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  • mistermuse 12:00 am on February 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: book review, , dogmatism, fanatics, , holy wars, human history, Middle East, Quakers, , secular humanists, tribalism, tribes, ,   


    tribal, adj. Of the nature of, or relating to, a tribe.
    tribe, n. 1. A unit of sociopolitical organization. 2. A political, ethnic, or ancestral division of ancient states and cultures [such as] a. the three divisions of the ancient Romans. b. the 12 divisions of ancient Israel.
    –Webster’s New College Dictionary

    • * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    If anything seems clear from the seemingly endless wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, it is that tribalism and religion are at the heart of the madness. This is not to suggest that tribalism is confined to the Middle East (far from it), or that other forces haven’t played a part. But buried beneath the overlay of foreign intervention in the region (or meddling, if you prefer) are roots with a “history as old or nearly so as that of humanity itself” –Edward O. Wilson, biologist, naturalist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner.

    In his book THE MEANING OF HUMAN EXISTENCE, Wilson posits that tribalism and religion are inextricably bound together by what he calls “the instinctual force of tribalism in the genesis of religiosity. People deeply need membership in a group, whether religious or secular.” In a chapter titled simply “RELIGION,” Wilson states:

    The great religions are inspired by belief in an incorruptible deity–or multiple deities. Their priests bring solemnity to rites of passage through the cycle of life and death. They sacralize basic tenets of civil and moral law, comfort the afflicted, and take care of the desperately poor. Followers strive to be righteous in the sight of man and God. The churches are centers of community life [and] ultimate refuges against the inequities and tragedies of secular life. They and their ministers make more bearable tyranny, war, starvation, and the worst of natural catastrophes.
    The great religions are also, and tragically, sources of ceaseless and unnecessary suffering. They are impediments to the grasp of reality needed to solve most social problems in the real world. Their exquisitely human flaw is tribalism. It is tribalism, not the moral tenets and humanitarian thought of pure religion, that makes good people do bad things.
    Unfortunately, a religious group defines itself foremost by its creation myths, the supernatural narrative that explains how humans came into existence. This story is also the heart of tribalism. No matter how subtly explained, the core belief assures its members that God favors them above all others. It teaches that members of other religions worship the wrong gods, use wrong rituals, follow false prophets….

    Food for thought — but thought that leaves questions to chew on: if “love makes fools of us all” (to quote Thackeray), does it follow that tribalism makes blind fools of us all? Are we unwitting tribalists to the siren song of political/religious saviors, some of us to the extent of becoming tribal or religious fanatics? Are tribal/religious fanatics born or made (nature vs. nurture)? And, given that all religions are invented by man, does that entitle Wilson to tar them all with the same brush?

    For example, Wilson regards it as a mistake to fold believers of particular religious and dogmatic ideologies into two piles (moderate versus extremist), because “The true cause of hatred and violence is faith versus faith, an outward expression of the ancient instinct of tribalism.”  While that may be true, I question the notion that all religions/tribes wash out equally. For example, in pre-colonial times in North America, there were both peaceful and warlike Native American tribes. And so it is elsewhere. Aren’t secular humanists equally guilty of bad faith who don’t recognize/won’t separate the wheat from the chaff/laissez-faire from doctrinaire? Who and what have incited and fed religious wars and persecutions throughout history? It’s not the likes of the Quakers, nor is it directives from the heavens.

    The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.





    • Midwestern Plant Girl 8:33 am on February 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      This was a great read!
      I play my drum to a different beat and prefer to not be part of a group or religious. I like to read about these topics tho, as I want to understand it. I don’t feel left out, but sometimes don’t understand why people do things. Maybe it’s my O- blood? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 9:09 am on February 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        Thank you. I concur, but though I don’t seek to be part of a group, there is one group I can’t help belonging to: the human race. In that sense, we’re all in this together, which is why all the ongoing political and religious extreme dogmatism is a plague on all our houses.

        Liked by 2 people

    • arekhill1 1:49 pm on February 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Well put, Sr. Muse, and undoubtedly true. I’m an agnostic myself, thank God.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 2:45 pm on February 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Growing up Catholic put the fear of the Lord in me, Ricardo, so I’m still too chicken to be an agnostic. Some people may think I’m an egghead, so perhaps I’m now an egg-nostic. At least that would solve an age-old question: the chicken came before the egg-nostic.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Todd Duffey Writes on Things 10:06 am on February 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      This is the first blog of yours I’ve read, Mistermuse. I feel like there is a LOT more I will be learning from you! Bravo – you have opened this reader’s eyes to a much broader playing field!

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 1:35 pm on February 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks. I usually write in a more creative, humorous vein, but my art-ery takes a serious turn every once in a while. I only post every fifth day, so your eyes shouldn’t get bloodshot from over-learning! 🙂

        Thanks again.


    • Don Frankel 10:50 am on February 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Good stuff Muse. A little heavy but sometimes we have to do heavy. I haven’t read Wilson so I wouldn’t want to characterize his stuff but if his basic premise is to blame it on Tribalism well it sort of a non-starter for me. It doesn’t matter what the Tribe says or the Government says or even and this may be heresy but even what the Supreme Court says. You make your decisions in this life and then you have to live with them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 1:46 pm on February 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        You make a good point, Don. We tend to think of tribalism as something uncivilized, something they do “over there” — but all you have to do is look at our own politics to see mindless tribal followings (albeit with a modern veneer).

        Liked by 1 person

    • John Looker 2:12 pm on February 22, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I have a great deal of sympathy with your analysis. Tribalism does appear deep rooted in the human condition — perhaps it is inescapable until societies can find ways of evolving appropriate forms of government. I found myself writing a group of poems on tribal loyalties a year ago. They might not interest you but, just in case, they can be found on my own (poetry) blog at: https://johnstevensjs.wordpress.com/category/looking-at-life-through-work-series/tribal-loyalties/ They also had a place in a book of mine published a year ago, but that’s another story. Congratulations on raising this in a thoughtful way.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 4:01 pm on February 22, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I appreciate your comment and like your tribal poems, especially THE DAWN RAID. I tend to think that the perversion of tribalism (mindless, dogmatic allegiance to its worst forms), more than tribalism itself, is the main problem….and one (skeptic that I am) that I believe will probably always be with us.


    • John Looker 5:53 pm on February 22, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Yes. In any society there is going to be a reassuring sense of belonging to a familiar homogeneous group, but it is dangerous (or perverted as you put it) when there is no imagination about or empathy towards others. Such a pressing issue for our times! Glad you’ve raised it in the manner you do.

      Liked by 1 person

    • linnetmoss 6:29 am on February 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Religion is like science–not evil or good in itself, but depending on the use we make of it. (Although Christopher Hitchens made a pretty comprehensive case against it in “God is not Great.”) IMO science has relieved much more suffering than religion ever did. (And of course has caused its share.) As to tribalism, I don’t see much benefit in it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 7:11 am on February 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you for more “food for thought.”

      I suppose, given that “People deeply need membership in a group, whether religious or secular” (as Edward O. Wilson wrote), one could say the same of tribalism–“not good or evil in itself,” but depending on the ends pursued (and the means used to pursue them). Another thought: how widely or loosely to define, or think of, tribalism. In a sense, fraternities, sororities, sports teams — such as the Cleveland Indians 🙂 — any group banded together for common cause, could be considered tribes.

      I own Hitchens’ GOD IS NOT GREAT, but haven’t read it in a long time — though I’m familiar with his arguments in general. It’s too complex to get into here, but I’ve written a few posts on these things before and will probably do so again.


    • literaryeyes 1:39 pm on February 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      H.L. Mencken ripped apart the basic foundations of religion in his book, Twilight of the Gods (I think that’s the title, or maybe that’s a movie-I plead senior memory). Religion started early when tribes were the social construct, so it’s plausible they are inextricably and at this time, irrevocably, intermixed. But to put a little humor in, here’s a quote purportedly from Mencken: “For centuries, theologians have been explaining the unknowable in terms of the-not-worth-knowing.” In other words, the improbable, in his opinion. I’m not as pragmatic as Mencken, by far, and believe we have an inherent spiritual nature that’s connected to our physical selves, and possibly to something outside ourselves.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 4:30 pm on February 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Well said. Neither the god(s) of religion, nor the concept of creation without a creator, is convincing to me. To quote from WHY DOES THE WORLD EXIST (by Jim Holt):
      “A scientific explanation must involve some sort of physical cause. But any physical cause is by definition part of the universe to be explained. Thus any purely scientific explanation of the existence of the universe is doomed to be circular. Even if it starts with something very minimal–a cosmic egg, a tiny bit of quantum vacuum, a singularity-it still starts with something, not nothing.”


    • restlessjo 3:05 am on February 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Sadly, I don’t have an argument. I simply wish it were otherwise, but wishing will never make it so.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 5:03 am on February 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      The good news is that with a creator, there remains the possibility of life after death for us. The bad news is that with a creator so above all the suffering it has deliberately made the lot of its creatures, what would that bode for our next-life relationship with such a creator? Sadly (to say the least), it’s enough to make thinking people careful what they wish for.
      But, for now, I wish for the best for you and everyone reading this.


  • mistermuse 12:01 am on January 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: attitude, book review, , coping, drudgery, early retirement, human relations, , , jobs, lost souls, unemployment benefits,   


    And to think that you can turn on the television any hour of any day and find a politician railing against the outsourcing of these manufacturing jobs, as if this is any great loss at all. The outsourcing hasn’t gone nearly far enough if you ask me; we should be outsourcing these factories to the ninth circle of hell, outsourcing them into oblivion! It’s not work fit for a human being….  —Franklin Schneider

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    If you think my last post featured jobs that stink — stink again. Franklin Schneider, author of CANNED (subtitled How I Lost Ten Jobs in Ten Years and Learned to Love Unemployment) has held every type of job — briefly. He’s detasseled corn in Iowa, served time at a doomed Internet start-up, and for one shining moment became the “Most Successful Telemarketer in America.” But his search for a fairly compensated, fulfilling position free of pointless drudgery taught him one thing: Such a job does not exist. And if it did, his boss would  probably be an a**hole [quoted from back cover].

    CANNED is a book with an attitude you’ll probably either loathe or relate to. As I read it, I found myself doing a bit of both, because, although Schneider tells it like he sees it, I was left feeling — well, more or less like a combination of these reviews/reviewers:

    “For the majority of you reading Canned, a feeling of contempt will wash over you toward the writer for exemplifying the worst in Americans. Others will read these words and show some form of remorse for the author and his ill-conceived notions as to what he is ‘entitled’ [collecting unemployment benefits while deliberately ducking work]. In either respect, I am sure that every one who is not a Marxist can agree, Franklin Schneider is the type of person this country can do without.” –Charles Signorile

    “[It’s] a caustic celebration of the loser life, a ranting jeremiad against the working world and all its slavish pieties. It’s like watching Thoreau hand out tokens at the mall arcade, Melville grind his teeth in an Aeron chair at a media portal startup, or Bukowski lose his mind in an MCI telemarketing carrel: a twisted kind of fun.” –Tom Lutz

    “Franklin Schneider’s writing is smart, energetic, funny, illuminating, outrageous, painful (in the best possible way), quirky, distinctive and wildly entertaining.” –Josh Emmons

    *** * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * ***

    I view CANNED in the broader context of a roiling world of differing individuals, groups and classes who can’t put themselves in the other guy’s place, unable (or averse) to consider there may be a happier way to run a steamboat. The late comedienne Joan Rivers put it like this: “Can we talk?” The answer: Apparently not really (unless by “talk,” is meant moving our lips and making sounds). No wonder many of us just don’t “get it.” Sometimes it seems that only kids make allowances.

    Like fellow lost-soul Schneider, I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was young. Unlike him, I wound up falling into a thirty year career with one company while I “found myself.” It was a career in which I take neither great pride nor lasting prejudice (in other words, I worked to live, not lived to work), from which I was able to retire early and end up doing what I came to want to do. Was it worth putting up with all the “slavish pieties” one must observe along the way? Given the cards we’re dealt, I never felt as if I had a choice.

    It’s easy to envy those who have the good fortune to earn a living doing what they love to do, but even some of them go off the deep end, unable to cope. For the everyone else of us, Franklin Schneider cites this quote: This is how the hero of our time must be. He will be characterized either by decisive inaction, or else by futile activity.* Perhaps so. In any case, I rest his case.

    *from A Hero of Our Time, by Mikhail Lermontov

    P.S. And what was it “I came to want to do?” Well, since you asked:



    • Midwestern Plant Girl 6:53 am on January 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I may have to read this book! I work to live right now, but would love to live for work. .. with the right job. I have never been on unemployment b4, but wouldn’t be ashamed to be now. I want to take classes to change careers, but have no time to go while working! Catch 22. 😯
      I need to change the way I feel about responsibility… why feel guilty about changing jobs when this is my life and I have only a short time to enjoy it!

      Liked by 3 people

    • Don Frankel 9:01 am on January 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      My 25 year career as a Civil Servant was at times exhilarating, challenging, boring, annoying, stressful, boring, fun and did I say boring? But it was, well, life.

      The best thing is to own your own business which I got to do as well. Now, I follow my passion.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 10:33 am on January 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        As the pig said in the PEARLS BEFORE SWINE comic strip, “BEING LAZY IS NOT A PASSION!” (Just kidding, Don — I couldn’t resist!) 🙂


    • arekhill1 10:36 am on January 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Still working here. Never been on unemployment, disability or workman’s comp in my life. Find time to write, too, in addition to carving out time to sit on the couch and drink beer. How does it all get done? Saving time by skipping personal pronouns helps.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 11:09 am on January 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Couldn’t have said it better myself.


    • literaryeyes 12:06 pm on January 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      This is a subject we don’t want to talk about, but many people are stuck in drudgery, and even worse, what they do has no lasting positive value. Most know it, but it’s easier to say, I’m doing it for my family, and I’ll “live” outside work. I love that you quoted Lermontov’s A Hero of our Time (some say a precursor to The Stranger); he was WAY ahead of his time. Worthwhile occupation may not bring you the same monetary compensation, but what is your sanity worth? I made little money doing what I believed was helpful to others, and in the process have a wealth of experience (if I modestly may say so!).

      Liked by 2 people

    • Michaeline Montezinos 12:16 pm on January 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Worked and or went to school from the age of 6. Schooling is work where you can only learn what your professor teaches. Finally had time to sit on the couch with my fourth daughter and loved every messy minute spent having babies and watching them grow. Not sure if marriage falls into any one of these categories . Maybe it has a passionate beginning and then the work begins. But it is a career you must want to pursue without selfishness and with devotion to responsibility. So I finally married the man who inspires me to do both.

      Liked by 2 people

    • mistermuse 1:05 pm on January 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I can think of no job more important than being a stay-at-home mom (or dad, for that matter), but of course, that depends on the family financial situation and requirements (which shouldn’t put acquiring luxuries ahead of giving one’s kids the love, time and attention they need).


    • Todd Duffey Writes on Things 6:21 pm on January 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Hear hear! I’ve been an actor in cult films and TV shows, and yet I’ve also been on the government teat. If you’ve ever found something you absolutely love to do, nothing else will bring you the satisfaction of that thing. To those who haven’t found it, the point is moot. To those who have, they tax us for just such the occasion that, should we need it, it is there. Not to live off of. Simply to get us to the next opportunity.

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 9:34 pm on January 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        Wouldn’t it be heaven if everyone could earn a living doing what they love to do, whether it be digging ditches, writing the Great American or Great Armenian Novel, or sitting on the couch drinking beer (preferably craft beer). With all the promises politicians make, I don’t know why no candidate has promised that.

        Liked by 1 person

    • moorezart 6:27 pm on January 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Reblogged this on From 1 Blogger 2 Another.

      Liked by 2 people

  • mistermuse 12:45 am on September 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Being wrong, book review, denial, , growing, , , , , right and wrong, , To err is human   


    To err is human, but it feels divine. –Mae West

    To err is human – to blame it on a computer is even more so. –Robert Orben

    To err is human; to blame someone else is politics. –Hubert Humphrey

    To err is human, but when the eraser wears out before the pencil, you’re overdoing it. –-Josh Jenkins

    I recently chanced upon a book titled BEING WRONG — which, of course, is a concept completely foreign to where I’m coming from (and I’m not even a politician) — but I decided to read the book anyway in the hope of learning why other people are so prone to being wrong.

    It turns out that people are often wrong because they’re human….an attribute I was fairly certain that I possess (naturally, I can’t speak for some of the elephants and jackasses in Congress), so to be sure, I checked my birth certificate. Sure enough, “human” was written in the space after where it says “Genus” (or maybe it says “Genius” — the small print is hard to read). In any case, birth certificates don’t lie (I don’t care what Tea Party Republicans say). Make no mistake: mistermuse IS human — and possibly a genius as well, which could account for my never being wrong.

    Now that that’s settled, let us turn to BEING WRONG, the book. Written by Kathryn Schulz, journalist, writer and “wrongologist,” this book should be required reading for anyone who thinks they’re always right, because (says Schulz) “the need to be always right simply keeps us from growing.” I can take that to heart (though my stomach may not be so easily deterred), and so can anyone at the point of “realizing halfway through an argument that you are mistaken, or halfway through a lifetime that you were wrong about your faith, your politics, yourself, your loved one, or your life’s work.”

    But. of course, many people never (says I) “get” to that halfway point….and even if they do, refuse to admit — even to themselves — that they could be mistaken about anything (think Donald Trump, the poster child for this type, who, unlike yours truly, doesn’t have the excuse of being born a genius). You don’t really want to be like Donald Trump, do you? You do want much food for thought, don’t you? Then read this book….or at least, for starters, give its author a listen:

    (but will it be the end, for long,
    of my denying BEING RONG?)

    • Midwestern Plant Girl 2:26 am on September 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I may have an out here.. I’m blood type O- 👽


    • mistermuse 5:14 am on September 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I understand that hospitals love the “universal” blood type O Negative — or, as I call it, O minus. Unfortunately, I am cursed with blood type G enius — nobody loves or understands me. 😦


    • arekhill1 9:45 am on September 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Whenever my SO realizes she is wrong in the middle of an argument, she says “You’re stupid for even arguing about this,” which nicely changes the subject to our relative intelligence. This is an admirable technique, but I can’t use it because I am not allowed to question her intelligence. I usually have to start a grease fire in the kitchen or spill a drink on her Kindle to escape the dispute.


      • mistermuse 12:51 pm on September 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        I haven’t yet finished reading Kathryn Schulz’s BEING WRONG, so it will be interesting to see if, by the end, she addresses such battles of the sexes. Like you, Ricardo, I’ve always found them to be no-win disputes, despite the fact that I’m always right. Seeing as how the book was written by a woman, I’m not getting my hopes up….but these things never last, so I’m prepared to keep the big picture in mind.


    • Don Frankel 10:22 am on September 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Muse, I listened to her very attentively and I realized something… she’s wrong.


      • mistermuse 1:04 pm on September 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        You mean like the title of her book? But who knew Being Wrong could be so interesting!


    • Mél@nie 11:15 am on September 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      “Errare humanum est, perseverare diabolicum est…” = to err is human; to persist [in committing such errors] is diabolical…(Seneca the Younger) btw, dunno anyone who would like to be like wigged(wiggy) Donny… 😉 last but not least: his wife’s name is Melania!!! 🙂


    • mistermuse 1:19 pm on September 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      And their child’s name is Barron, which, as they say, certainly goes with the territory.

      I too once thought The Donald is wigged, but reader (& Trump’s fellow New Yorker) Don Frankel previously advised that that’s his real hair. So it’s really true that you can’t judge a look by it’s cover. 🙂


    • BroadBlogs 1:57 am on October 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Great quotes! I’ll have to remember some of them.


    • mistermuse 6:26 am on October 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Here’s another quote I considered but didn’t use, because it doesn’t start with “To err is human”:

      “Things are seldom what they seem: that’s why people mistake education for intelligence, wealth for happiness, and sex for love.” –Evan Esar


    • restlessjo 12:54 pm on October 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I think I’ll stick with Mae 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 6:46 pm on October 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the comment, and Mae the spirit be with you. 🙂


    • moorezart 4:29 pm on October 11, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Excellent post….AND blog!


    • mistermuse 6:22 pm on October 11, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks. I checked your blog and like your photography….not to mention your self-description, THE ARTFUL BLOGGER, which gives it a nice little “Twist.” 🙂


  • mistermuse 4:48 pm on July 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , book review, , , , , , , On the Origin of Species,   


    I was very unwilling to give up my belief…. Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. —Charles Darwin

    • * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    I have on occasion speculated that if I weren’t a deist, I would without doubt (or more accurately, with doubt) be an agnostic. For me, atheism is a non-starter; I cannot rule out possibilities beyond the point where mere mortals have the capability to ascertain. For me, the difference between an atheist and an agnostic is humility: we’re limited humans. Even if you and I don’t believe in the ‘revealed’ God, why fall into the trap of conflating man’s invented God (religion) with the fact of creation and thus the plausibility of a creator, divorced and absent though He (It) may be from what He (It) hath wrought?

    These thoughts were in the back (but not too far back) of my mind as I was reading CHARLES DARWIN – A SCIENTIFIC BIOGRAPHY by the late Sir Gavin de Beer, a British scientist and author of many books on zoology, embryology, genetics, etc. I’d come upon this old book while library-browsing, and realized that, while we all know what Darwin was famous for, do we really know Charles Darwin, the man? What was he like, and what did he believe at various points in his life as his thinking evolved (pun intended)?

    Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind in getting to know Darwin is that he was “The man who struggled with his own ideas” (BBC website), keeping silent for 20 years before going public with his painstaking research, and describing his writing On the Origin of Species as “like confessing a murder.” Its publication in 1859 represents “one man’s struggle with the most radical idea of all time — the idea that humans shared a common ancestor with apes.”

    Darwin was born of Christian parents in 1809 at Shrewsbury, England, the son of a successful physician and a mother who died when Charles was eight years old, after which (quoting de Beer) “his home upbringing devolved largely on his elder sisters to whom, in spite of their persistent fault-finding, he was ever grateful for instilling in him the spirit of humanity.” Additionally, his grandfathers were important Enlightenment figures: Josiah Wedgewood, anti-slavery campaigner, and Erasmus Darwin, a doctor who ‘wrote the book’ (ZOONOMIA) on the radical idea that one species could transmute into another.

    Darwin’s father wished him to become a doctor, but after realizing that his son had an aversion to practicing medicine, he (quoting de Beer) “proposed that he [Charles] take holy orders in the Church of England. Indeed, at this time in his life, he felt so convinced of the truth of his religion” that he accepted. But after three years of studies at Christ’s College, he considered the time “wasted. His greatest pleasure was collecting beetles for the sheer joy of collecting.” After meeting men of distinction in botany and other fields, he studied geology and read books “from which he derived a zeal to travel and study natural history.”

    A set of fortuitous happenings led to a position as a neophyte naturalist on the HMS Beagle, which set sail from England in Dec. 1831, not to return until October 1836….five years of meticulous observations, collecting specimens and exhaustive exploration too lengthy to detail here, but which began a new chapter in the history of science.

    Years later, “The result of his experiences was that (says de Beer quoting Darwin) My theology is a simple muddle; I cannot look at the universe as the result of blind chance, yet I can see no evidence of beneficent design, or indeed of design of any kind, in the details….the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wonderful universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God; but whether this is an argument of real value, I have never been able to decide. I am aware that if we admit a first cause, the mind still craves to know from whence it came. Nor can I overlook the difficulty from the immense amount of suffering through the world. The safest conclusion seems to me that the whole subject is beyond the scope of man’s intellect.”

    “Darwin never felt any but the most friendly and charitable feelings for those who differed from him in matters of religion, provided that they were honest. This is amply confirmed from both sides. Rev. J. Brodie Innis wrote to Darwin, We often differed, but you are one of those rare mortals from whom one can differ and yet feel no shade of animosity, and that is a thing of which I should feel very proud if anyone could say it of me. Darwin’s description of their relations was equally generous: Innis and I have been fast friends for thirty years, and we never thoroughly agreed on any subject but once, and then we stared hard at each other, and thought one of us must be very ill.”

    And now I feel I know Charles Darwin, the man.

    P.S. My thanks to Richard Cahill, whose July 23rd post “God, Man and Donald Trump” inadvertently suggested my title for this post after I thought better of my original (or more accurately, less original) title.



    • DoesItEvenMatterWhoIAm? 5:02 pm on July 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very cool! I like this post as both an Anthropologist and an Agnostic! Very well written! ♡ Melanie

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mél@nie 10:06 am on July 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        excellent, indeed, so same here, Melanie… 🙂 btw, I’m Mélanie from Toulouse, France… 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

        • DoesItEvenMatterWhoIAm? 10:07 am on July 27, 2015 Permalink

          Hi! How fun to say hello around the world to another Melanie!!!!


        • DoesItEvenMatterWhoIAm? 10:08 am on July 27, 2015 Permalink

          Oh by the way I am in Salem, Oregon, USA


    • mistermuse 6:24 pm on July 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks! You are the (even better) female equivalent of a gentleman and a scholar 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • BroadBlogs 6:26 pm on July 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I’m basically an agnostic but choose to err on the side of belief in a higher power simply because I feel more empowered when I do, And the world seems more magical.

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 7:40 pm on July 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        I’m not so sure that we fall on different sides of the deist/agnostic comparison – your belief in “a higher power” sounds similar to me being an agnostic if I weren’t a deist. Perhaps it somewhat depends on one’s definition of deist. As I understand it, no deist believes in a revealed God, but some may believe in the efficacy of prayer and/or even an afterlife. Personally, I believe prayers are useless and a possible afterlife is “beyond the scope of man’s intellect” (to quote Darwin).


    • Don Frankel 4:54 am on July 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Who else can I have these conversations with? We’ve been on this subject on and off for the last few years. I’ve realized something about you and Richard and other people I know, their religious upbringing seems to almost have been traumatic. In that, someone or someones tried to brow beat all of you into believing. I was brow beaten into non-believing. Makes me wonder why people get so excited about it all. Or should I use the term stimulated? Mental illness ran rampant in my family.

      What most people don’t want to realize is we just can’t know. We are stuck with these pathetic little things we call minds. We can’t see or hear things that are happening around us all the time. We can perceive just so much and understand it seems, less.

      Darwin is a prime example of how we are at our best when asking questions and at our worst when we assume we know all about something, we can’t possibly know.


    • mistermuse 6:53 am on July 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Don, your upbringing strikes me as a prime example of that old saying to the effect that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Perhaps I am another example, though under different circumstances (my parents divorced when I was 12 and from that point I grew up without a father; looking back, I see that as the beginning of a traumatic period, though I didn’t understand it at the time). Anyway, I’m glad to have gotten to ‘know’ Darwin, because I didn’t realize the anguish he went through in evolving into the man he became – a man I can thoroughly empathize with and relate to.


    • arekhill1 10:33 am on July 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      While I appreciate anybody paying attention to me, if there is an afterlife, Darwin must be fuming in it for being mentioned in the same breath as Trump, Sr. Muse.


    • mistermuse 12:21 pm on July 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      No doubt that’s true, Ricardo….plus, the fact that The Donald represents a major step backward on the evolutionary ladder would seem to raise questions about The Theory. Darwin can’t be too happy about that, either.

      Liked by 1 person

    • scifihammy 11:35 pm on July 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I never saw this post in my Reader – some posts have been appearing lower down among ones I have already read.
      I’m glad I came to have a look at your Blog and find this very interesting essay on Darwin. I think it is hard nowadays to imagine just how difficult it was for Darwin to accept his own theory and present it to a narrow-minded world. I got his Origin of the Species out of the library once. It is a massive work, both literally and figuratively.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 6:32 am on July 26, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      That’s an excellent point about Darwin….and it seems that “narrow-minded world” will ever be with us. In the past 100 years, we’ve seen everything from the Scopes Monkey Trial to the present violence and barbarity of religious fundamentalism. Not much evolution in that world.


    • M. Talmage Moorehead 10:49 pm on August 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      “For me, the difference between an atheist and an agnostic is humility…”

      That’s brilliant! I love it. Thank you.


      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 5:58 am on August 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I “humbly” (working on the more realistic “semi-humbly,” but evolution is a slow process) accept your judgment. Thanks for reading and commenting.


  • mistermuse 8:07 pm on July 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , book review, , , funniest films, , , Nobody's Perfect, ,   


    Among my favorite books are biographies or autobiographies of long-admired writers, directors, actors, musicians and vocalists. One of the most interesting and intelligent bios I’ve read is that of director Billy Wilder. Yes, I’m finally done reading NOBODY’S PERFECT, of which I wrote a piece on June 22 and promised to write a review when I finished it. My take? Imperfection was never more worth recommending.

    Unlike some biographers, author Charlotte Chandler knew the subject of her book personally and well (for almost 30 years). Her first book, HELLO, I MUST BE GOING, was a best-seller about — who else — Groucho Marx. She has also profiled Mae West, Tennessee Williams and Alfred Hitchcock, among others, is on the board of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and is active in film preservation. So the lady knows — and loves — what she is doing.

    Perhaps the best thing about this bio is that after reading it, you feel as if you know the real Billy Wilder. For example, he learned early on not to shoot excess footage because the more you gave the studio (Universal) to play with, the more they could recut the picture in ways he disliked. It was his movie, and with careful planning and tight shooting, he did his damnedest to give them no choice.

    One also gets a feel for the man in his views of other directors, telling Ms. Chandler: “I admired Preston Sturges. He was a writer who became a director, and he had respect for words. His work was his life. He would have worked free. The last time I saw him was in Paris. He was sitting in an outdoor café. Old friends would stop and have something with him, and they’d pick up the check. It seemed he was hard up. He’d had a great life, but it didn’t end up great. He didn’t know how to write a third act for his own life.”

    Another director he admired was Ernst Lubitsch, of whom he speaks in this clip:

    Let’s close with a quote from one of Ms. Chandler’s last interviews with him in Dec. 1999: “I don’t like to look back. You could drown in what-ifs, especially if you make it past ninety, which I have. If you’re going to say , ‘What if?’ you might as well save it for something like, ‘What if Hitler had been a girl?’
    “At ninety-four, there aren’t many goals to work for except longevity. Maybe trying to make it to a hundred as long as my mind is good, and I look forward to each day.”
    “I could never imagine myself being old. An old man was someone who was forty, then fifty, then sixty. When I was a young man in Vienna, if someone had offered me a deal to guarantee I’d make seventy, I’d have grabbed it. Seventy would’ve sounded pretty good to me.”
    “At ninety-four, it’s not long enough. It seems short. Too bad. But it has to end sometime.”

    For Billy Wilder, it ended March 27, 2002, leaving behind a legacy of 21 Academy Award nominations and five films on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 funniest films, including #1: SOME LIKE IT HOT. I like it any way he made it.

    • Joseph Nebus 10:55 pm on July 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It’s interesting seeing directors come down on either side of whether to shoot only exactly what they expect they’ll need, or to shoot everything they might imaginably need so they can extract what’s best. (Kubrick’s the poster boy for that side of things.) Each side is so perfectly reasonable about it, is the baffling part.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 6:32 am on July 5, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Excellent observation. And with a director like Orson Welles, it apparently didn’t make any difference what he shot – he blamed studios for doing whatever they pleased with his pictures regardless.


    • arekhill1 7:02 am on July 5, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Yeah, I’m starting to long for the live-forever pill myself. They’ve already invented the boner pill. It’s the next logical step.


    • mistermuse 12:32 pm on July 5, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      That would complete the Holy Trinity of pills: the live-forever, the boner, and the stupid pill. Hopefully, the stupid pill takers won’t find out about the live-forever pill, although it seems like they’ve been taking it forever.


  • mistermuse 12:02 am on February 18, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: book review, , John Maynard Keynes, Ku Klux Klan, love of money, madness, , , sanity,   


    I don’t like money, actually, but it quiets my nerves.  –Joe Louis

    Perhaps the most uncynical of the quotations in my last post was the one above, attributed to the late Joe Louis, heavyweight boxing champion 1937-49. I can picture Louis saying those words, first of all because as a boy during the 1940s, I remember him well, and second, because he was born dirt-poor in rural Alabama, a grandson of former slaves, had a childhood speech impediment, and moved to Detroit as a 12 year old after a Ku Klux Klan experience. As an adult, he suffered from financial mismanagement (to put it charitably) by his boxing handlers, which led to years of heavy indebtedness and hounding by the IRS for back taxes. Given this background, one can understand where that quote was coming from.

    What may be less easy to understand is the money-motive that economist John Maynard Keynes called “The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life” — which is elaborated upon by psychoanalyst Adam Phillips in “Money Mad,” a chapter in his book GOING SANE. The money for-its-own-sake obsession has long struck me as shallow and superficial, but Phillips goes further (as befits a psychoanlyst), calling it an aberration “in which the bad is made to seem good; in which what was once considered to be most distasteful about people — the callous ruthlessness of their greed, say — begins to be described as morally impressive.”

    He continues, ” What one is loving when one loves money begs all the questions: power, prestige, invulnerability, independence, glamour — all these ideals involve asking in turn what each of these represent a desire for. Rather than being a love akin to other loves, a love for money may be a new kind of love [appetite] altogether — a love that destroys the capacity for all the other kinds of love that preceded it.”

    “We should not be tempted into believing that there is something natural and normal about the insatiability of our appetites. Human beings can even get pleasure from ruining their own and other people’s appetites. Since money always promises something other than itself — it is only, as we say, worth what it can buy — it seems to protect us from the fear of there being nothing we want. A world in which there is a scarcity of need, a world in which wanting is a futile passion, is more terrifying than a world in which there is a scarcity of resources.”

    Since I don’t want this little seminar to come off sounding like a sermon, I will stop here and simply recommend GOING SANE as a thought-stimulating and readably profound book on sanity and madness, including money madness.

    Nonetheless, money makes….


    • Don Frankel 7:21 am on February 18, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Money it seems, like a whole lot of things, is whatever you think it is.


    • mistermuse 11:46 am on February 18, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Right you are, Don. I suppose a case could be made that life would be less interesting without the Donald Trumps (for example) of the world….but I, for one, ain’t necessarily buyin’ it. On the other hand, characters like Scrooge make for a Dickens of a story.


    • arekhill1 5:20 pm on February 18, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      You never see anyone’s credit rating on their tombstone. That’s what I’ve observed.


    • mistermuse 11:50 pm on February 18, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I’ve never heard any deadbeats complain about it, Ricardo. Maybe they find consolation in finally being on a level plane with every body else.


  • mistermuse 6:41 am on October 25, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: book review, , IT'S GIRL SCOUT COOKIE TIME for Lesbians and Abortionists, Richard Cahill   

    IT’S GIRL SCOUT COOKIE TIME for Lesbians and Abortionists (BOOK REVIEW) 

    As my boyhood friend William “Shakey” Shakespeare would say, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet …. unless pissed on by a skunk.” But then, ol’ Shakey didn’t exactly have both oars in the Avon, if you get my drift, so what did he know? And as the poet “Lord” Byron once said, “Shakespeare’s name, you may depend on it, stands absurdly too high, and will go down”….proving that critics always know what they’re talking about, which happens to be my highest qualification for writing book reviews (my next highest qualification being experience — this being my second book review for T.O.P. …. though I admit to having also written a review of a book** for a blog of which I cannot Speak Without Irritation, as the post containing that review was one of hundreds expunged in the great Speak Without Interruption purge a month ago; so, alas and a lack, that review no longer exists or counts).

    But enough about me. Let’s talk about IT’S GIRL SCOUT COOKIE TIME for Lesbians and Abortionists, which is by far the best book I’ve read all day, except for the small defect of having a title longer than the Hundred Years’ War, which actually lasted 116 years, but who’s counting except me, about whom I’ve already said I’ve said enough. A better title might’ve been IT’S GIRL SCOUT COOKIE TIME for Critics and Book Reviewers, as this reviewer could go for a snack along about now….but as I said, enough about me. Let’s talk about the author, one Richard “Ricardo” Cahill. But enough about him.

    Before continuing, I’m not getting paid by the word — or by anything else (including the skinflint author), for that matter — so from this point on, I will refer to Senor Cahill’s hilarious opus as simply “BOOK SCOUT ,” or B.S. for short. The book’s back cover carries a disclaimer that this is a work of fiction, but that’s B.S. Actually there’s a lot of truth in B.S., but in cleverly disguised forms, such as real names, places and events. Indeed, B.S. asserts that such names as “Snooki” and “Honey Boo-Boo” represent real existent people….but reality may not really exist. It’s all rather confusing, but again, that’s B.S. for you.

    Frankly, I’d very much appreciate if you’d buy and take a crack at this B.S. for yourself, as I don’t know what to make of it — though I’m sure there’s the makings of good dough in it….particularly if you’re a Girl Scout looking to sell cookies.

    ** a book titled NEW YORKERS (by fellow SWI contributor Don Frankel) consisting of ten short stories, of which I’d read only five when I reviewed it, so in fairness to SWI, the world really lost just half a review when that post was among those expunged.

    • Ricardo 9:59 am on October 25, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Gracias, Senor Muse. Would you mind re-posting some or all of your formidable wit regarding my formidable wit on the book’s Amazon page? To save you the wearying task of searching for it, heres the link: http://www.amazon.com/Girl-Scout-Cookie-Lesbians-Abortionists/dp/0615853323/


    • mistermuse 1:28 pm on October 25, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Re-posted on Amazon as requested, Ricardo (minus the references to SWI). The Observation Post could also use a little more “business,” so when possible/appropriate, perhaps you might refer to my site & this post when you comment on or promote your book on your site, thereby keeping the mutual back-scratching going.


      • Ricardo 1:43 pm on October 25, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Absolutely, Sr. Muse. I have clicked the “notify” button on your site so I can post something gratuitous or possibly wildly irrelevant on your every published thought.


  • mistermuse 5:23 pm on September 23, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: book review, convictions, psychology, sociology   


    IN PRAISE OF DOUBT (subtitled HOW TO HAVE CONVICTIONS WITHOUT BECOMING A FANATIC) by Peter Berger and Anton Zijderveld is a book you wish everyone with intractable opinions about everything would read with an open mind. But that, of course, is like asking barracudas to consider minding their water table manners. We don’t need no stinkin’ manners!!!

    The authors, both sociologists, put it more elegantly (on page 32): “Psychologist Leon Festinger coined the very useful concept of “cognitive dissonance” – meaning information that contradicts previously held views – or, more precisely, previously held views in which we have a stake. (It obviously doesn’t matter to us if new information contradicts previous opinions that are of little or no significance to us – say, about the name of the capital of Papua New Guinea.) What Festinger found out shouldn’t surprise us: People try to avoid cognitive dissonance. The only way to avoid it, however, is to avoid the “carriers” of dissonance, both non-human and human. Thus individuals who hold political position X will avoid reading newspaper articles that tend to support position Y. By the same token, these individuals will avoid conversation with Y-ists but seek out X-ists as conversation partners. When people have a strong personal investment in a particular definition of reality….they will go to great lengths to set up both behavioral and cognitive defenses.”

    Absent those readers who would benefit most from this book, the rest of us can still find much to mull. Take, for example, the issue of capital punishment, which the authors cite as “an example of a democratically endorsed barbarity” which is never justified (a stated certitude at odds with the authors’ own theme, which can be summarized by the headline on the back of the dust cover: WHY RELIGION, POLITICS, AND CULTURE – AND EVEN TRUTH – NEED DOUBT TO SURVIVE). One may well question whether the authors’ absolute capital punishment prohibition comports with need for doubt.

    This is not meant to suggest that the book is a mass of contradictions….but then, you will have to read it to see what I mean. I highly recommend it, not least for its admirably brief 166 pages (index excluded). I have no doubt you will agree.

  • mistermuse 9:57 pm on January 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , book review,   


    As a follow-up to my review of DEADLY DECISIONS, I would like to commend two additional books to the attention of anyone interested in continuing their education in these matters.

    I am indebted for the first of these book proposals (as I haven’t yet read it myself) to blog reader tomgnh, who suggests checking out MARCH OF FOLLY by Barbara Tuchman. According to tomgnh, Tuchman “traces several truly stupid political decisions to try to understand the forces that led to them despite arguments to the contrary.”

    The second recommendation is WHAT’S SO WRONG WITH BEING ABSOLUTELY RIGHT (subtitled THE DANGEROUS NATURE OF DOGMATIC BELIEF) by Judy J. Johnson, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at a Canadian college. This book tackles similar subject matter from a more theoretical and clinical (as you might suspect from her profession), but nonetheless highly readable, standpoint. Quoting from the back cover blurb: “By focusing on how people believe, not what they believe, we can minimize dogmatism’s harmful effects in our personal lives as well as our educational, political and other social institutions.”


  • mistermuse 7:09 pm on January 20, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: book review, christophen burns, deadly decisions,   


    It is a pleasure, after the less-than-positive review posted 12/21/09, to give an unqualified “thumbs up” to DEADLY DECISIONS by Christophen Burns (Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY).

    The book’s sub-title is How False Knowledge Sank The Titanic, Blew Up The Shuttle, And Led America Into War, which is a synopsis of situations in which false knowledge prevailed in the decision-making leading to those (and other) preventable disasters. This is a book one wishes was required reading for every governmental & non-governmental authority whose decisions impact those they put at risk. Alas (as is too often the case), the very people who need to be open to the critical thinking prescribed in DEADLY DECISIONS are ostensibly least likely to read it, or take it to heart if they do read it.

    This discouraging observation is not only a shame, but a jeopardous shame, for (as Burns tells us in his book) dissonant information is particularly dangerous “because it brings the threat of confusion. The truth may make men free, but it’s certitude that makes them happy.” For some, in other words, holding on to one’s own “truth” at all costs trumps consideration of evidence to the contrary….even compelling evidence to the contrary. “The mind is wired for learning, not unlearning,” again quoting Burns.

    DEADLY DECISIONS will challenge your mindset if you’re heavily invested in the kind of thinking Burns exposes. Take up the challenge. Read this book. What are you afraid of losing?

    • tomgnh 8:33 am on January 24, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      If you want to follow up on this idea, check out “March of Folly” by Barbara Tuchman. She traces several truly stupid political decisions to try to understand the forces that lead to them despite arguments to the contrary.
      Her chapters on the Trojan Horse and Vietnam are particularly good.


    • mistermuse 8:47 pm on January 24, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the heads-up, tomgnh. I’ll post a brief follow-up to my review, mentioning your suggestion of “March of Folly” as well as another book I’ve found to which reference could be made if anyone is interested in additional reading in this area. If you have a blog and would like me to mention it in my follow up, let me know. Thanks again.


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