Gene Roddenberry’s Humanist Legacy

Gene Roddenberry's Humanist LegacyI attended the Star Trek Las Vegas Convention in August 2012. The highlight of the workshops and panels was Rod Roddenberry and John Champion’s on Gene Roddenberry’s Humanist Legacy. They talked about the underlying principles that informed Star Trek. These principles include:

* Equality
* “False God” problem
* Blind Faith
* The enemy isn’t the enemy
* Compassion
* Self determination
* Scientific answer
* Humanity’s true nature
* Freedom

These principles are often explored within Star Trek: The Original Series such as self determination with was a central theme of “The Cage” and it’s reuse in “The Menagerie” or compassion which Kirk shows in the “Arena.” What was very promising from the panel was The Mission Log, a weekly podcast that have recently started exploring these and other themes one episode at a time. My hope is to expand on some of these themes within blog on humanism.

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More Tarot Art

My next tarot art project was designed to take with me to the annual PantheaCon, which is held each year in San Jose, California. I notice that I am always drawn to the tarot classes. I love attending and gathering all the handouts and taking notes which I promptly stick into various books and folders so they are difficult for me to find later. I decided that since I was making the commitment to better understand the cards, I should have all of those notes and useful things available for reference. I decided to make a folder that I could take with me from year to year to gather all those things and use later when I was ready for study. I began with a large piece of heavy gauge paper and folded the bottom up to make two pockets. I then folded it in half. I secured the corners with tiny decorative brads so things would not fall through. I took some drawing paper measured it, folded it in half and sewed it into the fold, so I would have some paper to take notes. With that, I added two more inner pockets (for more storage) and sewed them in with the drawing paper. I finished the ends of the inner pockets sewing up the edges with waxed linen thread. And for decorative interest, I added some beading on the side. On the front, I painted a tarot card that I felt has always spoken to me, the High Priestess.

This folder served me well as I attended all the great classes at PantheaCon 2012. The paper was durable and the folder held up well to all of the traveling back and forth between classes. I will carry it again next year. And I am still using it while I sit down with my handmade tarot journal to begin my journey of discovery. Tarot journal? You ask. That, my dear readers, is another post.

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Tarot Art

Last year I embarked upon a series of interactive art projects utilizing the tarot. I finished the last one this week. My purpose was to create something I could use to interpret the cards, keeping with my commitment to better understand the cards and their meanings. I was inspired to begin these projects by the book Complete Book of Tarot Spreads by Evelin Burger and Johannes Fiebig. This easy to use book gives many ideas for layouts that are clear, concise, and easily tailored to fit anyone’s needs. My thought was to take some of these spreads that one might use throughout the year in their card readings, and create something that you could use for focus. Let me explain. I was first taken by the idea that one could do a reading for the year. Spread 96 is a variation on a reading for the cycle of the year. This variation is a monthly card that cycles through all 12 months. I collaged an accordian fold pocket book that would stand up on my alter. I could tuck a card into a pocket for each month of the year and use as a focus for the big picture of the year. Keeping it on my alter gave me a way to go back throughout the year and reflect. Then, when speaking with William about it, he suggested one could shorten it to four pockets to reflect the Seasons. Great idea! Then it occurred to me, one could use it for really any milestones. The possibilities are endless.

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Support for Logic, Support for Brendan Myers

Clear and Present Thinking Project Brendan Myers has a Kickstarter campaign for creating Clear and Present Thinking: A Free College-level Logic Text. You have a chance to be part of his project by pledging to his campaign to create a free critical text book for students. Kickstarter helps people with great ideas find the funding for their project.

Here, in Brendan own words, is what the project is about:

“If you took a course in philosophy or critical thinking at college or university, you paid an average of $70 for your textbook. I think that’s too much, especially for students who have to choose between food and the rent, two or three times a year, like a lot of my students. Yet the cost of these books never goes down, because students are a captive market.”

“So, I’ve been writing my own textbook, so that my students don’t have to buy one. I’d like to expand and improve it and then make it available to the whole world, for free.”

“This Kickstarter campaign will allow me to bring in more contributors, get more research resources, and hire designers and artists and translators, so that we can put together a very high quality teaching tool, and make it available to every student in the world.”

“The final product will be a series of pdf downloads for students, and a series of powerpoint slideshows and a test bank for teachers. I will also create a print-on-demand hardcopy option for those who want one, to be sold at the lowest  possible price.”

The good news is that Brendan has reached his goal for the book; however, if he reaches $10,000, then Brendan will create an audio book and French translation. You have until Saturday, July 7 to help Clear and Present Thinking: A Free College-level Logic Text campaign…oh yes, as a backer you do get some nifty rewards.

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What is your Sacrifice?

How do you follow your dream…what sacrifice do you make for your art, for being fully human?

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The Monkey Story

I am often asked to recount this story from my childhood and I hope you enjoy it as well. Thanks Mom for my sense of humor.

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May Day and Wheat

STRAWBLOG LogoThis May Day brings a new blog: Straw Blog. This is a project Morgyn Owens-Celli, Angela Pearson, and myself worked on to give voice to the international straw community. So please join us today for what is happening around the world in the straw arts.

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The Rise and Fall of History of Rome Podcast

Forum Romanium

Forum Romanium (photo by Radomil 28.09.2004 GFDL)

It is with some sadness that one of my favorite podcasts is ending soon. The History of Rome with Mike Duncan will be coming to an end just as the Rome Republic and then the Empire ended.

Mr. Duncan will be ending this podcast with the exile of Romulus Augustulus, the last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire.

Even though the podcast is ending, my recommendation is go and subscribe. Mr. Duncan has done a great job of taking his listeners through the complex and all so very interesting subject of Rome. The podcast is filled with humor and insight.

Thank you, Mike Duncan, for all the years of work you have done for us.

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Keeping Poetry Alive

April is National Poetry month and it seems only right that we celebrate it in a posting. In my last post, I touched on why poetry matters to me. I thought I might share a few things that are keeping poetry alive for me.

First, I buy books. I can often be found in my local bookstore scanning the shelves for titles that interest me. I will pull a book from the shelf, spend some time with it, and if it speaks to me, I have a new book to read in the tub. Poetry on cd or tape is good too. I have many anthologies that come with a book so I may read and listen at the same time. I also subscribe to a few poetry podcasts. The Poetry Foundation is a great resource. There are many to choose from that may suit most tastes. The podcasts run from about 20 to 40 minutes each. They are always a great mix of poetry, interpretation, and interviews. I love thinking how the birth of the internet has, in some ways, brought poetry back to the people. For awhile, if you wanted to hear a poet reading their works, you needed to catch a local reading, or an occasional broadcast. But now we have it here at the click of a button. And although more of a solitary event, it still brings the richness of intent and intonation into the poet’s own voice and to their work.

The Poetry in Motion campaign has also done a lot for bringing poetry back to the people. At one point, they were in over 30 cities on busses and in subways. In a fairly recent podcast of Poetry Off the Shelf, Curtis Fox talks with Alice Quinn about the New York subway poetry. He asks her if, when choosing the work to be posted, they deliberately rejected things that were obscure or a little bit difficult. She responded that they, in fact, seek a certain mystery. I love this idea of bringing art, as a whole, to the people. This way, we can experience it in our own way. We can be surrounded by words of which we may make our own meaning. Paris Art It reminds me a bit of my recent (and first) trip to Paris. I was amazed at all of the beautiful art that was on the street, accessible to everyone!

The idea that sparked this blog was a series of poetry books I have just aquired from Bloodaxe Books. Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times, Being Alive, and Being Human are wonderful anthologies containing hundreds of poems each that really illustrate what it is to be human. They include an impressive list of writers old and new. In the introduction to Being Human, Neil Astly explains, “Staying Alive was my attempt to show all those people who love literature, traditional poetry and other arts that contemporary poetry is relevant to their own lives; and that much of it is lively, imaginative and accessible to intelligent readers who might not have given it much of a chance before. And that didn’t involve ‘dumbing down’ but choosing lucid poems to entice new readers. There’s no conflict here between public ‘access’ and artistic excellence.” I recommend all three of them. They have sent me off to exploring new territory in poetry. Happy National Poetry month, and happy reading!

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Poetry and Our Humanness

One of my great loves is poetry. As a child, I was exposed to it in school, but it wasn’t until I was 12 that the purpose of it became clear. I bought my first “real” book of poetry at a garage sale for a dime. It was a tattered paperback of Leonard Cohen’s Selected Poems 1956 – 1968. I curled up in the bath reading it long after the water got cold. I remember being struck by the way a poet could say so much with so few words; And how, in the real world, a man could say so much about how he felt. I discovered that what he said, I felt. Or at least some of it. His words opened me up to a new way of thinking about words and my place in the world. I was hooked! After that, I began to write and to devour everything I could get my hands on. I scoured the library bookshelves for poets that spoke to me. I walked home with armloads of books. Poetry became a steady diet for me. I eventually majored in English, and yes, I took every poetry class that was offered. I continued to write and even had some things published, but that was not as satisfying as the community I felt when I was in a group of poets reading their work sharing their narrative with the musicality of language. I am still an avid poetry reader, and I still write too. But I am not as prolific as I was when I was younger. Time.

Recently, I have been reading , Can Poetry Matter by Dana Gioia. It is a book filled with essays he has written on how the reception of poetry has changed in American culture over the last several decades. In it, he outlines the movement of poetry away from the common man and into the universities. He poses that poetry is now being judged by new academic criteria, and its intended audience is now a group of university professors whose whole intent is to publish. He asks, “But why should anyone but a poet care about the problems of American poetry? What possible relevance does this archaic art form have to contemporary society? In a better world, poetry would need no justification beyond the sheer splendor of its own existence.” He goes on to explain, “But the rest of society has mostly forgotten the value of poetry. … How does one persuade justly skeptical readers, in terms they can understand and appriciate, that poetry still matters?”

He has two arguments for this. The first is, “Poetry is the art of using words charged with their utmost meaning. The second reason why the situation of poetry matters to all intellectuals is that poetry is not alone among the arts in its marginal position. If the audience for poetry has declined into a subculture of specialists, so too have the audiences for most contemporary art forms, from series drama to jazz. The unprecedented fragmentation of American high culture during the past half century has left most arts in isolation from one another, as well as, from the general audience.”

From a Pagan Humanist perspective, I would like to suggest that we need poetry to connect with our humanness. By humanness, I mean the more personal space we experience internally rather than the overarching culture I see as humanity. We crave words that speak to our hearts. Human beings have a desire for the musicality of the language and the community it brings. It helps us decipher the ritual of our lives and it can help enlighten us, build empathy and a deeper connection with each other. If we write, it gives us an outlet for what we need to express. Like any art, it brings us into the depths of ourselves. In my next blog, I will make some suggestions of things I have read that have put me in touch with why poetry matters.

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