January 2008

A Humanist Ho, Ho, Ho!

‘Tis the season to be jolly, and drink some hot cocoa,
And snuggle up before the fire and watch the glistening snow.

Our wreaths are hung, our lights are lit, our houses are aglow,
And children all are listening to hear that ho, ho, ho.

Parties go on all around. Libations freely flow,
Midst food, and friends, and kin, and fun beneath the mistletoe.

Norman Rockwell’s captured just such scenes as these, although
He’s also painted poorer folk who aren’t in this tableau.

We are among the fortunate whose breaks in life we know.
We have no cause, however, for braggadocio.

No man is an island, as John Donne wrote long ago.
We’re lucky to be where we are, and a heavy debt we owe.

By sheer good luck we’re Americans and living now, you know,
In this land of liberty where happiness can grow.

For this we thank our founding fathers for reading Diderot,
And Locke and Montesquieu and Jean Jacques Rousseau.

We thank the brave explorers like John Glenn and Marco Polo,
Who opened up the heavens above and the world here below.

And we thank all those before us who heeded “Westward-Ho,”
And settled here in Utah instead of Idaho.

We thank the great historians who’ve informed us apropos
Of Greece and Rome and Persia, too, in ages long ago,

And all the great scientists like Newton and Galileo,
Who’ve explained the world to us. To them we say “Bravo.”

Orators and statesmen like the great Greek Cicero,
And Greek philosophers like Socrates and Plato,

Painters and sculptors like the Italian Donatello,
Composers and singers like the sublime Caruso,

Playwrights and authors like Harriet Beecher Stowe,
Essayists and poets like Edgar Allan Poe,

Our public schools and patient teachers, both which need more dough,
Our servicemen who keep us safe to freely come and go,

Doctors and, dare I say it, the lawyer Clarence Darrow,
And even sports heroes like Babe Ruth and DiMaggio,

And let’s not forget our chapter, where ignorance we outgrow
And which was nurtured from the start by a man you know as Flo,

All these and more enrich our lives; to them a debt we owe
That we cannot begin to pay the interest on, and so,

Because we all live better than old kings in a chateau,
We owe it to the future to make this world a place of show,

A world in which the struggling Jane and ordinary Joe
Can live a life surpassing ours, the best we can bestow.

There is no need tonight to be like Woody Allen, though,
Who can’t be happy if anyone has misery and woe.

So as we party here tonight and bask in winter’s glow,
I’ll wish you all the very best and a hearty “Ho, ho, ho.”

–Earl Wunderli

The Falls

~Book Review~

Joyce Carol Oates was honored with the current American Humanist of the Year award. The announcement in the Humanist magazine noted that she is a prolific author with nearly 40 published novels in addition to a large number of short story collections, novellas, plays and some nonfiction. I was embarrassed to admit that I had never even heard of neither her nor her work.

I went to the local bookstore and picked a book pretty much at random. I was really impressed with Ms. Oates’ writing style and her character development.

The book is told from the point-of-view of several characters. Each of the new narrators overlaps with the previous speaker, explaining the events from his or her own perspective and then moves the story forward. The result is a fascinating tale of Americana.

The setting is Niagara Falls where a newly wed couple who are both rural, perhaps a little too old for marriage, and children of Presbyterian ministers travel for their honeymoon. Their wedding night at the motel in Niagara Falls is perhaps less that successful and so the groom, feeling disgraced, throws himself over the observation point. The bride waits a full seven days for his body to be found–apparently it really takes that long to surface.

During this ordeal she is observed by a gentleman, a presumed bachelor for life, of an old established local family. He is totally taken with the abandoned bride and they end up marrying and raising a family. He is a lawyer by vocation and accidentally meets some early victims of Love Canal. He decides that he must pursue justice and fights against the establishment, who are his friends and family.

The couple progresses from early marital bliss to being somewhat estranged and then at odds over the direction of their careers. The children are left to cope with being odd and outcast.

I really enjoyed this book; its insights, style, and readability are truly remarkable.

–Wayne Wilson

President’s Message

Happy New Year to everyone. 2008 is under way, and hopefully it will end with the election of a new president who won’t make us grimace. In my opinion the last seven years of this administration have been simply horrid, to say the least.

Anyway, I am quite enthusiastic about our organization’s schedule of events. As you may remember, we made some changes to our schedule last year and will keep that same basic schedule again this year, that is: take a break from our regular general meetings and discussion groups during June and July and have a couple of movie nights instead. In August we will have our summer BBQ.

Also, as I announced last month, we are hosting our first annual “Darwin Day with Humanists of Utah” celebration, which will occur each year on Charles Darwin’s birthday, February 12. I want encourage you to join us at the University of Utah Student Union Building from 12:30 to 8:00 P.M. for a “Celebration of Science.” A more detailed schedule of the day’s events will be in next month’s newsletter and on our web site.

But I am getting ahead of myself, as we have a couple of happenings before Darwin Day. We will start the year with an excellent speaker at our January general meeting where we will feature the Honorable Judge Bruce Jenkins, who will speak on the subject, Taking the U.S. Constitution Seriously. I’m anxious to hear what someone of his stature has to say about the Constitution, and plan to ask a few questions.

In February, along with the Darwin Day celebration we will have our annual membership meeting also at the U of U Student Union Building, in the Crimson Room. However, please take note that because the second Thursday of February is Valentine’s Day and only a couple of days after the Darwin Day event, we have decided to hold it on the first Thursday, February 7th, rather than the customary second Thursday. The usual invitation with a request for RSVP will be sent soon.

Mentioning Judge Bruce Jenkins’ appearance reminded me of something I have been meaning to talk about, that is our agenda for the Humanists of Utah chapter. Because science is an area I have some competence in, this is where I have decided focus my efforts. I feel that more than ever science needs advocates and people willing to defend it in the face of the ongoing attacks. There is a lot of nonsense out there that needs to be confronted. However, I don’t want other areas to be neglected. That is why I am hoping that along with Darwin Day, we can have another non-science special event. Perhaps an event that has something to do with the philosophy of humanism, or the U.S. Constitution. I am open to suggestions.

Of course this larger agenda with special events requires us to use our limited financial resources, so I ask that you consider a donation to help us make these events happen. There is a lot of work to be done in order to “get the word out” about what humanists stand for. Donations, suggestions, criticisms, and volunteers are always welcome.

Hope to see you soon.

–Robert Lane
President, HoU

The Brights

Member Recommended Websites

What is a bright?

A bright is a person who has a naturalistic worldview

A bright’s worldview is free of supernatural and mystical elements

The ethics and actions of a bright are based on a naturalistic worldview.

The Brights