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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Peter Hoh

Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz, said many times in my hearing that (paraphrasing) the left has made "choice" a god, in ways that go far beyond abortion. That is, choice in matters of morality and conduct, putting the self at the center of the universe and making one's own whim its law, limited only by a narrow conception of "as long as it doesn't hurt anybody."

Apply this to economics, and I think it describes the rhetoric that conservatives use to describe capitalism.

Of course, one needs to remember that conservatives* often use that rhetoric to enable crony capitalism, which bears only a superficial relationship to capitalism.

*Yes, many liberal politicians support, enable, and benefit from crony capitalism just as much. They don't use Adam Smith as rhetorical cover, however.


Great point, and one which I have made before too (this was during the Terri Schiavo case):

a strange thought. Liberals favor a Darwinian bioethics; conservatives favor a Darwinian economics. Each vocally decries the other's Darwinism and insists on the moral imperative to protect the weak -- as defined economically by liberals and biologically by conservatives.

Also wrote in comments the other night about the politics of personal destruction:

It's politics based on Vince Lombardi's "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."

Saddest is the savage joy people take in it. What amuses me is how Darwinian, survival-of-the-fittest it is, from people who pride themselves on their Christianity and despise Darwin!

Tom Strong

Excellent post. But come on: Peter Singer isn't a "nutjob." He's got some opinions that make most of us uneasy, but nearly everything he argues is well-reasoned, and he's quite open to argument and debate. He's not exactly lobbying congress to make infant exposure legal, nor is he encouraging others to do so. Even his longtime foils, such as Harriet McBryde Johnson, acknowledge this.

And neither he nor Jeffrey Sachs are "awful." Sachs is an economics genius who happens to be overly naive about the power of do-goodery; unlike Singer, he's dangerous in that he's actually trying to make things happen, but he's not all that effective. If they're the worst people in your tribe, you've got it good.


It's not that reverence for nature hasn't been a part of Christianity, it's that it's been a minority report--to borrow a phrase often used when thinking about Jewish rabbinic wrangling about the Torah.

Anyone familiar with the various Christian calendars of saints, both east and west, will be shocked to discover many a desert elder or hermit preaching to animals, becoming friends with nature, even being saved by animals and learning something of God from fellow creatures. My favs include St. Anthony, St. Seraphim, St. David of Wales, and St. Benedict. It's not just St. Francis of Assisi. To reinterpret, to "pass on" is the heart of being within a living tradition. And sometimes that requires going deeper into the heart of something. Even being a nomad or in the wilderness, at least in Judaism and Christianity, is a part of the tradition necessary from time to time to break down idols. To enter the wilderness, to wander is "traditional". And necessary when the facile is preferred over entering the deep.

As I noted this morning about hunting, I was taught that if you kill, you eat. And I would add as a Christian, if you kill, you remember and give thanks. The "how" we treat animals we raise to eat is an important question, and one our "Christian" society in its concern for consumption largely fails to ask. The challenge of Jewish tradition on this score has been helpful in my thinking.

One of the things about Christian teaching is that we do something not simply because we get what we give, but we do something because at heart we are not ours to begin with, so our lives are lived out of response to this overall Generosity. After all, doing good by neighbor, loving one's enemy may get you killed.

As to choice, choice is really too often a middle-class focus. Frankly, poor folks in inner-city Oakland don't have a lot of options with regard to where to send their children. And the wealthy portions of Oakland broke away because they didn't want their tax dollars going to the poorer portions. I want to ask those who have more choices, how do we choose to treat our neighbors who have fewer options? But then being "all about me" is not simply a liberal matter; it's the zeitgeist of this country at this time.

Tom Strong

The traditionalists are very right about one thing: when in doubt, go back. Find a precedent. But you don't have to go back where they tell you to. There's ample precedent for Appiah's cosmopolitanism, for instance, in the Stoicism of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, or the skepticism of Socrates, the Buddhists, and Montaigne.

Tom Strong

Sorry, I just can't stop:

The argument that most "traditionalists" make is, in essence, a Darwinian argument. Because their particular tradition has outlasted most or all others in its field, it must ipso facto be the Truth!

But as Christopher points out - sub-traditions long seen as antiquated or obsolete can see a revival, if cared for properly.


Peter Singer is awful. And a hypocrite to boot. He advocates giving away everything inessential that you've got (or selling it and sending the money to unfortunates in Africa or elsewhere), but as far as I know he has not done so.

I've helped a wealthy friend write a foundation mission statement. So I've read a great deal about the naïveté and wastefulness of just throwing money at other people's problems, which is often more about making the donors feel better than about effectively helping to make lives better. It also feeds local corruption and ends up enriching kleptocrats.

Tom Strong

As I recall, Jesus himself suggested the same thing, yet most Christians do not do it, and there are over a billion of them. Singer at least claims to give over 10% of his income to charity, as many Christians do. So he's hardly alone in either hypocrisy or generosity.

The thing about Singer is: so many people call him a monster, and so few bother to actually consider or argue with his ideas (Michael Pollan is a welcome exception in this regard) I would consider this approach extremely immoderate and all too typical of destructive politics. Frankly, I'm surprised you're so vehement in your dislike of him. Singer is known to be, at the very least, extraordinarily polite and reasonable in debate.

As for Sachs, sure. But it's not like he's unaware of such concerns; he's addressed them many times. His take is that a massive infusion of capital would ultimately improve government in Africa, even if much of it lined the pockets of already-wealthy dictators. As I said, this might make him naive; it doesn't make him awful.

(As a side note, I spent considerable effort the past few days defending Sarah Palin from attacks made by people I love considerably. So I consider this to be equal time, so to speak).


I think it's a bit more complicated than that. The story to which Tom refers is Jesus and the Rich Young Man. Jesus is addressing a particular person and the radicality of the Gospel to that person's situation. The text can be read in an universalizing way, that all should sell everything...the Roman Catholic Church for one rejected this reading in radical versions of Franciscanism.

But this illustrates what happens when we take one incident with Jesus and try to universalize without getting to the heart of the text (the principle), and frankly, if read in that way would be irresponsible for most to do so.

I am reminded of a 19th century Russian staretz, or hermit/wilderness elder, who was approached by a man who had left his wife and children to follow the way of the staretz. The elder told the man to return to his wife and children, because for this man, attending to them was his proper path and a response to God in Christ.

The "all must sell everything" reading is what I call a liberal "flatminded literalist" reading that is everybit as simplistic as fundamentalist readings of other biblical texts. I've heard the same done by liberals to brutalize Jesus's saying that seem to dismiss family to suggest that marriage and family don't matter to God.

The whole point of texts such as these to which Tom refers is that our entirety of life should be given to God, what the elders call detachment, not that Christians should always and everywhere sell everything...

RW Rogers

Christopher, when did the wealthy portion of Oakland break away from the poor one? I have friends who teach there, and others who live there, and I haven't heard any mention of it.

Tom Strong


Can't a fellow make a simple, reductionist point on this blog without drawing eloquent, erudite responses out of the ether?

Glad to know the storm has been downgraded.

RW Rogers

As a side note, I spent considerable effort the past few days defending Sarah Palin from attacks made by people I love considerably. So I consider this to be equal time, so to speak

LOL! "You deserve a break today, so get up and get away to..." wherever and whatever you damn well please.


It is harder being a spiritual nomad, or outsider, but I think you have made a good case for it. For me, the essence of being an outsider is anti-authoritarianism. In other words, I don't usually feel like believing things just because some human being said it's true. That's why I can't belong to any one tradition.

Maybe it's a little harder to find guidance without a strict tradition to follow. Sometimes I try to find the rules of conduct in nature, and I think our human moralities are variations of the inborn moral codes found in all social species. In order to live happily in a group, you must be considerate of others, and it's more or less that simple. For any group to survive, most of its members have to understand this. Social groups are naturally trusting, and therefore can be sometimes taken advantage of by the immoral minority.

I don't think there is any necessary connection between religion and morality, any more than politics and religion are necessarily connected. Most of morality is just common sense -- don't have sex with your friend's wife or he will stop being your friend, and all your other friends will stop trusting you.

But there are also moral dilemmas and subtleties that we all face, and no tradition can help us with these. Very often we have to weigh priorities. Is it moral for a woman to work and put her children in daycare? There is nothing in any bible to guide us with these dilemmas.

So being an outsider is not so much of a disadvantage -- ordinary morality is mostly simple common sense, and moral dilemmas are beyond the scope of traditional moral codes.


Christopher, your comments are so refreshing they're almost thirst-quenching.

It's that they break out of both ruts, which my brain is so very tired of, yet which keep being relentlessly ground deeper. It's so good to get "off the beaten path." Beaten to death.


I realize I ought to add the paradox that I'm a patriotic cosmopolitan. One of the things I love most about this country is that the whole world is here, with a set of values that (if we observe them) enable us to live together, and an amazing cultural gumbo that has gained from every contribution.


Amba: A person who denies that there are any moral absolutes is a RELATIVIST. One who acknowledges moral absolutes, but recognizes categorical imperatives can clash and different answers can sometimes be reached while applying the same moral criteria, I would call a REALIST. All the reverence for life in Christian and Jewish traditions has not led to condemnation of those who draw lots on a sinking lifeboat - or of those who choose not to.

Christopher and Tom: My reading of The story of Jesus and the rich young man is that the first moral principal of Christianity is absolute allegiance to the will of God. Jesus was neither a Democrat nor a Republican - he was a monarchist. The problem for the rich young man was that he would not subordinate everything to God. It is not all of our wealth that is demanded of each of us, but a disposition to give up all of whatever we cherish if called upon to do so.

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