I can’t believe I missed it! The 10th annual Earth Hour to shut off lights in support of energy conservation and protecting the planet. Me--the avid environmentalist since my youth—who to this day constantly goes around my house and other people’s houses shutting off lights—welcome or not! Two days later I saw the back page Strib article: Cities worldwide go dim. Other Minnesotans apparently missed it too—and most of the country. New York City gave a nod to this environmental movement (begun in Australia in 2007) by dimming the lights atop the Empire State Building and some billboards in Times Square. But I could have been the poster child for this environmental campaign! O.k.—more accurately--the poster matron. You can always count on me to turn out the lights.
Watch the news. Look around the world. Listen to the candidates who aspire to lead our nation. It can be demoralizing -- to be sure. We humanists envision a world better than the everyday portrayal. But we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that it isn’t going to happen by magical or wishful thinking. As humanists we understand that it is up to us to create the kind of world we want to live in and leave for our children and heirs.
Are you feeling more “spiritual” these days—overcome by a deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being and wonder about the universe? Apparently while Americans are getting less religious, spirituality is on the rise. The latest report from the Pew Research Center indicates that “spiritual” feelings are increasing--even among atheists, agnostics and the unaffiliated--along with everyone else. What should we make of this?
Happy New Year! An apt greeting for the beginning of 2016, right? During this holiday season, no doubt many of us have wished family and friends “good health and happiness” in the New Year. These are time-honored greetings of the season. Plus, living a good life and seeking happiness in the here and now are key aspirations for humanists, agnostics and atheists. But did you happen to read the latest research about happiness not being an indicator of longevity? (The Lancet, December 9, 2015) Could it be that Scrooge gets the last laugh after all? Maybe, maybe not.
Forget about the red cup controversy that some want to stir up about Starbuck’s seasonal packaging. Forget about the overwrought angst of a blue Christmas without a romantic interest or a Norman Rockwell family gathering in your life. Ignore the inflammatory “war on Christmas” rhetoric of the Christian Right or the secular scrooges (ala Tom Flynn) and settle in to a “green” winter solstice holiday groove. And then let’s just be civil to everyone with “Happy Holiday” greetings and work together for peace on earth. O.k.?
“Naturally curious, compassionate and rational.” Last summer as I was biking home from one of our summer picnics, a more fit biker approached me from behind and called out “good reading!” as he cycled passed—pointing to my Humanist t-shirt with our tagline on the back. Then at the NAMI Walk more recently, a fellow walker approached me from behind and queried—“So, what’s Humanists of Minnesota?” The terse tagline got his attention, but I must admit, I still need to work on a short and snappy response.
Recently Kerri Miller hosted a panel discussion on “Faith and Doubt” for her Friday Roundtable program on Minnesota Public Radio. I was invited to appear as a panelist representing the non-religious perspective with two popular progressive Christian authors, Rachel Held Evans and Nadia Bolz-Weber. They were in town for a conference they had spawned called “Why Christian?” As media-savvy younger women and experienced radio guests, they clearly were in their element. Me, I was in uncharted territory.
Do Black Lives Matter—to Humanism? That was the question the editors of The Humanist magazine posed for its July/August 2015 edition. On the one hand, I was encouraged to see the official magazine of our national movement address the thorny issue of racism in our country. On the other hand, I had to uncomfortably admit that even broaching the topic would be met with apathy and/or dissent by some within our ranks. Not because our movement has been infiltrated by racists. Hardly. Most self-identified humanists aspire to be people of goodwill and egalitarianism, but many white folks—especially those of us living in Minnesota—just don’t see how we have much responsibility for the problems of racism locally or in the country at large.
My name is Narayan P. Dhakal and I am from Kathmandu, Nepal. I am affiliated with the Humanists of Minnesota and currently working as a freelance Interdisciplinary Environmental Expert in Minnesota. You might have heard about the devastating earthquake that struck in Nepal on Saturday. Fortunately most of my immediate family members are safe, but the damage to life and property of my friends and relatives has been monumental. A total of 2400 people have been confirmed dead and 5900 are critically injured and many missing. There is no communication with some of the rural areas of the country where the situation is worst. The immediate relief assistance has not yet reached rural Nepal where people have been buried for more than 48 hours.