Monarch Butterflies and Quantum Computers by George Wolfe

George Wolfe

George Wolfe

Monarch Butterflies and Quantum Computers by George Wolfe

Last August while staying at the poet’s house in New Harmony, Indiana, I caught a glimpse of a Monarch Butterfly while sauntering through the meadow near the Wabash River. New Harmony happens to be on the edge of the Monarch’s flyway as it migrates northward each summer. This creature’s life journey is truly one of the marvels of nature.

I became fascinated with the Monarch’s lifecycle a few years ago after attending a presentation on the Monarch Butterfly at Muncie’s annual Living Lightly Fair. For my readers who are unfamiliar with its yearly journey, most individual Monarchs begin life in Mexico where, after emerging from it’s chrysalis, flies northward into the United States.  It then mates and lays eggs, from which it enters the larva or caterpillar stage. The caterpillar eventually forms another chrysalis during which it undergoes metamorphosis, transforming itself into the majestic orange-winged butterfly that then flies further north. This goes on until the fourth generation at which time the fourth generation Monarch, which lives about two months longer than the previous three generations, knows somehow to fly south and return to its native birthing ground in Mexico.

As I observed the Monarch I saw in that New Harmony meadow, I marveled at how all that information and guidance apparatus could be contained in it’s ultra-small brain. We humans pride ourselves with how computers have become increasingly smaller over the past 70 years. The computing power contained in a modern cell phone used to require hardware that filled an entire room. When it comes to shrinking things in size however, the Monarch Butterfly has us beat by a long shot.

Imagine building a robot with a program in it to emulate the behavior of this specie of Butterfly. It addition to a guidance system and having the ability to reproduce itself, the robot, which would be the size of the Monarch, would have to know to go through its individual lifecycle four times. The fourth generation would then know to fly back to it’s southern home in Mexico where it’s great, great grandparents began their multigenerational lifecycle journey. This algorithm would have to be contained in a computer the size of the Monarch’s brain, which is smaller than the head of a pin.

This would undoubtedly require something on the level of a “quantum computer” and an advanced form of artificial intelligence far beyond what we have developed today. Perhaps there is even awareness on the subatomic level which some risk-taking scientists are referring to as a “quantum consciousness.” According to an article by Steve Volk in the March 2018 issue of Discover Magazine, quantum physics may play a role in plant photosynthesis and in birds that migrate using the Earth’s magnetic field. It may also help explain how one-celled animals like paramecium know how to navigate their environment and find food without having a brain or nervous system.

In addition to the multigenerational lifecycle of the Monarch Butterfly, the possibility of awareness at the quantum level could explain how electrons and other subatomic particles behave differently when being observed, as if they know when they are being watched.

Indeed, quantum consciousness may be the metaphysical “light” of the universe, the first expressed manifestation from what theologian Paul Tillich called the “Ground of Being.” In our ambitious search for life beyond our world, perhaps we will soon discover that the infinitely subtle universe knows that we are here!

George Wolfe is the Green Party candidate for the office of Secretary of State in Indiana, and the former Director of the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He is also a trained mediator and the author of Meditations on Mystery: Science, Paradox and Contemplative Spirituality.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Comments Off on Monarch Butterflies and Quantum Computers by George Wolfe

Are We Headed into an Economic “Black Hole?” by George Wolfe

George Wolfe

George Wolfe

Are We Headed into an Economic “Black Hole?” by  George Wolfe

Back in 1991, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton were squaring off as leaders of their own respective presidential campaigns. Bush was seeking re-election, and Clinton was making a formidable challenge that would eventually result in him winning the White House. But there was third candidate stirring up the political waters, business tycoon Ross Perot. Perot had garnered enough support to earn him the right to be included in the presidential debates.

In one of the debates, both Bush and Clinton began harping on Perot’s lack of experience in government. When Perot was given the opportunity to respond, he agreed, but then added the following zinger: “I don’t have any experience running up a three trillion-dollar debt!”

That was when the United States’ federal debt was roughly three and a half trillion dollars and 58% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a figure that caused many Americans to shutter in their shoes. Today the national debt is well over TWENTY TRILLION, or 104% of GDP. It’s an amount that makes the 1991 debt seem like pocket change. By some estimates, the debt increases by roughly two million dollars a minute with the average current monthly interest being 31.7 billion dollars.

So, is this the right time, when corporate profits are high, to drastically cut taxes, driving up our ballooning national debt even more? Several economists, including Federal Reserve Board Chairperson Janet Yellen, are skeptical, noting that high deficits in the Republican tax plan will make it difficult to fight recession.

In a 2012 article written for the Business Insider, economist and author John Mauldin draws a parallel between a cosmological black hole, it’s “event horizon,” and the global economy. For my readers who may not be up on black holes and Steven Hawking, when a star collapses to form a black hole, the gravitational pull becomes infinite, so there is no escape velocity. Even light, which travels faster than anything else in the universe, cannot escape once it’s crossed the black hole’s event horizon. Furthermore, in a black hole, the laws of physics break down; our formulas simply don’t work anymore.

Mauldin postulates that a huge economic debt bubble, which is what we have today in the U.S. economy, is analogous to an expanding black hole. Once your debt and the interest it accrues have passed the point where no amount of productive earnings can pay it off, you’ve crossed the event horizon. The economic theories and formulas based on the assumptions of the growth paradigm break down, and any attempt to revive the economy by further raising the debt makes things worse.

This debt bubble is being made even more difficult to deal with by the enormous costs of hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters that have befallen the U.S. The cost of recovery from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and the wildfires in California, totals in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Such disasters are increasing in number due to human caused global warming and the current administration’s denial of the science that has been warning us for years.

Tragically, we seem to be careening very close to being sucked in by this economic abyss. The gap between the rich and poor keeps getting wider, the population of working poor individuals is expanding, and a wealthy oligarchy, which benefits most from the Republican tax cuts, is replacing our “government of the people” democracy.

Donald Trump, however, is used to this. After all, he’s declared bankruptcy several times. It’s distressing that our Republican-controlled congress is following him into this economic black hole for short-term political gain, potentially spiraling our nation, and most of the world for that matter, toward economic doom.

George Wolfe is Professor Emeritus at Ball State University and former Director and Coordinator of Outreach Programs for the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He also chairs the Muncie Interfaith Fellowship, is a trained mediator, and is the author of The Spiritual Power of Nonviolence: Interfaith Understanding for a Future without War.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Comments Off on Are We Headed into an Economic “Black Hole?” by George Wolfe

What is Authentic Patriotism? by George Wolfe

George Wolfe

George Wolfe

What is Authentic Patriotism?
by George Wolfe

Recently, a former student of mine posted some thoughtful questions on his Facebook page regarding the topic of patriotism. The questions he asked were a result of National Football League players kneeling for the National Anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice. His thoughts provoke us into asking, “How should we define what is, or is not, patriotic?”

When I watch people on television during the performance of our National Anthem, there are many who appear to just be going through the motions, people who are not appreciating the words of the anthem, much like a person in church saying the Lord’s Prayer or the Apostle’s creed without thinking deeply about what is being recited.

What about those individuals who stand for the National Anthem but do not place their hand over their heart, or those who choose not to sing the words. And how about people who do not display the American flag outside their homes on Memorial Day or Veterans Day. Are they exhibiting a lesser degree of patriotism?

My mother was a dedicated elementary school teacher for over 30 years. I recall her being frustrated by a few students in her classes who refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag each morning. They were children of parents who were from the Jehovah’s Witnesses Christian denomination. Were they being unpatriotic in observing their right to abide by the dictates of their religious beliefs?

Vice President Pence, who is not shy about professing his religious beliefs, objects to NFL players kneeling for the National Anthem, but in other contexts kneeling is considered an expression of devotion. Roman Catholics and Episcopalians genuflect or kneel before the alter in their churches. So why is it that kneeling for the National Anthem, particularly if a person also has their head bowed as if in prayer, should be considered unpatriotic?

What I object to is to how politicians use patriotism to score political points. Donald Trump, calling on NFL team owners to fire players who kneel for the National Anthem, and Mike Pence walking out of a Colts football game while insisting the players are disrespecting the flag and military personnel, are not the only high-ranking politicians to evoke the “sin” of being unpatriotic. At the beginning of the U.S. preemptive invasion of Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein, President George W. Bush declared that people who didn’t support the war were unpatriotic.

Clearly, authentic patriotism should not be defined by the necessity of agreeing with a particular political policy or practice. The freedom to dissent lies at the heart of our democracy. If anything is unpatriotic, it is any action that interferes with this right.

I enjoy watching the NFL games on television, and occasionally attending a Colts game, but let’s not turn patriotism into a political football.

George Wolfe is Professor Emeritus and former director of the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He is also chair of the Muncie Interfaith Fellowship, is a trained mediator, and is the author of The Spiritual Power of Nonviolence: Interfaith Understanding for a Future Without War.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Comments Off on What is Authentic Patriotism? by George Wolfe

Sculpture Provokes Reflection on the Homeless

George Wolfe

George Wolfe

Sculpture Provokes Reflection on the Homeless
by George Wolfe

While walking through the Valparaiso University campus, I came across what appeared to be a man wrapped a dirty blanket, sleeping on a park bench. As I approached the bench, I began to suspect the image might be a sculpture. My insight was confirmed when I saw the wounds in the man’s feet. A plaque in front of the bench revealed the title of the artwork: “Homeless Jesus.”

This fall semester I have been teaching at Valparaiso University, filling in for a faculty member who is on sabbatical. This sculpture suddenly jolted me out of my academic “ivory tower” mindset to reflect on the growing plight of the homeless in the United States. I couldn’t help but compare this representation of Jesus to the iconic “Word of Life” mural by Millard Sheets on the University of Notre Dame campus, referred to by fighting Irish football fans as “Touchdown Jesus.” The Sheets mural, which depicts Jesus with his arms raised, received renewed attention when Notre Dame decided to renovate its football stadium to provide a better view of “Touchdown Jesus” for the fans seated in the stadium.

Immediately the thought ran through my head: “Valparaiso University; this Lutheran affiliated school really gets it.” And what an appropriate time to confront the issue of homelessness when this university, as well as protestant churches around the world, are commemorating the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation. This bronze sculpture is by Timothy Schmalz, a Canadian sculptor. It was first displayed in 2013 at Regis College at the University of Toronto. In addition to Valparaiso University, casts of “Homeless Jesus” have been installed at several locations in the U.S. including St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Davidson, North Carolina, Central Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas and outside the Archdiocese of Chicago’s headquarters for Catholic Charities. It is also on display at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland, and in Rome outside the Papal Office of Charities.

This artistic masterpiece, which has been met with some controversy, stands in stark contrast to the usual depictions of Jesus as the Christ of glory adorned as a person of royalty. It is a humbling and profoundly meaningful representation of the Christ that captures the heart of the gospel message as it relates to the marginalized members of American society. It further calls attention to the increasing role religious organizations must play as more and more people lose health care, struggle in low paying minimum-wage jobs, and enter the ranks of the working poor. As our government continues to turn a blind eye to the problems rooted in poverty, religious and secular community organizations need to provide support in the form of food pantries, educational assistance and occupational counseling so people can receive help as they struggle to climb out of poverty.

George Wolfe is Professor Emeritus at Ball State University and former Director and Coordinator of Outreach Programs for the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He is also an ordained interfaith minister, chairs the Muncie Interfaith Fellowship, is a trained mediator, and is the author of Meditations on Mystery: Science, Paradox and Contemplative Spirituality.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Comments Off on Sculpture Provokes Reflection on the Homeless

Sexual Harassment — an age-old problem by George Wolfe

George Wolfe

George Wolfe

Sexual Harassment — an age-old problem
by
George Wolfe

If you have ever been to a show at the new Charles W. Brown Planetarium at Ball State University, you may have heard the person leading the program point out a constellation in the night sky known as the Pleiades. It is a fairly easy constellation to identify as it is directly overhead, and its visibility is relatively unaffected by city lights. Little do people realize that the Pleiades has a connection to Devils Tower in Wyoming and to the pervasive problem of sexual harassment.

Three years ago while visiting Boulder, Colorado, I drove northward to Devils Tower to see this famous landmark. There I learned of one of the myths that Native Americans used to explain this natural wonder. Here is my paraphrased version of the myth that comes from the Kiowa Tribe.

Seven maidens were walking in the forest when suddenly they were spotted and pursued by several bears. The maidens began running away, but the bears were catching up with them. The Great Spirit came to their rescue and caused the earth to rise up, placing the girls on top of Mateo Tepe (meaning “bear lodge”) which is the original Native American name for Devils Tower. The bears however, continued their pursuit by trying to climb the cliffs on each side of the rock formation. The vertical striations found on Devils Tower are said to be the result of claw marks left by the bears as they tried to climb the tower. As the bears closed in on their prey, the Great Spirit again intervened, placing the maidens in the sky where the bears could not reach them. The seven maidens then became the Pleiades star cluster, more popularly known in astronomy lore as the Seven Sisters.

In her book, Beast and Man (Routledge Classics, 2003), British moral philosopher Mary Midgley asserts that humans are more like animals than we may want to admit. Our inherited, primitive predatory instincts continue to shape our social and anti-social behavior, as revealed by the many recent high-profile revelations of sexual harassment.

As I pondered the meaning of this myth, I wondered how many male predators have left their claw marks on women’s lives. These are the scars that will never heal, inflicted by men who have not made peace with their own sexuality, who haven’t learned to restrain their sexual urges, respect women, and be guided by a higher moral consciousness.

So, next time you hear of powerful men harassing women in the workplace, pursuing teenage girls, or engaging in nonconsensual, sexually inappropriate behavior, remember the bears and the young girls in the Native American myth. Those seven maidens are among the lucky ones who got away.

George Wolfe is Professor Emeritus and Coordinator of Outreach Programs for the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He is also chair of the Muncie Interfaith Fellowship, is a trained mediator, and is the author of The Spiritual Power of Nonviolence: Interfaith Understanding for a Future Without War.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Comments Off on Sexual Harassment — an age-old problem by George Wolfe

The American Inferiority Complex by George Wolfe

George Wolfe

George Wolfe

The American Inferiority Complex
by
George Wolfe

It is often said that boisterous self-aggrandizement, particularly when a politician states a claim that is contrary to the facts, is in actuality a mask for covering a deep-seated insecurity and inferiority complex. This is a personality flaw that aptly describes Donald Trump. His obsessive-compulsive behavior, most recently directed toward National Football League players kneeling for the National Anthem, which pre-occupied him at the expense of responding adequately to the devastation in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands caused by Hurricane Maria, is a glaring example of misjudgment fed by his neurosis.

Sadly though, his inferiority complex has become contagious, infecting many Americans. This is understandable, however, given the vulnerable position America is now in, both nationally and internationally.

As I watch the Public Television Series on the Vietnam War, we can see where this sense of vulnerable inferiority began. Despite Richard Nixon’s determination not to be the first President to lose a war, America Lost. Despite President George W. Bush’s determination to retaliate for 9/11, launch the War on Terror and preemptively invade Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein, terror groups like Al-Qaida and ISIS have proliferated and expanded. Despite our efforts at nation building in Afghanistan, the Taliban is still a threat after 16 years of war. And despite President Trump threatening to destroy North Korea, Kim Jong Un is politically stronger and more influential than ever, and is holding the United States, South Korea, and Japan hostage through it’s growing nuclear capabilities.

The American inferiority complex is regrettably symbolized in the audacious unfolding of the giant, football-field sized American flag at NFL football games. But our inflated national ego can’t compete with professional athletes, coaches and team owners prayerfully kneeling before or during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality and President Trump’s divisive rhetoric. As an expression of hope and unity, it would be best now to add to the ceremony the singing of an alternative anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is also known as the African American National Anthem.

Perhaps our response to the Commander in Chief, who never served in the military, should be as follows: “Mr. Trump, since World War II, America’s stature in the world has changed. Today, you need to earn our patriotism. Stop tweeting and embarrassing our nation and our flag. We are not going to blindly follow you into another winless war, or into a conflict that increases global poverty and anti-American hatred.”

Karl Marx warned that capitalism contains within it, the seeds of its own destruction. Uprooting the poisonous seeds of white nationalism, police brutality, big-money politics, class and ethnic division and American self-centered arrogance as expressed by our president is a moral imperative if our country is going to survive the internal and external forces that threaten to tear it apart.

George Wolfe is Professor Emeritus and former director of the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He also chairs the Muncie Interfaith Fellowship, is a trained mediator, and the author of The Spiritual Power of Nonviolence: Interfaith Understanding for a Future Without War.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Comments Off on The American Inferiority Complex by George Wolfe

Walking the Labyrinth in the Rain by George Wolfe

George Wolfe

George Wolfe

Walking the Labyrinth in the Rain
by
George Wolfe

“He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45).

I always thought the rain was a bad thing, that both righteous and unrighteous people were subjected to its misfortune. Until a friend of mine named Brother Elias, who is a Trappist monk at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Georgia, revealed to me that the rain could also be a blessing. God blesses both the righteous and the unrighteous if we can only be receptive to the potential goodness that can “rain” down upon us.

While in the middle of walking the cathedral labyrinth in New Harmony, Indiana, it started raining, but I was too far along to abandon my allegorical journey. There’s a lesson, I thought, that the universe is trying to teach me. So I embraced the rain as a new friend, absorbing every drop as she christened me from head to toe.

We are always told to stay on the straight and narrow, but life for me has been more like the meandering path of a labyrinth. I started as a university professor teaching classical and jazz saxophone, first in Virginia, then in Indiana at Ball State University. The versatility of my instrument led me to become interested in classical Indian music, which led to me making friends with some musicians from India, which led to a grant from the Eli Lilly Endowment and the opportunity to travel to India to study Hindustani music in New Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata (formerly called Calcutta).

My time spent in India exposed me to Indian philosophy and the nonviolent teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, which led to my service on the advisory board of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at Ball State University, which led to me being named Director of Peace Studies. While serving for four years as Director of the Peace Center at Ball State, I became the target of conservative political commentator David Horowitz who listed me as one of the “101 most dangerous academic in America” because I was teaching a class in the history and philosophy of nonviolence. This resulted in many guest lecture opportunities and in the publication of two books, the first on spiritually and nonviolence, the second on modern physics and spirituality.

When I started my career in the late 1970’s, I never dreamed this is where I’d wind up. But somehow, I made it to the center of the labyrinth of life, or rather, what I currently think of as the center. In all likelihood, this is just a temporary stop along the way. At least I hope that is the case as I don’t want to stop growing.

I encourage everyone now to write down their own “labyrinth of life.” Think deeply about all your past expectations, and the twists and turns in your life with all the lessons they teach. Keep walking, even in the rain. Like the quantum field, you’ll find God to be full of possibilities and surprises.

George Wolfe is Professor Emeritus at Ball State University and former Director and Coordinator of Outreach Programs for the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He is also an ordained interfaith minister, chairs the Muncie Interfaith Fellowship, is a trained mediator, and is the author of Meditations on Mystery: Science, Paradox and Contemplative Spirituality.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Comments Off on Walking the Labyrinth in the Rain by George Wolfe

Dreamers Deserve Path to Citizenship by George Wolfe

George Wolfe

George Wolfe

Dreamers Deserve Path to Citizenship
by
George Wolfe

In November of 2016, a social activist group known as “Neighbors for Public Justice” (NPJ) formed in Muncie, Indiana in response to post-election issues. These issues included preserving health care, funding for public schools, and the hostile rhetoric from the Trump campaign hurtled towards Latino and Muslim immigrants. If you have seen signs in Spanish, English, and Arabic around Muncie neighborhoods that read “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor,” those signs were distributed by NPJ.

Our first sponsored public event was an informational meeting familiarizing members of our Latino community with the rights they have as undocumented immigrants. An Indianapolis law firm offered their services that evening pro bono. Their presentation was given in Spanish as well as in English.

Over the past several months, donations were sought to provide a scholarship to a Hispanic student in the program known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The student chosen was brought to the United States as a child and is now enrolled at a prominent Midwestern university. Her parents are undocumented but they have worked in the United States since their arrival. Their daughter has a stellar resume; she graduated from high school as an honors student with a 3.9 grade point average.

This fund-raising effort and the resulting academic assistance flies in the face of President Trump’s irresponsible decision to end the DACA program. Why would our president want to disrupt the progress of these young people who are here at no fault of their own, and who are in the midst of their education to become professional members of our communities?

Trump’s decision to end DACA comes on the heels of his weak response to recent white supremacy rallies, and his failure to speak out forcefully against racism and anti-Semitism. There can be little doubt that he has no moral compass.

I am extremely encouraged that the new Ball State University President Geoffrey Mearns has joined ranks with Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie and President Mitch Daniels of Purdue University in voicing support for the DACA program.

The “Dreamers” as they are also known, deserve to be given a path to citizenship. To quote President Obama, “This is about young people who grew up in America — kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag. These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.”

It’s time the United States Congress step up and take the initiative to do what’s right. The spirit of the law, requires it. Our moral conscience as a nation demands it. Let us lift high the “lamp beside the golden door.” Indeed, many of the Dreamers are those to whom we have given refuge from villages plagued by poverty and drug related violence. They were brought here for a better life, and are the best and brightest of the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

George Wolfe is Professor Emeritus and former director of the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He is also chair of the Muncie Interfaith Fellowship, is a trained mediator, and is the author of The Spiritual Power of Nonviolence: Interfaith Understanding for a Future Without War.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Comments Off on Dreamers Deserve Path to Citizenship by George Wolfe

My Journey to Totality by George Wolfe

George Wolfe

George Wolfe

My Journey to Totality by George Wolfe

I decided to go to Vienna, Illinois. That’s where I’d watch the moon make its slow procession across the face of the sun. It was the morning of August 21st, the day of the great American eclipse. For three weeks, I was an artist-in-residence in the historic town of New Harmony, Indiana. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to venture into the path of totality since it was only an hour and a half away.

There was one major concern however – the prediction of cloud cover. I was praying for a miracle. I figured it would be easier for God to part the clouds than for Moses to part the Red Sea.

At 7 AM, the traffic was light on the rural route I took into Illinois. In 40-minutes I was at a Subway sandwich shop buying my lunch, then 20 minutes later pulled into Eldorado, Illinois. There I stopped for a McDonald’s “Big Breakfast” (hold the sausage please).

While munching on my hash browns, I ran into a local working-class fellow who gave me some tips on where to watch the eclipse. He was headed to Buncombe, Illinois. This sounded so “Hoosier” that I believed it was a sign. Think he may have been a Zen Master in disguise.

It wasn’t long until I past a road sign that read “New Burnside, Illinois, population 250.” With the word “burn” in the town’s name, I knew I was in the heart of eclipse country.

Just outside of Vienna I pulled into a ranger station on the outskirts of Shawnee National Forest. I managed to get the last legal parking space. Amidst a modest and patient crowd, I decided to set down my roots.

The eclipse started 6 minutes before noon. There was an amateur astronomy nut in the crowd setting up his camera. I overheard him say how rare it is to see a total eclipse of the sun. I boldly interrupted: “Fellas, this is not only rare on earth, it is rare in our galaxy!”

Consider the chances of finding a planet around a sun like ours, that is in the Goldilocks zone, that has liquid water, that supports life and advanced civilization (notice I didn’t say intelligent civilization), that is just the right distance from its sun and has a moon that is just the right size to cover the sun so as to reveal its corona. Tack on these last two variables to the famous Drake Equation, which I admit is some of the fuzziest math in science, and the estimated number of planets where this phenomenon occurs shrinks drastically. We’re lucky to be living on this planet, and we’d sure better start taking care of it!

Just before totality, the sun-moon couple disappeared behind a cloud. Our worst nightmare. But the astronomy nut nearby was timing the event: “We have eight minutes to totality, so we should be OK.”  Four minutes later, the sun-moon couple reappeared. From then on there was clear sailing. Their wedding was on.

During the darkness of totality the corona blazed forth, and the moment it began we all erupted with ecstatic cheers and applause. And the planet Venus was nearby as a bridesmaid.

It is amazing how the slightest sliver of sun lights up the whole sky, the splendor of the sun is so overwhelming. The difference between 99.9% coverage and totality is huge, an astronomical quantum leap. Before it was over, we were treated to Bailey’s Beads and the sun’s diamond ring. We were inspired by its fire with hope.

Our experience of totality went by fast. I wanted an instant replay. Needed to relive that miracle which provided us with an ineffable “maybe there really is a God” experience.

One truth we were left with that no one can deny. In those precious two-and-a-half minutes of darkness, the celestial realm revealed to us the beauty we are missing if we allow ourselves to be consumed by hate.

George Wolfe is Professor Emeritus at Ball State University and former Director and Coordinator of Outreach Programs for the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He also chairs the Muncie Interfaith Fellowship, is a trained mediator, and is the author of Meditations on Mystery: Science, Paradox and Contemplative Spirituality.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Comments Off on My Journey to Totality by George Wolfe

Fake News Pollutes American Psyche by George Wolfe

George Wolfe

George Wolfe

Fake News Pollutes American Psyche
by George Wolfe

“Fake news” is nothing new. Prior to 1982, I spent five years teaching at James Madison University. The student paper published an article I wrote complaining about the students wasting their time reading pop magazines and newspapers like National Enquirer and The Globe. And it’s still a problem today.

Somehow, slanderous articles, like those recently about the Obamas’ supposedly impending divorce, are more enticing than reading Aristotle.

There’s a difference between fake news and “spin.” When politicians and commentators put their spin on a report, they interpret the news and speculate on political motivations. But the news they are interpreting is usually factual. Spin borders on propaganda, but propaganda usually ignores context.

I remember my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Stright, giving an illustration of propaganda. She said there was an auto race between two cars: an American made car and a Soviet car. The American car won the race, but the state-controlled Soviet news agency, without stating that there were only two cars in the race, reported that the Soviet car came in “second” and the American car came in “next to last.” The Soviet report was true, but it ignored the context and thus gave a report that was highly misleading.

Spin and propaganda are not fake news, because fake news is false. It may, at some time, be viewed as true, but time eventually reveals that it is false. And this is what makes Trump’s fake news far more dangerous than political spin or propaganda.

Fake news became a prominent part of the political landscape in 2003 when President George W. Bush insisted that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. He even duped Secretary of Defense, Colin Powell, who presented the so-called “evidence” to the United Nations to justify the U.S. pre-emptive invasion of Iraq. And look where it has led us.

Bush’s fake news led to the Iraqi failed state; ISIS, an organization far more extremist that Al-Qaida, was eventually born along with one of the worst humanitarian crises in history; Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu has become increasingly paranoid, and North Korea accelerated its nuclear program, no doubt to deter a pre-emptive strike by the United States.

Around the same time, in the fall of 2004, Ball State University and the Center for Peace and conflict Studies became a victim of fake news. National right-wing bi-polar political commentator David Horowitz began criticizing collegiate peace studies programs throughout the country, claiming they were indoctrinating students with a liberal anti-American political agenda. As director of the Ball State Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, I became one of his prime targets, along with peace studies faculty teaching in Indiana at Earlham College and Purdue.

Horowitz used his Internet publication Frontpage Magazine, as well as conservative radio and television talk shows, to launch his nationwide campaign. The Associated Press covered the controversy, and articles were run in media outlets throughout the country, including on the CNN website and in USA Today.

This barrage of fake news even went so far as to accuse the Ball State peace center, the Muslim Students Association, and a student organization named Peaceworkers of supporting terrorism. Horowitz’s fake news machine also published a cartoon caricature depicting me playing the saxophone while the World Trade Center burned in the background.

The false and misleading accusations, however, eventually backfired, as is usually the case with fake news. Two honors students in my class wrote a letter refuting the accusations made against me. After I submitted documentation to Provost Beverly Pitts proving the accusations were not true, Ball State University president Jo Ann Gora published a guest editorial in The Star Press on December 15, 2004 supporting my teaching and validating the academic discipline of peace studies. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette and The Star Press of Muncie also published editorials condemning Mr. Horowitz.

Today we are in a worse crisis with fake news because of the prevalence of social media. Anyone with modest computer skills can publish fake news, and apparently, over 40 percent of Americans gobble it up as gospel.

More social media sites need to follow the example of Facebook and publish warnings when they detect certain posts that could potentially constitute fake news. Otherwise, news from non-professional sources will continue to degenerate into the National Inquirer sickness that pollutes the American psyche.

George Wolfe is Professor Emeritus and former director of the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He also chairs the Muncie Interfaith Fellowship, is a trained mediator, and the author of The Spiritual Power of Nonviolence: Interfaith Understanding for a Future Without War.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Fake News Pollutes American Psyche by George Wolfe