Essays by Title

Is There Any Middle Left?

As the US political scene transitions from the Democratic successes in the midterms to the beginnings of the 2020 presidential contest, one of the most pressing questions to emerge is whether there is any meaningful middle ground remaining along the political spectrum stretching from left to righ

Life is ComplicatedWe all would like a quick fix of simple certainty, and no matter where we turn today, we can find an army of pushers waiting to feed our habit, even giving the stuff away for free, just to keep us hooked.
Merry Christmas BabyThis song was originally recorded in 1947 by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers, featuring Charles Brown on piano and vocals. The original recording was a hit on the Rhythm and Blues charts, and the song has been recorded by many blues and R&B artists down through the years. The lyrics recount the happy tale of a man feeling appreciative of his wife/girlfriend on Christmas morning, after opening his many presents.
More Love

Any attempt to expound on the subject of love must first come to terms with the problem that we use the word in many different ways and situations. There is romantic love. There is sexual attraction. There is the love of a parent for his or her child.

My Favorite ThingsSome might protest that “My Favorite Things” is not, strictly speaking, a Christmas song. After all, there is no mention of Christmas, and that “holiday” word appears nowhere in the lyrics. However, those points notwithstanding, it has been included on many a Christmas album, and it's easy to see why: with references to packages, sleigh bells, snowflakes and winters – as well as the overall theme of “my favorite things” – it's easy to sneak it into any holiday playlist.
Our American Class SystemBack in the 1970's, Andy Warhol made this observation about American society: "What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest."
Our Societal Disconnect

I was thinking recently about my own upbringing in Annapolis, Maryland, back in the sixties, and it occurred to me that there were several aspects of my experience there and then that I took for granted, but that are no longer very common today.

Patterns of Human CooperationAs humans it can be fairly said that our superpower is the ability to work cooperatively with others of our species.
Paul Thorn and his 800 Pound JesusI'd been aware of Paul Thorn for some time, but didn't really become a fan until I saw him live last summer at The Ark in Ann Arbor. I've been listening to Thorn's recordings regularly since then, and can now bear witness to a great catalog that stands up to deep and repeated listening.
Please Come Home for ChristmasIf Christmas is supposed to return us to home and family, then of course songs will be written about those who are still left yearning for a reunion with loved ones during the holiday season. Charles Brown helped to give us the joyful “Merry Christmas Baby,” but he also first delivered, and co-wrote, the plaintive appeal found in “Please Come Home for Christmas.”
Reasons for Belief

We often seem to assume that people say things, and come to believe them, because they are true.

It seems to me, though, that people take up beliefs for a whole host of reasons, and the likely truth or falsehood of these statements is often the least of the motivating factors at work.

Rebuilding Trust in our Large InstitutionsI find it fascinating to compare the original Star Trek television series with the first Star Wars movie. And I think this comparison can reveal a lot about the current state of our culture.
Reframing our Debates about Capitalism

There is a flaw in the reasoning behind our infernal, never-ending, society-splitting debate concerning socialism vs. capitalism, and I want to point it out.

To start with, imagine the lives of our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

Rejiggering Our Religion

When it comes to religion, the main question for most people is whether to keep the one we were raised with, or to lose it altogether.

I'm starting to wonder, though, whether we're asking the wrong question.

Religion, Storytelling and Art

Religion can be thought of as a collection of shared cultural artifacts that provide a sense of meaning about human existence.

Religion attempts to answer “big” questions such as the following:

  • Why are we here?

Religious Freedom

When it comes to religion, I have to confess to being a bit of a mongrel.

My mother was a Methodist. My father was a nudist. And I once called myself an immortalist.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town“Santa Claus is Comin' to Town” was written in 1934, and was first sung on Eddie Cantor's radio show in that same year. It became an instant hit, and it's been a perennial holiday favorite ever since.

What do we mean by science?

Most importantly, science consists of the following elements:

Social Distancing and our Essential NatureAs ever more people work from home, and more students attempt remote learning, I'm concerned about a growing chorus of folks who are celebrating this enforced distancing as a welcome wave of the future, and suggesting that what started as a temporary fix should be embraced as a permanent fixture of 21st century society.
Star of WonderThis is a lovely little song, written by Terre Roche and recorded a cappella by The Roches for their Christmas album, We Three Kings.