What Is Love? – Colloquy

February 7, 2016

Before Adam Gravois led us in a conversation about love, we sang a lively version of “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.”  Adam urged us to speak in concrete terms of our own experience(s) rather than in abstractions.  We laughed, we cried, we ate Valentine candy.  While romantic love was mentioned by several, others talked about the love in their lives for parents, siblings, children, and friends.  (cp)

Charity! Why? – Platform

John Theiss presented a platform,  Charity!  Why?, to prepare for ESOA’s giving month–February.  During February, ESOA members will give additional funds for specific charitable organizations, giving over and above the amounts donated each to ESOA for programs and operations.  John talked about levels of giving (ESOA, within our local community, internationally).  In 2015, ESOA supported Unganda Humanist School, Doctors without Borders, Kiva, and Heifer.

In the broader context, John talked about why people gave and wanted to give, patterns of giving in the community, and objections to charitable giving as a replacement for government responsibilities or “moral hazard.”  These subjects continued in group discussion, as participants offered their insights through research or personal experience.

Technological serendipity led us to “Circles” as our song for the day.

Democratic Process Is Essential to Our Task – Platform

January 24, 2016

Susan Theiss presented a platform/group discussion of the seventh of eight commitments  for ethical culture:  Democratic process is essential to our task.  Susan presented the ethical perspective of democracy and its process in terms of personal activities, the functioning of the Ethical Society of Austin, and in the broader terms our nation.  She then turned the presentation into a group discussion by asking such thought-provoking questions as:

The crisis we are in does not bode well for our democracy. Nor does it speak well for freedom, for democracy and freedom go hand in hand. We retain the structures of democracy, but substantively we appear to be an oligarchy, ruled by the plutocratic elite who buy and bend our politicians in support of their interests, who control the mass media that frames our political conscious and by politicians themselves whose narrow self-interests trump a statesman-like commitment to the common good. Are we a “Democracy” in name only?

Discussion included calls to action to bring ethics to the forefront of our public democracy.  Appropriately enough and for the second week in a row, the day’s leader chose “Come Together” (Bart Worden) as our song.  (CP)

Spirituality for the Skeptic – Platform/Book Review

January 17, 2016

The platform meeting focused on a review of Spirituality for the Skeptic, by Robert C. Solomon, facilitated by Trish Taylor, with members of the Board of Trustees serving as panelists. Each panelist presented highlights and commentary on individual chapters accompanied by questions for thought and discussion. The questions themselves were also presented as a slide show with complementary artwork, posted here for your additional review and consideration.  (CP)

Spirituality for the Skeptic

Success: What Does Success Mean to You?

Sunday, January 10

Bob Warren, today’s leader, chose “I Can See Clearly Now” for our song. Joyful voices and some mild dancing were accompanied by this old Johnny Nash hit.

Adam Gravois set up the colloquy on “success” by reminding us that “success” did not necessarily mean “happiness.” Some members attempted to define success in their lives; some talked about what impact the concept of success–as defined by others–had had on their lives.

Speaking from the heart, sharing joy as well as pain, members provided a spectrum of thought on success that included goals, failures, and personal change and growth. (cp)


Mindfulness in Everyday Life

David Zuniga, ordain Buddhist priest and practicing psychologist, spoke at ESOA’s November 22 meeting regarding the practice of mindfulness and practical strategies for incorporating it into our daily lives.

Dr. Zuniga presented several definitions of mindfulness, honing in on awareness of the present moment while calmly and compassionately acknowledging one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. He offered tips both for entering the state of mindfulness and for integrating it into our daily activities, e.g., pause before a potentially stressful event to meditate briefly.

There’s even an app for it. Indeed, several apps and recommended readings to help one start and then continue living with mindfulness are posted his website: http://www.drdavidzuniga.com.­­ cp


Music Appreciation



The musical appreciation group within ESA likes to attend mainly — but not exclusively – classical music offerings on an intermittent basis. Many of our gatherings are at UT where students,as part of their curriculum, are required to give public performances in order to complete their course. Many of these performances are free, and the doctoral candidates in particular are usually of an excellent level. There is often an opportunity to meet with the artist afterwards and not infrequently refreshments are also offered!

This was the case last Thursday when Nicholas Councilor gave a wonderful recital on the clarinet. It was a beautifully balanced program of classical pieces by composers such as Robert Schumann and Carl Maria von Weber and more modern offerings by Jean Francais and Olivier Messiaen. He even introduced (to me at least) the piccolo version of the clarinet which was the first time I had heard that instrument.

If anyone not familiar with our group is interested in being kept informed of future outings, please contact me, Rich Harrison who is submitting this blog.