[Click on Uncategorized, then on “HELLO, WORLD” and you’ll find the Editor’s Notes and other good stuff!]
Many of us after a certain age can’t remember what we had for breakfast yesterday, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised if so many of us have forgotten how things were seven years ago, many much younger than I. Try to remember the state of the economy, the housing market, the Dow Jones Index, the American automobile industry, the price of gas, Iran’s march toward an atom bomb, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and our relations with Cuba. If most of these had changed or gotten worse over the past seven years we would have blamed the president. Why, then, can’t we give him credit since all of these have gotten
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Should we add the expansion of LGBTI rights and recent attempts to reform our criminal law system? When U. S. Senator McConnell asked, “Are we better off today than we were seven years ago?” the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Did I mention affordable health care for all? Do you remember when so many Americans hated F.D.R. and his Social Security, calling him a Socialist, a Communist, and even a Nazi, and when only important executives had retirement programs and health care?
Wait, I failed to mention that old bugaboo the national debt. It is owed primarily to Americans. That can’t be all bad, can it? Relax! Sit back and enjoy a good Cuban cigar for the first time in over fifty years. Things are looking pretty good.
A whole box of good Cuban cigars!
The normal human being exists in his head! Yes, he lives inside his head. The arms, legs, torso, all other body parts are vital and necessary, but they are not the human being. No, the human being lives inside his head, more specifically, inside his brain, an extended solipsism.
He has a multitude of sensors feeding information into this brain. Sight being the most important and hearing second. He also has sensors for taste, touch, smell, temperature and balance–perhaps more. He receives inputs from these senses into his brain to create a conscious awareness of himself. He is also somewhat aware of where he is in space and time. The brain additionally experiences internally-generated states. These states are the emotions, feelings of pleasure, grief, sorry, shame, fear, embarrassment, etc. These emotions, like a pervading fog, sometimes encompass the entire brain and subdue and override all other inputs.
Of course, the body has nerves which sense pain. Serious threats, even minor bodily irritations are conveyed to the brain as pain and can command complete attention. The brain responds to all pains, yet itself is insensitive to pain.
The basic question, however, is…what is consciousness?
In my view, consciousness is the state the brain is in when it is receiving inputs from all its sensors (no pain), is fully cognizant of the sum of these inputs, is synchronizing and recording them in short-term memory, and comparing them with long-term memory. It is simultaneously contemplating future physical and mental actions and may be considering their consequences. In this state, within the confines of his hereditary and cultural biases, and coherent with his emotional state, he directs his thoughts and actions, creates his character and becomes who he is! IN THIS STATE, HE IS CONSCIOUS! He becomes himself!
Unfortunately, at the time when a child’s brain is becoming conscious–is developing and acquiring its impressions of reality–it may be deliberately, if ignorantly, infused with mythology. This mythology is presented as truth. It is called RELIGION. Religions, created entirely by man, fabricate elaborate fantasies to generate baseless hopes and instill fear. Theology or mythology, masquerading as truth, may grow and mature in the brain along with knowledge, and it will remain highly persuasive throughout the person’s life.
This embedded spirituality, embellished and authenticated by other people through external rites, rituals, dogma and music, may become a dominating factor in his existence. He may then devote much of his life to worshiping and emulating imaginary gods–or escaping devils! This does not insure he will lead a “bad” life, but it strongly influences all of his activities and thoughts. In extreme cases it may lead to acts of great human self-sacrifice or conversely in the horrendous killing of others.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
The problem is that the majority of the peoples of this world do not do much thinking and have most of their head filled with mythology!
[David C. Williams is a retired engineer. He is ninety-two years old and lives in Kentucky. He writes on philosophy, religion, and other thought-provoking subjects. In this article, he tackles consciousness and religion’s impact upon it.]
My brother Bill, as a young army private, was shipped off to Germany in the 1950’s. Even as he stepped off the bus in Heidelberg, he was recruited on the spot for his unit’s slow pitch softball team when someone had phoned ahead that he was a pretty good athlete. His captain, the worst athlete on the team, insisted on being the pitcher, which may have contributed somewhat to the story.
Later that summer, playing third base, the “hot corner,” in a tournament in Karlsruhe, with the bases loaded, a huge player blistered a line drive (that my brother confessed he didn’t even see) which smacked into his glove for one out. He then stepped on third base to force out the runner who’d left for home, the second out, and tagged another man sliding into third to complete a rare unassisted triple play.
After the game a colonel coming down out of the stands called him over and said, “Corporal, that was the most brilliant play I’ve ever seen!” To which my brother replied, “Thank you, sir, but I’m a private, not a corporal.” “You are now,” replied the colonel.
Brother Bill has since said that if he’d been promoted at that rate forever, he would have become a General of the Army!
[The following column is the sixth of a series in COLUMNIST WITH A VIEW. The sketches are taken from the editor’s book manuscript Our Curious Presidents and Their Families. Many books of presidential trivia are available, however, the pieces I have selected from my own research are somewhat obscure. Most of them come from presidential autobiographies, approved biographies, or the sources indicated.]
The term “First Lady” was first used by President Zachary Taylor in 1849 in reference to Dolley (Mrs. James) Madison at her state funeral. Dolley was the only “First Lady” ever given a state funeral. Her last appearance at the White House came in 1848 when she attended a ball given by President and Mrs. James K. Polk. The term “First Lady” was not widely used until Lucy Hayes was referred to as the “First Lady.” The general impression is that most first ladies do not care for the appellation.
People called Abigail Adams “Madame President” or “First Lady,” but her husband called her by a more endearing nickname: in his letters to his wife John Adams sometimes called her “Miss Jemima.” Warren G. Harding called his wife “The Duchess.” We are neither sure the nickname was endearing nor whether he called her that privately. They had a very stormy relationship, to say the least! Franklin D. Roosevelt called his wife Eleanor “Babs.” Truman called his wife Bess “The Boss.” Lyndon B. Johnson referred to “Lady Bird” Johnson simply as “Bird.” Ronald Reagan called Nancy “Mommy.”
Many presidents were undoubtedly close to their wives, but among those who were most devoted would certainly be Andrew Jackson (his wife never lived in the White House), James Knox Polk, William McKinley, Harry S Truman, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Barack Obama. Among those presidents who were least devoted to their wives would most likely be John Quincy Adams, Franklin Pierce, Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton.
Among the most popular, notable, and admired first ladies were Dolley Madison, Francis Folsom Cleveland, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Michelle Obama.
“Florence Harding was a forceful presence in her husband’s administration. She created a whole new image for the first lady by holding her own press conferences and expressing her own opinions, which were often unexpected.” Bess Truman was far more actively involved as a first lady than most people realized. After the Trumans returned to Independence, Missouri, the former president admitted that he never made a decision without first seeking his wife’s opinion.
Grace Coolidge (who had taught in a school for the hearing-visually impaired) taught her family “sign” language. They often communicated in “sign” language when they wanted private conversation among themselves in the White House. Coolidge was the only president fluent in “sign” language. Lou Henry Hoover could speak five languages (including Mandarin Chinese) fluently. Unlike many of the presidents, John F. Kennedy spoke no foreign languages (although he tried…unsuccessfully), while Jacqueline Kennedy spoke French and German fluently.
Mamie Eisenhower visited the Oval Office only four times during the eight years she lived in the White House–that’s once every two years! Mrs. Eisenhower was a very private person; however, it is true that she often voiced disagreement with some of her husband’s policies and even argued with him privately about them. Eisenhower once told a conference “Let me try this out on Mamie. She’s a pretty darn good judge of things.”
Pat Nixon had three memorable “firsts” while she lived in the White House. She was the first incumbent First Lady to endorse the Equal Rights Amendment. She was also the first president’s wife to make public her pro-choice view on abortion. And, Mrs. Nixon was the first president’s wife to wear slacks in public. Until Hillary Clinton, Pat Nixon was the nation’s “most traveled” first lady in history.
Barbara Bush became the only first lady to move directly from eight years as the wife of a vice-president to living in the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Jimmy Carter considered his wife Rosalynn his closest advisor. Mrs. Carter attended cabinet meetings, briefings, and met with the president weekly in the Oval Office to discuss policy and legislation related to her interests. Mrs. Carter was the first president’s wife to maintain an office in the East Wing of the White House. She was appropriately nicknamed “The Steel Magnolia,” and, for the first time, congress appropriated funds to support the work of a first lady.
For the first time in history, when Bill Clinton was elected president, both the president and the first lady were lawyers. History repeated itself with the election of Barack Obama. Michelle Obama graduated cum laude from Princeton University. After leaving the White House, Hillary Clinton was elected New York’s first female U. S. Senator. She became the third female Secretary of State.
Five president’s wives taught school before marrying their husbands: Abigail Powers Fillmore, Grace Goodhue Coolidge, Lou Henry Hoover, Pat Ryan Nixon and Laura Welch Bush.
Historians have substantiated that Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Bill Clinton had extra-marital affairs while living in the White House.
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt once attended a lecture in Alabama. When she discovered the seating was segregated (whites on one side and blacks on the other), she picked up her chair and moved it to an open area in the middle.