Nine Decades of Progress

by James A. Haught I’ll be 90 on my next birthday. My long life is sinking, shrinking, slip-sliding away. My wife is worse: bedfast, under Hospice care. Soon, our world will end, not with a bang but a whimper. Looking back over nine decades, I’m proud and pleased because secular humanism—the progressive struggle to make life better for everyone—won hundreds of victories during my time. When I came of age in the 1950s, fundamentalist taboos ruled America. Gay sex was a felony, and homosexuals hid in the closet. It was a crime for stores to open on the Sabbath. It was illegal to look at …

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Living in Ghost Land

I recently got back from two months in San Jose, supporting Russet, whose son Austin succumbed to a malevolent brain tumor in January. It has been an extremely taxing, long haul for her, caring for him as he went downhill over the last year. After returning home, I’ve been dislocated in time and space, yanked around by a profusion of emotional climates as erratic as the weather, both here and there: From the frigid winter winds blowing across the stark whiteness of Jenness Pond to the feminine softness of mournful, foggy mornings in the Los Gatos mountains. It didn’t help when Coco discovered a dead …

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A wealth of riches, a poverty of morals

Let’s say you’re a millionaire. That’s a lot of money, right? Now let’s say you’re a billionaire. That’s a lot more money! But how much more? Think of all those dollars as seconds on a clock. A million seconds would total 11 days—but a billion seconds equals nearly 32 years! Rich is nice, but billionaire-rich is over the moon—and the wealth of billionaires is now zooming out of this world. There are only 2,200 of these überrich dudes in the world, but the wealth stashed away by these elites hit a new record this summer, averaging more than $4 billion each. They’ve even pocketed an …

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Is This the Beginning or the End?

I strive for idleness. My best ideas come to me not from hard work but from being unfocused, just lolling around. My creative life, such as it is, coincides with what Mark Taylor tells us in “Idleness Waiting Grace:” “Many of the most important thoughts are unintentional—they can be neither solicited nor cajoled but have a rhythm of their own, creeping up, arriving, and leaving when we least expect them.”⁠1 Certain seemingly inconsequential events stick in our minds. For me, one such thing is a TV commercial, from fifty years ago, about margarine: In the ad, Mother Nature, dressed in a gown of white and …

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We Have a Choice

Our lives seem to be fragmenting in the face of spiraling polarization and civil unrest. How do we find what’s authentic in this splintered world of wildly different truths? And what if authenticity, in the traditional sense, no longer exists? I muse on this question as I meditate on an exquisite, little waterfall near my house. The countless, disparate rivulets within it, rushing pell-mell in every direction, remind me of the incessant deluge of information pelting down on us each day—and the multiple realities they imply. In Mother Nature’s world, none of these individual rivulets represent the truth: it is only when they are incorporated …

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Why Billionaires are Detested

The renowned Western Swing bandleader Bob Wills would joyously call out in mid-song, “Take it away, Leon,” bringing on a crowd-pleasing instrumental solo by steel guitar maestro, Leon McAuliffe. But now comes another Leon who’s such an off-key, screechy, Wall Street billionaire that crowds are shouting: “Go away, Leon!” He is hedge-fund huckster Leon Cooperman, who first gained public notoriety when he compared Barack Obama’s election to Hitler’s rise to power, and he later was dubbed “Crybaby Cooperman” after he got all teary-eyed during a TV interview in which he decried “the vilification of billionaires.” The sad rich man was weeping about Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s …

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