Saving the best for last
The Sept. 12 & 19, 2022, issue hit hard in its last six pages. Why? Well, I imagined the effort and talent it took to put together stories ranging from whales speaking, book reviews, mental health tragedies, book banning talk, and “prairie sentinels” in Manitoba, Canada. This, and to do such a fine job of it.
That classic photo of a humpback breaching into the blue and gray with its hat off to serenity, power, and performance is a call from the wild. How inadequate is our empathy and understanding. Give me meanwhile Tom Mustill’s book, “How to Speak Whale: A Voyage into the Future of Animal Communication,” and get out of Dodge.
Sometimes our need exceeds our experience and we let in the light of a good book: “The Sentence” by Louise Erdrich, for crying out loud. “Unadulterated love of the written word,” you write about the main character. Yes! Thank you, and thank you to all with the kindness to speak clearly. Then, we are reminded of Nellie Bly via “Madwoman” by Louisa Treger. Holy Toledo, how far from the mark did we descend? Treger’s telling portrait of a great American journalist speaks volumes.
Then the Q&A with high school librarian Martha Hickson made me think: Thank heavens for the librarians, the quiet army of our conscience. Only a soul of the greatest courage will stand today against the tide of intolerance in the form of book bans. Do I remember J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” from the ripe young age of 15? You bet I do. Books, dear friends, more books.
The photos of the prairie sentinels, or grain elevators, across the Canadian plains of Manitoba, along with the writer’s concise and melancholy summary, paint with eloquence time’s greatest gift: the preservation of the essentials of a culture’s remains – its architecture. Like the breaching whale in Half Moon Bay in the photograph just pages before, we see a grain elevator in the town of Beulah resisting the loss of its dignity.
Finally, old Smucker’s. I’m smiling. My favorite is blackberry jam, boy-o-boy. Thanks again, The Christian Science Monitor – and for the last 50 years.
James R. Turner
No more “versus”
Regarding the Oct. 24 cover story, “Moral support: How we raise a ‘good person’ in fractured times”: Studying history and reviewing my personal knowledge from 76 years of living, I’ve come to believe that there has been very little adherence to most basic ethical principles throughout history.
We keep making progress, even if there are ups and downs. Religions have often not offered cohesive ethics – not for me at least. How was I supposed to deal with the extreme us-against-them thinking of some Christian teachings?
Ethics must be pragmatic. Humans must work to overcome our bad instincts. Humans want to follow traditions, leaders, and peers – even if they are not ethical. We must learn to be compassionately empathetic without thinking in terms of us versus them (men versus women, Americans versus Haitians) or us against them (good people against criminals, Americans against Russians).
Such thinking largely erases compassion. And we must be compassionate toward future generations, which requires that America halt its misguided economic developments now.
We must teach children to think about reciprocity – we want honesty, helpfulness, and generosity, so we must practice them ourselves.