Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mind Flight Has Taken Off

For those of you following the serialization of Tom's new book, Mind Flight: Wisdom, Enlightenment, and the Journey of Life, on Copthorne Macdonald's The Wisdom Page, the end of the month brings with it not only the usual pumpkins and witches but another chapter in the saga.

Chapter Four, The Yin-Yang of Time, is already up on The Wisdom Page for viewing. The initial chapters have been getting some very good hits according to Copthorne and we have had some great responses from people by phone and in person.

More than that, in coordination with the Internet debut of the book, Tom has devoted the last few sessions out at Rio Salado Lifelong Learning Center to presentations on Mind Flight. What a trip that has been, to borrow some jargon from the 60s. As the book is a mix of the highly theoretical and philosophical with a very intimate and honest personal narrative, these presentations have delivered a real wallop in both the mental and emotional spheres. And did I mention funny? Tom captures the tenor of the times superbly and the audience has shown their approval. (They all survived the 60s and 70s!)All can resonate with Tom's courageous depiction of the craziness and angst of life and these sessions have proven to be so popular that an additional one has been scheduled.

Tom will be doing a third presentation on the book on Tuesday November 10th at Rio Salado's West-side site (see the upcoming events bar on the side). If you want a very entertaining and enlightening two hours, you are, as always, welcome to attend.

I will leave you now with a preview of Chapter Four of Mind Flight:

Chapter Four finds Tom deep into his existential quest for meaning and philosophical understanding in a chaotic world as he spirals into a five-year dance of romantic madness interspersed with extensive solitary sojourns of deep intellectual exploration. He encounters J. T. Fraser and confronts the great conundrum and significance of evolution and time. He attempts a heroic synthesis of Spinoza, Leibnitz, and the Yin-Yang with some Plato and Aristotle thrown in for good measure. He looks into the abyss of atheism while embarking on a painful journey of self-discovery with a Baptist Minister. He criscrosses the country like a peripatetic monk, rooming with sharks and lesbians and alienating old friends along the way. Separation, divorce, and miraculous reunions; loneliness, angst, and self-loathing; passion, sex, and abstinence; and strange harbingers of fate in the form of shooting stars…. This is Chapter Four of Mind Flight.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Kick-off for Arizona Chapter of the WFS

Well Arizona is finally on the futurist map. Our good friend and futurist ally, Joan Foltz, has taken the initiative to start an Arizona chapter of the World Future Society.
This is big stuff. To get things rolling there will be a Kick Off this Monday, October 26, 2009, from 6:30-8:30 PM at the University of Advancing Technology,
2625 W Baseline Rd, Tempe, AZ (I10 & Baseline, next to the Point at S. Mountain).
Those planning to attend, please RSVP by email to

Here is more on the event from Joan:

Meet and Greet other Arizona futurists at the first organizational meeting of the Arizona Chapter of the World Future Society. Come join us to discuss the AZ chapter’s future plans for events that will include speakers, open debates and discussions, workshops, and more. The meeting is open to anyone interested in all aspects of the future.

Phoenix has an active futurists’ community that we hope will help us make this a vibrant gathering for everyone in the membership, plus reach out to the local community. Besides being a venue for insightful discussions, our intent is to introduce futures studies foundation concepts used in future thinking, strategies and methodologies for people to use in their professional and personal lives.

Since we are in early formation, your input on how to make this a successful, active chapter will be very welcomed. Interested in participating in the chapter’s organization? Please Come.

Any questions?

Contact: Joan Foltz, 480-756-8449


Thursday, October 1, 2009

"Lightning in the Darkness"


For those following the serialization of Tom's new book on Copthorne Macdonald's Wisdom Page, here is a preview of the next chapter, "Lightning in the Darkness":

Amidst the steel mills of northwest Indiana Tom discovers the joy and exhilaration of teaching – of creating intricate mind maps on intellectual history, learning, thinking and creativity, and holistic psychology. But after order comes chaos. After superficial sanity comes some real madness. After studying science, epistemology, and perception, life takes a Dionysian turn – lightning strikes – and the world begins to sparkle and swirl. Now enter sex, and drugs and the metaphysical realities of science fiction. Tom wanders through the unfathomable vastness of “The Library of Babel” and goes in search of quality and love and a mythical red-haired woman called Harmony. Consciousness expands – consciousness falls apart. Life becomes a strange saga in some alternate reality perhaps of his own creation. There is a brush with death in a blizzard in Wisconsin. There is a conversation with God. Life seems filled with paradox. He leaves Indiana for the promise of adventure and the beauty of the Rockies, where he floats in sensory isolation tanks, comes unglued, and is, metaphorically, nailed to the cross. He falls off the edge – the precipitous cliffs – and rolls all the way back to Indiana where he is captured by a “bright-eyed girl.” This is chapter three of Mind Flight.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A New Life

The summer has left us all nicely fried in Scottsdale and as it cools down to 100, we try to ignore the Christmas aisle at Home Depot and enjoy the sultry fall weather. Even here, though, the change of seasons makes us stop and ponder the passing of time. Autumn, as the penultimate season of the year is, of course, a metaphor for the coming end of things. Next comes winter and death.

For many of us, this turning of the seasons might seem to parallel our own passage into oblivion. And for those of us moving farther and farther away from the beginnings of our own individual trajectories, it is easy to get maudlin over the passage of time. The death of aged parents, aunts, uncles, and friends only serves to underscore how fast the sand is flowing in the hourglass of life.

Tom's father died a few weeks ago and his dear friend and colleague, Larry Celaya, died a week later. Today, in fact, Tom read that the one of the leading religious futurists, Richard Kirby had also passed away. We are reminded, through such deaths close by, of our own mortality and our own ongoing process of aging.

But over the summer, Tom and I began to play with a new paradigm. It all started with some articles on the increase in the number of centenarians worldwide. According to one by Ed Yong in The New Scientist, for example, this is the fastest-growing demographic in much of the developed world. In fact, thanks to the aging baby-boomers, by 2030 there will be about a million worldwide! That should give us pause. What if we DON'T die soon? How will we spend twenty, thirty, or forty more fruitful years?

At twenty we all had the feeling of a long life stretching ahead of us. There were a myriad of possibilities. We could go in any number of directions. But there were distractions and surprises for which we were unprepared. Most of us had no money. Then life began to throw repsonsibilities at almost faster than we could adapt to them. Before we knew it we were long past the first flush of adulthood. Some of us resigned ourselves to the feeling of being trapped. This is it. This is my life.

But, instead of thinking of life after mid century as the time we wind down and slowly roll downhill towards the grave, Tom and I started thinking that we should conceptualize the future as a new beginning of a new life - a whole new life. At twenty we figured we might have about forty good years. Well, many of us will likely have another thirty or forty years - perhaps even more as bio-medical advances pick up the pace. And while many of us have been hit by the recession/depression, we sure as hell have more resources than we did at twenty.

All of us have imagined the hypothetical scenario of going back to our youth and being able to do it over again. All of us have said, too, given such a chance, "if I knew then what I know now..." We have, of course, considered this a fanciful and impossible scenario - we can't go back and start over.

Well, it is true we cannot go back, but we can start over. And we can start over knowing a lot more than we did the first time around.

Let's then imagine that we are at the beginning of a second adult life. Let's reflect upon what we have learned in our previous life - of the wisdom we have accumulated - and seriously consider what we wish to take with us and what we wish to leave behind as we set sail on this new life.

This is not something to be accomplished overnight. We should give ourselves time to ponder the question and time to work out the details. The important thing, though, is to fight against the mentality in our culture that tells us we are "over the hill" at forty and have "one foot in the grave" at sixty. These are outdated notions. And if there are things you "have always wanted to do but never had the time," now is the time to realize that you just may have an entire second lifetime.

It is time to start thinking about your new life.


Tom will be continuing his popular philosophy series at Rio Salado Lifelong Learning Center this fall and winter. The first presentation of the fall takes place this Wednesday, September 30, from 10:00-12:00. Tom will be giving part 3 of his lecture on Mind, Self, and Consciousness. Details and map can be found on the sidebar under upcoming events.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Getting Wise about Education on September 9

What does wisdom have to do with education? Strangely enough that seems to be a question that is infrequently asked in these times of looking at education as preprofessional training, something to be got through to get that degree. We are not discounting the importance of such concerns, but propose that placing wisdom as the central goal of education not only facilitates the achievement of practical goals on an individual level but contributes to the overall well-being and development of society.

What is wisdom? Here is Tom's definition: “Wisdom is the highest expression of self-development and future consciousness. It is the continually evolving understanding of and fascination with the big picture of life, of what is important, ethical, and meaningful, and the desire and ability to apply this understanding to enhance the well being of life, both for oneself and others.”

If you are interested and local, Tom will be giving a presentation at 7 PM on Wednesday, September 9th. at the Surprise Communiversity on “The Pursuit of Wisdom and the Future of Education." Tom will present and explain his thesis that wisdom should be the central goal of all higher education, both as the primary character virtue that teachers and educational administrators should model and practice, and as the central learning objective for college students, regardless of their particular discipline or degree. Tom will describe the basic features of wisdom, outlining contemporary inter-disciplinary research on the topic. And he will demonstrate the critical relevance of wisdom to successfully addressing the challenges, present and future, facing human society and higher education.

If you are not local but still interested, read about wisdom and the future of education here.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Mindflight: Wisdom, Enlightenment and the Journey of Life

It has been an eventful summer. Tom and I presented at the Science, Wisdom, and the Future Conference in June and the World Future Society Conference in July, relishing the opportunity to engage in dialogue with some great minds, including (at the first conference) Riane Eisler and David Loye; Michael Dowd, author of Thank God for Evolution and his wife and science-writer Connie Willis; "Voluntary Simplicity" pioneer Duane Elgin; and the ever inspiring Barbara Marx Hubbard, among many others. Check out my article on Duane Elgin's presentation. More on the World Future Society Conference in a blog to come.

The most significant event of the summer though is the premiere of Tom's new book Mindflight: Wisdom, Enlightenment, and the Journey of Life, which is being serialized on Copthorne Macdonald's The Wisdom Page. The book is what Copthorne characterizes as a quest-for-wisdom-story. It is also a rollicking personal history which intertwines a comprehensive overview of the main currents of Western philosophy (and some Eastern concepts too) with accounts of the variously funny, painful, and perplexing events that fired a life of the mind in one man over a period of forty years. Here in its debut you will find a description of the book followed by the prologue and the first chapter. Subsequent chapters will appear on the first of every month for the next twelve months.

This is an important and timely book, one that addresses the challenges facing all of us in life as we head into the strange and turbulent waters of the future - the heights to which we may soar and the depths into which we are plunged. But like life itself it is funny, engaging, surprising, and mystifying. A highly personal account, its publication has been an intimidating and frightening propostion for both of us. But here you have it. We stand naked before you. We would be interested in your reactions, comments, and thoughts on these first sections.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Join Us in Exploring the Mind, Wisdom, and Consciousness

Heads up on two upcoming events.

First, Tom will be doing a two-part presentation on "Mind, Self, and Consciousness" out at Rio Salado's Lifelong Learning Center on Tuesday May 12 and Tuesday June 9 from 10:00-2:00. Visitors are welcome. Following is a little preview:

What is the nature of the mind? What is the “I”, the “me”, the sense of personal identity or self that we all seem to possess? Most intriguing of all, what is consciousness? What is this strange thing we call “experience” and why is it private and subjective? Why, in fact, is there consciousness at all and how did it arise within a physical world?

These connected questions have baffled both philosophers and scientists through the ages, and the two presentations will cover the whole array of relevant issues and ideas, from Plato, the Buddha, and Descartes to Freud, Sartre, Damasio, Clark, Chalmers and many others.

Tom will begin with ancient theories of the mind, starting with the Greeks and mystical Eastern thinkers, and then move into modern views, covering both Enlightenment philosophy and science and the emergence of psychology toward the end of the nineteenth century. From there he will explore contemporary thinking, looking at the brain and consciousness, the evolution of the self, and most recently, some mind-expanding theories on what the mind is.

Participants will be challenged to consider a myriad of questions: What is the relationship of consciousness and matter? What is the unconscious? Where is the mind? Why am I me and not you? We will consider whether the self is an illusion, a social construction, or a figment of the imagination. We will consider the issues of freedom, responsibility, and determinism as it pertains to the mind and the self. In the finale, we will even head into the future, connecting mind, self, and consciousness with artificial intelligence, robots, the cosmos, and the possibilities of expanding our conscious minds in the world of tomorrow.

Later in the summer Tom and Jeanne will both be presenting at the Science, Wisdom and the Future Conference in San Luis Obispo on California's central coast from June 24-28. There is still time to register for the conference and to engage with some top-knotch speakers so check out the link.

Tom will do a first session Wisdom, Virtue, and Future Consciousness, and a second special session on The Future of Psychology and the Cosmology of Consciousness. Jeanne will be speaking on Wisdom and the Ideal Society. There is a wonderful lineup of speakers such as Riane Eisler, author of Sacred Pleasure and The Chalice and the Blade, evolutionary writer and head of the Darwin Project, David Loye, and proponent of conscious evolution, Barbara Marx Hubbard.

The conference will bring together scholars and students, experts and lay persons—all who are interested in drawing on our latest science and deepest wisdom to build a sustainable and flourishing future for planet Earth and all its inhabitants.

Along with formal presentations, working lunch discussions and open space give all participants the opportunity to contribute to the dialogue. There will also be significant opportunities for sharing organizational work, important books, upcoming conferences and initiatives through displays, and special focus sessions. Various modes of sharing scholarly, artistic, and multi-media expressions of science, wisdom, and visions for the future will enrich the conference experience.

To see a list of presenters, or if you are interested in participating or in presenting, hit on the link above or call Cheryl Genet at 805-438-4088 for more information.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Strength in Numbers?

Been a little quiet on the blog lately but writing for a web magazine - Suite101 for which I recently published an article on global population growth. On NPR's Diane Ream show this week, guest Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb (1971) and more recently The Dominant Animal spoke on the implications of current trends in the fertility rate as the global population barrels along towards a whopping seven billion people. Certainly this is an issue of crucial importance, not only for the quality of life of those alive today, but, as Erlich points out, especially for those who come after us.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Darwin and Lincoln

It is Presidents' Day weekend in the States, a three-day weekend that memorializes the births of two of our most illustrious presidents, Washington and Lincoln. While many people simply appreciate the extra free day, we hope that our fellow Americans and friends abroad pause to reflect on the legacy of our first and sixteenth presidents and perhaps even take a moment to re-read the Gettysburg Address, one of the most eloquent appeals for freedom and for "a government of the people, by the people and for the people." Whatever your politics, it is a mighty testament to Lincoln's commitment to the ideals of American liberty and equality that today, 200 years after his birth, Barack Obama is in the White House. It is also a reminder that war should only be waged to further those sacred values and not for empire building, global economic dominance, or other immoral or evil objectives.

Today is the actual day of Lincoln's birthday 200 years ago, but it is also the birthday of Charles Darwin. How interesting that these two immortals came into the world on exactly the same day. To Darwin of course we owe the idea of evolution, and what an idea. In his monumental study, Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention from Fire to Freud, Peter Watson rates it as one of the all-time great ideas. It is a legacy that is sadly not appreciated in this country. Worse, his idea has been under vigorous attack since Origin of the Species was published in 1859. Incredibly, according to a poll reported on CNN today, only 39% of Americans accept the validity of Darwin's theory. The implications of this statistic for the future of the United States are dire. Here is a short article from today's New York Times on Darwin, the man, and on the importance to humanity of his groundbreaking insight into the processes of the natural world and the place of humankind among the other living things with which we share this world. We can think of no better way to celebrate his achievement than by committing ourselves to the struggle against those who would banish the teaching of evolution from our schools. We hope you join us.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Coming Dark Ages

In his column on education for the NY Times in last Sundays edition, Stanley Fish, noted academic and author, reviews a new book, The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities, by Frank Donoghue, in which the author argues that higher education is not the same as it used to be and never will be again. It is no news that that liberal arts education in general and the humanities in particular face a crisis; many lament the trend towards what amounts to pre-professional training and away from a focus on turning out well-rounded students with a broad understanding of their cultural heritage, let alone the ability to think critically and write a coherent sentence. As Fish pioints out, in all but a few private wealthy universities, "healthy humanities departments populated by tenure-track professors who discuss books with adoring students in a cloistered setting – have largely vanished." We can round up the usual suspects for this development, from the focus on delivery of learning through the cheapest and most convenient method possible (and hence most profitable for the institutions); to the preponderance of what Fish calls "itinerant teachers," those hard-working and low-paid adjuncts who make up an increasing percentage - up to 65% - of the teaching staff at colleges and universities; to a general devaluing of the idea that higher education should expand students' minds. Rather, universities and colleges have embraced a business model that sees only one imperative for higher education: to deliver the information and skills necessary to gain employment, and if that can be accomplished with a disc, Internet hook-up, and a computer screen, so much the better. So much for learning for learning's sake, a value that goes back all the way to Aristotle. Fish's article can be accessed here:

I couldn't help thinking about another article I had read earlier in the week about a school for girls in Afghanistan. Several students at this school have been attacked in recent weeks by men on motorcycles armed with containers of acid. Several young women have been disfigured. These men "want us to be stupid things," one young woman said. In defiance of such brutal tactics, the parents, administration, and the girls themselves have refused to bend. The school has stayed open. Contrast this with the indifference to learning in this country. School is seen as a chore, as something to be "got through." Those who do go on to post-secondary education, for the most part, value only the piece of paper at the end which will enable them, supposedly, to make more money. Knowledge, as opposed to a practical skill, is not what it's all about.

What all this bodes is what some have called the "coming dark ages." We may be on the brink of an era in which all that stands between the preservation or loss of the accumulated knowledge of millennia is a dedicated enclave of brave and enlightened intellectuals - our professors. Their adversary is twofold; both are anti-intellectual in nature. One sees education as a business with profit as the bottom line in any decision-making process. Not only are earnings the overriding consideration for the school but the only knowledge that counts for students is that which will translate into a higher salary in the job market. The other adversary, and one which is related, is the tendency towards superficiality and triviality in American society. This adversary comes not with sword and gun but with Wii and YouTube and MySpace. This enemy offers no ideology or philosphy for life other than the superficial one of "fun and games." It is a mode of being that requires no effort, no thinking and repays the time spent with simple amusements that distract and deliver momentary and paltry pleasures. This adversary is arguably the more insidious of the two; whereas the first at least advocates the training of minds for a pragmatic purpose, this one wants to eat the minds of our young. As Neil Postman put it in Amusing Ourselves to Death:

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumplepuppy.”

Now that Huxley's fears seem to be borne out by our social reality, my hopes are not high that the tide will turn, that educators will get the respect and esteem - and the institutional support - they deserve. The election of Barack Obama to the presidency registers one small advance, perhaps, toward redefining who our heros are along intellectual lines. But we have a long way to go before "intellectual" as a quality ceases to elicit more than a contemptuous, or at the very least, a dismissive response.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Condition of Children and Barbarians

The headlines over the last ten days have been dominated by news from Gaza as the Isrealis and Hamas engage in a deadly and escalating kind of reciprocal "rumble", each street gang refusing to stand down and consider the future implications of their actions beyond simply coming out on top, regardless of the number of lives sacrificed in doing so. Of course one might say that both sides are considering the future implications and that security and continued existence of their respective states warrants such action. They believe that in order to survive one must eliminate the threat once and for all. There are times in history when this has been an effective strategy for survival, when it has been necessary to destroy evil, but until the modern age, it has necessitated the complete destruction of whole cultures.

The strategy to eliminate the other is less and less effective in the modern world. It is based on a view of the past that not only tallies up the wrongs suffered at the hands of the enemy as justification for further violence but that unrealistically assumes that there is one discreet, self-contained entity that can indeed be totally eliminated. The end result of such action is usually not complete victory for one side but rather the destruction of countless lives on both sides and an uneasy "peace" waiting for the next retalitory response. In the case at hand, the Israelis and the Arabs are continuing a mode of behavior that their past experience would seem to indicate is getting them nowhere, locking them into endless war.

In an op-ed piece in todays New York Times, Roger Cohen equates such a policy as "rule of the dead," a dominion he sees as prevalent only in the Middle East today. The rule of the dead demands that one look primarily to the past, to the long line of injuries perpetrated first (if there is a first) on this side then on that, to justify the perpetuation of conflict. The dominion of the dead, of the past, precludes any peace in favor of the living. The dominion of the dead fattens itself on the blood of the living.

The philosopher Georges Santayana's famous quote is never far from my mind. Most people only remember the last line: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." In the case of the Israelis and the Arabs, and of countless adversaries before them, this seems contradictory. It is precisely in remembering the past that they continue the unwinnable struggle for dominance. The whole quote, however, runs like this:
"Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness...
when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it...
this is the condition of children and barbarians, in whom instinct has learned nothing from experience.
The point here is that both sides do remember the past, but only an incomplete and highly subjective version of it. They do not retain the total experience, that is, the costs of temporary victory along with the victory itself, nor do they learn from it. And so they repeat it. They remain in the condition of children and barbarians, acting on instinct, forever caught in a deadly tit-for-tat, forever relying on instinct, which has learned nothing from experience.

This is where future consciousness comes in. Future consciousness is all about learning from the past and applying what you have learned to the future and in so doing creating a better world than the past. Future consciousness prescribes creating a constructive future rather than falling into a repeat of an ineffective past mode of being. Future consciousness is being informed by the past in order to get to someplace new, in order to change, not stay stuck in destructive modes of behavior that perpetuate negative features of the past. Cohen cites the Germans and the French, the Japanese and the Chinese, as examples of peoples that found a new way to co-exist. And while it is true that the destruction of the evil that was Nazism and Japanese imperial militarism was necessary to pave the way for this new pattern of behavior, can we not hope that reasonable people on both sides of this conflict can learn not only from their own past experience but from world history as a whole.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Just Say No to Thinking

Well, it's the new year and an email that appeared in my box today alerted me to the fact that it's time to emerge from the fat and sugar-induced stupor of the holidays and regroup for the ongoing battle against the dangerous forces of narrow-mindedness, group-think, and religious dogmatism. This time it was an email diatribe and urgent warning against Neale D. Walsch's "devastating" book, Conversations With God, a book that purportedly spreads the "false doctrine of the devil" in the guise of spiritual guidance. Of special urgency to the writer of the email was the vigilance required to prevent this book and Walsch's Conversations with God for Teens from falling into the hands of schoolchildren lest "exposure to worldly mediums" corrupt them and distort the only truth acceptable, that of the Bible. Noted examples of disagreement with Biblical teaching involve God's answer, in Walsch's voice, to a girl who inquires why she is a lesbian, to which God/Walsch responds that she was born that way because of her genetics. The author also has God disavowing the idea that premarital cohabitation equates to "living in sin" and is dismissive of the idea of sin itself.

While one may debate the wisdom of Walsch's responses in this book, and certainly one should not accept his word at face value any more than any other writer's in the market-place of ideas, the issues he discusses are serious ones with which people grapple in a globalizing world that more and more presents us with confusing and difficult choices. To offer only adherence to an inherited and strict code of conduct that goes against the nature of what many people actually experience, and instinctually feel is normal, is to place a psychological stranglehold on them. This is not to say that we should all dive down the hole of cultural and moral relativism, or that we should simply engage in compulsive, feel-good behaviors, but that young people should be encouraged to THINK about the moral choices they are called upon to make and explore the issues from a wide perspective. In contrast, the Walsch-bashing email circulating about is representative of the kind of rigid closed-mindedness that prescribes blind acceptance of doctrine over a rational evaluation of ideas, and which ill equips people, especially the young, from forming the capacity for critcal thinking and moral evaluation so necessary in our contemporary social environment, an environment which offers up to our young a constant diet of far more damaging, shallow, and pernicious fare than this supposedly dangerous book.

Conversations With God is a thought-provoking book and on that point alone I would recommend it. For that matter, I would recommend reading the Old and New Testaments, the Koran, and the Bhagadavita. It is only through a broad exposure to contrasting theories that one develops the capacity for critical evaluation of ideas, for being able to distinguish the garbage from the gold, to separate the bullshit from the truth. And while, as a parent, I disdain the easy availability of smut, stupidity, violence, and mind-numbing trivia over the Internet and other media, the answer is not to prohibit, since restrictions are all too easy to get around and tend to create a mystique around the thing prohibited, in turn making it more desirable. A better tack is to create in young minds an appetite for excellence, a distaste for junk, and a desire to think. Expose them to the great ideas, literature and art of our culture and other cultures. At the very least, encourage them to read. As a parent, I would be thrilled if either of the teens in this house would turn off the TV, get up from their computers, turn off their iPods or cell phones, and read books, even ones less deserving of respect than this one.