Tag Archives: books

Pitchforks Anyone?

So far I have not gotten hold of a copy of Michael Wigglesworth’s “Meat Out of the Eater.” But I have searched for it at libraries and internet bookstores.

As a Calvinist preacher in 1600’s America, Wigglesworth wrote this tract as a Christian-based justification of slavery.

A few months ago on the internet, a man was called out for reading a politically questionable book. I wish I could remember the book, person and accuser, but things fly by so fast on the internet.

Anyway, the article said that the reading man should be punished for the crime of reading the wrong literature. I was shocked at first and then began to see clearly that this is the future.

So here I am, obviously a horrible person that wants to read a book that justifies slavery. My search history condemns me. Given the current political climate, this book should be collected and burned instead of read. Maybe some would throw me into that fire as well.

One problem exists in my story: the reason I sought out this book.

Years ago I started reading books from all over the world because I found I could get closer to different cultures this way. I’m certain my reading gave me a better understanding than a vacation on a luxury cruise ship ever could.

I’m not even sure that a stint as a privileged-white-person temporarily doing good in some third-world country experience would bring me closer. Lots of criticism exists on those people as well.

I asked my African Studies professor if he could recommend some books written by or about people in Africa. Last year I uncovered this list and “Meat Out of the Eater” was on it.

My professor was a black man from Kenya. I hope he has changed his ways.

Stay Home

“You better travel to Alaska while you can still see the glaciers. Climate Change is destroying them.”

That is what I heard from someone after she returned from an Alaskan excursion.

Air travel, with its voracious appetite for fossil fuel, contributes  to climate change. I prefer the term People/Machine/Stuff (PMS) Disaster.

Am I missing the point? Why see the glaciers when the act of seeing them begins to destroy them? Dramatic increases in the human population, the machine population, and the overproduction of stuff in general got us into this environmental mess. Perhaps only dramatic decreases will stop the glaciers from melting.

But imagine the misery inflicted by a systematic decrease in people, machines, and stuff?

Do nothing = pain. Do something = pain. We are living “Catch-22.”

Beans and Strangers

It’s all about the can of beans.

People fear the Other and fail to see the humanity of strangers. This was the message in a short story I read in an English class years ago. The professor spoke about how the fear of others is unjustified and that we can live together. Humanitarian goals benefit everyone.

Then he stopped and stared out into space for a few seconds. As he continued, he said that these are all noble goals, but in the end, people care only for their own can of beans.

The last few survivors in the post-apocalyptic book, “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy, kill for that last can of food found on any shelf.  Those beans mean life or death. The stashes of silver and gold are useless.

In a struggle between us and the Other, human nature gravitates toward selfish goals. Glimmers of humane treatment of others exist in McCarty’s book but only after being tempered and tested with severe, life-preserving distrust.

We protect our little band of friends and family and hope to make their lives happier and easier. How much energy can we expend on strangers? To expand on that idea, just how much can we move out of the here and now, and empathize with those that lived in the  past or will live in the future?

The past and future remain inscrutable. All I know about my great-grandmother, who lived to the age of 94, is that she hauled water from a well back to her home on the day that she died. She lived on another continent, another time. She is only an interesting anecdote to me.

Chances are that I will never see great-grandchildren. To feel love and empathy for hypothetical children or adults in the future is a strain. We would love to say altruism guides us and we care about the future as much as the children right in front of us, but human nature selfishly holds on to the now.

The here and now is all we have. Isn’t that what the trendy Eastern religions teach? To love the Other is a worthwhile goal, but opposes ancient instincts.  We must eat for today or else the future is irrelevant.

Let us hope for a time that humans can sever the dichotomy of good and evil that exists within us all.  At that time, maybe love will be all that we need.