Secular Parable & Aphorism of the Week

    Saturday, August 2, 2014, 5:19 PM [General]
    Posted By: Frank Burton

    Aphorism of the Week

    Life requires no other to justify itself.

    Dedicated to a teenager, on the 70th anniversary of her final diary entry: "Believe me, I'd like to listen, but it doesn't work, because if I'm quiet and serious, everyone thinks I'm putting on a new act and I have to save myself with a joke, and then I'm not even talking about my own family, who assume I must be ill, stuff me with aspirins and sedatives, feel my neck and forehead to see if I have a temperature, ask about my bowel movements and berate me for being in a bad mood, until I just can't keep it up any more, because when everybody starts hovering over me, I get cross, then sad, and finally end up turning my heart inside out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I'd like to be and what I could be if ... if only there were no other people in the world. -- Yours, Anne M. Frank."

    Parable of the Week

    The Meaningless Life, The Meaning of Life
    Skin as grey and marbled as the ancient colonnade she leaned against, a wise grandmother watched her two young charges explore the Ruins of the Ancestors, long ago fallen to decay.
    One grandchild darted from behind the white robes of his twin sister, and climbed upon a great, fluted pillar of marble, fallen and half-buried in the grass. There he grabbed a twig from the top of an olive tree and brandished it over his head.
    "I am the conquering King!" he cried, stabbing his wooden sword into the ghostly bodies of men to come.
    His grandmother watched her small grandson, and saw the man he would become -- and her face grew as solemn as the cold marble under her withered hand.
    Yet the other grandchild, gathering her robes about her legs and unshodding her sandals, quietly joined her grandmother, there on the marble stairs of a small temple to a god long ignored.
    She stared at her brother's strutting swordplay, then at the broken temple columns, and the azure of the empty sky -- then turned to her grandmother and asked, "What is the meaning of life?"
    The wise woman's sad gaze broke away from her grandson and, growing radiant, swung toward her.
    With dawning joy the old woman stared at her granddaughter's querulous blue eyes, and then, reaching out a wrinkled hand to caress her smooth cheek, replied, "Oh, my darling grandchild! In asking that question, you have answered it."
    Thus, the meaning of life is that it's the meaning of life -- you are that you are.

    August 2, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), by Frank H. Burton, Executive Director, The Circle of Reason

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    Secular Parable & Aphorism of the Week

    Sunday, July 27, 2014, 7:37 PM [General]
    Posted By: Frank Burton

    Aphorism of the Week

    Radicals are gestated in sophistry.

    Dedicated to the Hebrew University psychology study showing that agreeing with ideologues to an extreme level -- to the point of Argumentum ad Absurdum -- can trigger them to question their ideology. And dedicated in admonishment of biblical creationist Ken Ham's assertion that intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe is impossible because all extraterrestrial civilizations would be damned by God to Hell with no hope for salvation -- a stance which ironically may attain that extremity of absurdity capable of driving children away from fundamentalist religion.

    Parable of the Week

    The Human, The Sentient
    One day a human looked up into the zenith of the heavens, arcing above her blue and green-swathed Earth.
    She saw a small, cloudy galaxy far, far away -- Canis Major, pulled along like a puppy on a leash of a billion stars.
    The human felt a lonesome chill in her heart, and heard a distant voice calling to her -- and wondered, "Is there anybody out there?" She devoted her life to listening to the radioed songs of the spheres -- listening for but one word, one tune, one message.
    And she pointed her antennae to Canis Major.
    But there was only silence.
    One day, a million years hence, a sentient will look up into the zenith of the heavens, arcing above its small, blue and red-swathed world.
    It will see a huge galaxy spiraling above it, so, so close -- the Milky Way, pulling its own galaxy into her vast, slow embrace.
    The sentient will feel a lonesome chill in its center, and hear a distant voice calling to it -- and wonder, "Is there anybody out there?" It will devote its life to listening to the radioed songs of the spheres -- listening for but one word, one tune, one message.
    And it will point its antennae into the arms of the Milky Way.
    And shall hear.
    Thus, we are not alone, and we have a purpose.

    July 26, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), by Frank H. Burton, Executive Director, The Circle of Reason

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    Secular Parable & Aphorism of the Week

    Sunday, July 20, 2014, 2:54 PM [General]
    Posted By: Frank Burton

    Aphorism of the Week

    BE the change you seek in this world. -- via Gandhi

    Dedicated in admonishment of the rejection of mass nonviolent coordinated resistance ("Nonviolent Jihad") by Hamas and the Palestinians of Gaza; of the failure of the international press to spotlight and endorse -- and of the U.S. and Israeli governments to confer diplomatic status upon -- imprisoned or exiled non-violent Palestinian leaders such as the "Arab Gandhi," Mubarak Awad; and of the failure of the Israeli Parliament to return encroaching West Bank Israeli settlements, as a fundamental moral imperative, to the peaceful Palestinians of the West Bank.

    Parable of the Week

    The Historian, The History Maker
    Students attended University in an ancient Republic.
    One classmate sat in the library day and night, reading of great leaders from prior generations.
    His knowledge of them grew until, one day, closing his final biography, he said, "I will teach the histories I've learned."
    He joined the very same University at which he'd been taught.
    And, in the march of decades, he became a historian of note.
    The other classmate also sat in the library day and night, and too read of great leaders from prior generations.
    Her knowledge of them also grew until, one day, closing her final biography, she said, "I will emulate the histories I've learned."
    She became a leader.
    And, in the march of decades, she was elected to her country's highest office.
    Thus, study history or make history.

    July 19, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), by Frank H. Burton, Executive Director, The Circle of Reason

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    Secular Parable & Aphorism of the Week

    Sunday, July 13, 2014, 9:16 PM [General]
    Posted By: Frank Burton

    Aphorism of the Week

    One must never stoop to conquer.

    Dedicated in admonishment of the kidnapping, involuntary commitment, and psychological and physical abuse of gay, mentally ill and doctrine-resistant teens in Evangelical Christian re-education camps.

    Parable of the Week

    The Blind, The Sighted
    Eternal midnight enshrouded a clan who dwelled in a deep cavern.
    Grasping sleeping bats or albino fish or frogs by the green light of phosphorescent algae, cooking them on steaming rocks, and sleeping in warm volcanic pools, their eyes became an appendage ignored -- merely a way to find the dimly lit, sleepy faces of their mates after they'd gorged on a meal, and otherwise as useless and superfluous as their two little toes.
    But then a young woman of the clan rediscovered an ancient, narrow crawlway leading up and out of the grotto in which they lived.
    Slowly, allowing the pain in her closed eyes to adjust as she crept toward the day, she exited the vast labyrinth of caverns that had been her home since birth.
    She felt a cool, soft cushion beneath her hands and knees, and opened her eyes.
    Beneath her delicate, bone-white hands lay a mat of what looked like thick, bright green hair.
    She then stood erect, and raised her head.
    In wonderment she stared at feathered, sharp-nosed bats painted in hues she could not name, at a whimsically-colored cavern roof so high that she could not see any of its walls, but only huge wisps and balls of steam floating beneath.
    Gasping for breath, she ran back into the depths -- following a trail of bat guano balls she'd dropped behind her while she'd climbed -- to tell her people of her wondrous visions.
    She gathered them around a phosphorescent boulder, and, as their green-underlit faces chewed on bat wings and frog legs, she exclaimed to them -- her eyes, for the first time in her life, wide open in her face -- "I have seen visions!"
    "Visions of a cave with a roof too high to see! Of bats that were not bats! Of colors that were not dim green or black! Of a land where a great phosphorescent boulder, too bright to even glance at, floats in the air!"
    So did her clan roar with laughter, and ever after scoff at her wild stories and urgings.
    Until, one day, she simply disappeared forever up her precious, unused crawlway -- while crouching, like the madwoman they all thought she was, to collect old balls of dried bat guano with each step.
    Thus, vision provokes laughter from those who cannot see. -- via Plato

    July 12, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), by Frank H. Burton.

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    Secular Parables & Aphorisms of the Week

    Sunday, July 6, 2014, 6:58 PM [General]
    Posted By: Frank Burton

    Aphorism of the Week

    The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions. -- via Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

    Dedicated in admonishment of the Huntsville, Alabama, and Rowlett, Texas, City Councils' respectively "disinviting" a Wiccan congregation's clergy, and a local atheist organization's founder, to present an opening invocation, in contradiction of the U.S. Supreme Court finding in "Greece, NY vs. Galloway" that the town of Greece did not discriminate in inviting those to give invocations, but rather "made reasonable efforts to identify all of the congregations located within its borders and represented that it would welcome a prayer by any minister or layman who wished to give one...So long as the town maintains a policy of nondiscrimination, the Constitution does not require it to search beyond its borders for non-Christian prayer givers in an effort to achieve religious balancing."

    Parable of the Week

    The Apples, The Oranges
    He was a great religious orator, a Preacher of a particular religion that claimed absolute salvation for all who shared its beliefs -- and absolute damnation for all who did not.
    Yet as the right hand mirrors the left, so too was there a great philosophical orator, a Mentor of a particular philosophy that claimed regard for all -- without regard to their religious or non-religious beliefs.
    One day the Preacher and the Mentor espied each other across a fruit bin at a food market.
    With a baleful stare, the Preacher pointed his finger straight down and cried, "Repent! Believe in God, or be damned!"
    The Mentor pondered, then picked up two fruits and replied, "And which God is that? The God of apples or the God of oranges?"
    "My God!" cried the Preacher, aghast.
    "Exactly the problem!" replied the Mentor, as he put first one, then the other, fruit in his basket. "How tart we'd become, on a diet of only oranges. How cloying, were our bellies filled just with applesauce, apple pie, apple juice."
    The Mentor then gently placed a third fruit in the Preacher's basket. "And on your exclusive diet, oh how sour have your followers become!"
    The Preacher glanced down at the fruit.
    It was a lemon.
    Thus, religion is a garden of the spirit, to be tended in all its diversity.

    July 5, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 2, "Assumption's Denial"), by Frank H. Burton.

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    Aphorism of the Week

    Be careful not to believe everything you think. -- via Jeff Herring

    Dedicated to the Rationalist Society of Pakistan.

    Parable of the Week

    The Mite, The Flea
    Pedagogue and Pupil strode an ancient acropolis above a teeming city.
    One evening the Pupil, dismayed at his childish writings after a long day's lessons, pounded his fist on his robed thigh and asked, "Master, do our lives even matter? Are we not insignificant?"
    The Pedagogue smiled, his cheeks and forehead crinkling, as he walked. He stopped and bent down to stroke the head of a passing puppy, and brushed his hand under the dog's belly. Then he held his hand up to his Pupil's face, illuminated in a wall's torchlight.
    "Look in my hand," the Pedagogue said. "What do you see?"
    The Pupil looked down at his master's open hand. "Master, I see nothing in your hand."
    "Look closer," the Pedagogue replied.
    The Pupil's nose almost touched his master's open palm. "Master, there's nothing there!"
    The Pedagogue replied, "Did you not regard a Mite, chewing on a fleck from the dog's skin -- and a Flea, poised to leap?"
    "No, Master," the Pupil replied.
    Then the Pedagogue extended his hand, touched his Pupil's arm briefly, and pointed up to the darkening sky. "Regard the Cosmos, my Pupil."
    The Pupil looked up and stared at the stars -- but sullenly, just as doubtful of the world's significance to the cosmos as of his significance to the world.
    "Agh!"
    The Pupil jerked his head back down as something bit his arm. He peered at his skin in the torchlight, until he saw a tiny black speck -- the Flea, placed there by his Peripatetic mentor's touch -- digging into his skin.
    The Pedagogue beamed, and said, "Now what do you see?"
    Thus, like insects we seem insignificant -- until we puncture the skin of the World.

    June 28, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), by Frank H. Burton.

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    Parable of the Week

    The Years, The Momentum
    Youth and elder, they found each other, joined by infirmity, sitting on a park bench.
    In talking, they found they were both near the end of their days, from untreatable illnesses -- the old man's after a lifetime of traveling and seeing the world, and the young woman's after a brief time founding and working at a shelter for battered women and children.
    The old man looked pityingly on the young woman, and asked her, "Don't you find it sad that you'll die so young? While I've lived so long traveling the world and seeing so much, that I've grown tired of it?"
    The young woman looked at the old man with a small smile, placed her hand on the old man's shoulder, and then asked him, "Don't you find it sad that you'll die after so long a life spent as a spectator, without advancing even one other person's life?"
    "Come! Work with me in the time we remain!"
    Thus, measure your life not in years, but in momentum.

    June 21, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), by Frank H. Burton.

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    Parable of the Week

    The Retreat, The Charge
    Dark thickets and ravines shrouded the countryside.
    Toward this spectral wood ran two young sisters, on an urgent task from the town to carry medicine to their grandmama.
    But upon hearing a hooting owl and the rustling of animals in the murky undergrowth beneath the old, gnarled trees, the sisters skidded to a halt and froze, faces blanching.
    Beyond lay only mist.
    The elder sister, eyes wide and voice trembling, grasped at her younger sister's tiny hand and murmured, "We must turn back and walk around this woods!"
    A hiss like the quenching of fired metal burst from her little sister's pursed lips.
    "No!" she replied, with steel in her eyes and voice. "That was just an owl, and that rustling was probably rabbits!"
    She stood rapier-straight.
    "Our grandmama is ill! This is the only way to get the medicine to her fast!"
    "I won't go, not this way!" the older sister cried. "Maybe we can search for another way through or around?"
    "You know there's only one way!" the younger sister said with finality, and urgently reached for the medicine.
    As her big sister, stomach clenched from fear and indecision, passed her the small package, the young girl held it close to her chest, took a deep breath, narrowed her eyes, and plunged into the dark woods to save her grandmama.
    Thus, sometimes the only way out is through. -- via Robert Frost

    June 14, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 3, "Emotion's Mastery"), by Frank H. Burton.

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    Parable of the Week

    The Fist, The Hand
    A great commander assembled his lieutenants for war.
    One lieutenant asked him, "Sir, your former compatriot and long-since foe has offered parley upon the plain of battle. Shouldn't we respond to his overture?"
    "From this enemy? No," the commander replied.
    Confused, the lieutenant asked why.
    "You are new to my staff, are you not?" The commander rose from the head of the conference table, gesturing to the lieutenant to also stand, then walked around the table to him.
    The commander reached down to the table, plucked an almond from a silver dish full of nuts, and offered it to the lieutenant.
    "Have an almond, lieutenant."
    As the lieutenant looked down and picked the nut from the commander's extended palm, the commander asked him, "How do you know when a former friend has become your implacable enemy?"
    The lieutenant pondered, and then replied, "I don't know, sir."
    "Eat your nut, lieutenant."
    The lieutenant quickly popped it into his mouth and chewed it.
    "You look hungry. Please, have another," the commander said as he picked up and extended to him a second almond.
    But as the lieutenant reached out to take the second almond, the commander closed his palm around it into a fist -- which slowly reared back and then suddenly loomed in the lieutenant's surprised face.
    The lieutenant found himself lying on his back on the carpet, blood dripping from one nostril down into his ear.
    The commander dropped the nut, bent over him and solicitously reached down his open hand, saying, "Here, son, let me help you up."
    But the lieutenant brushed away his hand.
    The commander straightened, smiled with satisfaction, and said, "So, you do know, after all."
    Thus, to become a fist, the open hand will first close.

    June 7, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), by Frank H. Burton.

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    Aphorism of the Week

    A solitary fantasy can transform a million realities. -- via Maya Angelou

    Dedicated to U.S. President Obama's Executive Office directive to begin his promise to reduce the severity of human-caused global warming by imposing limits on CO2 emissions from America's coal plants -- through policies including Carbon Capture, Cap and Trade, and Renewable (Wind and Solar) Energy Percentages.

    Parable of the Week

    The Ostrich, The Prairie Dog
    Faraway lands sometimes have far and away the strangest of friends -- like the Ostrich and the Prairie Dog.
    One day, a dust storm that raged from horizon to horizon raced from the Western Lands toward their small nesting area.
    The Prairie Dog stood, yellow paws at attention by his side, and barked.
    "Head's up! A storm is coming! A big one!"
    As the air swirled brown with flying grit, the Prairie Dog scuttled to a shallow hole and stuck his little body in it, with his head peeking out to keep a wary eye on the storm passing overhead.
    "Hunker down and head's up, Ostrich!" he cried over the howling of earth become air.
    But the Ostrich did not hunker down with his head up. Instead, he stood up on his huge, grey-pink legs, spread his wings for balance, and then bent over and jammed his head straight down into the hole where the Prairie Dog crouched.
    "What are you doing?" the Prairie Dog cried, pushing back at the bird's big head.
    "I'm keeping my head down, aren't I?" cried the Ostrich. "Why do I have to look at such a frightening thing as that storm?"
    "No, No!" the Prairie Dog cried to his friend. "Body down, head up! Head's up!!"
    But it was too late. The Ostrich squawked as the blasting wind caught his wings and swept him away, never to be seen by the Prairie Dog again.
    Thus, it is better to keep your head up than your head down, when storms brew -- and when do they not?

    May 31, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), by Frank H. Burton.

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    Aphorism of the Week

    "Out" those who reason, and "ought" the others.

    Dedicated in admonishment of the Sudanese government's criminal prosecution, and imposition of the death penalty, against a Christian citizen for her refusal to renounce Christianity. "Apostasy" is no crime, but a personal freedom.

    Parable of the Week

    The Seeker, The Maker
    Sisters were birthed upon royal velvet.
    In their land women donned the mantle of leadership, and the two sisters, who loved each other deeply, were destined to rule side by side after their mother, the queen, passed on the mantle of power.
    The elder sister relished her role as a princess and heir, and learned all the tricks of politicking from her mother -- to gild her future throne, while setting it in laws and etiquette as rigid as stone.
    But the younger sister, destined to advise the future queen, observed the people they ruled -- and saw poverty, misery, and unfairness. Yet when she asked her mother, the queen, why this was so, her mother always replied, "It's just the world we live in."
    One day a prisoner was brought before the throne for judgment -- a man who'd stolen one loaf of bread to feed his sick child. When the queen sentenced the man's hand to be chopped off as their law dictated, her elder daughter stood by her side as the sentence was proclaimed, to learn how to administer justice. Yet the younger daughter could not bear to watch, thinking only of how, if the man had been given skills or a job, his thievery need never have occurred.
    At sunset, as the axe fell upon the condemned man's wrist, she stole away from the palace and fled west into the darkness, in search of a better land.
    But, over the years, no such land did she find.
    Everywhere she traveled she saw injustice, misery and manipulation by rulers of those less fortunate.
    Older now, and tired of her fruitless search, she returned to her homeland and rejoined her sister, who was now a powerful queen, and who welcomed her into the palace.
    But instead of abandoning her dream, the younger sister encouraged the queen -- and later her eldest niece, the new heir -- to build schools and clinics instead of palaces, to hear representatives of the people, to abolish slavery and unjust punishment, and to make prisons places of redemption.
    Over many years, her land indeed became that which she'd sought in her wanderings, and in her dreams, so long before.
    Thus, be the change you seek in this world. -- via Mohandas Gandhi

    May 24, 2014, excerpt from The Parables of Reason © 2007-2014 (Chapter 1, "Reality's Acceptance"), by Frank H. Burton.

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