The Treasure in the Trash: Symbol and Art

My father was an inveterate and unapologetic garbage dump aficionado. On Sunday afternoons when I was a kid, it was off to the garbage dumps, known and unknown.

Along with us would come one of my uncles, who had been a Japanese prisoner of war and came home . . . not quite right. One of the joys in his life was shooting rats with his .45 caliber pistol. There were a lot of rats.

We were a merry band.

I have to quickly say that I grew up in the golden age of garbage dumps, not only in the…

Corn Grows at Night: Reflections on Flood, Drought, and Climate Change

Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota — all experienced drought conditions this summer. Even in urban and suburban enclaves we can see it — low creeks, twisted leaves, stressed trees turning leaves brown too early, the fall colors muted.

This year, the spring wheat harvest was down as much as forty-percent in some cases. Hay crops were damaged at crucial times. The corn and soybeans and sunflowers withered. Farmers are selling off cattle, reducing herds that took years to build.

As a farmer myself, I know that drought and flood are part of…

I is Always We

In August of 2021 we lost an important philosophic voice, Jean-Luc Nancy. Nancy’s insights into self and community have not yet crossed the threshold from philosophy to discussion on the public square, but they will, for they add nuance to a currently very un-nuanced discussion.

Nancy critiqued one of the cornerstones of conservative thinking: that an ideal community once existed. (This obsession is, I think, one of the reasons conservatives object so strongly to critical race theory, a useful set of claims clearly borne out by a cursory look at history. )

No, the community of 1650 was not ideal…

Despots in the Trees? Think Kudzu
Photo by Justin Wilkens on Unsplash

We grow up learning particular, specific ways of thinking.

We learn these from the environment we live in and from our social situation. As General George Marshall phrased it, he learned everything he knew, “at my mother’s knee and other low joints.”

After we learn specific ways of thinking, they become habitual, and it takes effort to think outside those habits. But as freethinkers — and free-formers as Rev. Dr. Je Hooper insists we must become — we are committed to examining how we think.

Many of us have been en-culturated to think of knowledge as a tree. It’s our…

Oh, Grow Up!

A mature relationship with reality. For me, that is the goal in my search for purpose, meaning, and justice. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:11, I want to “put away childish things.”

So far so good, but what am I calling “childish”? Ah! There’s the rub.

I’m not sure what Paul considered “childish,” but experience quickly teaches that one person’s childish is another person’s profound.

For me, “childish” is my own subjective measuring stick: things I once believed that were socially conditioned. Provincial, as the old term had it. …

Photo by Munro Studio on Unsplash

Medieval alchemists followed the belief, “Quod est superius est sicut quod inferius, et quod inferius est sicut quod est superius. Meaning, “That which is above is like to that which is below, and that which is below is like to that which is above.” This belief is often shortened to, “as above, so below.”

Medieval alchemists — and mystics as well — believed in dualistic separations such as body/soul, earth/heaven, secular/eternal. The idea was that a minute study of this world and its properties revealed some — perhaps someday all — of the mysteries of the heavens above and the…

Getting Your Mystic On

As someone who grew up in the Pentecostal tradition and then opted out of traditional religion into the countercultural eclecticism of Beats such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, I’ve always been open to mystical experience. Part of why I treasure the mystical is that it burns down creed, institution, and individuality itself, opening to a feeling of relationship with . . . well . . . the big ineffable.

That was then and this is now and mysticism is making a big comeback. Take for example the book The Flip: Epiphanies of Mind and the Future of Knowledge by…

It’s All in the Cards; I Mean Stars; I Mean . . .

In a previous blog post I mentioned research that suggests Generation Z has even less trust in institutions than Millennials, and, like Millennials, are replacing institutional religious practice with alternatives such as mystical experience, astrology, and Tarot.

In the fundamentalist tradition I grew up in, playing cards were a big no-no. Yes, those cards — the ones with kings and queens and jacks. With those forbidden, it’s not hard to guess what Tarot cards meant: Evil. Pure evil.

After all, the Bible makes the case clearly:

There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or…

book cover Philosophy in the Flesh

We humans think along particular cleared paths through the forests of our minds. Yes, that’s a metaphor — actually a couple of them — one way we go about thinking. Another way, among Westerners (an example of what I’m about to say) is dichotomies and opposites: hot/cold; alive/dead; abstract/concrete; sacred/profane; spiritual/material.

All ways of thinking are good ways of getting some kinds of thinking done, but we often forget that we’ve walked down one of those pre-cleared paths and think we’re thinking of . . . well, the whole forest . . . .

Alright, forget that metaphor. We think…

Photo by Nadine Marfurt on UnsplashHow to Go to Heaven

Most Americans are centrists to a little tad left on social issues. Poll after poll shows that. Sure, we must fight the good fight for social justice, but the polls show secular Americans, liberal mainline denominations, and a lot of nonprofits are carrying the banner for our social causes. That’s not the reason Unitarian Universalist or Humanist groups exist. We exist primarily — existentially — because we offer theological and philosophical hope through the possibility for another way of thinking and another way of living.


Yet — you can look this up, but please don’t “like” them or “follow”…

David Breeden

Poet, Senior Minister at First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, a Humanist congregation. Amazon author's page

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