americans that reject religious cruelty and nonsense are making themselves heard in books such as The End of Faith and Letter to A Christian Nation both by Sam Harris and The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. (incidentally Dawkins is on the list of the 100 greatest thinkers—No religious people made the list)

In short order I found my man–he’s pictured above. A small town minister of a Baptist church and with the guile and subtlety of a serpent I maneuvered myself into his office. He is not innocent and I feel no qualms about blindsiding him. I begin the questioning:

1. If you were raised in a Muslim culture by Muslim parents is it likely that you would be a
Muslim, believing different doctrines, ethics and Holy Book? (He lied–said no)
2. Is it true that children are gullible and easy to indoctrinate? (He dissembled)
3. Once indoctrinated, Is it generally difficult to persuade a person to abandon his faith?
(He admitted this)
4. Do conflicting doctrines and religions contribute to world tensions? (He admitted this)
5. Does everyone owe it to themselves to question their childhood indoctrination? (he said yes)
6. If they seriously did so, could ANY of their doctrines be proven? (He waffled–the correct
Answer is no)
7. Do you wish that all those “false religions “ would stop indoctrinating their children? (He
Saw the trap–He said no. “That would be a double edged sword” he said. I smiled–NOW
He Understood the nature of this interview and began a slight tremble. I love this moment.
Christians are rarely challenged on the fundamentals of their faith. Confronted with the real possibility that they have bet "big money" on the wrong horse, they get the shakes.

As a final haymaker I gave him just one of 240 Biblical contradictions (1 Chronicles 21:1 vs 2 Samuel 24:1---Who incited David?) He refused to deal with it. His attitude is the same as the whole evangelical world: "God said it. I believe it. That settles it.

I left shortly afterward, confident that I would be in Sunday’s sermon.
I take this occasion to briefly state my own views.
1. NO ONE knows any ultimate answers to life’s mystery. We’re all guessing. Little harm would be done if we all ADMITTED we were guessing–and compared guesses.
2. All major religions pretend to have access to CERTAINTY. They claim to have messages from God –revelations–Holy Books–Prophets etc. It is the clash of these certainties that create so much hatred, tension and obstruction to progress.
3. Pretentions to MORAL certainty causes religions to interfere with ETHICAL EVOLUTION. Ethics is the slowly changing FABRIC OF AGREEMENT. We have seen the “agreement” change in our lifetime.
4. A redefinition of “spirituality” and “faith” is quietly taking hold. For example:
Spirituality—loss of ego
Faith–trusting your own deepest convictions. I like both of these.
5. We can have community, ritual, moral values and human progress without believing in messages from God.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Don't knock it; It's more comfortable than you'd suppose.

This is my friend Bob who owns a travel trailer but prefers to live in this truck. Here's the interior--mostly self explanatory, but notice the battery, forward right, that powers his lights, radio, TV and vent. The solar panel and truck engine keep it charged. His potty is rear left. He wanders the West camping almost anywhere he chooses. The "lightweight lifestyle" is free and easy compared with the complications of trailer living.

Bob is permanently disabled and receives $620 a month from California. He could not manage if he had to pay rent. He told me a little known "secret" about Ca. compensation: it pays an additional $300 a month if the recipient has no stove.

Some are outraged that taxpayers should give a free livelihood to the mentally and physically disabled. But I think that if we're going to take care of them, this is the cheapest option--give them enough to live on their own. Think what it would cost to institutionalize them: (minimum $2500 a month) Some rage at the Reagan policy of deinstitutionalizing thousands of marginally functional people but I think, with some exceptions, it was a great idea. It's a better life out here in the forest. Institutions treat people as infants and they grow infantile. The forest challenges them and they respond adaptively.