Early-voted in the March 1 Tennessee primary, down at the Belle Meade city hall, for the revolutionary candidate of my choice. Hooray, democracy! Always feels good to exercise the franchise, while the country’s still in business.
Encouraging poem today about not fearing to fail. “Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew” before he returned to Earth, notes poet Jack Gilbert. The only things worth writing about, he said, are “Love, death, man, virtue, nature, magnitude, excellence, evil, suffering, courage, morality. What is the good life. What is honor. Who am I.” That’s plenty, but it’s still a short list and Gilbert was a relatively un-prolific writer. “All Jack ever wanted to know was that he was awake — that the trees in bloom were almond trees — and to walk down the road to get breakfast. He never cared if he was poor or had to sleep on a park bench.”
In CoPhi today it’s Boethius in his cell with stoic Lady Philosophy, then Anselm and Aquinas. Christians all, though Bo didn’t usually say so.
In Atheism, we turn to Alain de Botton’s Religion for Atheists. It’s a provocative title (and a more-than-provocative image of his fanciful notion of secular church on p.67), and he admits that most godless people don’t like the R-word.
But just as John Dewey anticipated Scheffler’s collective natural afterlife with his “continuous human community,” he also proposed (in A Common Faith) a naturalistic reconstruction of our understanding of what it really means to be religious. Natural piety means recognizing, honoring, and working to sustain the ties that bind us all to one another and to the mortal world. You don’t have to get religion, he’s saying, to be “religious” in this sense. But atheists who like to congregate should feel free.
In Bioethics we consider the zealotry of overly-involved parents. They move heaven and earth to get their toddlers into elite pre-schools, and later helicopter their way into hyper-managing their kids’ college lives. When genetic technology allows, says Michael Sandel, they’ll likely intrude pre-natally too. They don’t understand that we “do not choose our children” but must “accept them as they come.” As the poet said, our children are not really ours.
Or rather, they’re all ours. John Dewey again: “What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.” I was thinking about that yesterday in the voting booth. Casting a ballot is a small, mostly symbolic way to connect and join forces with others who share your vision of how best to reconstruct your community. You could think of it as a religious or spiritual act. Or you could just say: we’re all in this together.
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