I wish you all peace and safety on this Twentieth! Over the last month, we have witnessed the awful aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and many people have shown their true colors. As an update to my last blog on my own family’s difficulties: thanks to a kind flight attendant, my parents are safe in the states now with my sister and health services are being arranged for my father. I have heard from most of my uncles on my dad’s side. My mother’s side of the family lives in Quebradillas, which was near the Guajataca dam, but they were not in the way of the water flowing from the dam, as they live in high altitude.
One of the few fortunate repercussions of the storm is that thousands of mortals have demonstrated what an angel is. I do not believe in angels in the mythological sense, as winged Cupids playing their harps atop the clouds, or non-material beings perhaps inspiring good thoughts. But sentient beings in the flesh, dogs that aid the blind and give affection, random strangers that help others in time of need, those are the real angels.
One of my co-workers, upon asking me about how my family was doing, offered to donate $250 to the charity of my choice to help Puerto Rico. The money went to One America Appeal. Also, my kind friend David Tamayo of Hispanic American Freethinkers organized the sending of survival items, including 100 solar ovens which were acquired at a discount from Solar Clutch (thanks to another angel, Steve, who does a lot of work in Africa). Solar ovens provided by humanitarian organizations have helped thousands of women in Africa avoid being raped and abducted when they went out to gather wood for cooking, a problem that had become endemic.
People like Bethenny Frankel, of “real housewife” fame, earned her wings by tirelessly flying multiple private planes to the island with much-needed items, and then returning to the mainland with diabetic and other patients who needed medical assistance, as well as going to the scene of need and showing the world that the struggle was real. One can easily be fooled when watching frivolous reality shows, and forget that there are angels there, that anyone can gain their wings.
Journalist David Begnaud also was one of the people who were key to shining a light on what was really happening on the ground, and making sure that people who needed help got whatever they needed. In doing the magnificent quality of work that he did in the aftermath of Maria, he gained not only his wings, but national praise and prominence.
Jason Maddy also gained prominence after going with a few other former military guys, as a volunteer, to the most neglected towns in the western part of Puerto Rico to hand out food, water, and other resources to places where no one else went. Two strangers found a way to fly a charter plain to the island with medical supplies.
Then there’s Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and billionaire visionary who is planning a colony of one million people in Mars, who sent workers to the island to fix solar panels and install house batteries. His energy-related ventures and innovation should be incorporated into future electric infrastructure for Puerto Rico–where the grid was decimated–and the US Virgin Islands. His innovation is much needed, but also we need to emancipate ourselves from oil, the “devil’s gold”: it not only leaves us vulnerable to outside forces that we can’t control and create price fluctuations, but also finances evil, autocratic regimes that produce terrorists and oppress their own citizens. It’s time for Puerto Rico and elsewhere to work on autarchy when it comes to producing our own energy.
The angels are too many to mention, most are anonymous. They remind me of the words of Jesus: “When I was hungry, you fed me. When I was in prison, you visited me”. Hands that work are worth so much more than lips that pray. Speaking of which, a new facebook group–Epicurus and the Lamb–was founded to explore the connections between Epicurean philosophy and the Christian tradition, perhaps as a supplement to Epicurus in the Lotus, which explores the intersection with Buddhism. My first thought went to Thomas Jefferson, who was both an Epicurean and a Unitarian, and who edited the supernatural claims out of the Gospel and re-published it as the Jefferson Bible, a sort of Gospel according to Humanism. Humanist Press published an expanded 21st Century version of the Jefferson Bible with portions of the Quran, Book of Mormon, Bhagavad Gita, and Buddhist sutras, as well as “best of” and “worst of” selections from them in order to encourage critical reading. More contemporary atheists, like Richard Dawkins, have also come out as Atheists for Jesus and supported the movement by that name, and more recently Tom Krattenmaker authored Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower in order to make the case that one need not believe in God or in the supernatural to adopt Jesus as a role model or as a Western culture hero.
October marks the nativity of John Lennon, who gave us one of the most celebrated and enduring secular anthems: Imagine. I am posting this song in his memory. Enjoy it! And imagine if instead of “believing in” angels, messiahs, and saviors, people everywhere decided to become the angels!
Last Year’s Twentieth of October: The Goal of True Spiritual Practice: Pure, Effortless Pleasure