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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Beyond Politics

by Jean Stimmell As Christianity’s hold on America has weakened, many pundits believed our politics would become more ecumenical and rational, less tempestuous and back-biting. But the opposite has happened: We are now more polarized: in danger of being torn apart by two diametrically opposed ideologies about what America represents. One party I will call “Woke;” the other, “Trumpy.” But this column is not about politics. It’s about an elementary force underlying our political food fight: Religion. And by that, I mean religion in the broadest sense: a belief in something bigger than the individual. As social animals, it is hardwired in us: we have …

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Whatever Happened to Chance?

by Jean Stimmell Today nothing happens by chance: It’s always someone’s fault. Even illness is now seen as personal failure: We blame the victim, saying it is their fault because of what they ate or didn’t eat, the amount they drank, or whether or not they exercised. Absurdly, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the architects of the World Trade Buildings were threatened with lawsuits, alleging the design of their buildings was faulty because the occupants couldn’t get out safely. Legal scholar Jeffrey Rosen noted in the aftermath of that attack, “contemporary Americans, in particular, are not well equipped to deal with arbitrary threats …

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Dreaming about Retirement

I recently had a vivid dream about getting a call from my professional licensing board telling me they were revoking my license because I was abusing pain medication. I tried to tell them I took no such drugs, that they were prescribed for Coco, my 15-1/2-year-old dog, who is in at-home hospice care. But they hung up on me, throwing me into a tizzy. While I intend to retire the end of next month, I wasn’t ready yet. I ponder what my dream is trying to tell me. Certainly, I will miss seeing my patients, but my practice takes more out of me each year. …

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Change is driven by the young, not us grizzled elders

Recently I wrote in this space about how humans are born into this world unfinished, requiring a long childhood to learn the norms and practices of their particular community. For the community to thrive, what we pass on to our children must change in step with societal changes. This unparalleled ability to change, as psychologist Alison Gopnik tells us, “is the most distinctive and unchanging thing about us, allowing us to thrive no matter what challenging circumstances we had to face over our long evolutionary history.”1 But societal change isn’t driven by our grizzled elders but by our children. As sociologists like Tressie Cottom tell …

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