Blog #22 Origin of the Specious

It was famously, Charles Darwin, who startled the world by revealing the process of successive and progressive mutation by which we morphed from amoeba to American.

Words also, would   seem to evolve, over time and changed context; but unlike phylogeny, not always towards the most useful. Acceptable nouns, such as “bitch,” which meant, in polite English usage, a female dog, grew to describe a shrewish, or mean woman. Likewise, the word “bastard” which was a (negative) word to adjudicate an individual as  born out of wedlock and therefore not entitled to heirship. The latter, morphed noun came to be used as an epithet describing a person as mean, ungrateful or stingy. Mercifully, proceedings to determine fatherhood are more recently called “paternity proceedings” rather than “bastardy proceedings.”

The instance of an unusual (double) mutation of the phrase “politically  correct” uniquely demonstrates an  evolution  from that of  an evil context  to a positive one, and then,  regrettably, back  to an atavistic usage.

The phrase, “legally correct”   had a pernicious  application,  as  employed in  countries such as  the USSR or  China to  signify  that the words used  passed muster  (read,  party or government censorship) as not being contrary  to approved dogma. With the decline of totalitarianism, the parlance became a   salubrious and beneficial one.

In a multicultural society the phrase has reference is to the avoidance of vocabulary which could be insensitive or insulting to those of differing physical features, cultures or beliefs. Such effort and intention to be good neighbors, used reasonably, is demonstrably, salutary and commendable.   The sincere desire to live together in harmony and peace is also among the most useful and beneficial of our evolved human traits and is within the universally accepted “Golden Rule.”

Unfortunately, for some, the phrase has evolved into yet another use, one which is detrimental to the peace and harmony of society. [Perhaps envisioning the future   they should have called it   “Socially Correct.”]

Many Americans, often those whose views lean rightward, have relegated the phrase to an interference with their liberty and right to free speech. However, the injury of others was always, judicially, the limit and boundary of our legal and constitutional rights; we also have the right, by the way, not to be injured.

The only speech infringed upon is bigoted speech.  Yet statements have been reported such as “Those who don’t have the b–lls to say what they {read, what “I”} want” or, verbally attribute the practice to “liberal pussies”

Since he clearly has the choice, not to be in accord with the “flat earth” denizens of our planet, p.  shall opt, permanently, to remain a progressive felis domesticus.





Blog #21 Civic Amity, A Requiem

The word “debate” is universally understood to represent an orderly, peaceful, presentation between well informed participants, who voice disparate views on a designated subject. The traditional purpose is the crystallization of issues for individual determination.

P finds the “Presidential Debates”   utterly useless, as not being debates by any criteria, but instead reality show style contests featuring personal wrangling.   It is insulting to the literate citizen

We are fortunate to live in a nation where freedom of speech and thought are legally and unconditionally guaranteed. There is no” party line” or mandated dogma. Understandably, there are numerous disparate and competing assumptions and points of view, just as there is diversity in background and personality.

Ideally, the well-intentioned, collegial exchange of differing opinions, on the assumption that the good of society is intended by all, would be the most effective decision making process.” Partisanship” itself can be constructive, if the common goal is shared and positive.

Jefferson believed that every citizen had the “duty” to “aid the State” in the resolution of issues.  He also wrote that citizens should be well informed so that they would be useful in this endeavor.

If the assumption were true that the proponents of all points of view    have the public good as the common goal, there would seem to be no rational basis for hostility (latent or manifest) between citizens of varying views. Yet it is unfortunate to observe the widespread existence of such enmity. .  It may be that many people may not be capable of enjoying the perspective necessary in this rational process nor possess sufficient confidence in themselves. Such individuals see contrary opinion as nothing short of an attack against themselves and others who share their views. This, of course makes such people receptive to parties who have their own motivation and often cause such individual to vote against his own personal interest.

Worse still p. has seen a complete breakdown of our treasured “civic amity.”  Instead of the well intentioned and constructive reception of alternative suggestions (as necessary to the solution of problems)   we have, instead, hatred experienced and the perception of evil.

RIP well informed, friendly and constructive exchange of ideas; RIP civic amity.






Blog #20 Love Without Words

It may just be that the most articulate and effective communication is expressed without verbal language.

In the world of great symphonic music, Mendelssohn’s “Songs Without Words” is an expression of truly great aesthetic beauty and emotion.

Upon reflection, it would seem that the most important and aesthetic form of communication is expressed without the need for vocabulary. It is a language not effectively tutored or learned from Berlitz. To be sure, even a competent analysis of the original Rosetta Stone, now residing peacefully, after multiple larcenies, in the British Museum in London, would not reveal a clue or heirographic concerning it.

It is probably the only language that can be learned, but not taught. It effects peace, friendship and bonding between people(s) when employed; its avoidance promotes isolation, insularity, selfishness and a perceived meaningless existence.

“Empathy” is the word and category of language.  Everyone has presumably, sufficient knowledge of its definition but, in many cases, insufficient experience with its practical application.

The inclination, or aptitude to sufficiently and genuinely feel for other human beings; the sincere mitigation of the constructs of “I”, “we” and “they,” are what distinguishes us from the dinosaur. Unfortunately, we all know too many 21st Century dinosaurs who view others as objects.

The institution of religion has always preached empathy. Unfortunately, history shows that differing religious beliefs have all too often led to conflict and suffering and the message gets lost.

Not too many decades ago, there was a well- intentioned movement to create and  promulgate  a universal, international language, [“Esperanto”]  in the belief that the employment of a common language by all peoples would mitigate national and ethnic differences and that, as a consequence, peace and brotherhood  would ensue .It was a dismal failure.

What may work for mankind is the non-verbal language (analogous to “Songs without Words”) of human empathy.

The exercised ability to empathize with others leads to friendship, bonding and the feeling of shared life. It opens us up for educative and soul-satisfying experiences and may be the only path to peace.

Nor should laudable and humanistic feelings and acts be restricted to holidays. Thanksgiving   and Christmas dinners for the homeless are commendable and should be continued. Yet the expression of charity and compassion throughout the year would be even more empathetic.








Blog #19 Silent Soliloquy

To whom can one speak as well as to oneself?  True, healthy and effective communication with others and success in life may in large part depend upon the relative nexus between “societally acceptable” “reality” and one’s personal, private perception.

This writing does not deal with the investigative search for truth in the sciences; one can only assume (hopefully) that criteria governing the conduct of scientific exploration are objective and are being faithfully observed.

In the areas of human interaction, differing standards of morality, philosophical thought and recollection of past experiences, result in conflicting views of reality and complicate the search for “truth.” Indeed, such differences as may lead to varying perceptions of reality or,” truth” may be non-productive, and in the worst case, dangerous.

“Where you stand depends upon where you sit” regrettably, is an all too common formulation in the understanding of interpretation of fact and experience.  Unfortunately, there would seem in life to be no effective reality except that which impresses itself upon our personal perception.

Is the pasta sauce too hot and spicy or not hot enough?  Am I really too busy, or is it my mood? Is he travelling too fast or not? Is he a freedom fighter or an insurgent rebel? Our judgment may depend upon our mood at the time of observation, our interpretation of past experience, and our private biases.

Honest and truthful witnesses, at trial and under solemn oath,   may testify to diametrically opposed versions of the material facts of the case; recollected language, employed in a spousal row, may significantly vary as to vocabulary; long ago experience may, upon its   retelling, take on a tone and context dependent upon the teller’s worldview.

It is, unfortunately, not true that there is an answer to every problem; no way of looking up the correct answer in the back of the algebra textbook.

This is not to say that there are no difficult problems that can be solved by the application of logic and good sense. For example when p. was a high school student, he won two “chunky bars” by solving the age-old chicken egg question. P. correctly reasoned that the egg came first which egg was laid by the creature that was one step in evolution before the chicken. That hatched egg was the first chicken.

However, most serious problems appear to be not  solvable by logic nor  empirical demonstration The problem of differences in perception is one  of  life’s imponderables but one of which every thoughtful person must crucially aware and understand and tolerate.


Blog #18 Humor, No Laughing Matter

Out of 17th Century Spain,  brought to your local theaters by the same iconic producers and directors that brought you the box office boffos, Columbus (see pliny blog #2) and the Spanish  Inquisition comes the  daring expedition of discovery of  nobleman,  Juan  Ponce de Leon.

The goal was to discover the (mythical) “Fountain of   Youth” which by some colossally funny finger of fate, brought him to the State of Florida, slated to become the Mecca of the elderly retiree.

Had de Leon been possessed (in theory) of a crystal ball which would have enabled him to see the laughable nature and the future of his enterprise, he and his retinue might have and been afforded some benefit, from that hilarious vision.

Modern scientists, of every stripe, are in complete agreement in ascribing to laughter, positive effects, such as physical relaxation,   relief from tension, even the enhancement of the immune system, perhaps, longevity.

Down through the ages, the contagious nature of laughter (studies show, more contagious than coughing and sneezing) has brought people together, reduced physical pain and has had numerous and varied salubrious benefits.

Authoritative studies of the effects of laughter show that it improves the mind, lends helpful perspective to disappointing or perplexing situations and reduces conflict.

To p., the greatest and most remarkable property of spontaneous laughter, is that it adds joy and zest to life.

Laughter is our birthright, is innate, inborn and, by the way, free.

Those who cannot see the lighter side of life, may find much less joy in their  life than persons with significant physical handicaps who do  have a sense of humor.

Someone should have told our friend Ponce, that the fountain, like all important things, is inside him.







It is becoming manifestly evident that military operations, specifically, aerial bombing of Isis strongholds, is not the most effective response to this murderous, atavistic horde.  These zealots would, consistent with their purpose and goal, prefer to portray a fictional context of a war between civilizations.  Traditional warfare (“boots on the ground”) would seem to play into their barbaric aspirations (not to mention the issue of collateral damage).

It seems to p that wholesale and warm welcoming of Syrian refugees would be a public and historic demonstration that Isis’ avowed attempts to portray its goals as the creation of a paradise, is far from credible. Vetting may be necessary in many cases, but the admission of these desperate refugee families and individuals, who have risked death to flee the nascent caliphate, would be a clear, public refutation of Isis’ opium-dream like portrayal of its principles and aspirational goals.

It would also be in keeping with our tradition as a haven for humanity in trouble.



Blog #16 Anger in Orbit

The metallic clang of the sunshine-

Resonates in trees and dry bushes

Fearful critters peer out of sandy burrows-

At the menacing light

River banks, stoically, endure relentless abrading

As surges of super-heated streams-

Flood the planet, sunami-style

By instinct, predatory insects set out

For their daily kill

In a perfumed theater of lethal carnage

While mankind, diverted by its ducks and music-

Ignores tectonic fury and gorges on.

pliny (attrib. Leonard N. Shapiro (2015)

Blog #15 Growing Changes

Reluctance to make necessary change is a non-productive, but forgivable cowardice.

From the time we are forcibly evicted from the dark safety and warmth of the womb, into the bright-lighted unknown, newness poses potential threat. The subliminal recollection of this unwanted dispossession, soon evolves to a diffidence, a neurotic trend, toward automatically eschewing change; without conscious knowledge of its motivation. Don’t we all rationalize our acts (or reluctance to act) retrospectively, and sometimes even creatively?  Our individualized psyche and personal chemistry are formidable opponents to our spontaneity, and even, our free will.

However, such seemingly innate, and understandable, antipathy to change, it appears, often leads to disappointment in life. The baseless impression of “security,” all too often, results in the avoidance of mature growth, emotionally and intellectually. We fearfully and, ignorantly choose to arrest our aspirations in exchange for the prenatal “known”

Change of long-held opinions and beliefs, of routine thinking, professional choice and even, marriage, when the objective facts clearly indicate, however strenuous and painful, may lead to a satisfying life, a sense of self-realization, and, even joy.

Usually, when change is thrust upon us by circumstance, the forced readjustment and the imperative acceptance of altered circumstances results in a mandated new “normalcy.”

We must negotiate in earnest and bravely with our personal unconscious and innate   perceptions of safety and security and venture on.

The realization and discovery that change feels dangerous and wrong, in various degrees, is universally shared   but where overcome may lead to joy.


Blog #14 Retirement Epiphany

A hypotenuse of pale yellow light

Illumines a small cracked collar button

Fresh- evicted from its domicile of utility

Bereft of the tactual industry-

Of intimately engaged fingertips

Lying in the roadbed, clinging to thread-

Supine, solitary, estranged and unmarked

But, suddenly, reveling in the joyous discovery

An unobstructed view of blue sky!

pliny (attrib. to Leonard N. Shapiro, 2012)





Blog #13 The Birth of Julsie


A brightly colored bud-

If you look closely

Has already spoken change

A subtle parting, a movement of tight-wrapped, nascent petals

May be observed

Pristine droplets of clear rainwater-

Invest the developing bloom

A ladybug performs its mandatory reconnaissance-

Climbing up to peer at the future

A colorful butterfly alights so briefly

Knowing instinctively-

Beauty and Fragrance is on the way

pliny  (attrib. to Leonard N. Shapiro, 2012)