One For All, And All For One

by Jean Stimmell I was mesmerized by a scene I saw on TV at the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine: A group of neighbors with rifles guarding a suburban street leading into Kyiv against approaching tanks, their faces illuminated by fires they had lit in trashcans to keep warm, fearless and immovable, belting out in unison the Ukrainian National Anthem. When everything is on the line, we forget our differences and come together as one.  Of course, we do: as social animals, it has been bred into us. That’s why we have survived as a species. Although much less dire, I once was …

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Edited by Real Life

by Jean Stimmell Last month I started a column contending that, emotionally speaking, events in the 1960s were as disjointed and perilous as the existential angst we face today. My mind had flashed back to those olden days as I cut kindling with my hatchet to start the first fire of the season with wood I had harvested off my land. The war in Vietnam War raged. Each day the news reported, like a sports score, how many of the enemy we had killed, as if that number justified the death of many of our brothers and sisters who also became cannon fodder that day. …

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Kurt Vonnegut’s Way Of Dealing With The Trauma

by Jean Stimmell I was psyched to see “Unstuck in Time,” a new film about Kurt Vonnegut by Robert Weide and Don Argott. I had devoured Kurt’s most famous book, Slaughterhouse-Five, when it came out in 1969, soon after I got back from serving in Vietnam. As someone who viewed my war as unnecessary, illegal, and immoral, I could identify with his anti-war stance and how he questioned authority. Later, I became intrigued with him for being a wounded warrior, as were my patients, after working in the VA treating veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In  Slaughterhouse-Five, the narrator and Billy Pilgrim, …

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What Is the Common Good?

by Jean Stimmell I take umbrage with Bret Stephens, a conservative columnist for the New York Times, for having the gall to tell me, a staunch liberal, what I believe. He praises paleoconservative Sohrab Ahmari’s new book, The Unbroken Thread for giving a “moral voice…against the values of elite liberalism, above all its disdain for limits, from moral taboos tor national borders.” ⁠1 In the real world, when the right and the left fight over freedom versus limits, it’s not a clear-cut matter. As Max Boot recently wrote, conservatives are willing to accept substantial infringements on civil liberties to combat criminals and terrorists. Yet, they …

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Wild and crazy thoughts to save the world

by Jean Stimmell Today, we navigate through our lives, autonomous contestants in a national gameshow called free-market capitalism, where winners live in mansions and losers on the street. Community, ethics, and our non-human neighbors don’t matter much. How do we break out of this amusement park before it is too late? Let’s try by thinking outside the box. What if our thoughts and imagination don’t arise in us as individuals. What if thoughts are socially constructed. Rather than our thoughts arising out of our brain, what if we are receiving them from outside: From the web of all our acquaintances, books we have read, and …

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Hope Lies in Our Entanglements

by Jean Stimmell For most of human evolution, the cosmic forces of the universe were magical, beyond our feeble understanding. We were humble and kept our heads down, acutely aware that we were the lowest denominator in a vast galactic mystery. Unfortunately, over the last few hundred years, we humans have become smug and arrogant, thinking we are lords and masters of Planet Earth, which will be our downfall because of the climate crisis we are causing. Today I want to write about four entanglements that give me hope about how we might regain that sense of awe while avoiding environmental doom. Entanglement #1: Last …

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