In Memoriam: James Randi

The Amazing Randi has left us following a remarkable 92-year life of stage magic, skeptical debunkings, and quotable quips. A beloved figure in the stage magic scene, he was an inspiration to acts like Penn and Teller and to skeptics everywhere as he unmasked deceivers like Uri Geller and Peter Popoff as showmen and frauds rather than psychics, telekinetics or faith healers.

For a more exhaustive history of this remarkable man, please click here.

Randi’s amazing life and remarkable late discovery that he was gay are chronicled in the film An Honest Liar, which is well worth seeking out. He was an atheist and a progressive. We Atheopagans have him to credit for the term “woo-woo” for unscientific claims of occult and psychic abilities.

His Million-Dollar Paranormal Challenge remains uncollected after decades on offer.

Thank you, Amazing Randi, for being a voice for skepticism as well as a presenter of wonders. May you be long remembered.

In Memoriam: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I was stunned and appalled to learn last night of the death of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Justice Ginsburg was a giant of the law, and a shero of women’s rights.

For a much more in-depth profile of her than I can research or write, visit her obituary here.

Now, we must fight to prevent the so-called President from being able to appoint yet another right-wing toady.

I am saddened and afraid today. The world is poorer, and Americans and people of the world are more endangered with Justice Ginsburg’s loss.

In Memoriam: Mary Oliver

The celebrated poet Mary Oliver has left us at the age of 83.

Details of her life and achievements may be found here, but I’d like to say, as an Atheopagan, how meaningful her work was to me, and, I think, to all who find grace and meaning in the movements and manifestations of the natural world.

Oliver’s poetry was conversational, accessible. Mostly, she wrote in complete sentences broken by white space. Not for her the opacity that so often passes for “great poetry”; hers was a body of work addressed to people who live here, in the world, and who are struck by moments of wonder and reflection. She famously said, “poetry mustn’t be fancy”.

We’ve all read it many times, but I will close with her most famous work, “Wild Geese”, in which she reminds us of the eternal beauty of this Sacred Earth, and that each of us has a place in the world.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.