Contextually, and in keeping with the current popular interest in familial ancestry (extending, no less, to DNA exploration to uncover unknown ethnic origins) it might be timely to examine into the antecedents of our holidays and cultural observances.

As at the time of this writing, since the time of the calendar year is just prior to the Christmas season, we would select the history of that observance and as well, its related springtime holiday, Easter.

Winter festivities took place among many diverse ancient cultures for thousands of years prior to the time Christianity had its beginning. These festivals, as is the case with today’s religious and secular observances, derive from a cross-pollination of many features of the early Egyptian, early Roman, early Germanic, Viking and Druid cultures, all of which, apparently, worshipped the sun as a deity, in one way or another.

In our northern hemisphere, the shortest day (and therefore, ineluctably, the longest night) falls on December 21st-22nd. Many ancient peoples believed that the sun god was seriously ailing and in the throes of death at such time, as demonstrated by the increased darkness and the condition of nature.

The winter solstice observances and ritual celebrations were intended to cause the recuperation and restoration of the sun deity. At such time of the year, early Egyptians (and others) believed said observances would soon bring on the sun god’s return to strength and good health.

Early Romans also believed that at the time of the arrival of the winter solstice, their seasonal celebrations, including Saturnalia, would cause the return of good health or the “rebirth” of the sun god. Their proceedings would include stuffing their headgear with evergreen vegetation. The Vikings similarly   believed that evergreen vegetation was the deity’s holy plants.

The apparently miraculous (or holy) phenomenon of the evergreen tree which remained green, and even flourished all year (including the “dead” season) was of the subject of great wonder and the object of many religious rituals. Today, of course, the Christmas tree  is, by far, the most recognizable traditional symbol of the holiday.

The yule log tradition was a religious one, of traditionally pre-Christian Germanic culture, related to the anticipated return of the sun and the lengthening of the daytime; the latter called by them various names, one of which was “the Yule.” It was also a time of communal fires, feasting (on a Yule ham, among other things) singing, exchange of gifts and general celebration.

It is interesting to learn that the early American pilgrims sought to stamp out this “pagan” holiday with its popular celebrations. Oliver Cromwell called it a “heathen celebration of bushes and trees and other rituals” which he banned under criminal penalty. In the 19th Century, however, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts enacted a Statute, establishing December 25th as a legal and proper Christmas holiday.

It was believed that as a direct result of such ancient observances, when the time of the spring equinox arrived, the sun god (and nature) was caused to have their recovery; the world was then perceived as re-born and alive and fertile and the waterways melted and ran again. The bunny rabbit and the egg were revered as symbols of fertility and reproduction. The latter events clearly, it seems, unknowingly foretold the rites of the future holiday of Easter.

The ancient belief in the death of the sun god and nature and their subsequent rebirth may be seen to have a cogent relationship to modern belief systems and theology. However, it is not the purpose of this writing to, in way, comment or discourse upon past and present folkways and traditions, beyond the enlightened and learned recognition that societies successively evolve and grow organically, and in perennial fashion from their predecessors.







Speaking your mind without fear of governmental sanction is one of the commendable attributes of being an American. This is to be contrasted with residing in a country where “prior restraint,” or, censorship, is still practiced. In this country, censorship is regarded as a feature of the dim past, practiced by earlier, less enlightened societies. Our nation’s founders, and their contemporary political philosophers of note, believed that the free exchange of divergent ideas within an informed citizenry was essential to the success of democratic government.

The U.S. Constitution, in its “Bill of Rights” (Federal) and its 14th Amendment (States) prohibits government interference with speech and the press; the free exercise of these rights are virtually unlimited, with the proviso that they do not cause injury. The usual illustration of this principle is the proscription against falsely crying “fire” in a crowded theater, which could lead to panic and injury. Indeed, unless a realistic potential for injury is clearly proven, a statement is fully protected; this is so regardless of whether the statement is within the societal mainstream of thought or not. It is a firm foundational belief that the culture of restraint of speech or of the dissemination of information is an attribute of dictatorship.

Officially repressed speech, in any form, is illegal and unconstitutional; books, articles, plays and other expressions may be looked upon with disfavor and even religiously banned, however, such assessments may not be enforced legally regardless of content. Restraints based upon “national security” may require court action to test the purported validity and necessity of such limitation.

Defamatory statements, “published” (i.e., communicated publicly) and causing injury to reputation or otherwise, are legally addressable by civil litigation seeking money damages from the alleged offender; the government is in no way involved.

The First Amendment also protects pornography, unless the same crosses the judicially determined line of “obscenity” which today includes, child pornography and works which are judicially found to be both “patently offensive” and “without redeeming value.” The celebrated literary icon,” Ulysses,” by James Joyce, was determined to be “obscene” and banned in the U.S. from publication and sale for several years. It is observed that the determination as to “obscenity” has always been subject to challenge and is applied in accordance with the evolving societal standards as exist at the time of such challenge.

We are particularly distressed and disappointed (often enraged) by those individuals who piously arrogate to themselves the missionary role and duty of protector of societal morality. These, reductionist and insular “chicken inspectors” seek to impose their own personal beliefs and standards on others. Their neurotic self-image, as possessing an intelligence especially capable of the discernment of the intrinsic nature of offensive and inoffensive, is no less than delusional.

Several years ago, we were present at a well- attended party, consisting of a heterogeneous group of guests, apparently, the business associates of the host and hostess. A stern looking, well dressed lady seemed to be sermonizing as to the moral necessity for government to oversee morality and prohibit “scandalous and lascivious” material (as she put it). There was a modest amount of contention on the subject, but we did not choose to join this discussion in consideration of the host and hostess, and so merely continued to quietly enjoy our drink. The stern self-appointed missionary of morality, apparently misinterpreting our silence as an indication of endorsement of her point of view, approached us and confidently continued her diatribe, now directing her energetic remarks to us, probably in full expectation of our acquiescent support. Instead of controverting her, we merely offered to get her a drink and a canape. She, in bitter disappointment at our lack of response, exclaimed, loudly: “Oh, you don’t care, do you, well, how would you like it if they allowed sex in the movies?” To which, unfortunately, we could not resist the reply: “Never tried it, but it might work, if the seats don’t fold up on you.”

You can no doubt, imagine her (dramatic) response.



Blog # 102 AQUARIUS

There is, inarguably, no more basic life giving and sustaining substance than the (inorganic) combination of hydrogen and oxygen which we call “water.” No life, as we define it, exists in its absence; in fact, the search for extraterrestrial life consists, essentially, in the search for water or at least, some history of its presence on the studied planets.

We are told that our human body is comprised of no less than 60% water; additionally, we know from extensive and consistent research findings, that life on Earth evolved from primitive organisms living in the ocean (water). With such beginnings, it is no wonder that a commonly desired choice for vacation venue is the seaside, mankind’s nursery.

History records many bloody wars that have been fought over water, nationally and internationally; out west, cattlemen have contended with farmers for water, in the Middle East it has been the subject of tragic contention between Israeli and Arab and is more vital and precious than oil.

Health providers advise the drinking of eight glasses of water per day which, apparently, is inclusive of all liquids consumed, the latter all made with water.

As Americans, most of us are fortunate to reside in a planetary venue where “potable” (drinkable) water is abundant (with the unusual exception of such areas as Flint Michigan, where mismanagement and corruption has resulted in severe problems). Normally, there exists an ample, regular supply of excellent drinking water. It may be noted that the State of New York is reputed to be one of its finest sources.

Elsewhere on the planet where drinking water is less available there are water purification projects in existence, or at least, in the process of development; salinization plants are equipped to convert ocean water to healthy drinking water.

Not that long ago, were someone to suggest, as a business enterprise, the private bottling and sale of drinking water, the suggestion would have seemed akin to the proverbial offer for the sale of the Brooklyn Bridge. Indeed, Nature has fortunately provided us with abundant quantities of this essential substance; unfortunately, in some places, from me to time, in troublesome overabundance.

Historically, adequate supplies of tested, safe water has been provided by municipalities, as an accepted part of society’s infrastructure and as part of the public good. Notwithstanding these facts, recent times have witnessed the advent of the successful commercial sale of private bottled water to the public.

Despite the ready availability of free, high quality tap water consumers, apparently responsive to subtle marketing strategies, have taken to the purchase and use of commercially bottled water. Any visit to a local supermarket will, predictably, reveal entire sectional departments solely dedicated to the sale of bottled water (under alluring brands, such as “smart water” or some other misleading name) in attractively designed plastic bottles.

Ironically, many of the regular consumers of commercially bottled water are, as well, advocates for the protection of our planet and for a “greener” environment; yet their polyethylene plastic water bottles are not biodegradable and the enormous, and growing, quantity of empty discarded bottles have continued to cause horrific damage to nature and all of its living things, both flora and fauna.


The discarded plastic empties end up distributed all over the globe and cause death and the despoiling of the natural environment. Tap water is healthful and completely adequate in fully meeting the need for healthy hydration and, most importantly, it does so, without causing what may prove to be, permanent damage to our planet.

We would like to point out to the dutiful shopper, strategically packing a water bottle in her large purse as she leaves home, that the route to Bloomingdale’s does not, by any stretch, entail a trek across the Serengeti.




A valid analogy may be observed as between the process of human birth, and that of the creation of new and useful ideas and innovations; the latter process similarly evinces the entrance into the physical world of a previously nascent creation, with potential for independent function following its emergence from its prior internal venue.

The generation of new and original ideas from the flexible human mind is not specific to any gender, age or anatomical feature, except the brain. Like “rainbow electric current stuff” (See: Blog # 94); a spark is perceived, translated into the nuanced language of personal thought, and soon presses for emergence.

The progenitors are those with contemplative personalities who pursue the world of the arts and humanities, or, alternatively, those who actively pursue scientific and empirical inquiry. It is among these fertile members of society that a “eureka moment” may present itself, at any time, for development and subsequent revelation.

Not all such progeny, however, survive beyond the post-natal stage; but, the survivors often are among those that contribute to the progress and development of mankind. One major flaw in our analogy to childbirth consists in the obvious and important distinction that all newborn babies, without exception, are equally acceptable and valuable.

The creative insight internally expressed in the nuanced vocabulary of personal contemplation, is later articulated in external vocabulary, publicly. Thereafter, it is usually run through a gamut of critics and commentators, and those that survive may prove to be useful, conceivably, even of global significance.

There is to be noted, a marked difference between scientific, empirical breakthroughs and new and novel aesthetic creativity.

In the category of scientific innovation, there is usually a significantly longer period of gestation (contemplation). It is not unusual after revelation of the idea, that there is contention as to its progenitor. This can lead to lengthy disputes and often litigation. However, from a broader prospective, the application and use of the new development is of far more importance than its attribution; further development and application thereafter is often achieved “on the shoulders” of the innovative discovery.

In the area of aesthetic innovation, the situation is vastly distinguishable. In this hemisphere, the basic idea or underlying theme has been shared by countless minds. Here, it is the portrayal or representation of the universal, well- known theme, its mode of unique depiction that possesses the creative novelty and skill of the innovating artist. Later artists may further develop similar techniques.

The encyclopedic cornucopia of the human imagination is unlimited. Its vast literature only awaits use.





In the American-English lexicon there is no adjective more admirable and cherished than “sincere,” the absence of pretense or deceit. It also has a romantic etymology. The 16th Century furniture craftsmen featured many who were so skilled that the parts of their furniture dovetailed and fit together perfectly. The lesser skilled furniture makers needed a wax or a glue, to give their product integrity. The word “sine” means without, and the word “cere” means glue; thus, the true artisan produced a genuine product which was “sin” “cere,” without glue and without artifice; one that was created with integrity.

This word has also been selected as relative to our present theme.

Young children, newly awakened to the reality of the empirical world, require and are given, tutoring in concepts and practices essential to the successful conduct of their lives, acceptable behavior, cleanliness, proper interaction with others, and so many others. These primary instructions and regulations are accepted, initially by the child in order to obtain approval and avoid chastisement, and later further enforced due to their repetition by interaction with others, similarly instructed.

As the individual matures in age and practical experience, he charts his own observations and experiences within the context of these rules; these mandates are, by his own experience, interpreted and translated in his developing psyche as clear, uncomplicated and immutable.

Unavoidably, later on in his life and experience, he observes that there are numerous instances of wrongful behavior and heart breaking injustices occurring in the world. As a somewhat new and inexperienced observer on the scene, he may experience some confusion and even partial disorientation, based upon the stark contrast between his early instructed and ingested mandates and a newly discovered (contrary) reality; as a natural consequence, he may demand immediate remedial action.

Understandably, he has little patience for subtle, deliberative action to ameliorate the injustice. What is earnestly demanded by him is immediate and decisive action; he has little patience and tolerance for subtle and measured strategies.

History and current events indicate that violent revolution, rebellion and public demonstrations are among the desired outlets of the young idealist. We do not oppose protest as a response; if peaceable, it is constitutional and legal. It should be said that the means, however, never justify the ends; it would appear that violent means ineluctably lead to violent ends; study France in the 18th and Russia in the 20th Century, as but two historical examples among many.

Long practical and painful experience has taught that the ends of justice and rectitude, calls for diplomacy, negotiation and, ultimately, compromise, often slow moving. To the ingénue this appears to be a betrayal of principle and a clear demonstration of revealed insincerity.

Herman Hesse, the German novelist, is a popular favorite of the young adult. Hesse’s characters personify, good or evil, passion or rationality. While we, of course, recognize Hesse to be a brilliant and talented novelist, we are doubtful that such opposing characteristics can be reductively assigned to designated individual characters. It would appear that, to the contrary, most personalities and the greater number of issues, present themselves with inconsistencies and complications too subtle of easy analysis.

As we accumulate experience, we do not (insincerely) “sell- out” our cardinal principles by what has proven to be necessary, by reason of divergent interests of those involved, the method of gradual incremental change; the latter by negotiation and compromise, provided that the same is intended to, and does, tend to the desired result. We do not desire that the perfect be the enemy of the good and possible.

In the meantime, we earnestly advise that those disappointed with the rate of progress, in the peace and resolution process, not “take home all their marbles.” The sincere pursuit of justice requires patient and incremental dedication.








This modern era of sophisticated forensics, especially, the development of DNA science, has successfully seen the exoneration and release from imprisonment of numerous innocent individuals, erroneously convicted of crimes. Sadly, society has not found an adequate way to atone for the disastrous consequences to the wrongfully convicted person or his family. There would seem to be no satisfactory solution to the problem, except a sincere resolution to apply the legal system and the law of evidence fairly, correctly and without bigotry.

The coldest (and inarguably, the oldest) case and example of injustice, one in which the consequences have been the most horrendously dire, is the well- known biblical myth of Adam (meaning “earth” or “man”) and Eve, the primal human couple. This “Creation Myth,” still incredibly perpetuated by the Abrahamic religions, relates that Adam, eats an apple, from the forbidden “Tree of Knowledge” offered to him by Eve, with the connivance of a tree snake. For this horrendous offense, the pair “discover their nakedness and are banned from the Garden of Eden, forever. As if the punishment were not severe enough, religion invests each newborn child, from the “begats” on, for eternity, with that “original sin” by reason of which life becomes, necessarily, a mono- focused mission of expiation; rather than one dedicated to growth in knowledge and capability and the pursuit of life enhancement.

Let us (forgive the expression) dig down and apply a modicum of rationality to the conventional myth and see where it takes us (without the need or relevancy of DNA testing).

In ancient lore and existing traditional liturgy, the image of “the tree” has always been a positive, if not a revered, symbol, evincing terms like “tree of life” and other culturally affirming similes.

Adam and Eve, the biblical representation of the newly emerged and highest level sentient animal, were exalted by the Deity above “all the beasts of the field” specifically, by reason of man’s nascent intelligence.

The subject varietal in the story is a most singular apple tree, the “Tree of Knowledge” from which, the storyline goes, Adam commits the astoundingly evil act of eating of one of its apples, offered to him by Eve (with the connivance of the snake) despite the clear admonition of the Deity not to do so. As a direct and proximate result of this, no less than shameless, act the primal couple “discovered their nakedness,” (read, became aware of themselves) and were permanently banned from the Garden of Eden (read, state of ignorance). {Actually, this sounds like a good thing}. However, instead of the joyious discovery of being, the miracle and the affirmation of identity, the Good Book speaks harshly of the eternal disgrace of “original sin.”

It should properly be to the unmitigated, delight of all feminists and their supporters, that the fruit of the tree of knowledge was delivered to man(kind) by his female consort; far from the disgrace of eternal sin, mankind, mythically, was thereby gifted with the ability to discover the world and pursue his natural potential, self- realization.

Equally puzzling and disturbing is the Greek myth of Prometheus who was sentenced by Zeus to an eternity of excruciating torture for the “offense” of bringing fire and civilization to mankind. Why does ancient myth, and more modern religion, construe the gift to humanity of enlightenment and reason as a horrendous sin when it is the natural and predictable goal of the newly evolved or created, sentient being? Do reason and enlightenment possibly pose an existential threat for religion?

To us, there clearly seems to be an enormous debt of gratitude due to Prometheus and, of course, to Eve.



Blog # 98 AMICUS

Another tribute to the uselessness and arrogance of aphorisms (Blog# 11) is “People judge you by your friends.” This instance of great judicial wisdom would predict that the perceived quality, positive or negative, of the people with whom you choose to associate, will be determinative of your evaluated worth. Unfortunately, this reductive phrase is as popular as it is ignorant.

Our theme here, however, centers on the word, “friend”, its defining characteristics and function.  In truth, the dynamics and role of this positive phenomenon may be the most salutary and life-affirming of all interactive relationships.

We would, perhaps too formally, define “friendship” as the recognized status of loyal relationship with common purpose. It may be distinguished from the word, “acquaintance” which we understand to be as well a relationship of familiarity, but with less depth and commitment. In “friendship” we not only recognize each other as a familiar, but are in such close interaction that we support each other’s personality and patterns of intimacy.

Friends can be observed in a myriad of categories, childhood friends (most, later become acquaintances), neighbor friends (example, young mothers with babies), family friends (rare), political and business friends, where common ties have morphed into friendship.

Friends with whom we frequently interact serve as consistent assurances and confirmation of our personal identity and self-image. Sometimes there are beliefs and behaviors that, in fact, are at variance with ours, but they too meet our expectations and so confirm our identity. Family friends may be less numerous and more complicated since they seem at times to depend upon loyal consensus of judgment concerning some historical fact or certain individuals.

Life without friends would be insular and lonely. It may be observed that our interaction with friends not only provides the office of confirming our self-image but also helps determine our tastes, opinions and to a certain extent, even our personal appearance. It is also the experience that it is somewhat comforting and calming to grow older with other contemporary familiars.

However, in fairness, friends are not the exclusive baseline for our take on reality. There are many significant relationships which fall short of the criteria for friendship but which do confirm us in our roles and identity. Neighbors, shopkeepers, barbers and hair dressers, bank clerks, newspaper salespeople, and the like, are all part of our regular dramatis personae, and by reason of their predictable presence and consistent function do confirm us in our familiar place in the scene.

As an illustrative example, we have observed a small group of commuter train riders who for many years occupy proximate seats so as to enable their participation in a regular game of cards on the way to Pennsylvania Station.  Despite the fact that this coterie has so participated for a great many years, little is in truth known, each about the other, with the exception of first names and little else concerning their personal lives; yet the early morning card game has become a matter of significant institutional importance to their life’s routine.

While interaction with friends is of inestimable value in the quality of our lives so, in the same way many of our casual, but regular, interactions with identifiable others, add zest and identifiable structure to our lives and should not be undervalued.

An interesting category of friendly relationship is the short-lived, temporary bond between fellow vacationers. In this situation, we have the opportunity to take particular notice of our own familiar social skills and personality in the ephemeral situation. It may be observed that irrespective of any and all sincere and energetic expressions of undertakings to perpetuate the relationship beyond the period of the holiday, such good intentions rarely materialize.

The exalted role of friends, and the more mundane existence of acquaintances, together play essential parts in life’s acceptable and positive scenario.