July 2016

~Book Review~

We evolved in groups. We survived and became successful in groups. Tribe, written by Sebastian Junger, describes the groups that we came from and why a close connection with other humans is essential for our well-being in today’s world. Junger uses stone-age civilizations as examples of people with better mental health than we have due to their close connections with each other.

He paraphrases Benjamin Franklin lamenting that English settlers were constantly fleeing over to the Indians—but Indians almost never did the same.

Junger quotes Thomas Paine in “Agrarian Justice” saying “whether… civilization has most promoted or most injured the general happiness of man is a question that may be strongly contested. Both the most affluent and the most miserable of the human race are to be found in countries that are called the most civilized”.

Paine acknowledged from Philadelphia that Indian tribes living only hundreds of miles away, lacked the advantages of the arts and sciences and manufacturing, but they lived in a society where personal poverty was unknown and the natural rights of man were actively promoted. In that sense, Paine claimed, the American Indian should serve as a model for how to eradicate poverty and bring natural rights back into civilized life.

Junger says, “Subsistence level hunters aren’t necessarily more moral than other people; they just can’t get away with selfish behavior because they live in small groups where almost everything is open to scrutiny.”

Junger quotes Crevecoeur who “seemed to have understood that the intensely communal nature of an Indian tribe held an appeal that the material benefits of Western civilization couldn’t necessarily compete with.”

In effect, modern society does not create a surplus of leisure time for networking and strengthening relationships. Junger says, “It creates exactly the opposite: a desperate cycle of work, financial obligation, and more work. Self-determination theory holds that human beings need three things in order to be content: they need to feel competent at what they do; they need to feel authentic in their lives; and they need to feel connected to others. These values are considered “intrinsic” to human happiness and far outweigh “extrinsic” values such as beauty, money, and status.”

And later, “Adversity often leads people to depend more on one another, and that closeness can produce a kind of nostalgia for the hard times that even civilians are susceptible to.

What people miss presumably isn’t danger or loss but the unity that these things often engender. There are obvious stresses on a person in a group, but there may be even greater stresses on a person in isolation, so during disasters there is a net gain in well-being. Most primates, including humans, are intensely social, and there are very few instances of lone primates surviving in the wild.”

As Thomas Paine labored to articulate his goals for a free society, he could have easily taken his inspiration from earthquake survivors or soldiers on the battlefield instead of from the American Indians. Communities that have been devastated by natural or man-made disasters almost never lapse into chaos and disorder; if anything, they become more just, more egalitarian, and more deliberately fair to individuals. The kinds of community-oriented behaviors that typically occur after a natural disaster are exactly the virtues that Paine was hoping to promote in his revolutionary tract.

Junger notes, “What catastrophes seem to do—sometimes in the span of a few minutes—is turn back the clock on 10,000 years of social evolution. Self-interest gets subsumed into group interest because there is no survival outside of group survival, and that creates a bond that people sorely miss.”

We need solidarity in our community, a sense of belonging to society because it is at the core of what it means to be human. That solidarity is what delivered us to this extraordinary moment in our history.

“It may also be the only thing that allows us to survive it,” Sebastian Junger finalizes in Tribe.

—Lauren Florence, MD

Field Trip

Hi Ho Dinosaur lovers. Our Cleveland-Lloyd excursion on Saturday, September 17, is fast approaching. We have 32 seats remaining! Please remember to let Bob Mayhew (801-582-3160)-home (801-419-1439)-cell know if you want us to provide lunch @ $42.00/seat or bring your own at $30.00/seat. HoU will provide water and soda and coolers for food. We will meet at the First Unitarian Church at 7:30 AM; the bus will leave at 8:00 am. You may pay at that time.

I expect the bus trip to take approximately three hours to the Quarry where we will take a tour, eat lunch and mill about the grounds or hike the area. I am not sure what the weather will be but expect it to be sunny and hot so be sure to wear appropriate clothing, sun-screen, umbrella, good walking shoes/boots, binoculars and anything else you require for personal comfort. Depending on time remaining we may elect to visit/tour the Museum in Price

There are plenty of seats remaining on the bus so if you know someone who may interested in joining us please encourage them to give me a call. The more the merrier!

State Paleontologist, Dr. James Kinkade will be with us on the bus so the trip down and back will be loaded with opportunities to get some graduate level information on the fossils of Utah and surrounding areas from a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable source.

We would really like to have at least 17 more participants (34 total) to hit our breakeven point, however a total of 49 would be awesome! So please canvas the people you know who may be interested in this sort of outing and have them get in touch with me or any HoU Board Member.

Join us for a fun day in a day of the local life during the Jurrasic period where Allosaurus fragilis hunted Camarasaur, Diplodocus and Stegosaurs.

—Bob Mayhew

President’s Report

At our June meeting we watched a documentary about the magician and bullshit debunker James Randy, aka The Amazing Randy. As I mentioned last month, I have met him a couple of times at various “annual conferences” held by the AHA and the CFI. He was quite engaging and loved talking about the faith healers he had “outed” and he would talk about how he could fool a class room full of people by giving them all a written horoscope then asking them if they thought he picked the right one for them. Then, after a majority of them raised their hands he informed them that they all had the same horoscope. He is amazing that way. Exceedingly friendly, you always know you’re in the presence of a well-practiced showman.

But the documentary also showed a part of his personal life he was willing to let us see. He was, late in his life coming out as a gay man, but also dealing with the possible imprisonment and or deportation of his companion and life partner whom he had been with for many years. Happily, it all ended well.

Recently, while I was watching the tube for a while, an ad came on for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Chia pets. It was a nice moment of comic relief as I giggled a bit about the absurd nature of this campaign season. But, in this rather strange election cycle I thought, “why not.” So I think I’ll go looking for a couple “pets” and get them growing. Then wait and see what they look like on Election Day.

I suppose every election season has its “strangeness,” with mud-slinging and character assassinations. But I think this one is going to be rather unique in the amount of trash talk. The likely candidates have plenty of “baggage” that will be gone through with zeal by their opponents. While at the same time important issues concerning this country and the world will get canned responses or little discussion at all. That’s why I have expressed a dislike for, or at least some weariness for, the political process. But I’ll still be a part of it and I never miss voting. Regardless of who you vote for, please vote, a big turnout is always a good thing. Staying involved in a state so “one sided” can be discouraging, but involvement is a must for me.

As a non-profit organization we are restricted from endorsing candidates or getting directly involved in politics. And I have no desire to use the chapter that way. But it would be nice if some of the religious non-profits would do the same. It’s obvious if you follow the news around the country that many “churches” of various denominations more or less ignore these restrictions or find ways to get around them. Plus there is little done by authorities to punish violations of the statutes.

This month our guest speaker will speak to about what has been going on with the Salt Lake Tribune. Having been recently purchased by a huntsman family, it will be interesting to hear about what’s happening and what changes may be in the works. So I hope you will join us for an informative evening. I’ll bring the refreshments.

—Robert Lane
President, HoU


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