We have sad news about Bob Bhaerman, the ESWoW administrator. His wife Jane died unexpectedly on Saturday night. She was in the hospital for relatively minor surgery. Complications set in very quickly, and, in spite of efforts by physicians, they were unable to maintain a pulse or heartbeat.
Jane had just celebrated her 68th birthday last Tuesday.
Bob's son lives a mile away and is helping him through this troubled time. His two other children will be joining him soon.
Update on Bob
Submitted by SusanRose on Thu, 2006-10-05 11:51.
I spoke with Bob this morning. His three grown children are with him now. Bob shared some wonderful memories of the life he and Jane have shared together.
He appreciates knowing that many people are thinking of him. He is not up to talking on the phone or responding to emails, but would like people to leave him comments on this blog that he can read when he is ready.
Although our Society is spread out, I think we can still surround Bob with our warm thoughts and wishes.
Submitted by SusanRose on Thu, 2006-10-05 14:13.
Another person's feelings about the unexpected and sudden death of their loved one are hard to imagine, even when there may a similar experience in one's own life.
I do want to send my sincerest sympathy to you and the rest of your family, and to express the hope that good memories from the past will help soothe the pain of this difficult time.
Submitted by SusanRose on Thu, 2006-10-05 14:13. Read more »
On the five year anniversary of 9/11, I find that reflection is inescapable. I think about where I was and what I was doing when I heard about the terrorist attacks. I think about who I was then and who I am now. I think about what has transpired since. What we have done in the name of protecting ourselves. Whether we are safer now. Whether we have achieved any greater understanding of ourselves and the “other”.
I re-read my essay that I wrote in 2001 right after 9/11, before “9/11” had entered our common vocabulary. You can find it on the AEU website here:
I was left with the feeling that not much had changed for the better. Eventually my thoughts went to a dark corner of despair for the human condition. So I left my office and wandered into Duke Gardens. I truly beautiful place an easy walk from my office. I wandered through the flowers and the lotus pools smelling the perfumed air on the hot autumn day. While ambling about, I ran across an elaborately carved and weathered stone bench of indeterminate age with the inscription, “Above All Nations is Humanity”.
I sat on the bench. I rolled this thought around some in my brain case and I began to feel more hopeful.
“Above All Nations is Humanity” is a good humanist motto. As an idea - it is very appealing. Humanity trumps nationalism.
I would add a second clause, “Above All Religions is Humanity”. Humanity, human rights and human dignity, should also trump religious ideas. This is easy for me to say since I do not hold religious views that suggest that I possess “the truth”, the only truth, the truth that separates people into us and them. Perhaps I should not confine this clause to religions but open it up to encompass other authoritarian thought systems be they political, economic or social. “Above All Dogma is Humanity”. Read more »
UN International Day of Peace
"September 21st by resolution of the UN General Assembly shall be officially proclaimed and observed as International Day of Peace and shall be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples..."
Working for peace takes planning. This year, I had it on a calendar that Sept. 21 is the International Day of Peace, and I knew I wanted to post something on this blog about it, but I didn't really think about it further than that. Tonight I remembered and started doing some searching on the web to learn more about the day and to find out about how it is observed.
It was easy to learn a bit about the day and how it was first proclaimed 25 years ago, in 1981 that the opening day of each session of the UN General Assembly would be declared the International Day of Peace. In later years there were additions and changes, probably most important that "the International Day of Peace shall henceforth be observed as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence, an invitation to all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities for the duration of the Day;"
It was harder to get a clear sense of what events and actions are taking place in observance of the day. It seems clear that many people are doing a vast variety of things in observance of the day. One website I visited asked people to make a pledge of action for peace and send it in to them. There are vigils, but I couldn't quite figure out how to locate them. Maybe if I had more time.... Read more »
I hope no one is expecting me to explain to them how to live an Ethical Culture life – your Ethical Culture life no less. I’m still trying to figure out how to live my Ethical Culture life, something I’ve been doing in one form or another for a long time. I’ll share with you some of my experiences and thoughts, but I’ll also tell you that I’ve come to realize that I like to give talks on topics such as Living Your Ethical Culture because they serve as a good reminder for me to pay attention to living my Ethical Culture.
Ethical culture is a difficult religion. A while ago I was speaking with a friend who has only heard of Ethical Culture through me. She wanted to know more and asked me some questions based on her experience of religion. She wanted to know if we have any rules that everyone is expected to follow. She also wanted to know if we had any practices or something that everyone is expected to read at certain times. When I told her the answers were all no, she said to me, “Ethical Culture sounds like it is a very easy religion. There are no rules to follow and if there are no rules you can’t be punished for breaking them. And you have no practices to follow. That’s a lot easier than the religions I know about. You can do anything you want.” I told her it wasn’t quite like that. Read more »
I don't think so, but she did a good job of grasping something important about us.
I went to hear her speak tonight at the Old South Meeting House in Boston. She was talking about some of her experiences since writing the book Dead Man Walking.
At the end, she was signing copies of that book and her new one, Death of Innocents. I heard her asking the people ahead of me on line a bit about themselves. So I had my ESWoW card all ready to give her. "Ethical Society," she said. She hadn't heard of Ethical Culture. But as she signed my book she said "I agree with a feminist way of looking at ethics." When I saw what she had written, I smiled and thought she could be an Ethical Culturist. She wrote "To Susan - the women are right. Ethics is about right relationships."
I went to hear her speak because I want to learn more about issues around the death penalty. Richard Kiniry, Leader of the Philadelphia Ethical Society, alerted Leaders that Amnesty International will be having a National Weekend of Faith in Action on the Death Penalty for the weekend of October 20-22 , 2006. This issue is important to me, more so having started reading Death of Innocents on the subway ride home. I'd like to be able to learn more about death penalty issues together with you. I'd like to have several people help organize what we might do as a Society. You can get more information here: Faith In Action on the Death Penalty. There are suggestions for actions that can be taken on-line and things that each of us might do in our local communities.
You might want to take a look at the resolution on capital punishment passed by the American Ethical Union Assembly in 2000 here.
What are your thoughts about the death penalty? Have you read any of Sister Prejean's books or seen the movie Dead Man Walking? What do you think? Read more »
September 11th There is so much being written and shown on TV about this date that I just want to share a couple of things that you might not have noticed.
So much of the response of this country and government to the events of Sept. 11, 2001 have been to create an atmosphere of fear and hatred, trying to create a sense that the only appropriate responses include violence and curtailment of civil liberties. It is refreshing to know that there is are people actively seeking alternative responses. One such group of people are the Sept. 11 Families For Peaceful Tomorrows. It is formed by family members of people who were killed in the Sept. 11th attacks, who seek a peaceful response. I’m a big fan of the show Democracy Now which is available in a variety of forms. Read or listen to an Interview with David Potorti the Director of Sept. 11 Families For Peaceful Tomorrows.
Also on Democracy Now is an interview with with Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Ganhi. The interview is in recognition of September 11, 2006 also being 100 years since the day that Mahatma Gandhi launched the modern nonviolent resistance movement. Gandhi called it "Satyagraha." Interview with Arun Gandhi
What are your thoughts as you go through this day? Please share them with us.
Submitted by SusanRose on Fri, 2006-09-15 20:26.
Thank you for the reminder that there are many possible responses to the events in NYC five years ago. The Sept 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows is an important alternative to the government\'s terror&war drumbeat.
Thank you also for pointing out that September 11th is the date of the start of Gandhi\'s Satyagraha movement--and that this year is the 100th anniversary. What a contradiction to the usual way we think of this day.
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Growing up in Ethical Culture, I wasn’t taught any sacred commandments to follow at Sunday School or by my parents. Well, my parents did teach me one: “Thou shalt not cross picket lines." A picket line of strikers – workers banded together in a Union to fight for their rights and better working conditions – that was sacred.
And there were opportunities to purposefully not cross picket lines. Of course, first my mom always had to tell the strikers that we weren’t going into a particular store in support of their picket line. And I always knew it was the right thing to do, even if we had to go out of our way to go to another store to get what we wanted.
Going to a Labor Day Parade in NY when I was 3 or 4 is one of my earliest memories. My parents decorated my stroller with crepe paper streamers and taught me the chorus of the song Roll the Union On.
These days there is less support for organized labor than there was when I was in those Labor Day Parades with my parents, marching with one of their unions (1199 for my mom and District 65 for my dad). But there does seem to be somewhat of an upsurge in union organizing. Someone I know just had their shop organized by SEIU – it took years of planning, months of organizing and then 26 weeks to get to contract, but they were successful even with great opposition from management.
The true significance of Labor Day has been lost. I just googled Labor Day and most of what I came up with were sales and picnics and festivals. I even found a listing for Elephant Labor Days at the St. Louis Zoo. Does that mean there will be elephants giving birth this Monday at the zoo? If you're from St. Louis, please let me know.
I did find two links that were exciting to me and give me hope. One was a link to a labor site I hadn’t seen before, but which has a link to labor music. Read more »
I am so thrilled to be welcoming you to the Ethical Society Without Walls, for one of our initial Platform addresses.
The Ethical Movement has been waiting a long time for this moment. A lot of people have put a lot of thought and energy, time and money into bringing an Ethical Society Without Walls into being. We have a wonderful opportunity before us.
So here we are – or should I say “here, I am and there you are?” How wonderful that we can be in very different places and yet be connected to one another. We are connected via the internet, or the printed page for some, yet we are connected by something far more powerful. We are connected by the desire to live the most ethical life possible and the desire to have companions with whom to share our journey.
In Ethical Culture, our desire to live an ethical life is grounded in a belief that human beings have the ability, the capabilities to use human judgment and human connections to guide us in living an ethical life.
It’s a fairly easy exercise to say “I want to live an ethical life,” but it is a far harder practice to actually do so. Coming together with others who have the same desire, to exchange ideas and information, caring and support, makes it more likely that we will be able to put our ideals into practice. Read more »
I first began thinking about our “Obligations to Others” while attending a three-day outdoor music festival in rural North Carolina called “Grass Roots”. Closing the festival, after three days of off and on rain – why it always rains at these festivals is something that I always wondered about – was a group called “Donna the Buffalo”. There I was, standing in a drizzle, in what in the not too distant past had been a cow pasture, in the mud, in my rubber boots, listening to some truly amazing music. After the first number, one of the musicians held up his newborn son, who had been born at the festival, and said how wonderful it was to see a new life. A new being, innocent, free from the burdens and problems of the past, able to start a new life unencumbered.
I was moved by his comments. New life is awesome and it pulls on our hearts in wonderful ways. Parental love is an example of human nature at its best.
But I began to wonder about how free from obligation we truly are – even when we first enter this world.
What exactly is the nature of these obligations to others? This is the subject that I will explore this morning. I will speak from inner reflection and in a spirit of hope for the future.
Felix Adler, the founder of the Ethical Culture Movement, believed that within each of us are deep spiritual/existential longings that must be addressed in our search to create meaning in our lives.
• We experience overwhelming awe at the vastness of the cosmos – and become aware of our insignificance – do we matter in this world?
• We see seemingly limitless suffering in the world – so many are poor, hungry, and sick – what can we possibly do that will make any difference?
• We seek to create lives of value and meaning in order to answer the question “How should I live?” Read more »