Why Freedom, Reason, Dissent and Skepticism Matter
Service for Nigel Sinnott's Address from Sunday October 9, 2011
Dr. Diane Ackerman (born October 7, 1948 in Waukegan, Illinois) is an American author, poet, and naturalist known best for her work A Natural History of the Senses. She has taught at various universities, including Columbia and Cornell,
School Prayer --by Diane Ackerman
In the name of the daybreak
and the eyelids of morning
and the wayfaring moon
and the night when it departs.
I swear I will not dishonor
my soul with hatred,
but offer myself humbly
as a guardian of nature,
as a healer of misery,
as a messenger of wonder,
as an architect of peace.
In the name of the sun and its mirrors
and the day that embraces it
and the cloud veils drawn over it
and the uttermost night
and the male and the female
and the plants bursting with seed
and the crowning seasons
of the firefly and the apple,
I will honor all life
--wherever and in whatever form
it may dwell--on Earth my home,
and in the mansions of the stars.
Thomas Paine; Agrarian Justice, 1795
To the Legislature and the Executive Directory of the French Republic
The plan contained in this work is not adapted for any particular country alone: the principle on which it is based is general. But as the rights of man are a new study in this world, and one needing protection from priestly imposture, and the insolence of oppressions too long established, I have thought it right to place this little work under your safeguard.
France has had the honor of adding to the word Liberty that of Equality; and this word signifies essentially a principle that admits of no gradation in this the things to which it applies. But equality is often misunderstood, often misapplied, and often violated.
Liberty and Property are words expressing all those of our possessions which are not of an intellectual nature. There are two kinds of property. Firstly, natural property, or that which comes to us from the Creator of the universe -- such as the earth, air, water. Secondly, artificial or acquired property -- the invention or men.
In this the latter, equality is impossible; for to distribute it equally it would be necessary that all should have contributed in this the same proportion, which can never be the case; and this being the case, every individual would hold on to his own property, as his right share. Equality of natural property is the subject of this little essay. Every individual in this the world is born therein with legitimate claims on a certain kind of property, or its equivalent.
Poverty ... is a thing created by that which is called civilized life. It exists not in the natural state. On the other hand, the natural state is without those advantages which flow from agriculture, arts, science and manufacturers
But the earth in its natural state, as before said, is capable of supporting but a small number of inhabitants compared with what it is capable of doing in a cultivated state. And as it is impossible to separate the improvement made by cultivation from the earth itself, upon which that improvement is made, the idea of landed property arose from that inseparable connection; but it is nevertheless true, that it is the value of the improvement, only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property.
Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated lands, owes to the community a ground-rent (for I know of no better term to express the idea) for the land which he holds; and it is from this ground-rent that the fund proposed in this plan is to issue.
There could be no such thing at landed property originally. Man did not make the earth, and though he had a natural right to occupy it, he had no right to locate as his property in perpetuity any part of it; neither did the Creator of the earth open a land-office, from whence the first title-deeds should issue. Whence then, arose the idea of landed property? I answer as before, that when cultivation began the idea of landed property began with it, from the impossibility or separating the improvement made by cultivation from the earth itself, upon which that improvement was made.
The value of the improvement so far exceeded the value of the natural earth, at that time, as to absorb it; till, in the end, the common right of all became confounded into the cultivated right of the individual. But there are, nevertheless, distinct species of rights, and will continue to be, so long as the earth endures.
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is how it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It's life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.
Steve Jobs, Stanford University Commencement Adress, 2005