Starstuff: May Wonder Never Cease …

Carl Sagan was an astronomer and astrophysicist, an educator and a dedicated lover of life and learning. He died just before Christmas 1992, when he was only 62 years old … far too young for anyone who so tenaciously embraced life, who thrived as teacher and learner, who so relished the bounteous gifts of Creation — and made wonderment so appealing.

His wife, Ann Druyan, tells us that Dr. Sagan wanted us to see ourselves as “starstuff,” as made of atoms forged in the fiery hearts of distant stars. And, to be clear, his words were not merely poetic imagery. We humans are, indeed, made up of the chemistry of the cosmos, of elements which comprise the incredibly complex and ultimately unfathomable reality of the Universe, our home.

Sagan described humanity, poetically and factually, as “…starstuff pondering the stars; organized assemblages of 10 billion billion billion atoms considering the evolution of atoms; tracing the long journey by which, here at least, consciousness arose.”

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Knowing Beyond Knowledge:
A Word To The Wise

You’re in the kitchen, slicing vegetables. Four-year-old Henry, curious as always, reaches for a knife. Naturally, you say, “No, Henry. No!! you can’t have that!! You’ll hurt yourself….. NO!!”

Henry’s insatiable wonderment is piqued. With his lower lip in a sly pout, Henry asks the oldest question in humanity’s ageless vocabulary: “Whhyyy?”

Protecting Henry is the natural reaction, the intelligent response, a truly glorious instinct. No right-thinking person (well, almost none) would willingly injure a child.

But … as we examine the moment … there’s much more involved!!!

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Greater Love Than This . . . Friendship At Its Best

We all know about friendship. We have lots of friends: friends at work, in the neighborhood, friends from school or church, friends at the club or the pub – or somewhere.

Our children “hang out” with friends, thumbs a’whirl texting one another, even as they stand but two feet away from each other. Even the internet lets us “friend” people we do not even know and will probably never meet.

We’re friends (or friendly) with lots of people. We wave in friendly fashion at neighbors; they wave back. A wealthy investment broker recently threw a birthday party for two hundred of his best friends. Two hundred.

We seek friends because we need friendship. Friends bring us out of ourselves into a community of humanizing mutuality in which we learn that life is not always just about us.

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On The Border

Twenty years ago, I was invited to consult with a large financial institution centered in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. On the flight from Miami, I was seated next to an American businessman who quickly proved to be both an enthusiastic bibber and, as his intake swelled, a loquacious, self-described “expert” on the worrisome facts of life in Central America.

As we zoomed over the Caribbean, he told fearsome tales of how dangerous life was for business leaders in Honduras, how widespread the poverty, how dangerous the violent gangs, how brazen the smuggling of people, how prevalent the flow of drugs, how chilling the kidnappings, how stark the living conditions; on and on, as he detailed a dreary scene.

Then, with morose delectation, he listed the risks in our upcoming landing at Tegucialpa’s Toncontin Airport: mountains at both ends of the runway, unpredictable crosswinds, the shortest landing space in the Americas (though, for consolation’s sake, he added that a shorter one exists in Nepal). Nonetheless, we landed in one piece.

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Is Performance Rage Working?

Demonstrators screech at legislators in restaurants, on the streets, in their offices. Fits of venomous vulgarity, frothy rage and florid irrationality are standard ploys for upset Progressives on the warpath … and combative events increase in frequency and intensity.

Some observers say the underlying reason for these escalating forays is simply the overflow of Leftist political enthusiasms. Folks gotta rant and rave and attack others and scream filthy words at strangers … and destroy reputations and shred the credibility of a worthy lifetime. But, hey, its only politics.

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Beneath The Label: A Conservative Heart

After reading my last essay about the Kavanaugh Event, a Left-speaking neighbor said to me, “You must be some kinda’ weirdo Conservative.”

My answer was brief. “If you must label me … then, yes, Conservative fits…”

But wait!!  Conservatives are rigid racists, uppity sexists, women-hating, inflexible absolutists, judgmental snobs and stuff like that ….. right?  So, why do I admit that “I am indeed a Conservative”?

Let me explain — but please understand. This is not merely a partisan political statement. I offer here a brief view of certain First Principles with which I view our lives in this blessed, but threatened, nation.

A  Little  Learning  Background

We all have a vision of what’s good for us in this life. Our vision embodies our values and goals. When a goal has sufficient weight, it motivates and influences our behavior and fuels our energy. But energy must be tempered and focused, lest we defeat ourselves by excess and intemperance.

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Beyond The Kavanaugh Event: The Precarious State Of America’s Fading Traditions

A vast divide now exists amongst Americans. It is far more than a political rift between Democrats and Republicans. It is not merely a struggle between Conservatives and Liberals. The true nature of this conflict centers on how we shall live as individuals and what values we shall uphold as a nation. The facts at hand are not encouraging.

The Kavanaugh Event highlights the rabid polarization in the struggle for survival of our fundamental values, our American identity and even our national security.

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Warsaw  and  Auschwitz: Words  Are  Only  The  Beginning

Politics is about power. Political rhetoric is about control over people’s thinking, decisions and behavior. Sometimes power comes from votes, sometimes from violence. No matter how power and control are won, the struggle begins with words and images.

Politicians use words to create images to persuade and cajole voters, to rouse and unify people, to uplift and praise or to condemn and vilify, to propose a vision or to besmirch.

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Yes, Evil Is Still Around ….. Really!!

Some weeks ago, a young couple (both 29) from Washington, D. C. were cycling through ISIS territory in Tajikistan. They were at the end of a year-long bicycle tour. A car passed them, turned around – and deliberately ran them down. Then, the five occupants, ISIS members, stabbed the cyclists to death, later announcing the murders of these infidels as tribute to Allah.

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Failed Leaders And Our Catholic Dilemma: What Do We Do Now ?

A friend — a bewildered, depressed Catholic friend — asks, “Where do we go now, given the astonishing sins and failures of our ordained leaders, our wicked priests and bishops who have betrayed us?”

Where do we go now?

My answer: Nowhere … We go nowhere. There is no need whatever for any faithful Catholic to go anywhere. We remain Catholics, as before…. as always.

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