ONCE UPON A TIME, I was a member of a casual coffee klatch—is there any other kind of klatch, because the two words seem to be conjoined Siamesically?—that met every Saturday morning at the Crossroads Shopping Center in Bellevue, Washington, and chatted. The group basically revolved around Lynn, Don, and myself—primarily because we were always there and we were somewhat unstoppable once we got going. 1
It was a genderically mixed group and so topics as diverse as relationships, conspiracies, dating, dining, and especially the two big non-no’s, politics and religion (especially politics and religion), were covered regular. Hell’s Belles, we even talked some sports—especially when the Mariners, Seahawks, or Sonics were winning, which is the only time casual observers discuss sports. (And by East Coast standards, most West Coast sports fans are casual.) 2
(Unless it was baseball, upon which I can go on endlessly, so the topic tended to be sidestepped. And even then I constantly used baseball metaphorically to explain other topics; it’s amazing how useful the game is in that respect.) 3
If my memory is serving me well here, I recall Free Inquiry, a secular humanist magazine available on newsstands, regularly running a list of 35 beliefs or practices that define a secular humanist. I was in accord with #2 through 35 but not with their #1 requirement: atheism.
Dialectical materialism never dies
Among the five regulars, Don was the closest to a dialectical materialist that we had, the definition of which is “the Marxist theory that maintains the material basis of a reality constantly changing in a dialectical process, and the priority of matter over mind.” (Merriam-Webster)
Don was more the dialectic (“a method of examining and discussing opposing ideas in order to find the truth”) than Marxist, although most reasonable forms of socialism—especially those that could both coöperate with and temper the ravaging tendencies of capitalism—were certainly topics of conversation.
I am rather skeptical by nature and choice, skeptical being “an attitude of doubting the truth of something, such as a claim or statement.” I am also attracted to similar forms of beneficial socialism—as are almost all human beings who work for a living, although people are not as approving of such socialist concepts as welfare as corporations.
I am also a borderline secular humanist but nonetheless was often at loggerheads with Don about a variety of life’s issues. My experiences with those aspects of life not broached by science made the rejection of the unquestioned acceptance of materialism all but automatic. 4
So it was that while I was the one member of the klatch that most often agreed with Donnem and backed him up in arguments with others, I was the one most likely to disagree and argue with him on fundamental issues of the human life experience. For my having what he considered to be a massive case of philosophical cognitive dissonance, he dubbed me a “mystical liberal.”
He meant the term to be humorously condescending—any dialectical, materialistic, atheistic person would only ever use mystical in such a manner—but I was immediately taken by the term and have used it to describe myself and my set of beliefs as mystical liberal since! 5
I haven’t a clue as to what a practicing mystical liberal (ML?) would claim to believe, but I invite anyone who thinks they might be one to claim the mantle and come out of the ML closet today!
I refer the reader to Stephen Jay Gould’s book Rocks Of Ages (1999) and his concept of “Non-Overlapping Magisteria,” which explain how science and religion can co-exist peacefully as each keeps its nose out of the other’s business.
What about the politics?
Oh, yeah: that! The only thing that scares me more than the 45 Democrats in Congress who voted for H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, are the 230 Rep*blicans who voted for it. In fact, the elected members of the GOP frighten me so much that I can’t even spell their name out any more, hence the asterisk (*) in the middle of their name on all my sites.
The rightwing assault on America is a very real and very growing threat, and one that most people who vote for Rep*blicans either don’t see or won’t acknowledge. So, if you are one of these folks, keep two things in mind: my barbs are usually pointed at either rightwing (I rarely use the term conservative, as its meaning has been usurped by the righties) leaders, both elected officials and media commentators.
My ideal ticket for the 2016 Presidential election would be Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren with Dennis Kucinich tagging along to become the first American Secretary of Peace.Nothing close to this will happen on the DNL ticket and I ain’t holding myb breath expecting an independent run at the White House …
The wonderful caricature of Marx giving the world the peace sign is by German artist Braldt Bralds and appeared on the front cover of the August 22, 2005, issue of Der Spiegel.
Finally, this article “Masters and Mistresses of Mysticism Part 1 (Me As Mystical Liberal” will be followed by a second, sillier article that addresses mysticism versus misticism. (Don’t look it up: I coined it just now…)
1 The Crossroads Shopping Center was owned by a gent who took umbrage at anyone referring to his place as a ‘mall,’ despite it being a mall in every way except that at one time most of the stores were independently owned. It was not a cookie-cutter mall with the same chain-stores in the same location as almost every other mall in America. It actually had some soul to it at one time.
Then, as the rent and CAM charges escalated year after year, the small mom-and-pop shops moved out and the faceless corporate facades moved in. Nonetheless, it remains a social hub for folks of Bellevue who too uncool to make the real mall scene at downtown Bellevue Square …
2 Yeah, I am playing with words today: Siamesically and genderically are coined for this piece and should probably not be bandied about without a considerable willingness to strut one’s aplombness.
3 “I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I learned that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn’t work out between us—the Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology.
You see, there’s no guilt in baseball, and it’s never boring—which makes it like sex. There’s never been a ballplayer slept with me who didn’t have the best year of his career. Makin’ love is like hitting a baseball: you just gotta relax and concentrate. Besides, I’d never sleep with a player hitting under .250, unless he had a lot of RBIs or was a great glove man up the middle.
You see, there’s a certain amount of life wisdom I give these boys. I can expand their minds. Sometimes when I’ve got a ballplayer alone, I’ll just read Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman to him. And the guys are so sweet, they always stay and listen. Of course, a guy’ll listen to anything if he thinks it’s foreplay. I make them feel confident, and they make me feel safe - and pretty.
Of course, what I give them lasts a lifetime. What they give me lasts 142 games. Sometimes it seems like a bad trade, but bad trades are part of baseball. Now who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God’s sake! It’s a long season, and you gotta trust it. I’ve tried them all, I really have. And the only church that truly feeds the soul day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.” (Annie Savoy)
4 My first psychedelic experience was a classic psychedelic experience, a ‘level four’ experience as described by Robert E. L. Masters and Jean Houston in their 1968 book Psychedlic Art.
5 And those beliefs, uncodified as they may be, are nonetheless taught the world over by my acolytes under the umbrella term nealism (with a small ‘n’—no room for unnecessary ego here).