Archive for October, 2015

Brief Candle in the Dark
October 28, 2015

Cherish books. Be determined never to  live without them. They’re difficult to keep in the tropics, but try. I have books I’ve carted around the world for fifty years.  They’ve seen the world. Many are worn, many are torn, many are frayed–held together with scotch tape, Elmer’s glue and duct tape–but all sit on my shelves and are dearest friends. I’m holding a hard bound–once upon a time–Thesaurus, with pages so messed up, so strung out, so dangling,  I wonder through words like a kid lost in a fairy tale  forest.

Words. Twenty-seven letters in the English alphabet strung together into meaning. Nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs. The primary colors writers use to paint pictures with black ink on white  paper.

A recent book that found my desk is a New York bestseller, Sense of Style,  the Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, by Steven Pinker. He claims, rightly, writing can be a form of pleasurable mastery and intellectual  fascination.  Delightful. Explosive. I recommend it to all  writers.

His incredible wife’s –Rebecca Newberger Goldstein–new book 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, is beyond a must read. If  you love to laugh, enjoy wit, brilliance  and entertainment  find this ‘literary miracle’. It’s sad we don’t have a bookstore on Kauai. We’re so backwoodsy. Order it from Barnes and Noble or our very own used bookstore  in Hanapepe.

But my most priceless new possession is Richard Dawkins’ Brief  Candle in the Dark. It’s signed. I carry it with me wherever I go. There’s always a park bench, a chair at a table,  some shade beneath a tree. Started reading it on the plane flying home.  Can’t put it down. I’m trying to read all three at the same time.

Richard is ‘one of the best nonfiction writers alive today’, says Steven Pinker and he should know.

What I loved is the earthiness of it. Richard’s incredible life, his  mind, his charm.  His story telling ability. Soon you feel you know his family, his wife–the beautiful actress and artist Lala– to whom the book is dedicated and who paints all his ties.  (Queen Elizabeth complained about one of them he wore to lunch.) You fall in love with his daughter, Juliet, who became ‘a fourteen- year- old hero’  when her mother died of cancer. All his friends become your friends. All his adventures become your adventures. He writes about people we all love, John Cleese, Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan. I think he knows everybody. He sounds a trumpet blast for truth. He cares.

“Richard always writes like he’s telling a story, which is why so many of us non-science people understand science better than we used to. But when the story’ s his own life, it’s doubly compelling.” BILL MAHER.

Someone  cautioned me, quoting 1 Corinthian 1:25-18 , “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

….blessed are the dense for they will inherit the earth?

Let us hope not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Open letter to Richard Dawkins
October 27, 2015

Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015

Dear Richard,

I’m a columnist not a journalist. Columnists have more fun. We break rules.

Quick aside: Ann Druyan and I started a religious war on Kauai. In the November/December 2003 Skeptical Inquirer ‘Ann Druyan Talks About Science, Religion, Wonder, Awe…and Carl Sagan’ and I responded. My letter appeared in the Letters to the Editor section in the March/April 2004 issue. It then appeared as a column in The Garden Island Forum.

Eleven years later and I still don’t understand what it was in that letter that set ‘them’ off. The war’s still waging.

The current column –better known in this back neck of the woods as a bettejo– was a hoot to write. Have already had one response. Before the letter was published–I think there’s a leak–someone named Jerry Terui from Lihue cautioned me, quoting 1 Corinthian 1:18-25, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

….blessed are the dense for they will inherit the earth?

My Editor wants more Richard Dawkins. Will try to work something up about A Candle in the Dark and see if I can include the densers. Don’t want to leave them out.

By the way, I found, on my desk when I returned home, two books: Sense of Style and 36 Arguments for the Existence of God. I’m trying to read Candle, Sense, and 36 Arguments all at the same time.

If gawd had a hand in this, I think he’s got his fingers crossed.

Aloha,

Bettejo

PS: New comment: ‘I’m a Dawkish adolescent.’  In a way I’m kind’a flattered. Adolescent? Don’t I wish.

RICHARD DAWKINS and me
October 18, 2015

 

Many of us, I’m, sure, hold someone so completely in awe that the very idea of meeting him, dining with him, takes our breath away.How could it happen? If it did, wouldn’t we be struck dumb? Turn  loose a tsunami brain wave that washes all our cognitive thinking out the window? We’d mutter. We’d stutter. We’d falter. We’d faint.

Well, it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t like that at all. Richard Dawkins, my  companion at the table, was, as David Silverman, president of the American Atheist, Inc., said, “…. sometimes funny, sometimes fascinating, and always interesting…” But, more than that, a delightful host. He made me feel welcome, comfortable, at home. All of them did.

It was a small group at the table. Several brilliant women, three Turks, one who plays polo, a guy from Australia, a lawyer from Texas–hope I’ve not left anyone out–I didn’t count, I listened and talked and had a great time.

The experience, I suppose, was something like it might be for you Christian guys having supper with Jesus. We didn’t drink blood or eat flesh, but we did wine and dine.  Richard didn’t wash anybody’s feet. Good thing. I was wearing a pair of Haines Barely There panty hose which would have turned my foot  washing into an awkward feat under the circumstances.

The introduction by the others was impressive. Lot of letters ‘fore and aft, degrees in fields of science I didn’t know existed. But there was a human quality there.  No chest pounding or me me meing. They were almost humble. Richard’s introduction was,    “I’m Richard Dawkins.”

When my turn came, I said,”I’m Bettejo Dux. The lady from the provinces.  I’m an atheist. No buts about it.” It was an ‘inside’ joke and Richard grinned. That made me happy and set the stage.

Sometimes the banter became a little hefty but all of it fascinated me. Held my interest. I could have sat at that table for hours listening in.

I think the women were a bit more interested in the awful ways in which atheists were  treated. I told my story about guys on Kauai who  say, “I agree with Bettejo but I can’t say it.” “I’d lose my job.” “I couldn’t be elected.”  “Neighbors wouldn’t talk to my wife.” “What would I tell my flock?” We all agreed  speaking the truth was a dangerous step but one which all of us had to take. Someone said, “Like our gay friends, we have to come out of the closet. Too many are sadly locked in there alone.”

I make it easy on myself. As an atheist, I prefer to pal  with astronomers rather than  astrologers. Reason my way through life  rather than indulge in make believe. Browse The God Delusion rather than the Bible.  Watch  Cosmos, narrated by Carl Sagan, rather than any sermon from any televised house of worship.

Lets teach kids the marvelous magic of math, not the  mythical magic of religion.

What do you think?