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Badlands of The American West

July 25, 2018

I read a short but potent article this week for weekly scholar. Written by Dan Flores, expert on the American West, the article makes the case for why the badlands are just as beautiful as any other part of nature. In my experience, I underestimated the beauty of badlands until I got a chance to see some in real life at Big Bend National Park in Texas. They truly are a wondrous experience. Flores describes them in such beauty in this article, that there's no way you wouldn't want to visit some after reading it.

"I have walked among the Spanish Skirts in the slanting, reddish light of morning and the high yellow of sunset, and I can tell you that the experience is to be fairly dazzled by earth art. Eroded into overlapping, earthen hemispheres, the Spanish Skirts in full expression reveal at least seven different hues. The bottommost tint is the pale tangerine of Palo Duro Canyon’s floor. Atop it rests a layer of dark burnt orange, often separated from the crenulated, tangerine base by thin, horizontal stripes of white gypsum. More of these slender bands, finely drawn as if with white ink, surmount the burnt orange belt. Then come fireworks: a broad swipe of deep lavender and another of rich saffron, finished off by an unexpected, quite wonderful stripe of coffee-bean chocolate. Where the Spanish Skirts exist as free-standing mounds, the final flourish is often a cap of creamy white atop the chocolate, like frothed milk floating on the surface of a latte."

It's interesting to note that "the name for these stark, multihued mounds came from eighteenth-century French explorers on the Northern Plains, who called them mauvaises terres, because they presented so few possibilities for settlement." It fascinates me to think about the badlands being made up of shoreline sediments that precipitated to the bottoms of rivers, lakes, and oceans 10,000 to 240 million years ago. There's such a powerful feel to the badlands when you're walking over them. It's not the same as hiking a trail with a stream nearby. It's a different kind of joy.

Flores goes on to describe the great American artist and badlands advocate, Georgia O'Keeffe, and how her paintings captured the spirit of the badlands. In a poignant moment in the article, Flores describes a time when he and Anthony Bourdain went horseback riding no less than a 100 yards from O'Keeffe's New Mexico home where she painted many of her masterpieces. It adds quite a romantic feel to the article, and leaves me with a desire to take a trip and hike out into the badlands.

Purple Hills Ghost Ranch-2 / Purple Hills No II, 1934 Georgia O’Keeffe Oil on canvas affixed to masonite 16 1/4 x 30 1/4 (41.3 x 76.8) | Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Gift of The Burnett Foundation (1997.06.020) © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum


A photograph I took exploring the badlands of Big Bend National Park.


Everybody Is Wrong About God Review

December 02, 2018

I just finished reading a book titled "Everybody Is Wrong About God" by James Lindsay in which the author argues that it is necessary as a society to move towards a post-theistic world and to find a new way to understand what it means to believe in "God". I found some of the points being made in this book to be quite interesting. Lindsay is saying that theism itself doesn't make sense, and is based on mythology. He argues that theism is not really a worldview because it looks to fantasy as a method of attempting to characterize and cope with life, death and many of the realities that come along with being a human being. He also argues that since theism makes no sense, then its counterpoint - atheism - also makes no sense and is ridiculous and likely to be harmful to the ultimate goal of leaving God behind as a society. The post-theistic world Lindsay conjures up consists of us learning to meet all of our psychological and social needs without religion and without a belief in a mythological God.

This a short read and I do recommend it for anybody interested in thinking more about God, religion and truth. I myself have more thinking to do, but it does seem like a logical argument that the author makes. It seems that religion offers some benefit for us, but also divides us and turns us against each other. It makes us more ideological. Anything that will help us come together as a whole, I'm all for. A post-theistic world seems to be an interesting vision to think about in this regard. I'll end with one of my favorite quotes from the book, in which the author is describing how we can find purpose in our lives in the absence of any belief in religion or God:

"Our efforts matter because in the light of this collection of facts, harsh and unpleasant as they may be, shines a fantastic opportunity. We can make our lives sparkle, and we can help those we love to do the same. For no matter how many hours of our lives will be spent in despair--and on some level it isn't absurd to measure it in hours since, at present, only the rarest handful among us will live so many as a million of them--we must also know that we possess the capacity to make those we love, including ourselves, tremendously happy in many others. We have the opportunities for love, for support, for help, for good work, and for kindness in every moment, and so realizing our finiteness is a nearly perfect road to understanding the best avenues for human purpose because those moments are the ones that, as they say, truly make life worth living."

A Way of Being by Carl Rogers

February 16, 2019

I just finished reading the book titled A Way of Being by Carl Rogers. Carl Rogers was an influential American psychologist who began publishing work in 1930 and continued until the publication of this book in 1980. This book is a sum total of what Carl Rogers learned about people in his career as a psychologist. He writes about the human character in total and what it looks like when it is functioning at its best. What I like about his writing is I feel that I can trust him. He writes about a topic that he has had direct experience with for over 50 years. I recommend this book for anybody interested in human nature.

Throughout the book, Rogers describes many facets of people's personalities and many character traits that he consistently sees in his work with people. He talks about what it truly means to listen to someone openly. He talks about interpersonal relationships and the effect that real, true connection has on people. He includes letters written to him from former high school students that he impacted. He talks about how important it is to be present, open and listening to people. He talks about the fact that it is so rare for people to come across somebody that really, genuinely listens and accepts their ideas that when they do experience the connection of that type of person, the impact lasts a lifetime.

My favorite parts of the book was where Rogers predicts what the person of the future will have to be like in order to thrive in the changing world we live in. He calls it the person of tomorrow. He describes them as being opposed by the conventional world. "The new person has been and will be harassed, denied freedom of expression, accused of conspiracy, imprisoned for unwillingness to conform." He talks about how the person of tomorrow will be ostracized and ejected from local public schools and universities whenever possible. Since the new person puts self realization ahead of achievement, personal growth above salary or profit and cooperation with nature ahead of its conquest, corporations will also be in opposition to this new person. The new person attempts to be a whole person - with body, mind, feelings, spirit, and psychic powers integrated.

Rogers talks about how this new person will thrive in the modern world, despite their opposition. With scientific, social and cultural change blowing strongly, we will need whole persons who are able to adapt to the changes. The fully integrated person of the future, which since this was written in 1980 can be called the present, will be the individuals most suited for their environment, according to Rogers' prediction. He describes a person-centered future, based on the individual being a whole person by itself. The last two sentences of the book sum up his prediction: "We may choose it, but whether we choose it or not, it appears that to some degree it [the person-centered scenario of the future] is inexorably moving to change our culture. And the changes will be in the direction of more humanness."

Carl Rogers (1902- 1987)

Carl rogers