George Washington Warned Us

November 16, 2017

In his Farewell Address, President George Washington spoke not just to the U.S. citizens of 1796, but to  us.  John Avlon wrote in Washington’s Farewell: The Founding Father’s Warning to Future Generations that he warned us about “the forces he feared could destroy our democratic republic.” The main ones, hyper-partisanship, excessive debt, foreign wars, and foreign powers interfering in our elections alarmingly apply to the political environment we are in now, 2017. The book is an interesting read.

 

 

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The Solution is the Problem

September 1, 2017

The most powerful story in the world is the one that says that economic growth is the solution to the world’s social and political problems.  However, using today’s technology, that solution creates a greater problem, the destruction of the world’s ecosystem. That’s  a point convincingly made by Yuval Harari in his book Sapiens; A Brief History of Humankind.

The only time that the rapid rise in greenhouse gases slowed, he says, was during the 2008 recession which caused a slowdown in economic growth. Now that economic growth is greatly increasing greenhouse gases continue to increase. Not only do the wealthy economic elite want the growth to continue, but so do the masses of the world.  When the billions of Chinese and Indians, for instance, reach lifestyle parity with Americans and Europeans, the ecosystem will collapse.

Some believe that evolving technology caused this, but that new technology can also solve the problem.  However, others think for that to happen political and economic leaders will have to cause it to happen.

How Long Should a Novel Be?

July 25, 2017

When David O. Selznick produced Gone With the Wind, some Hollywood movie moguls told him it that was too long.  Running time is 3 hours 46 minutes. It has an intermission. His response was that the answer to the question of how long should a movie be, was reportedly, “As long as it is good.”  I would say that reasoning also applies to novels.

I just finished two critically acclaimed novels that some probably feel are long, but, to me, they were not longer than they were good. Compared to two of the greatest novels ever written, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind and Tolstoy’s War and Peace, both running more than a thousand pages, A Gentleman in Moscow, hardcover at 462 pages,  and All the Light We Cannot See, hardcover at 522 pagesare really not all that long.

Both are excellent reads. If I had to rate them, I’d list Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See first.  To me, it has greater emotional depth. It’s historical background is World War II. Towles’  A Gentleman in Moscow is, in a sense, more entertaining. It has a lot of laughs, even if its background is the reign of one of the most notorious dictators of all time, Joseph Stalin. The “gentleman” is Count Rostov, who was sentenced to house arrest at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow.  I recommend both if you’re into historical fiction.

 

The NIM Giant Screen Laser Projector Experience- Part Two

June 23, 2017

A Look at the National Infantry Museum’s State-of-the-art Giant  Screen Laser Projectors – Part Two

70mm IMAX film is fed from a revolving platter to the IMAX projector.

Not only was the 70 mm IMAX picture on the huge screen, one of the largest in the Southeastern United States, an impressively immersive experience, the projection booth was also big and elaborate.  The two IMAX 70 mm film projectors filled the largest projection booth I have ever seen.  Now, the theater is showing a huge picture on the Giant Screen that is, in my view, just as good, or in some ways even better, with projectors that that don’t come near filling up the booth.

Giant Screen Christie Laser projectors use hard drives, DVDs, live digital presentations, anything on a computer instead of film.

 

Theater Technical Manager Brad Skipwith said that instead of spending a lot of time loading the 70 mm film, the operator just inserts a hard drive and pushes a button.  He said, “The picture quality is a lot better. It’s way more sharper than film. It’s a lot more crisp.” When I pointed out that film resolution is still higher than 4K digital, he said the reason laser projection is clearer because laser light is brighter, especially when running 3D movies, and that “When the film runs over and over, you, of course, start seeing lines, you get dust. You get none of that with lasers.”

Another plus, he said, on the laser side is that 4K Xenon lamps last about a thousand hours, whereas laser lights will last ten years or more.  That’s one reason that the National Infantry Foundation decided the laser system would provide longer life and lower cost of ownership. Also, going totally digital saves thousands of dollars in shipping charges.  Film and film canisters are quite heavy. Hard drives and DVDs are not.

Now, all the theater needs is YOU.  The last two times I went, the theater was almost empty. That’s hard to understand because the documentaries that are being shown on a regular basis are really worth seeing in my view. Fortunately, the free movies shown in the summer for the kids draw good crowds. The museum comes out ahead on them because the concession stand does well.  Movies and popcorn go together.

 

 

The NIM Giant Screen Laser Projector Experience – Part One

June 22, 2017

A Look at the National Infantry Museum’s State-of-the-art Giant  Screen Laser Projectors – Part One

The sea change in cinematic theatrical projection is the relatively recent switch to digital  systems. Just as the way film systems evolved technically, digital is doing the same thing.  Film went from grainy black and white flickering silent cinema to sound on film and color and from almost square screens to widescreens that got larger and larger.  Digital has gone from 2K definition which allowed some pixels to be seen to 4K which solved that problem and from and from light bulb to laser lights.  The National Infantry Museum has one of the very few theaters in the Southeastern United States with state-of-the-art Giant Screen laser projectors.  The museum’s theater also has one of the largest screens in the Southeast.

70 mm IMAX film projectors took up a lot space in the large NIM IMAX Theater projection booth. I took this photo in 2010.

Up until last year, the NIM still used  IMAX 70 mm film  projectors. IMAX 70 mm was as good as it got in theatrical projection until digital laser came along. When IMAX switched to digital laser, the museum dropped IMAX and switched to Christie 6P laser projection, and changed the name of the theater to Giant Screen.

When I saw the new documentary “Aircraft Carrier,” I was so impressed with the experience I decided I wanted to learn more about the Christie laser projectors. I wondered why the huge picture on the screen seemed so much more vivid and immersive than the one produced by 70 mm film projectors.  I was able to take a look at the projectors and get an interview with Theater Technical Manager Brad Skipwirth.

I’ll take you inside the projection booth in my next post.

 

 

 

 

Another Way to Reduce the Cost of Healthcare

May 30, 2017
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Locally grown produce on sale at Uptown Market in downtown Columbus, GA, Saturday, May 27, 2017.

It’s no secret that the cost of healthcare in the United States is highest in the world, but  overall quality is low among developed nations. The United States ranks 37th in the world according to the World Health Organization.  As you probably know,  just about all of the developed countries in the world but the United States have universal healthcare.  Certainly the top ten do. While the debate on whether to go single-payer or continue for-profit is important, there is another way to drastically reduce healthcare costs that gets very little attention.  Poor diet reportedly is a major contributor to the cost of healthcare in the United States.

This was graphically pointed out by a Harris County farmer at a Wednesday night group discussion at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbus, Georgia.  He provided some very interesting information from the Sustainable Food Trust. (Click on that link and you can read the report on The True Cost of Food Conference that was held in San Francisco.)

The report tells us the following:

Diseases related to poor diets in the United States account for 86% of healthcare spending.

Obesity annually costs taxpayers $2 trillion in healthcare spending.

About $5 billion is spent on  reactions to food dye.

877 million pounds of pesticides are used each year by industrial agriculture.

Americans spend about 6 percent of their annual income on food now as opposed to 16 percent in 1960. European countries spend 9-15 percent.

The U.S. government annually spends $20 billion taxpayer money on agricultural subsidies.   That  keeps primary crop prices low, which keeps food prices low.

The Government spends $153 billion annually on assistance programs to low-income earners, $75 billion of that in food stamps.

The market favors producing food on an industrial, unsustainable scale. “Sustainability,” in this context, means providing for the current generation without inhibiting the ability of future generations to provide for themselves.

So, the real cost of food is much more than the money you pay for it at the supermarket. For instance, your taxes pay for the $20 billion agricultural subsidies.

Just think about the social costs and dollar costs of  things like rising healthcare costs, air pollution, water pollution, climate change,  illegal immigration, allergens, and others.

So that’s what some believe is the problem. How about solutions. Our Harris County farmer listed these:

— Reward environmentally responsible food production.

— Use money from government subsidies, crop insurance, and food stamps to make sustainable food more available and accessible to the public.

— Raise taxes on artificial-chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

— Create healthcare incentives and encouragement to eat healthy food.

— Create investments in local, sustainable businesses.

— Pay agriculture employees better wages and improve working conditions.

You have to admit, cliché warning, that’s certainly food for thought.  One thought I have is that there needs to be a national educational program to inform the public about the benefits of following a healthy diet.

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One of the stands featuring locally grown produce at the Uptown Market on Broadway in downtown Columbus. The market is open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

 

 

TV is Still Politically Powerful

May 19, 2017

IT  STILL  DOMINATES THE NEWS MEDIA SCENE

If anyone truly understood the political power of TV it was the late Roger Ailes, the creator of FOX News, who, according to news report, died because he fell and hit his head in the bathroom of his Palm Beach, Florida home.  He played a major role in helping Republican presidential candidates from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump get elected by advising them on how to  use TV.

President Trump certainly seemed to  understand Ailes’ “orchestra pit theory.” It enabled him to get tons of free TV news time, especially during the Republican primary fights. TV fell for the ploy hook, line, and sinker. Many, including me, believe this is the main reason he won the nomination. The “pit” theory, I read in Wikipedia, is explained in this Ailes quote:

“If you have two guys on a stage and one guy says, ‘I have a solution to the Middle East problem,’ and the other guy falls into the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news?”

During Nixon’s time, TV was, no doubt where, to a large degree, elections were lost or won. It was and still is where most people get their news. At least, that’s what a Pew poll tells us that was the case in 2016..  However, that is changing.

The poll shows that 57 percent of US adults get their news from TV, cable, network, and local; 38 percent from social media, websites/apps; 25 percent from radio, and 20 percent from print newspapers.

However,  the trend appears headed online.  50 percent of people ages 18 – 29 get their news online, 27 percent of them get it on TV, 14 percent on radio and 5 percent print newspapers.

49 percent of 30 through 49 years old get their news online, 45 percent  on TV, 27 percent  on radio, and 10 percent from print newspapers.

Seniors still depend on TV heavily, 72 percent ages 50 – 64, and 85 percent ages 64 plus. The  age 64 plus crowd give print newspapers their highest percentage, 48 percent.

Where I get my news? From TV, online, radio, and magazines.  What about newspapers? Definitely. Big time.  But, not print editions, unless you count the Ledger-Enquirer online copy of the print edition as a print edition. I read both the e-edition and the website edition. I also occasionally sample newspaper websites from Washington D.C, Atlanta, New York,  Israel, U.K., Russia, France, China, and other countries. It’s amazing what’s out there for us to read now.

 

The Case for Optimism: Episode Four

April 27, 2017

THE UU PATH:  Fireflies in the dark

by Hallas Midgette

Hallas Midgette

This final of four episodes on Hallas Midgette’s April 23, 2017 talk to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbus sums up his case for the UU path being an optimistic way of navigating through life. In the first episode he used the allegory of an amazing sight he witnessed while driving through a Kansas countryside one night. A field was lit by millions, perhaps billions, of fireflies.  He likened UUs to the fireflies lighting the darkness. “In a world of many religions, UUs stand out as a light in the darkness. That light is optimism.”
Hal is a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and retired science instructor at Brookstone High School.  
Quote by Howard Zinn
I think Howard Zinn, an American historian, playwright, and social activist sums up best what I’m trying to convey:

“TO BE HOPEFUL in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives.  If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.  And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

The Kansas fireflies that inspired me to make this presentation are a beautiful memory and a symbol of optimism for me.  I am trying to be one of those millions of fireflies that helps shine a light in the darkness.  I invite you to join me.

Please open your hymnals to number:  118                    That is number: 118

Song:  This little light of mine.

In a discussion that Hal and I had following his talk, he pointed out that in spite of all the bad news we get daily in the media, the world has actually evolved into a better place than it was. Since my memory isn’t all that wonderful now, I asked him if he would write a few paragraphs for us about our discussion. I asked him to answer this question:

How would your describe the overall social , political, and economic condition of the world now? 

Wow, that is a big question that I don’t even know how to answer.  The world is big and varied and so are the topics.  It varies throughout the world.  There are spots that are bubbling in a bad way, and then others that are seeing millions….no, perhaps hundreds of millions….moving into the middle class.  Examples are China and India.  Then on the extreme, there is Venezuela which is plunging into a black hole….economically, socially and politically.  There are five famines going on, with at least two of them being caused or seriously aggravated by governments, not drought conditions.  While it is not positive, it is not rare, especially in the number of deaths.  While the back ground music is terrible, over all, the music is getting louder and better.

In addition, I could mention that there are constantly good things happening…almost everyday.  But bad news sells better, possibly because of it being a survival mechanism.  Good things generally don’t kill you.  Just looking at recent news things are getting better.  Scientists have discovered that the mesopelagic zone in the ocean is filled with life, and while we might not find it appealing for our dinner plates, it is perfect for fish meal, fish oil and food for fish farms.  In another recent article, scientists have discovered that the waxworm, a plague to bee keepers, can eat plastic bags….the trash that never goes away.  How about March of this year when Elon Musk’s Space X launched a used booster rocket engine and re-landed it, and how much cheaper it has made going into space.  It has taken 75 years since the Germans launched a V-2 rocket in 1942 to get it done.  Then there is the constant inching forward of green energy through out the world.  I mean, look at India and how they have made one of the largest solar power facilities in the world.  According to some, solar power in India is now cheaper than coal generated electricity.  It goes on and on.

The Case for Optimism: Episode Three

April 26, 2017

THE UU PATH: Fireflies in the dark

by Hallas Midgette

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Hallas Midgette

In the first two episodes of this four-part series on a talk to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Coumbus, Georgia on April 23, 2017, Hal told us why he believes the UU path is an optimistic way of navigating through life and explained how four books helped shaping his optimistic worldview. In this episode he tells us how the Seven Principles affirmed by UUs “virtually scream optimism.”

Hal is a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and retired science instructor at Brookstone High School.

 Unitarian Universalist Seven Principles and Optimism

Okay, now you know that I’m an optimist and most probably why.  I look at our seven UU principles, and to me, they virtually scream optimism….that we can and will make a positive difference in the world around us, and that our endeavors will be successful.  Let’s take a look at our seven principles and see why this is so.

 

  1. Number one:  The inherent worth and dignity of every person.   We have no apostates….no “unbelievers,” or sinners not worthy of our illumination.  Everybody is somebody and we believe this message can change the world in a positive way.  And, most importantly, it doesn’t matter if they are part of our tribe or not.  All people are of value, and we are equals in that we all are alive, feel pain, love, and want to be happy and safe.  By embracing this principle, we demonstrate our optimism that we can reach out to all, and do not have to segregate others into infidels, sinners, or apostates.  We welcome humanity to our smorgasbord of ideas and love.

 

  1. Number two:  Justice, equality and compassion in human relations.   Justice is the pillar of stability that ensures that society doesn’t slip back into barbarism and to accept it as the arbitrator of events is supremely optimistic.   Nothing is more positive, in action and belief, than to grasp the concept that others, regardless of creed, sexual orientation, or cultural practices are equal as individuals.  While I might not appreciate someone’s cultural views as much as mine, I do appreciate that that person, as an individual feels the same pain and awe of the world around them.   Compassion is the engine that drives the Unitarian optimistic train.  Compassion is feeling and doing for those in pain or need, making the world a better place.  It provides the underpinnings for optimism, it is the tool for reaching out to others, sharing, and loving.  Compassion, coupled with equality forges the empathy that is necessary to care for and about others, including for those different than ourselves, those outside our tribe.

 

  1. Number three:  Accepting of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.  Tolerance is not fearing others, but embracing them with the belief in a positive outcome.  We embody the Nike cliche’ “No Fear.”  We accept that others have a vision of a different spiritual development or path than our own, but we find that okay.  We encourage and assist them on their path and journey.   One has to be optimistic about the end results of embracing our own belief and fostering the well being of others in the pursuit of their own, but different belief.

 

  1. Number four:  A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.  This is our vehicle for carrying us into the future.  It is the sword to fight the tyranny of ignorance, intolerance and religious bigotry.  This principle makes a break with previous notions that the search for knowledge is fundamentally wrong…..think about Eve and the apple incident at the Tree of Knowledge.  We generally do not believe that all the Truths and Meanings to life have been previously revealed and encoded in unchangeable form to be forced onto others.  We question rigid thinking and eschew dogma.  We understand that the world is constantly changing and we see the Unitarian role as a positive force in that change.  Will there be turmoil and times of gloominess?  Of course, but we see ourselves as transcending those bumps in the continuum…..as a good optimist should.

 

  1. Number five:  Right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.  This is possibly the most optimistic of all our principles because it has a large trust component that independent, individual action will be thoughtful and produce  an acceptable outcome, and even if we are not in the winning faction of a democratic process, will accept it and  carry on, striving for a positive outcome.   Our conscience is meant to be thoughtful, not coerced, or bounded.  How does the carrot and the stick, namely concepts of heaven and hell, and the role of sin play into this?  It doesn’t, at least for the Unitarian Universalist organization, although it might on the individual level.  I find this extremely optimistic.

 

  1. Number six:  The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.  When looking around without our optimist glasses, the world looks a little like Billy Joel’s song “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”  “We didn’t start the fire, It was always burning since the world’s been turning.” Another light metaphor.  It has gotten better over time, but so many just don’t look at the time scale of things and how we, as a species, have improved.   Or, we get too distracted when there are episodes of regional setbacks, like the situation in Syria.  Let’s start at Homo sapiens’ beginning.  Small wandering tribes.  If you weren’t in a tribe or were out wandering away from home when another tribe found you, it wasn’t  “guess who’s coming to dinner,” because you knew the game….protein was protein, and it was you that was going to be dinner.  As tribes evolved into more complex social groupings, congeniality towards strangers became more the norm, especially with the advent of agriculture and the formation of settlements, which eventually became towns and cities.  Human’s greatest discovery after tool making, fire, and language was possibly religion, which helped order society even more and provided the seeds to formalize law.  Then came city states and commerce, then nations.   Now we have international law, a world court, rules for war, though not always followed, the world wide web, and are now on the cusp of full globalization.  I believe there is greater tolerance now than at any other time in the world’s history.  While large pockets of radicals or extreme conservatives exist, they are being more and more marginalized by increased education, and access to tools, like the world wide web, that work to remove the veil of ignorance and localism.  We Unitarians show tolerance for other religions, fight for equality among the sexes, and embrace diversity in its many forms.   I’m not saying that sometimes it’s not crazy out there, that there is still friction to our forward progress, but life and human interactions are unquestionably better than at human’s beginning.  Mankind has come a long way, and the journey isn’t done.  As Billy Joel said in his song:  “We didn’t light it, but tried to fight it.”  We are optimists, we just haven’t tried to fight the fire, we are daily fighting the fire, through words, thoughts and deeds.

 

  1. Number sever:  Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.  Some people believe the Earth was given to mankind to subjugate, to be masters over all the animals…that the Earth was Man’s to exploit…that there would be continuous bounty.  The foundation of most of this belief was formulated four thousand years ago when the human population, spread over the whole globe, was only 27 million people, much less than that of Tokyo’s 38 million today.   The population is currently estimated to be 7.4 billion, about 250 times greater than four thousand years ago.  Because of our value in reason, Unitarians in general accept the scientific method and the scientific wisdom that the Earth is a complex organism of which we are but a part.  As mankind has gradually learned, human cells are called eukaryotic cells and generally are a mixture of a nucleus and organelles or structures, in which, one, the powerhouse of the cell, the mitochondria, is the vestige of a bacteria that took up residence in a larger cell.  Without this combination, there would be no thought or movement.  The approximate 39 trillion eukaryotic cells in the average human, is matched by an equal number of bacterial cells….of over 10,000 different species.  We literally are a zoo.  We are a microcosm of the Earth’s web of existence.  We don’t do well if some of the bacteria living on or in us aren’t healthy.  Case in point is what sometimes happens after we take antibiotics….an intention to kill harmful bacteria, but sometimes includes necessary bacteria as collateral, and consequently causing a disruption in the digestive tract.  Earth doesn’t do well when some of its species aren’t doing well, or become extinct.  While we promote saving the environment, we acknowledge that the world is in flux and always has been.  I am optimistic that we can help those that are blind to see that this current flux, to include climate change, has human handprints and footprints all over it.   Everyday it is estimated dozens of species of animals are becoming extinct because of habitat loss or changes in their ecosystem.  Am I still optimistic?  Absolutely.  Knowing that the Earth has been through at least five extreme extinction events in the past, only to bound back, not just to the level it was before, but with greater abundance of life, I think Mother Earth will survive this 6th major extinction event that is wrought by man.  But, with reason and knowledge and reaching out to educate others, we Unitarians can help in the effort to lessen the effect of this time period scientifically called the anthropocene…..or in layman’s terms…the age of man.

 
Hal uses a quote by  Howard Zinn to sum up his talk.  Episode Four is next.

The Case for Optimism: Episode Two

April 25, 2017

THE UU PATH: Fireflies in the dark

by Hallas Midgette

Hallas Midgette

This is the second episode of the four-part series featuring the thought-provoking talk on optimism delivered by Hallas Midgette, a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and retired science instructor at Brookstone High School. The talk was presented to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbus, Georgia on April 23, 2017. You can read the first episode by scrolling down on this blog.

In the first episode, Hal explains why he believes the UU path is an optimistic way of navigating through life. Just as millions of fireflies he once saw lighting up a field in Kansas one Summer, “In a world of many religions’ UUs stand out as a light in the darkness. That light is optimism. Unitarians are optimistic.” Hal went on to say that four books perhaps shaped his optimistic worldview. This episode features his explanation of why.

Episode Two

The Books

There are four books that have influenced my optimistic views, besides all those science fiction novels.  The first was Voltaire’s “Candide,” where, with all the terrible events in his life, Candide kept proclaiming that this “is the best of all possible worlds.”  I read this in college and it stuck with me.  Once, in the middle of the movie “The 25th Hour” …as close a parallel of the story of Candide as I have ever seen, but in a World War II setting…..I stood up to leave because it was Voltaire’s “Candide” all over again and I just couldn’t take watching a human being suffer so much, especially when he accepted the suffering without protest or fight.  Michelle urged me to sit back down, possibly because we were on a double date and the other couple were the drivers.  I reject that this is the best of all possible worlds because that is not realistic.  We can’t resign ourselves to tolerating violence, cruelty and suffering.  I have confidence that the world continues improving, not necessarily  linearly, but in fits and starts.  This feeling that the world is getting better all of the time is one of the reasons I joined this fellowship, because it is engaged in what I view as the battle of good and evil and is on the side of improving the human condition.

The second book that had a major impact on my optimistic view is David. M. Raup’s “Extinction:  Bad luck or bad genes.”  His book was my first forray into looking at extinctions on a geological timescale.  I never before had realized how many localized and worldwide extinctions there have been in the Earth’s history.  There are all types of mechanisms that can cause extinctions besides the one we are probably most familiar with…..fast moving, big rock from the sky.  Or, for some, coming in contact with Europeans.  There have been five major extinctions in Earth’s history, some causing as much as 95% of all life to go away.  The amazing thing is that life just didn’t slowly creep back to its former level, but it virtually exploded back and became more extensive and varied.  Raup was the first author to alert me to the fact that we humans not only might be in Earth’s sixth major extinction event, but most probably are causing it.  But, being a glass half full person, I have faith that humans can and will discover ways to avoid an end to our species.

The third book that influenced my positive world view was Edward O. Wilson’s “On Human Nature.”  Initially he studied social insects, then turned his brilliance to analyzing how humans interact and why we evolved to be so social.  As a social species, our fate is interconnected with one another.   In the past, as we evolved on the savannah of Africa, alone, we were food, but as a tribe, we were the dominant specie to be reckoned with.   We, according to Dr. Wilson, have evolved to live in tribes, and are fairly predictable in what we do, how we behave, and what our limitations are.  Human’s have done well, even in the face of severe adversity.  The world, with its extremes, highs and lows, continues slowly getting better…..like a high tide slowly coming in.  Waves come in and recede, but gradually get higher and higher.  I contend that we haven’t seen, or perhaps can’t even grasp what the high water mark of human achievement might be.  Former President Barack Obama said, “Progress isn’t always a straight line or a smooth path.”

Finally, the fourth book, and the most positive book I’ve ever read is “Nonzero:  The logic for human destiny,” by Robert Wright.  Looking through the lens of gaming theory, the author sets out to prove why humans are where we are today, and that we are now in the storm before the calm.  Yes, I did say storm before the calm.  Through meticulous logic the author detailed how our universe, at least the portion we live in, is primed to move from entropy to organized systems.  While, according to his analysis, life, while not guaranteed, was certainly favored.  He contends that the evolution of life was for more complex systems, that life can’t be a zero sum game, where the winner takes all, like tennis or football.  Life has to be a nonzero sum game, and this is what propels us forward.  A nonzero sum game is like trade, where both sides of the bargain gain….maybe not equally, but they gain from the interaction.  His analysis of history and culture accomplish the same….showing that evolution of civilization was positive, that while there were setbacks, the general progression has been greater complexity and forward, with Mankind having greater control over his own fate.

Episode Three will explain how the Seven Principles affirmed by UUs “virtually scream optimism.”