The Little Humanist Lexicon

Dr Johnson

Death: The point at which decision-making and its consequences cease, along with the opportunity to acquire virtue, act in conformity with reason or to invite blame for failing to do so. As a self-conscious and anticipated reality, death has a special purchase on human imagination because it gives rise to the concept of “mortality,” whose root mors defines humanity in a teleological way: being toward death.

Masquerade: (1) The celebration of the Eucharist by a faithless priest. (2) Neol., A performance of piety contrary to conscience and common sense, especially prevalent in political life.

Complacency: (1) The opposite of tranquility (qv), complacency is passivity in the face of choice rather than philosophical resignation to consequences over which we have no control. (2) A false sense of the security of the status quo, based on ignorance or willful misunderstanding of causes, situations and solutions. In this sense, especially applicable to fictional characters like Jay Gatsby and British royals in the twenty-first century.

Tranquility: (1) Philosophical satisfaction involving a balanced sense of the both the possibilities and limitations of existence.
(2) The opposite of wealth.

Indifference: (1) One of the primary attributes of a discriminating mind, consisting in the belief that some things, ideas, people and movements are not worth caring about. For the true humanist, indifference is related to objects and not categories: for example, relative indifference to possessions does not entail a positive assessment of poverty. Indifference to particular ethical systems does not require complete cynicism towards morality. (2) Not many things are worth doing at all, let alone worth doing well.

Reverence: (1) An attitude of respect that entails personal, social and environmental (natural) objects and is rooted in the evolutionary and developmental history of the human race. Reverence does not necessarily entail respect for the supra-personal or supernatural except as “images” of natural things, misconstrued as objects of devotion (qv). (2) A fundamental summary of humanist ethics (Schweitzer: Reverence for Life) based on the belief that “good consists in maintaining, assisting and enhancing life, and to destroy, to harm or to hinder life is evil.” Not to be confused with the Roman Catholic theological principle enunciated by Pope John Paul II in Evangelium vitae (the Gospel of Life).

Mystery: (1) The unexplained or unknown, not the misunderstood or hypothetical. (2) A natural sense of humility (qv) in the face of an intellectual horizon that can only be crossed, and then only imperfectly, by imagination. (3) A feeling that can range from elation to fear based on the quantum of discovery (fascinans: Otto), vastness (tremendum: Otto) or difficulty with which an event confronts us. (4) “Nostalgia for Paradise” (Eliade); “Choose Something Like a Star” (Frost).

Faith: In its non-theological sense, unsupported or provisional confidence in the reliability of unexamined propositions, states of affairs, or reports. In the epistemological sense, faith is a form of trust and as such not a step in a “reasoning process” grounded in the experimental world. It is different from “belief” in historical terms (e.g., Aquinas) as often being cited as a source of knowledge or wisdom and thus an alternative, or even superior, to such process.

Ethical Idealism: In the popular sense, the belief that we can construct noble and universally recognizable standards (norms) of behaviour based simply on rational principles. Modern discussion actually derives from ancient speculation, e.g., Cicero: “How are such virtues as generosity or love of country, or the desire to do good to your fellow man or gratuitude possible? All of them spring from the fact that we are by nature impelled to love one another.”

Altruism: An idea invented by Auguste Comte in the nineteenth century but anticipated in the ethical teaching of some religions, especially Christianity. Based on the belief that it is possible to intend to “do good” without promise of reward or fear of punishment, the concept properly belongs to evolutionary biology and behaviouralism rather than to theology. As an ethical ideal there is nothing in humanism that makes altruism an inappropriate symbol for personal conduct.

Revelation: (1) Metaphorically, the light of human reason: a capacity to know what is true. (2) Theol., The archaic doctrine that a divine being speaks through agents (prophets, seers, holy men, etc.) in order to communicate his will, laws, or intentions (“divine” or “particular” revelation); in this form, often associated with sacred books and practices.

Falsifiability: (1) A quality of statements of fact valued by reasonable women and men; (2) As a rule of thumb, a way of testing whether an event, entity or state of being existing in nature is generally true by limiting the domain of reference to what can be finitely observed to refute it. As an instance, the statement “God exists” is unfalsifiable (not false) because it cannot be refuted through finite observation or experimentation. (Cf. Verification)

Inspiration: That point in solving an equation, writing a sonnet, concluding an experiment, contemplating a difficult passage in philosophy, or listening to Beethoven’s Pastoral when the real purpose of being human becomes momentarily obvious.

Curiosity: (1) A healthy mental disposition towards discovery, satisfaction and understanding when accompanied by temperance (qv) but the source of uncertain consequences when pursued as mere experimentation. (2) Often used synonymously with “care” (worry) as a killer of cats.

Wit: (1) Knowing < wissen, archaically “having your wit(s) about you,” but more generally, exercising your intellectual powers. It can be found in wordplay, japes, quips, and off-the-cuff remarks. Never in a memorized joke, which is its opposite. (2) An intuitive perception that most apparently serious events, such as illness, stardom, pregnancy, or election to high office, are temporal and dull.

Ingenuity: (1) To create ethical or pragmatic solutions to situations that have arisen for an individual without a precedent in experience or learning. (2) Clever Clogs.

E.g., Theseus

Empathy: The ability to derive from the joy or suffering of another a lesson for the self that results in a passionate response.

Hope: A fantasy permitted the humanist when combined with realism (qv), but never to be allowed when defined as “faith” or “chance.” (2) An Essay on Man, Epistle I, 1733.

Hedonism: (1) Physical, intellectual and spiritual contentment pursued as harmonious ends in their own right; (2) A joyous utilitarianism: “An introspective attitude to life based on taking pleasure yourself and pleasuring others, without harming yourself or anyone else.” (Michael Onfray)

Piety: (1) A completely secular term meaning loyalty or devout attention to responsibility, thus devotion to family, or to a vocation, or to the state. (2) As appropriated in philosophy and religion, doing what the gods desire (e.g., Euthyphro 12d, where it is defined as “a kind of justice.”)

Honesty: (1) Purity (qv) of intention as expressed in thought and action; the desire to do what love requires. (2) “Honesty has such scent; fresh-mown grass and rose perfume, fused with a warm Summer’s breeze.” (Fresh Cement, Dan Brown)

Indecision: (1) As a temporary state, the only defensible position for an intelligent woman or man confronted with the facticity of existence. It is not the same as “Choice” (qv) which is an action rather than a state of mind. It is not the same as “free will,” which applies to conditions rather to virtue itself. (2) As a chronic state of mind, a crippling inability to tell truth from fiction and to equate reality with physical options.


Exuberance: (1) An intense response to beauty in nature, and its reflection in art, music, literature, and, especially, conversation; (2) Wordsworth, Prelude (Book XI, ll. 258-278).

Pleasure: (1) Affirmation of the sublimely physical but not of the merely temporal, experimental, or casual. (2) A mental state; (3) Illusory happiness based on physical intensity.

Zeal: To desire what is good, to need what is good, and to be passionate about getting what is good: as such a determination to separate what is a true object of desire and what is not.

Cleansing; a desire for good

Heroism: A fiction invented by glorifiers of war, religion, and politics to ensure that practitioners of those professions would seem important to women and men of real accomplishment.

Education: (1) A formal route to learning in certain branches of knowledge, but not to wisdom. (2) The path that leads away from credulity.

Mindfulness: To be aware that you are not the steward of a world made by God or the gods; that stupidity always has consequences; and that the cure for stupidity is to learn all you can about the world.

Godliness: Acceptance of the principle that the responsibility for the choices you make cannot be appealed to a higher court.

Self-reliance: Learning to acquire in maturity a child’s outspokenness and indifference to criticism.

Gratitude: A sense of privilege, based on those moments when feeling the right way and doing the right thing coincide in action.

Apathy. The gift of being unmoved by stupidity, unneeded humour, or emotional excess.


Reticence: Practice in discerning those occasions when to act would mean to act unwisely.

Skepticism: (1)The intellectual tendency to regard all beliefs as provisional and all provisions as dubious. (2) A putative source of wisdom when not practiced to excess.

Concern: A virtue whose extreme form is piety and intrusiveness, but in its moderate form results in a desire to act toward the welfare of others, not only the self.

Pride: (1) The knowledge that fate is created in the image of free decisions and actions. (2) (Hist.) A theological vice thought to be an affront to the status of a divine being; formerly reserved for fallen angels and Greek tragic heroes.


Despair: The appropriate attitude toward the educational systems of the world as they relate to the acquisition of knowledge and the encouragement of curiosity.

Individualism: (1) The exhilaration of being certain for the first time that there are not now, and never have been, heroes. (2) Freedom from imitation.

Culture: (1) The opposite of what passes for political idealism, progress, innovation, entertainment, patriotism, and popular music. (2) A stirring of the soul (qv).

Reading: (1) The defining activity, together with writing, for which the human person is morally accountable to his soul. (2) Learning.

Manipulation: (1) Not to be confused with “teaching,” those strategies through which a wise man or woman persuades others that knowledge is superior to ignorance. (2) Republic 514A-520A.

Intolerance: (1) A position toward honesty, learning, and wisdom in which proponents of democracy and populism are exposed as Troglodytes and jackals. (2) Irascibility.

Cupid and Psyche

Soul: A mythical but iconic state of human personhood in which the self as a whole recognizes and reacts to the stimulation of excellence in any domain but the sexual.

Reason: Like the soul, a mythical but essential aspect of intelligence that points us toward truth and trains us to despise falsehood in every area of life.

Knowledge: (1) The only worthy object of gain because it cannot be commodified; (2) What happens to facts when they are understood.

Scientific Spirit: Used in moderation, a concern for fact and a desire for truth; used to excess, a narrowing of vision that excludes beauty, mystery and imagination.

Goodness: (1) A quality naturally present in most wolves, rarely evidenced in humans without adequate education in virtue. (2) Coll. Doing what you are told under fear of threat or punishment.

Solitude: The opposite of privacy, which is merely attitudinal; an ability to find pleasure in thinking without the distraction of conversation.

Happiness: (1) A temporary and inexplicable sensation of well-being; (2) (Arist.) The result of reflection and self-awareness, often associated with excellence in the arts, sciences or ethical practice; (3) (Cyn.) Delusion.

Betty Crocker

Simone de Beauvoir

Criticality: Contempt for what is not deserving of praise or attention, thus especially applicable to American political life, Roman Catholic religious reform, new fields of study and theory introduced to university curricula after 1949, and all attempts to restore society to an imaginary status quo ante pre-1949.

Savoir-faire: Every humanist should know how to do something without its seeming too much trouble, hence with a kind of effortlessness that takes hold only in the competent individual. Cases in point are: making a normal martini, starting a car in the Canadian winter, knowing by heart at least one monologue from Shakespeare, eating a boiled egg without demolishing the shell, and telling the Mormon missionary at the door that he needs to consider what he’ll be doing in thirty years.

Temperance: Giving the appearance that you are cool, steady and unaffected by a comment, injustice or an unfortunate event when you are secretly plotting your revenge on the perpetrator.

Conservatism: (1) A sense of history that reminds the educated woman and man that not everything has been wrong or we would still be marvelling that rock is harder than water. (2) Consideration of the ideas and values of the past which, while free of idolatry, does not lead us to believe that the future is the only reality.

Henry Adams

Liberalism: (1) Freedom from the inherited superstitions of the past, and at its best a willingness to take risks and accept truths that may have been falsehoods before they were subjected to scrutiny. (2) The ability to tolerate what is new without glorifying it as an end in itself.

52 thoughts on “The Little Humanist Lexicon

  1. Despair indeed – from despair to the soul. I know it’s ‘little’ but what about honesty? ‘Honesty is generally less profitable than dishonesty’, but that profit is generally for the dishonest – where is their responsibility? And profit isn’t necessarily good and generally it’s bad … Other than a ‘noble lie’ (and not many are) a humanist virtue is honesty. Surely. Honesty in criticism (intolerance) and responsible honesty.

  2. Lovely, progressive virtues always have an advantage over divine laws.

    Knowledge is the only worthy object of gain and Despair sadly, is the appropriate attitude toward the educational systems of the world as they relate to the acquisition of knowledge and the encouragement of curiosity. Despair also for their failure to nurture individualism in a world that worships heros and desires to imitate.

    However, Goodness is mythical, it only exists in animals, especially cats, dogs, as well as birds and dolphins.

  3. Reticence: Practice in discerning those occasions when to act would mean to act unwisely.

    Oh those fungi mentalitus. Yet sometimes this one is overindulged. Those occasions aren’t adequately discerned and failure to act at all sometimes, is both irresponsible, lacking in kind or wise. Reticence can be selfish as can failure to speak ones mind, when the humanist forgets the estimable virtue of ‘self reliance’, learning to acquire in maturity a child’s outspokenness and indifference to criticism… No words are like false ones and “not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil” so he said… and ‘what I say is true’ – without leading to the dissolving of beauty, mystery or imagination. Heaven forbid…

  4. Temperance: it’s advantageous to appear to be apathetic… aloof.

    Must one demolish the shell when eating a boiled egg or not demolish it ? (“with demolishing the shell”). One does not necessarily ever partake in demolishing an egg at all, boiled scrambled or fried (perish the fried!) … but one should know how to peel an orange without demolishing the skin.

  5. “True is it that we have seen better days” As You Like it: 2.7
    “They say miracles are past” All ‘s Well…: 2.3
    “Can one desire too much of a good thing?” As You Like It: 4.1 (no)
    “The inaudible and noiseless foot of Time” All’s Well…:5.3

    “That ends this strange eventful history … sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything”: As…: 2.7

    we all know that old wine is better than new …. and thinking of eggs: ‘The ability to tolerate what is new without glorifying it as an end in itself’. The souffle what’s bin raisin in the oven will appear all fluffy and high but it’s doomed to sink. Especially the one so intended – the one made with chocolate and prunes soaked in cognac – and it never tastes like it seems – it’s full of air (or it was)…”The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool”: As You Like It: 5.1

  6. Zelos and delos what’s in a letter? A Catholic? The Greek derivative of zeal is in fact zelos (with a zeta not a delta).

    To desire the good is good and natural. To determine what is not good is natural. Isn’t zeal in the sense of desire for good, the same as passion? And can’t we have both lustful and loving passion as well as altruistic passion (as supposedly separated by Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol. I-II:28:4 who talks about amor concupiscentiae, which is self-regarding, and the amor amicitiae, which is altruistic) Zeal, passion enthusiasm for all things good, both necessary and desirable…. sorry your entry just has me kerfuddled. Too delphic.

    I think ‘honesty’ and ‘clarity’ could be worthy of inclusion in this little progressive lexicon.

      • Even wif my enormouth, thympazy for da way de Griks uthed thetas, zetas and deltas I find that etymology frankly thilly (minbe zat ith), tho I have corrected it. Sank you. It ith humiliating to be bethted by a woman but thtrangely thatizfying at the thame time.

      • Iz gotta ate inge zampane gluzz ta machyur enormouth. Uze buttabee a good humanist intell meven to fly across the ocean tya.

  7. Not far from where I’m lost here in Sherwood Forest, Shakespeare wrote his prose, in which dialect, ‘propose’ rhomed with ‘lose’. Out of context of a speech therefore, this rhyme reflects zeal, enthusiasm, for all that one does. Without such ‘passion’ all purpose is lost… ‘What to ourselvs in passion we propose, The passion ending, doth the purpose lose..’ saith the Player King (3.2)

  8. Pleasure: the ancipation, foreknowledge of : All days are nights to see till I see thee, And nights bright days when dreams do show thee to me. (Sonnet XLIII)

  9. What are words worth? Meanderings of a ramshackle rambler … A catholic? A Congregation of Faul Insolence? Whatever France had to do with it, we be now free, more bold (kia kaha)

    Exhuberance: Def. (1) … oh yes yes, shivers down the spine and tears, no crocodile nears. Waikaremoana et la mer, Sistine Chapel to Impressionists to The Scream, Elgar to Nora, Pooh to Shakes, and especially – especially, honey…

  10. But to be frank, and give it thee again.
    And yet I wish but for the thing I have:
    My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
    My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
    The more I have, for both are infinite.


  11. indecision: very accurate definitions – the second of course is not a rational state of being in which a sensible rationalist should find themselves except maybe extremely temporarily due to perhaps something so unique and wonderful happening it doesn’t seem real. Listen to Juliet. Juliet speaks for me.

  12. Indecision – consider Auden :

    “When he looked the cave in the eye,
    Had a moment of doubt.”

    Yet despite momentary apprehension, he entered and, with Iolaus, and Parentheses following, saved Melina, and the young writer, Parentheses, got the girl (and the kitten?)

  13. ah well I haven’t read the other one and his code anyway. I thought it was a nice little pom, and fitting, though with an ambiguous title – nothing is more honest than nature.

      • The more it
        The more it
        The more it

        And Nobody
        How cold my
        Are Growing.

  14. Oh Happy Hedonism: ‘Physical, intellectual and spiritual contentment pursued as harmonius (sic) ends in their own right’. Yes! Celebrate and pursue excellence, joie de vivre, bon vivant, without guilt or the impression it might be wrong – a positive virtue indeed, Onfray’s caution assumed of course. We can find pleasure and enjoy nature’s offerings like the sea and the seasons and the mountains too, music, art and literature, being useful to others, enjoying our work and pursuing goals, good eating, drinking and conversation, physical pursuits and love making too. Everything in moderation, not too excessive, nothing to hurt anyone or anything. Live today well and tomorrow will be good. ‘To everything there is a season’ .. ‘a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life’ (eccles).

    It was very important to define piety, so well, in a secular way methinks.

  15. Hope, from Pope – that was very interesting. He seems to be recognising our limited human knowledge and the fact we aren’t the centre of the universe … only part of the chain … therefore hope in Christian salvation would be bonkers and vain. But his meaning is all a bit elusive to me.

    I think humanistic hope relies on rational faith in ourselves, eg the hope that the apple will taste good is based on one’s experience of previous indulgence in such fruit, the hope the wine will please the palate is based on one’s previous pleasures with similar vintages, and the hope a relationship will work, is based on knowledge of oneself, one’s own life experience and what one shares with the partner in past experience, passions and goals. Therefore humanistic hope is more foreknowledge. Anyway I like Emily:

    “Hope” is the thing with feathers
    That perches in the soul
    And sings the tune without the words
    And never stops at all,

    And sweetest in the gale is heard;
    And sore must be the storm
    That could abash the little bird
    That kept so many warm.

    I’ve heard it in the chillest land
    And on the strangest sea,
    Yet never, in extremity,
    It asked a crumb of me.

  16. I can’t memorise jokes. I always forget the punchline. Odd really. I can remember big long poms – especially when they rhyme. Anyway pre packed jokes can’t be funny otherwise I’d remember the point or more specifically, the punch. Looking forward to the next addition, I suppose it’s patience. That’ll learn me. What about kindness? The decent one as opposed to the overbearing one. But what really fascinates me is the origin of things -I didn’t know that ‘knowing’ was the origin of wit, or rather wissen. This of course reflects my own ‘unknowing’, something I wish I had less of.

  17. ‘pregnancy, or election to high office, are temporal and dull’ – deja vu – I’m confused! Was ‘wit’ rearranged in lexiconic order or was definition second snipped from something else and wedged into ‘wit’? Was definition second there last night when I read it? This confusion, this unknowing, is kerfuddlin’, like some ‘midsummer madness’

  18. Well that inspired me to rush off and grab it – it’s now singing on the CD… I adore the Pastoral – definitely his best – from the flowing water in the cellos to the birdsong in the wind section. He even impresses the warmth in the sunlight and the fierceness in the storm. You can see the rolling countryside. I used to play it on my (old fashioned) walkman on my long cycling trips up country, down under. Couldn’t hear the trucks rolling up behind me though, carried away in my own little world. I also played it in the school orchestra, having the privilege of those glorious cello parts where we just sailed off into the clouds or indulged in the picky pizzicato. I love Beethoven’s 6th, it is passionate, romantic, and absolutely the essence of life.

    and whenever did curiosity kill a cat? It’s killed many of us quite viciously at times. I love the blue eyed Siamese…

  19. We’ve seen the environment destruction, the rape of nature, the disrespect for the planet on which we exist … and calamity of calamities, now the murder of Beethoven’s best. This boyish conductor was probably bottle fed – he thinks it’s the score of the bumblebee flying, and he’s bouncing up and down, pounding the life out of the Pastoral. Where Beethoven evoked the serenity of nature, this young gentle (?) man mutilates it, beating it dead with his baton. That’ll learn me for looking at youtube.

  20. ‘[T]here is nothing in humanism that makes altruism an inappropriate symbol for personal conduct.’

    But altruism is central to humanism!! ‘Vivre pour altrui.’ Whether or not it is a natural human instinct, we cannot be certain. It is suggested that selfishness is more advantageous to humanity in its struggle for survival. However while selfishness may reap temporary rewards the broader consequences lead to broken down human societies. Altruism leads to bonding and is a constructive method for societies. If we always desire reward for doing good deeds, we haven’t much hope. Universalist assumptions about human nature are probably wrong… As George Eliot humorously but realistically reflects society in Middlemarch, a vast panorama of life in a provincial Midlands town, she depicts altruism, social reform, and romantic love struggling to survive against snobbery, economic oppression, and self-indulgence. Her enthusiasm for altruism, is expressed in a character such as Dorothea, and her zeal for humanity, permeates the novel as it is evident that trust/faith is never more true than when it makes us kinder, more humane and sympathetic. I love it – one of my favourite novels.

    Albert Schweitzer’s compares his approach to life with the wave, which ‘cannot exist for itself, but is ever a part of the heaving surface of the ocean, so must I never live my life for itself, but always in the experience which is going on around me.’ (Civilization and Ethics (1949), p. 321). And he says also, ‘A man is ethical only when life, as such, is sacred to him, and that of plants and animals as that of his fellow men, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help …. The ethic of Reverence for Life, therefore, comprehends within itself everything that can be described as love, devotion, and sympathy whether in suffering, joy, or effort.’ (Out of My Life and Thought, An Autobiography (1933), 188).

    And as altrusim is central to humanism and intricately related to trust in humanity, what is being human without faith in humanity? We are compelled to love each other, and what is love without trust? A human life not worth living. Juliet sharply rebukes the nurse for this speech: ‘There’s no trust, No faith, no honesty in men; all perjured, All forsworn, all naught, all dissemblers. Ah, where’s my man? give me some aqua vitae: These griefs, these woes, these sorrows make me old. Shame come to Romeo!’ (RJ 3.2)
    but the Countess advises her son Bertram: ‘Love all, trust a few, Do wrong to none (All’s Well that Ends Well 1.1).

    If you don’t have faith in humanity, trust those whom you love, and desire to do good without reward, then life, quite frankly, is worthless.

  21. Without mystery there is no inspiration for art, music or science. In the Albert Einstein sense, while he confessed he sometimes faced mystery with ‘great fear’, ‘The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious … He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind.’ The World As I See It, (1949).

  22. ‘Reverence’ I like very much. Reverence for the natural world as well as humanity, as reflected in Schweitzer’s Reverence for Life. ‘The great fault of all ethics hitherto has been that they believed themselves to have to deal only with the relations of man to man. In reality, however, the question is what is his attitude to the world and all life that comes within his reach. (Out of My Life and Thought, An Autobiography, 1933, 188) And it is important to distinguish this Reverence from the Pope’s theological principle which is wrapped up in the ‘Gospel of Life’, in which ‘reverence’ for life is almost contemptuous of ordinary human lives. Restriction of scientific inquiry and prohibition of stem cell research, so called ‘pro-life’ stances on abortion and contraception and prevention of euthanasia, concepts which prolong and create lives that are not worth living, are included in the ‘Gospel of Life’. All this ‘reverence’ is in the name of ‘God’ whose greatness is revealed in the blood of his ‘son’. Nature is compromised and human life is sacrificed and both are held in contempt. This is not what Schweitzer had in mind when he wrote ‘The philosophy of Reverence for Life takes the world as it is. And the world means the horrible in the glorious, the meaningless in the fullness of meaning, the sorrowful in the joyful. … We are no longer obliged to derive our ethical worldview from knowledge of the universe. … It is not through knowledge, but through experience of the world that we are brought in to relationship with it. (Out of My Life and Thought).

  23. Anything that’s worth doing, and that’s not much, must be worth doing well, otherwise it can’t be worth doing at all. But is anything worth doing anyway? When sadness descends, this question may arise. On the other hand sadness can inspire deeper reflection and creative ideas. And sometimes it just inspires and creates greater sadness…

    The true humanist practises beneficence and endorses and values the ‘golden rule’. The true humanist does not treat others as they do not wish to be treated, they treat others as they wish to be treated themselves. The golden rule is attributed to historical thinkers and prophets from Confucius to Epictetus to Jesus. And naturally, Shakespeare echoes ‘Love all, trust a few. Do wrong to none.’ (AW1.1)

    It’s interesting that the NZ Humanist Pamphlet suggests that while humanism isn’t religious, (unlike the British and American humanists), a humanist doesn’t have to be atheistic or agnostic. It doesn’t discuss atheism or agnosticism at all. Instead, it discusses things like the golden rule … how many of the world’s self identifying ‘humanists’, particularly atheist ones, actually behave like humanists to other humans? How many treat others as they wish to be treated – with honesty, not deception, kindness not cruelty… a humanist is not cynical about the golden rule.

  24. Life is full of sadness, c’est la vie. We cannot avoid sadness, it’s a human natural experience, the bits in between happiness when other values are imbalanced. It is a time to absorb, a time of creativity or destruction. Literature is full of it, ‘Days of absence, sad and dreary, Clothed in sorrow’s dark array, Days of absence, I am weary; She I love is far away (RJ2.2) and poor kind romantic and tragic Antonio pines ‘ ‘I hold the world but as a world, Gratiano, A stage where every man must play a part, And mine is a sad one’ (MoV1.1). However true humanists should be aware of and take responsibility for their actions and words. Human beings have the potential to cause others sadness, despair and hurt with our selfishness, dishonesty, unkindness, and the like… Humanists care for the well being and happiness of others. x

  25. This Lovely Little Living Lexicon of Humanist Values … to be indulged with plenty of cakes and overflowing ale… This is invaluable for living a good life well – or Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous : there shall be no more cakes and ale? (TN3.2) Not at all, this is the way of the good life, the only life, our one chance to be good, to cherish happiness and help others live life well and fully too. Drink, love and be merry. And not at all like a monk, to quote a Heffalump, (who was licking his jaws), “Very good honey this, I don’t know when I’ve tasted better’. Very good values these, the list grows like a rose.

    On indifference again, especially indifference to noisy movements embarking on virtually immoral crusades, AA Milne’s reaction to the riff raff was to write, “Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” Just ignore the Crusading Fierce Insolents…

  26. I think I consider my increasing complacency in some situations over which I am resigned to having really no control, to be realistic but not particularly virtuous, and I probably value it far too selfishly. It is, I think, slightly related to my own increasingly cynical indifference to some things. Such complacency avoids personal distress over what I consider to be worthless.

    Very Poohish – tranquility, and recognising our own limitations and potential, means that we can decide what is important to ensure our lives are well lived (like eating honey) … and aversion to wealth – excess and superfluity and what we don’t need, is a much better recipe for peace. ‘A happy life consists of tranquility of mind’, said Cicero.

    whoops: a balanced sense of the both the possibilities thethesicsicx

  27. … there are however times when I cannot be either complacent or tranquil despite the objects of my lack of complacency and tranquility being completely out of my control. Maybe this is unwise, and unrealistic, but it’s absolutely unavoidable logical emotional reaction to situations which I feel could perhaps be so easily resolved. In times like these I am desirous of, and so ready for, peaceful islands and meeting of souls.


  28. Serendipitously, Evelyn Waugh, Decline and Fall, wrote, ‘There is a species of person called a ‘Modern Churchman’ who draws the full salary of a beneficed clergyman and need not commit himself to any religious belief’. The masquerader…


  29. I liked it when it was just virtues, then values, and now the Loverly Living Little Lexicon has evolved and expanded into humanist words. It grows, like Pooh’s toes – do bears have toes?

  30. And Nobody
    How cold my
    Are Growing.

    Of course. Values is pretentious. Virtues, meh. Terms, too philosophical Words, that’s the ticker.

    • To kiss thy toes… Tiddley tsk – Pooh pommed that pom above, an ode to the snow, short and sweet like Piglet perhaps – Pooh says ‘It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”‘

      Values was a political party. When I was 8 years old and we had to state our ambitions I said I wanted to be a Values Party Politician – they changed their name long ago to Green. Short and sweet like lunch. And swim.


  31. well yes, I suppose that’s nicely precise and concise with no unnecessary words. Later it can become the Longer Little Humanist Lexicon perhaps.

  32. eek how morbidly true is death. Live well, less to regret, to die well.
    And everyone knows:
    To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
    Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
    To the last syllable of recorded time;
    And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
    The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
    Life’s but a walking shadow (Macbeth 5.5)
    The end, is the end. Make good for our children while we can…
    But Winnie the Pooh lives on and on and on and on and on tiddley-ze-pon.


  33. Perhaps spirituality: along the lines of – the desire for, the imagination of, and the creation of the good, true and the beautiful, as well as the recognition of, and feeling of the good, true and the beautiful. Aspiring to the good, true and the beautiful and being inspired by it too.

  34. In true Scipionic spirit, He departs … Could I but have the magic to rearrange the little lexicon’s words, methinks I would initial it with ‘zeal’ as so lusciously illuminated from thy zelphic soul, or play a poem as a prelude, an expression of the spirit:

    … haunted by numberless islands, and many a Danaan shore,
    Where Time would surely forget us, and Sorrow come near us no more;
    Soon far from the rose and the lily, and fret of the flames would we be,
    Were we only white birds, my beloved, buoyed out on the foam of the sea!


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