ALL THE LIGHT WE CAN SEE



blue sky and hope

In genuine questioning, nothing can be taken for granted as if it were self-evident and apparent for all to see. Those who have been struck by wonder recognize that there is a strange, amazing depth to things that goes well beyond the “truths” of common sense or cultural formation.

The Fire This Time?

To amuse ourselves during the Pandemic Experiment, my oldest grandson Yasu and I started a study group using Teams, the Microsoft version of Zoom. Within a month, our study group expanded to include my wife, our two daughters, our youngest granddaughter, and Yasu’s brother. We were three generations in three states and met three times a week. (I know three appears here as a magic number.) Our seven-member group read three books to grasp the fundamentals of American life: Tocqueville’s Democracy in America for how individualism and equality shape our lives; Fitzgerald’s The

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Joey: Complete

Joey An interdepartmental feud PROLOGUE Brianna Smythe took one look at Joey and said to herself, Bingo. There’s my ticket to the Big Time. The young psychologist immediately knew her trip to New Harmony, Utah and the subsequent hassle with the local rednecks over the whereabouts of the cabin that Joey and his great-grandmother lived in were going to pay off in a big way. She observed that Joey established brief eye contact with her and then looked down at the porch floor. The young boy, who was a good six inches taller

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Joey: Episode 8

Joey, the mechanical boy, recovers and saves the world CHAPTER 31 Brianna walked into Dr. Helmut Volkmann’s office, and for a moment thought she had lost her mind. She was in Old Vienna, standing on an oriental carpet, surrounded by saffron and brown floral wallpaper. In one corner of the room, on a wooden stand, was a three-foot-tall, blue and white ceramic jar with a round cover, along the wall opposite the vase was a dark chocolate leather couch, lacking arms, but having an inclined headrest. The heavy drapes, covering the one window,

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Joey: Episode 7

The wisdom of our tribe nearly kills Joey CHAPTER 26 “Joey, do you know what the word ‘philosophy’ means?” Professor Thayer asked. The man-child shook his head. He had never been in the presence of a Master and was reluctant to speak. “The word ‘philosophy’ comes from the Greek — philia . . . sophia.” Professor Thayer pronounced each root of the word clearly and distinctly. “Philia means love and sophia means wisdom, so philosophy is the love of wisdom. Joey, do you know what ‘wisdom’ means?” Joey answered, “I’ve been told that

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Joey: Episode 6

Worthy of a Zen Master CHAPTER 22 “Watch your step. Don’t stumble,” Brianna said. Joey had no difficulty seeing in the dimly lighted auditorium, but he was apprehensive. He had never seen several hundred students sitting in semi-darkness, and he did not know what to expect. He followed Dr. Smythe, as if he were descending into a vast cave. Halfway down the flight of concrete stairs, his guide stopped and asked the students seated on the aisle if she and Joey could get through. The students did not get up but rearranged their

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Joey: Episode 5

The best and the brightest?  CHAPTER 18 Brianna hesitated and then knocked on the door beneath the name “Governor ‘Bud’ Wheeler.” On the other side of the door, the voice of the people shouted, “Come in.” Brianna opened the door and said, “I’m Brianna Smythe, and this is Joey.” Three grinning campaign posters wrapped in red, white, and blue bunting and Governor “Bud,” himself, greeted Brianna and Joey. “Come in, come in,” the Governor said. A campaign smile and a handshake charged toward Brianna and Joey. Governor “Bud” pumped their arms, pounded their

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Joey: Episode 4

An economic lesson at Walmart CHAPTER 15 “Joey, do you know what the word ‘university’ means?” Brianna asked. “A university is an institution of higher learning.” “Excellent, Joey. Today your education begins.” Brianna had bought new clothes for Joey so that he would look like a regular undergraduate and not like some hayseed from Southern Utah. But Joey refused the new clothes. Brianna forgot that Joey never experienced adolescent rebellion and that he did not know the desire to conform to peer pressure. In many, if not in most ways, Joey was a

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Joey: Episode 3

The Old Girl Network to the rescue CHAPTER 11 Without the Old Girl Network, Brianna would have been lost. The New Sisterhood had infiltrated every level of the University. As a result, no aspect of President Harlan’s life was not available on some node of the Old Girl Network. In response to Brianna’s distress call, the New Sisterhood sprang into action. Soon, President Harlan was reading a confidential letter addressed to him by Janet Williams, a professor of journalism. Professor Williams explained that Dr. Smythe had been sand-bagged by Jeffrey Nelson, a troublesome

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Joey: Episode 2

Testosterone thought appears to win CHAPTER 4 “Blah, blah, blah . . . Furthermore, blah, blah, blah . . . And, in addition, blah, blah, blah . . .” The Chairperson of the Philosophy Department took forever to say everything about nothing. Lewis thought, Why won’t this idiot shut up? No wonder these meetings are interminable. Academics have absolutely no self-control when it comes to speech. Once each semester the President of the University met with the department chairpersons. The meeting was always held at the Faculty Club, the only posh University building

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Joey: Episode 1

An interdepartmental feud PROLOGUE Brianna Smythe took one look at Joey and said to herself, Bingo. There’s my ticket to the Big Time. The young psychologist immediately knew her trip to New Harmony, Utah and the subsequent hassle with the local rednecks over the whereabouts of the cabin that Joey and his great-grandmother lived in were going to pay off in a big way. She observed that Joey established brief eye contact with her and then looked down at the porch floor. The young boy, who was a good six inches taller than

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God Said; We Say

On December 24, 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 read in turn from the Book of Genesis as they orbited the Moon. William Anders read, “And God said, ‘Let there be light: and there was light,’” probably for Christians the most well-known passage from the Hebrew Bible, and one of the most ambiguous ideas in theology. At the time of the flyby of Apollo 8, I was an atheist; that God merely spoke and light appeared made no sense to me; that later His Speech brought into existence, the stars, the Earth, plants, fish, birds, and

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Why Christianity in America Is Subservient to Capitalism

The Covid-19 Pandemic has revealed that we no longer have the equivalent of such moral leaders as Martin Luther King, Jr., Caesar Chavez, and Dorothy Day. These leaders in their actions embodied the Gospel of Love and the unshakeable Christian understanding of the human being taken from the Book of Genesis: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”[1] Every Christian denomination holds that in some way God, or Christ, is in each person and consequently possesses a dignity that

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Trouble in Paradise

Has Deep Gloom Killed the Future? Before the Covid-19 Experiment focused our attention on not dying prematurely, most of us were enveloped in deep gloom, whose sources are still present. The two major political factions, the Left and the Right, promulgate apocalyptic images of the future that portray that we are fearfully close to a final descent into darkness; The human species is threatened by climate change; Kim Jong-un and Donald J. Trump can initiate nuclear war with the push of a button; the United States, China, and Russia are divvying up the

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Donald I, Act IV

Events from Act III The Covid-19 pandemic reached the United States in January 2020, and by the end of May, 100,000 people had died. Social distancing, mandated in March, shut down the economy, leading to 40 million unemployed. On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a black man, died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from a white officer with the Minneapolis Police Department, pressing his knee to Floyd’s neck for nine minutes, while Floyd was handcuffed face down on the ground. Peaceful protests against police brutality that sometimes turned violent spread from Minneapolis to numerous American cities and even to Toronto, London, and Berlin.

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The Covid-19 Experiment and Greed

The Covid-19 Experiment has revealed that greed rules much of America. The Aspen Institute, a high-powered think tank with an endowment of $115 million and several billionaires on its Board, applied for and received a federal small business bailout loan of $8 million.[1] Workers at a Tyson meat processing plant in Arkansas earn $12 an hour to process 120 chickens per minute. They stand shoulder to shoulder cutting and deboning birds that fly by so quickly that a worker cannot pause to cover a cough and thus may be exposing others to the

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Loneliness: Another Epidemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed structural deficiencies of American capitalism: corporations run solely for the benefit of CEOs and investors; workers without paid leave; a healthcare system with inadequate personal protection equipment for MDs and nurses. Social distancing to reduce the number of Covid-19 cases exposed that individualism caused a different epidemic — loneliness. The 2000 U.S. census uncovered that one out of every four households consists of only one person. Roughly twenty percent of Americans feel so isolated from others that loneliness is a major source of unhappiness in their lives,[1] irrespective

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The Covid-19 Pandemic: Surrounded by a Sea of Death

The Covid-19 Experiment exposes our deepest fears. Most of us are confined to home and would find reality unbearable without Netflix, Amazon Music, Minecraft, and YouTube. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, we Americans blinded ourselves to illness, aging, and dying. The critically ill were moved to intensive care units, where they were hidden beneath cables and tubes connected to monitors and respirators; the old and infirm with cognitive problems were housed in memory-care facilities and were often confined to a single room with a flat-screen TV and artificial flowers; the dying spent their last

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The Covid-19 Pandemic: Chance and Necessity

I had thought myself lost, had touched the very bottom of despair; and then, when the spirit of renunciation had filled me, I had known peace. . . . In such an hour, a man feels he has finally found himself.                                                                                                         

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The Covid-19 Experiment: Good Books, Not Distractions

To combat the aimlessness, boredom, and depression induced by The Covid-19 Experiment, the New York Times ran a series on the best movies, TV series, and video games to cure their readers of the social-distancing blues. Over half America is distracted, watching the seven episodes of Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness and other streaming videos on Netflix, not considering that the currently forced solitude is an opportunity for meditation and reflection upon life and death.  All the good books listed below are from the responses to the unscientific questionnaire that I recently

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Lies and Truths about Who We Are

The most important question a person can ask is the philosophical question, “Who am I?”, because without knowing who we truly are, we will not be sure that what we seek is good for us and what we try to avoid is bad.  The unexamined answer given to the philosophical question determines to a large extent our concrete daily existence. Consider Charles Wright, a good friend of mine in graduate school. After he received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics, he accepted a job at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown

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The Covid-19 Experiment and Stupid Ideas

I went to the agora at seven o’clock this morning. Not counting me, six customers were in the supermarket. All of us stayed more than six feet apart; the checkout woman wore heavy, black rubber gloves; three customers wore masks and gloves. Everyone feared contracting the covid-19 virus and dying. Death has always been a pest perched on our right shoulders. Before the covid-19 virus, 7,452 people died every day in the United States and approximately 150,000 worldwide. The first principle of Buddhism — nothing is permanent in this world — is undeniable.

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Comfort Food

We moderns live in our heads. As a child, I watched my father, a Romanian peasant, drink hot tea with rum from an old-fashioned diner cup. I was fascinated by how my father’s fingers thick from hard work wrapped around the heavy cup with the handle opposite his hand. The cup and fingers formed a whole. My father lived in the world, not in his head with a running commentary on everything, and that is the reason excellent food was an essential part of his life, and by living with him part of

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The Scary Covid-19 Experiment

We are now participants in a gigantic experiment: What happens in modern society when social interactions are reduced to a minimum? Already my favorite coffee shop here in Santa Fe is on the verge of going out of business. Most small businesses cannot stand an economic hit for long; fixed expenses kill them. I just returned from my locally owned grocery store; the store was empty as were the shelves. Virtually all schools, colleges, and universities, centers for breeding flu, are closed. Small liberal arts colleges, economically stressed for a decade, are no

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All the Light We Can See

All the Light We Can See I live in Northern New Mexico, where at sunset, a golden light envelops the high desert; the adobe buildings glow with the richness of polished gold and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with the deep red of blood. The extraordinary light, the sparseness of the high desert, and the clarity of the air have drawn thousands of painters and photographers to Taos and Santa Fe.  Every summer, my children and grandchildren, after a dinner of barbecued ribs and coleslaw, or Romanian chicken stew with tarragon and sour

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Blue Sky and Hope

J.P., the main character of Raymond Carver’s short story “Where I Am Calling From,” when a young boy fell down a dry well. Trapped at the bottom of the well with pebbles and dirt falling on him, isolated from the world, he feared he would never be rescued. He yelled and yelled for his father and wet his pants. But the circle of blue sky above him gave him hope; an occasional cloud drifted by, and now and then a bird flew overhead. The hope that sustained him as a boy in the

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