Saturday, April 23, 2011

Banning Easter Unfair to Christians and Pagans Alike

The celebration of Easter is as verboten in some places as is Christmas, not only in the public square but in public schools as well. Recently, a school told children they could not have Easter eggs, but they could have "Spring Spheres." Even though eggs are not technically spherical. I guess that means the Easter Bunny is persona non grata and we better not see any Easter lillies on school grounds.

It is all part of the progressive policy of knocking Christian festivities down a peg in order to achieve fairness after so many years of Christian hegemony in our society. Now it is ok to proclaim Islam, paganism, wicca--and perhaps even wiki--from the roof tops, but not Christianity. (There is even some difference of opinion in progressive circles about whether and to what extent Judaism should remain safe from the politically correct.)

No one seems to be mindful of how the suppression of Easter is oppressive to pagans. After all, Easter is only belatedly a Chrsitian festival. It was originally a pagan one. I mean, read your New Testament: there is no mention of the Easter Bunny or Easter eggs there. These are pagan customs. Even the word "Easter" is a pagan name. It was a spring festival associated with a female deity who ushered in the growing season.

I am tempted to become a druid just so that I can protest society's oppression of pagan's as well as Christians in this culture war against Easter. Christians and pagans should seek common cause over our rights to our separate versions of Easter.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Are people essentially good?

One of the most cliché philosophical questions is whether or not people are essentially good or, perhaps, essentially evil. (One of my favorite sayings goes “That there is a devil, there isn’t any doubt,/ But is he trying to get in us, or trying to get out?”) I have always leaned toward the view that people are essentially good. The key word in that declaration, however, is “essentially.”

People are also complex biologically and psychologically. (Indeed, this complexity is related to the unity of body and mind; the two are not merely intertwined and interdependent but functionally identical.) Any complex system is more vulnerable to disorder precisely because of its complexity. Disorders of many if not every kind are possible because of our complexity. Thus, human beings are easily corrupted. This means that we cannot rule out the existence of essential goodness. Goodness is fragile, especially when it is based in innocence and its attendant ignorance. Experience will tend to corrupt.

It is one thing for a young child to be basically good, having had no experience of the world beyond what psychiatrists Fairbairn and Winnicott called “a good enough mother”—that is, a nurturer who makes all reasonable efforts to provide adequate care. It is quite another thing to grow up and make one’s way in the world beset by people who have not had good enough nurturing by parents and others, and who have actually had inadequate nurturing. So many complex beings, corrupted by the weak and craven impulses of those around them, cannot do anything but challenge even the most well-adjusted people, tempting them to indulge even the smallest tendencies toward weakness and cravenness in themselves.

We humans might well be essentially good, but it takes more than essential goodness to prevent us from succumbing to evil. Goodness can only prevail if it is fostered by the intellect. It comes to be, as we grow up and grow old, that we can continue to be good only if we understand why it is better to be good and why it is wrong to succumb to evil.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Being From New England, One Expects This Sort of Thing

Sunday morning I took a book off of my shelf and perused. "Cloak and Gown" is about the Yale graduates who, disproportionately, populated the CIA and its World War II predecessor, the OSS (Office of Strategic Services). The book consists largely of a series biographies of Yalies.

My eye fell on one about Norman H. Pearson. I was quickly more interested by the account of Pearson's early years. He was born in Gardner, Massachusetts, in 1909. This is not far from Worcester where I grew up. My father often drove around Worcester County as part of his work, and I remember that he often went to Gardner. Then I noticed that Pearson's mother's maiden name was Fanny Kittredge. I thought, wait, I am descended from Kittredges if you go back far enough (five generations, it turns out); so I spent the rest of Sunday--until I had to go to work--trying to work out whether Pearson and I are related.

We are indeed related. Seventh cousins, twice removed. That means that if you go back, my eighth great-grandparents are the same as his sixth great-grandparents. It also happens to mean that my grandmother (born 1903) was in the same generation as Pearson; so they were seventh cousins, period, not removed. BTW, Norman Pearson's uncle on his mother Fanny's side was Alfred B. Kittredge who, though born in the same New Hampshire town as Fanny, became a U.S. Senator from South Dakota. (And I thought I could write a post without reference to politics.)

The migration from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony that occurred during 1630-1640 was only large in comparison to the smaller but more famous arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620. Over the next several generations, this relatively small population burgeoned into millions largely through intermarriage among the members of the first families. The result is that if you are related to one of these families, you are related to several of them. If you are willing to go out to seventh, eighth, ninth or tenth cousins, everybody whose ancestors arrived in New England before 1700 is related to everybody else.