Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."

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« Moviemaking Power to the (Young) People | Main | Once We Were Nomads (book proposal, cont'd) »




The image called to mind is those photo-mosaics: pictures of people from every walk of life that transform, from a few paces back, into the Statue of Liberty.


Thank you. You have put into words, more eloquently and with broader knowledge, that which I've felt for awhile now but haven't dared to express. I'm going to have to pass this on. :)

I adore your blog, and your writing inspires me to try to do better with my own, however amateurish and unpublished.


... it can easily happen that the frame becomes the view. Fidelity to one way of looking becomes more important than seeing.

Um, is it possible to pre-order copies of a book for yourself and several of your friends while it's still in the proposal stage?

(I wish there were such things as petition-for-publication drives.)

The mutation that turns the benign “This is right for me” into the malignant “This is right for you” can infect any religion, including scientific secularism. Its root is denied doubt -- if everyone else doesn’t affirm that I’m right, I might be wrong! – and its fruit is the destruction of vital diversity.

The excessive need for and expectation of personal validation--irresponsibly, actively, and recklessly encouraged and praised for three to four decades now--is, if not the root of, then the Miracle Gro for, some of our most thorny problems. It's almost impossible to get through the resulting thicket to create an even marginally smooth path forward.

Your writing is inspiring, Amba; I wish I could more optimistic that people could act from a place of inspiration, rather than instigation.


Thank you . . . I'm very aware that thinking this way is a luxury, maybe the ultimate luxury. Very privileged. But so be it.

Richard Lawrence Cohen

Yes, Bravo. I especially liked "not a messianic age but a demotic one." And just today I've been reading a little about the theory of the holographic universe, a/k/a Implicate Order, so I'm intrigued to see you using that metaphor. Keep us informed about the proposal!


Great, really great. I am looking forward to your book amba. I thought I was the only person who felt that way -- guess I am not unique after all!
Did you read "The Outsider," by the way?


Although I am purposely trying to spend less time reading and commenting on blogs, I just wanted to echo the praise of others. Wow. This is really good.

And certainly, it is very needed. We certainly need more manifestos in favor of "radical spiritual centrism." It is a much needed counterbalance to the those (from the secular or liberal) perspective who seem to exude such anxiety and worry in the face of the new uncertainty. It is also needed as a rigorous defense of the (non)faith of radical spiritual centrism against those salad bowl critics -- to whom I say, the next time you go to a restaurant, fix yourself a nice plate of just lettuce or just olives and see how wonderful your purity tastes! :) O amba, be our Thomas Aquinas!


Wow is right! Can't wait for the book. Are you taking pre-orders for signed copies?


Well, Meade, that's a loooooong way off. But you've got one, count on it.


Interestingly, reader_iam's comments and quotation of two passages are identical to what I came here to write. Those two are worthy of repeating since they so succinctly capture both the trap and the danger of channelled traditionalism.

"...the frame becomes the view. Fidelity to one way of looking becomes more important than seeing." amba, that is beautiful! This really says it all...

"The mutation that turns the benign 'This is right for me' into the malignant 'This is right for you' can infect any religion, including scientific secularism. Its root is denied doubt -- if everyone else doesn’t affirm that I’m right, I might be wrong ..." This really reduces ones adherence to religious, spiritual or secular tradition to what it must ultimately be: personal choice based on personal needs. The radicalism that can be generated out of this self-doubt is the underpinning of much of what we find frightening and threatening in today's world.



I think traditions are necessary for a sense of belonging to a community. I can understand why people belong to a church and accept its beliefs, even if the beliefs don't always seem rational. Following a tradition gives you a community, and it also gives you faith, and I think faith is the most powerful force there is.

Conflicts occur when two different faiths cannot both be true, such as Judaism and Christianity.
In early sections of the Old Testament, Yahweh is described as the best and most powerful god, and not until later do the prophets refer to him as the only real god, with all others being lifeless statues. If Yahweh is the only god, then only Judaism can be a valid relgion. This was, possibly, the beginning of Western religious intolerance. Polytheists always have room for more gods, and can easily assimilate foreign traditions.

Christianity continued the tradition of monotheistic intolerance by claiming Jesus was the only path to salvation.

Nowdays, people can follow different religious traditons without conflict, if their traditions involve generic mysticism, rather than specific gods. But even then we have the conflict between supernaturalism and scientific materialism. Atheists and believers can get very angry with each other, since both cannot be right.

Atheism is a faith, I think. It gives people a sense of intellectual superiority, and they don't have to be afraid of ghosts or worry about what happens after death. One of the central philosophical debates of our time is between atheism and supernaturalism, as expressed of course in the Intelligent Design controversy.

Anyway, I do think we can choose a tradition and follow it, knowing that it is only one way of looking at things.

Seth Chalmer

realpc, I must dispute your assertion that if "Yahweh" is the only God, then only Judaism can be valid. Some ancient rabbis of Talmudic times (who were not by any means polytheists!) interpreted certain Torah passages to mean that righteous people of other religions were in fact worshipping the One True God, even if they used other names.

Amba, my quibble is perfectly assuaged by that other passage. Consider me unbequibbled. I definitely agree that openness is all too rare, and that closed-minded faith is predominant. As to Rav Slifkin and the ridiculous banning of his books, I can only say that I think the majority of all people, in or out of traditions, do not like to be made to think. I also think that Rav Slifkin's brand of faith IS the purer form of Judaism, whereas those who censor him are the ones who have deviated from the path. Yet, as you say, the latter outnumber the former.

In any case, I am one of the throng eagerly awaiting this book!


I don't know which is more vivid, the notion of a "perfectly assuaged quibble" (one imagines some goofy-looking seabird grooming its rumpled feathers) or the word "unbequibbled." Either way, thanks.


"Yet it’s a rare mind, especially in the West, that can really hold both belief and openness. The tension between the two is always threatening to become a flat-out contradiction. The believer’s sincere interest in other views is often tinged with condescension or defensiveness, ready, if provoked, to break out in a fight.

I keep contemplating this excerpt and will continue you to do, as a number of things niggle at me.

First, I must say that I keep finding my brow furrowed at "belief" and "openness" presented as such a dichotomy. Perhaps I'm interpreting belief in the "small b" sense, while you're implying it in the "big B" sense? Otherwise, this strikes me as a bit of an artificial severing.

The other thing, for now, is that I don't see how "condescension or defensiveness, ready, if provoked, to break out in a fight" is inherently a larger potential pitfall for someone from a particular belief system than for a spiritual nomad. (It's important to keep in mind that this is in context of someone with a "sincere interest," which openness, to some degree.)

"[C]ondescension or defensiveness, ready, if provoked, to break out in a fight" is a human tendency--to a degree, a key component of the human condition even--and I don't see how being a spiritual nomad, in and of itself, exempts one from this. When I think of people I know or have known who would probably fall into the nomad category, I see a range of vulnerability to this human tendency, and the immunity seems more a factor of personality or character, as with any other group. (And, again like the other groups, immunity is rarer than susceptibility.)

It may very well be that I'm reading too much into this. But I'd be interested if you indeed mean to imply that so-called believers are more prone to condescension or defensivess, and why that's more a product of their faith-tradition-based belief than their personalities etc. etc. etc.


As I hope I made clear enough, I don't mean ALL believers, by any means. Anyone who is interested in and respectful of other avenues to the (one) truth, who even admits there are other legitimate avenues to the truth, isn't afflicted with this problem. The trouble is that so many people think their way of approaching the truth IS THE truth.

Look at the attacks, sort of, on what I said at Ales Rarus and Sago Boulevard. I don't subscribe to either of their belief systems, but I don't think they are wrong. They think I am very wrong, though. They certainly don't agree with each other about the specifics, but they agree that within one traditional religion or another is the ONLY legitimate way to approach the truth. Funny, that's not how Abraham or Jesus or Buddha approached the truth. (Jesus reportedly said during his life, "No one comes to the Father but through Me," he didn't say "No one comes to the Father but through some branch of the elaborate religion founded in my name.")

Somehow, if we're to survive, people are going to have to learn to give their heart and soul to a system without having to believe it's the absolute and final and one and only or even the best for everybody. There are certainly already people who can do that: you, and Seth, and David, and some of our friendly atheists around here.

Tom Strong

They certainly don't agree with each other about the specifics, but they agree that within one traditional religion or another is the ONLY legitimate way to approach the truth.

That belief, though, is far more quintessentially true of Islam and Christianity than of the world's other major religions. Which, combined with their concurrent belief in a literal Heaven and Hell, seems to me to be a major explainer of their success - at least, if "success" can be measured in number of adherents.

Which makes me think in turn that your book proposal is itself quintessentially Jewish, in its bold assertion of the right to wander, theologically and otherwise. Having been hectored, badgered, and sometimes persecuted by Christian and Islamic majorities for so long, a stubborn insistence on the value of religious disagreement strikes me as an eternal Jewish virtue. This also makes it distinct from Hinduism, another broadly tolerant religion, but tolerant in the sense that it claims all other religions are subsects of itself.

In saying this, I really don't mean to echo your brother's argument in picking a tradition to stick with. I guess I mean more cryptically that being a "spiritual nomad" may be a tradition unto itself, and one that is deeply intertwined with Judaism.


Yep, Tom -- you know whereof you speak -- I'm very aware that there's something inescapably Jewish about what I'm doing! :)



I found this refreshing. And Tom's observation sits with my own observations of Jewish practice and faith as well. Some of us are trying to find ways within our traditions that honour wandering and the journey over the arrival. This is essential to Benedictine practice at any rate.


And, as I basically said to Seth, I'll march with you, or stroll with you, any day, and hope to learn from you.

A China Teapot

"those who are living the questions"

Atheism isn't a faith, calling it a faith is a cheap jibe from those who fear that atheist might just be right.

Atheism gives us the freedom to ask all those really difficult questions which religion claims for itself.

Good luck with the book!!


Thanks! Whether it's a "faith" or not depends entirely on how you live it. Difficult questions are the point -- and not being sure we yet (through science) have final answers about the nature of things ("is that your final answer?").

Jack Whelan

I'm very sympathetic to the approach that you are taking, but I would hesitate to embrace the Cartesian bracketing of everything we thought we knew as tired certainties. You've read enough of my blog to know that I am hardly one for supporting what I describe as a zombie traditionalism, but for me that doesn't mean that what traditionalists understood to be real is not. . It's just that zombie traditionalists have the wrong relationship to tit. They worship the peanut shells of somebody who stayed a while for a snack and left. Nevertheless someone worth taking seriously was there, and the peanut shells are a clue. The shells have importance not in themselves but in what they point to.

Or to put it another way, the truth is a living dynamic evolving and like the shapeshifters we read about in kids fantasies, the form is only a temporary manifestation of the living thing that manifests as form. But there is something there, and it has a self-same identity; it's just that our mode of cognizing it has to be different than just taking the form for granted as its identity.

That sounds like gobbledegook, and probably is. I'll try to give the questiion some more thoughtful attention in a future post in my blog. But I guess that what I'm trying to say here is that the trick is to be rooted in something and at the same time not to idolize it. So being a spiritual nomad is one way to avoid idolatry, but it's also avoids the depth that can only come from being rooted and accepting the discipline and frustration that often comes with that. But then again, if being a nomad means following the trail of peanut shells, I'm all for it.



No, it's not gobbledygook. If you read my dialogue with Seth Chalmer at the end of that excerpt, you know I consider people who are rooted in a tradition, yet open, to be the very definition of good company, people to learn from and with.

It may be one day I'll admit the obvious, that I am rooted in the Jewish tradition. Actually I don't deny that at all, I just can't shut myself inside it. I don't want to have to keep the mitzvah of kashrut and so not be able to break bread with my non-Jewish friends, which really means not being able to have non-Jewish friends. And I don't want to be told I have to stay away from Jesus. If that makes me a dodger of salutary "discipline and frustration," guilty as charged.

Here's something else that will be worked into my book somewhere, that may explain where I'm coming from:

Spiritual nomads deliberately take their moral compass from all points of the compass. It’s both a matter of principle – defying the death-grip of the Tribe – and a matter of best practice: why not learn from the greats in every field? Each human tradition has its own genius, a theme it has developed to depths no other culture can touch. Native American culture, for instance, had a spiritual rapport with the natural world that we who live in central-heated homes and hunt by laptop will never come close to, yet can hold as an ideal. And everyone on earth, not only Christians, has been touched and changed by Jesus’ gospel of love.

But couldn’t you find all these same ideas within one tradition that’s all of a piece – the one you were born into, or the one that calls to you? Probably -- if you stretch and reinterpret that tradition, as people have always done to keep their religions from dying of irrelevance. For example, reverence for nature hasn’t historically been a big part of Christianity -- to put it mildly. As part of a fallen world that constantly threatens to seduce us away from God, nature was to be hated, not loved. But now there’s a growing evangelical Christian environmental movement, and theologians are finding Biblical support for the alternate view: nature is God’s beloved creation, and we are charged with her care.

But reinterpreting one tradition to keep it relevant is not the work “outsiders” feel they’re here to do. Their job is not to keep the forms of the past intact, but to be true to the emerging contours of the present and future. Assembling a code from parts of many traditions looks crazy and irresponsible until you realize that nomads are seeing a different whole. Traditionalists see the beautiful arc of their canon, like a bridge across time, being broken up and cobbled together with alien fragments into a mishmash, a chimera. Nomads see the invisible but equally beautiful shape of now coming into the light as the right pieces are found, one by one, and fitted into place. No single tradition matches that shape, because they were all cast in the mold of other times.

Melanie Stephan

Hi,This is an important message. Please read and pass it along. I have a message to tell you about
Revelation. The message is from God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost respectively sent in the Spring of 2006. It is about the meaning of First is Last and Last is First . The message is this:
In the morning I go to Heaven. In the afternoon I live my life. In the evening I die, death.
What does this mean? In other words this means Birth is Last and Last is Birth. To understand this don't think from point A to point B. Think of this as a continous circle of life. Birth, Life, Death, Birth. God also said that Judgment will be before Birth in Heaven. As birth on Earth is painful so will birth in Heaven. It is possible that this message was delivered by one of God's Angels. Yes, God has recently made contact and he sent a messenger. Spread this message along, just like a chain letter. Tell two people. Oh, another story that I thought was interesting. Did you know that Mike Douglas died on his Birthday. Melanie Stephan

Melanie Stephan

Hi Amba, While I am here I thought I should rock your world a little more. Jesus also told this person "Who Killed JFK". The person that shot the president was a policeman. He was hiding behind a tree as John Kennedy drove toward him. The Letters in the shooter name are F. Ritter. There is more than one person. So does this policeman go to hell? What if he comes forward and asks forgiveness, does God forgive him? Melanie Stephan

Melanie Stephan

One more thing. God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost made contact with someone that is outside of the Church. Jesus picked a regular person. Someone that does not read the bible or go to Church. That is right he didn't contact the Pope, a Priest or a nice Church Lady. You go figure that one out. Melanie Stephan

Melanie Stephan

You can read more of what God had to say during the month of Aug. 2007, on this website Non-Prophet, Are you going to Hell? Melanie also gives PROOF that God made contact on this site. The proof is in the story of 3 famous people Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin and Nancy Reagan. I hope you get it. God went to a lot of trouble to get his message out. He is also worried about all of his creations.

Melanie Stephan

God had this to say on Aug. 15, 2007: "We each die in succession, then we are born on the same day."


I thought you might be interested in the newly published Open Source Spirituality Manifesto if you have not seen it before. It is found at

Please copy and paste into your browser if the link doesn't work.

The manifesto is interesting in that it contains not only the history of open source spirituality, but a comprehensive discussion of what it is and as well as what are its key operational and administrative principles…




Thanks, Eva! I had never heard of this. Yet we're saying much the same thing. I guess that should not be surprising.

I'll put a live link here for others to follow since otherwise links get cut off by the comment form.

Open Source Spirituality Manifesto: "For its primary source code #1 the evolutionary, open source spirituality movement uses all the available sources from humanity’s great heritage of spiritual wisdom. This also includes current science related information . . ."

My post: "Like the spinning thigh bone that becomes a waltzing space station in the movie “2001,” “What?” and “How?” and “Why?” have become the Book of Genesis and the Hubble Telescope, the Rig Veda and the particle accelerator, the Origin of Species and Mitakuye oyasin (Lakota: “all my relatives”), the scientific method and zazen. These great documents and instruments, and thousands more, now belong to all of us.

While no one can encompass more than a tiny sliver of it all, no part of it is off limits to anyone on earth who dares to reach across fading boundaries; it’s our heritage.... Each of us personally, and all of us collectively, can search its entire database for insight and direction as we find our way through a radically reconfigured reality by maps we’re still drawing -- a work that, bit by bit, adds up to a new revelation."

Melanie Stephan

I am just amazed at the double talk here. The ablity to put two words together so eloguently that all meaning to what was said is lost. All that is left to the mind is, "What were they trying so hard to say"?

If you have something to say make it as simple and as short as possible. Make it brief. That is how God talks.

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