By Ted L. Cox, Ph.D.
Dateline: June 30, 2018
I. What Ever Happened to Negotiation?
The recent revelations of extensive sexual harassment in the entertainment industry (even a “genius”[i] such as Bill Cosby or Garrison Keillor!) have shocked me into some sociological soul-searching about the reasons behind these crimes against our society. As members of this (U.S.) society, we all bear some responsibility when something this pathological and extensive is revealed. We would like to distance ourselves, of course, blame the perpetrators as sick and separate from us. It’s like trying to blame slavery on the slave traders. No, we are all in this together; we are all complicit. We just need to understand the basic connections. This, I will attempt to do in what follows.
In brief, the basic problem seems to be that we have failed to create a culture that confronts the basic difficulties of simply being human. Life is difficult, for everyone. Martin Luther King, Jr. put his finger on the problem in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”: “fear-drenched communities.”[ii] Put the other way around, we are spoiled. We have managed to create entertainment-cultures so efficient at denying life’s fears and difficulties, and even truth in general, that young people especially, are led to believe that life will be fun and easy. They expect to be happy, important and powerful, if not rich and famous also.
A very popular novel for my generation was “The Good Earth” by Pearl Buck; it is a good example of this kind of misleading story-line.[iii] It might have been titled: “In Praise of Individuation” (see below). When the book was published in the U.S. in 1931, we were at the end of the process of breaking away from the traditional and rural extended family; cohesive and supportive, but authoritarian, with restrictive norms and values that limited the options and choices of young people, especially women. The community cohesion that existed then was celebrated in the traditional barn-raising where everyone in the community came together to help a neighbor erect a new barn. At least, this is the idealized version of community cohesion. Family feuds were also prevalent.
The concept of individuation as used herein, refers to a continuum of degrees of integration of the individual in community. We have moved slowly toward more independence from the group. While this has advantages in terms of creativity, it also fosters instability. My focus here is on how this “new-found” individual liberty fosters the pursuit of individual fantasies of happiness, power and importance at the expense of connections with others and the common good.
Though Buck’s novel is about a Chinese family, it celebrates and leads all of us to expect a different future, at least for men; independence followed by a brief hardship[iv] in life, then individual good luck, happiness, importance and financial fortunes. Men may even become like gods; above the law. They will, even in their dotage, have a sweet, young, pretty, devoted slave-girl to sleep beside them every night.[v] And we don’t have to worry about the anger of a wife; we will be able to mollify her anger with the magic of commodities. To the extent that family members beyond the nuclear family appear in the novel (the vestiges of the traditional extended family) they are pictured mostly as liabilities, not assets. Even the sons and wife are distant from the father/head of the house. He is closest to a mentally defective daughter; no “danger” of intimacy, negotiation and compromise there. There is no risk to his authority with her or with his companion/slave-girl. But the title “The Good Earth” is a reflection of our beneficent rural origins and the son’s decision to sell the farm represents our desertion of that comfortable, or at least stable, rural life style and acceptance of the movement toward urban cultures and more individuation. However, the implication of this process of individuation is that we will sacrifice family and community cohesion.
The message of “The Good Earth” is clear; selfish individuation is the way to success, happiness and ultimate importance. And fathers will even be able to win in the inevitable conflict with the younger generation. Cohesion, intimacy, negotiation, compromise and spiritual values …. be damned.
There are quotation marks around “reality” in this essay in order to signify our tenuous definition/understanding of this term.[vi]
Our society can’t seem to accept as sufficient the “reality” of life; the limited but precious connections with other people; the joys and pleasures that are available to us during our brief visit to this planet. This planet, where life itself is in a precarious balance with the elements around us. We are taught to expect much more.[vii] We spend enormous resources on distracting ourselves from “reality” and cheering up one another. We seem to be fixated (with much persuasion by advertising) on the fantasy that we will somehow achieve the feeling of godliness we experienced as infants when caregivers were perceived as omnipotent and omniscient and that Buck describes in “The Good Earth”.
And this greedy lust for power, importance and happiness interferes with negotiation in general, because to negotiate is to recognize that the other has rights and that you yourself are not omnipotent. And in the current frantic and selfish turmoil of our body politic, in our infantile-like temper-tantrums, we separate ourselves from others (except for sycophants) in order to pursue the illusions of grandeur promised by our society and advertising. Thus we miss out on the opportunities for intimate connections with others like negotiation and compromise that might make life worthwhile. We are all on this “earth-ship” together hurtling through a mysterious, silent storm and if our ship “goes down”, we will all go down with it; luxury bunkers not-withstanding.
The cultural trend that Buck describes in her novel 87 years ago, has come full circle. We are so individuated and fragmented (personally and socially) that negotiation and compromise have almost vanished from our lexicon. We are tormented by the sense we are missing-out on something, but we look to the current popular cultural pathways of more individual happiness, power, importance and entertainment for solutions. The lure of the remembered “group” gratifications of infancy[viii] becomes more popular and stronger as our individual efforts at gratification continue to fail. Our “individuated chickens” so to speak, have “come home to roost.”
Powerful evidence of this unconscious yearning for a return to infancy has recently come to light in the form of a popular style of “Age-Regression”. Apparently, yet another subset of human behavior is “coming out of the closet”. The acronym signifying this group is ABDL (Adult Baby Diaper Lovers) typified by a store near Chicago named Tykables. There you can make an appointment to visit and be encouraged to wear a diaper, suck on a pacifier and play in a big play-pen with adult-sized toys free of stigma. Some are sexually aroused by the experience. This behavior is known in the medical community as Adult Baby Syndrome or Paraphilic infantilism. In extreme examples of this syndrome, adults even piss and shit in their diapers. The message seems to be: “When the promised adult-satisfactions of culture are denied or unavailable, go back to infancy when life was simple, satisfying, and you were not alone. You may have a fantasy-mother and father for a while and even be able to start your life over again and make it come out differently.” We are assisted in this endeavor by a selective memory that deletes the bad parts of the past and retains only the good memories.
II. The Risks and Advantages of Boredom
The sequence of our uncomfortable feelings is that boredom comes first and creates a mental space in which we are tempted to think about important but sad things like our insignificance, guilt, greed, confusion, loneliness, fear and death. These feelings come to the surface when we are bored because they were already in our consciousness (or at least unconscious mind) but we were too “busy and important” to acknowledge them. This experience of boredom followed by discomfort scares us but we (especially in the U.S.) are discouraged from expressing fear or sadness to other people. It is not an acceptable part of the “reality” being promoted and required by our society. We are discouraged from discussing this within a community setting which might lead to cultural and social adjustments
On the contrary, we must all be brave and happy at all times. Accordingly, we have become rather expert at avoiding boredom in order to avoid having to think about life’s difficulties. And our prime method of distracting ourselves today is through the entertainment industry
Staying very busy and important and/or drugs and alcohol, greed and violence, are the common tools we utilize to make and maintain this separation from others. Violence in general could even be interpreted as our attempt to prove that we are not lonely; that we don’t need other people; another reaction formation: “I don’t need anybody, you see; I even hate and persecute other people.” I would quibble with Adam Phillips when he says that “Our wishes are unmarried to the world.”[ix] I think our wishes represent our attempt to distance ourselves from the world. Accordingly, we maintain a vital relationship (albeit a negative one) with the world.
But when we cut ourselves off from others and the earth, we then lose the stabilizing support and pleasure of sharing life’s joys and pains. We build “castles-in-the-sky” to live in but at some level we know we have abandoned the more honest and healthy “reality-struggle” of being simply one human connected to many others on a mysterious journey through life, time and space. We all participate and share in a glorious mystery.
Lacking the skills necessary to achieve intimacy and being afraid of the exposure of our pretended importance and power in negotiations, we pursue fantasies of intimacy in which there is no risk of humiliation or guilt. We establish patterns of behavior that mimic intimacy but have little or no risk of a deeper involvement, like watching pornography and masturbating or using sex-toys and sex-dolls and sexual harassment, rape and other forms of usually sexual, violence.
To separate ourselves off and drown the consequent sorrows in entertainment and other distractions such as sexual harassments and drugs, is increasingly the choice being made. This leads to increasing individuation, social and personal disintegration (dis-integrity) and fragmentation and diminished negotiation and compromise, which in turn undermines cohesion and agreement about meaning in society.
III. Our Struggles Against “Reality”
This understanding has been around for a long time. In the 17th Century, Blaise Pascal wrote in “Pensees”: “All men’s [and women’s] miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone”. And in our own century, William Deresiewicz wrote: “Society is a conspiracy to keep itself from the truth.”[x] The implication of Pascal’s observation is that if we could sit in a quiet room alone we would then create the circumstances for boredom and so would be able to contemplate the “reality” of our fears of guilt, insignificance, confusion, loneliness and death. This would provide the opportunity to negotiate and design a way of life and a culture that acknowledges and addresses these fears. This would allow us to decrease our constant, miserable, and sometimes self-destructive and heinous, struggles to escape from boredom and “reality”. We would be able to understand and confront the tyranny of busyness, wars, persecutions, greed and harassments that permeate our world. We would then be able to reduce the intensity of our struggles against “reality” and use these energies for constructive purposes.
We want to “prove” that not only are we not bored, scared, confused, lonely and guilty but rather, very important, busy, brave, powerful, fast and favored by the Gods and fate and the stars. “Just look at how fast I can drive my powerful new car and, and, look at all my certificates and medals and guns. I’m very important and powerful and I’m not lonely, afraid or confused at all.”[xi]
To provide further proof of our status among the elect, many will also harass, abuse and persecute others within their own society (racism, misogyny, etc.) and even their own family. By this performance, they hope to demonstrate that they have arrived at the ultimate stage of their importance and “invulnerability”. They hope to prove to others (and themselves) that they have been able to achieve the cultural promises of power, importance and happiness and return to their time of imagined godliness, first experienced as infantile narcissism.
But the latest innovation in this long history of truth-hiding and “self-inflation” in the U.S. is the creation of a society-wide happiness movement that is both imposed and artificial. We are quite creative when it comes to pretending to escape from our fears. A recently completed study shows that we even prefer falsehoods to truth on twitter and other social media.[xii] Distraction from our fears is even more important than truth. We (in the U.S.) even elected a president because he exhibits a power that distracts us from our anxieties of insignificance; he keeps us busy and demonstrates his disdain for “truth”.
IV. The Happiness Epidemic
We are in the midst of an “epidemic” of happiness. But it is a happiness imposed from the top down; it does not originate from the “man in the street.” Sad people are made to feel like mal-contents or even traitors and encouraged to go on medication or “have a drink” or escape through some kind of sexual adventure. Our advertising is replete with suggestions that some combination of sex and commodities will somehow rescue us from boredom, loneliness and fear and bring us power, importance and happiness.
The ads that are most effective at arresting our attention are those that are not explicitly sexual but rather suggest an anonymous, mysterious and illicit rendezvous or possession with sexual overtones.[xiii]
The average American watches four and a half hours of TV a day and is exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 ads each day. We are “afloat” in advertising and Hollywood story-lines which, without our realizing it, largely determine the kind of culture we live in and the kind of people we become.[xiv] By the time children become adults they are thoroughly indoctrinated with the expectation of happiness, power and importance and the denial of fear that is expected by our culture. This is basic to our misconception of what a life has to offer and underlies much of the anger, greed, drugs, corruption and violence of later years.
As things stand now, we still struggle, aided and abetted by advertising and popular story lines, to deny tragedy and to recapture the past. We fixate on that magical feeling of happiness, importance and power that we “remember” feeling and sharing with parents.
For a cultural comparison: Story books for American children emphasize happiness while Chinese storybooks emphasize purpose.[xv]
We are in trouble with “reality” because our basic expectations about life are based on false premises. For, when we’re not being entertained and tranquilized, we’re being reassured by leaders that they will keep us safe and share their power with us and that we will soon be able to recapture the bliss and importance of infancy and attain the promised goals of culture just as they have, and as promulgated by advertising. Plus more recently, it’s OK to hate your neighbors (again, the violence trend).
But we live in a constant war zone of fake promises and realistic fears such as: It is still impossible to predict anyone’s future with precision, including when, where and how, we and those we love, will die.[xvi] But few of us even notice these alternate facts, much less find them worthy of consideration. This is the reason why the recent suicides of celebrities Kate Spate and Anthony Bourdain are so upsetting to society. It gives the lie to the promise of happiness with fame and fortune. There were an average of 123 suicides every day in the U.S. in 2016. Why else would we be surprised and upset?
“Society is a conspiracy to keep itself from the truth.” Or, “the function of culture is to kill curiosity.”[xvii] We all struggle valiantly to deny the scary aspects of life as is required by the happiness movement and our culture in general. This struggle is now a taken-for-granted part of our culture.[xviii]
In order to help us maintain and propagate the happiness myth in our culture we in the U.S. have created a $573 billion dollar a year (as of 2014) entertainment and media market. This represents about 30% of the worldwide revenue. This is, in one sense, a reflection of our desperation to avoid “reality”. It also reveals our extraordinary commitment to persuading everyone to act happy, or at least to be entertained and/or distracted and/or tranquilized. It has also been called an attempt to tranquilize society with trivia in order that people will not recognize their own exploitation and then complain and be less compliant.
This is not to argue that we would be genuinely happy if we could all express our honest feelings and there was no exploitation or entertainment. Tragedies, conflicts and ambiguities are all natural parts of life, just as beauty, joy, growth and harmony are; and this also sets limits on our capacity to create utopias. The exploitation and emphasis on individuation is an additional burden for those who feel obligated to maintain it, and for those who are exploited by it, which is nearly everyone. The trend toward ever more individuation is one reason we are losing the ability to negotiate, which requires meaningful connections.
But it is not the only problem we have to face. Some entertainment, story-telling, temporary escape in some form or other (even temporary visits to our “castles-in-the-sky”), may be necessary in order to “take a break from it all”; to promote good health and keep our spirits up. We will have to improve the quality of our stories/propaganda, to something that emphasizes things like community, purpose, cooperation, the common good, integrity and spirituality rather than just individual happiness, importance and power. My argument here is that we have gone over-board on the individual happiness/power/importance/entertainment/escape endeavor[xix] to the extent that it has become a dangerous liability. It has become a serious impediment to group cohesion and negotiation; to solving critical problems on our earth. We need to develop something better and be weaned off of our “toxic culture”.
The “genius” entertainment Kings, are so good at appearing happy, powerful and important and keeping us distracted, that they are no longer vulnerable to community pressures of conformity.
“Success” in negotiation, accomplishes a “meeting of minds,” not just bodies. One problem is our lust for power. For if we engage in good-faith negotiations, it means we are not omnipotent. Our desire seems to be rather to dictate terms to others who are all inferior to us. Our desire to return to the time of infantile omnipotence must be diminished in order to conduct successful negotiations. We must have respect for others in order to effect successful compromise.
The entertainers are not susceptible to the constraints of society. But they can only do a superior job of entertaining others because they operate from the safety of their illusory “castles-in-the-sky.” Their fears and sadness are “safely” out of consciousness. But when they feel the urge, or compulsion, to commit sexual harassments that seem to promise an escape from their repressed but still painful isolation from others, there are no ties to community or society to hinder their behavior.
This seems to be a general trend among individuals in our society and is facilitated by the trend toward individuation. But it is exaggerated and perfected in the realm of the expert paid performers. Don Trump is a good example but he plays more on our need for an angry importance than happiness, suggesting a trend in the U.S. toward a lust for power, anger, greed and violence, and away from a nearly bankrupt promise and pursuit of happiness.
Sexual harassments can also be conceived of as an outburst of desperate anger. In a sense, our top entertainers are fulfilling the roles assigned to them by society with the expectation of achieving happiness, power and importance. This is the cultural promise that the “happy” U.S. society makes to successful people in implicit, and often explicit (financial) terms. So when entertainers are successful in allaying our fears but experience a lack of complete satisfaction themselves, they become angry (a defense against other feelings). They feel they have been betrayed. And so they “attack” in raw sexual terms (the terms they are most familiar with) whatever convenient, vulnerable scapegoat appeals to them.
To shed more light on the social dynamics of sexual harassment, in the realm of general human experience, sex has become the symbol par excellence for solving our desperate loneliness. Joining, merging with, or abusing others physically has become our “answer.” Currently, affection and spirituality, negotiation and compromise in a romantic relationship, have been deleted from this “cure-equation.” And yet, we still expect the same gratifying results in this spiritually impoverished and individuated phase of our cultural evolution; or perhaps somehow, a return to infancy in that encounter. Spiritual connections always involve deeper levels of feeling. But most of us have sealed ourselves off from those deeper levels in order to avoid conflicts between “reality” and our illusions of happiness, importance and power. In order to avoid these deeper levels of feeling we have come to accept as normal a cold, raw sex, as a desperate substitute for intimacy, whether it be sexual harassment or some version of mixed gender or same gender physical “hook-up”.
Rape is the extreme example wherein hate and sex become intertwined. It is a misplaced expectation, of course, but from the standpoint of one completely isolated within a “castle-in-the-sky” (but unconsciously desperately lonely, angry and starved for affection), the expectation takes on the aura of a fetish and magical solution.
King-entertainer Bill Cosby provides a contemporary and convenient example. He apparently has rendezvous with women in his “castle-in-the-sky-home” and in order to make sure that he can fantasize without interruption, he drugs them.
So, we are all complicit in these sexual crimes against our society because we all crave escape from our fears and pursue an artificial happiness, power and importance. Therefore, we reward these “genius” members of society who become isolated (separate from their communities and fears) and adept at providing entertainment and distractions. We also have been, until now, experts at ignoring and forgiving them for their sexual harassments (because of their “genius” status).
The entertainers are responding to our needs. That’s why we are all accomplices in these social crimes of sexual harassment. If we could “bite the bullet” and face up to our boredom and fears; our inevitable bouts of sadness (in ourselves and in others), we would then not require such an enormous entertainment industry that rewards isolated, sick and “dishonest” entertainers. They are dishonest because they conceal the truth from us; which is what we are paying them to do for us. But they must become distorted people in order to be experts at carrying out this function. A part of this distortion results in psychologically damaging sexual harassment to others in vulnerable positions.
We persuade entertainers to take up a life of falsehood and isolation with the expectation that this will rescue or at least tranquilize society; a different kind of patriotism and a different kind of psychological damage. We might call it an entertainment psychosis that society demands of some of its members. But we all participate in it.
In conclusion, we are all “scared shitless”, guilty, greedy, lonely, angry and pretending to be otherwise. The anger is an attempt to cover over the first four. This is our effort to deny and escape those issues rather than to address them directly. We must isolate ourselves in order to pursue our fantasies of power, importance and happiness. Close friends and lovers might contradict our fantasies. But without the support of others, our fantasies will always lack veracity and we will always be lonely. This is the current conundrum of our culture. These fantasies were promised to us by our culture and we are desperate to achieve them. The guilt is a good sign; it represents our connections with others; our yearning to help them and failure to accomplish the help they need. When a society makes the impossible promise of individual happiness, power and importance to its constituents, and pounds that message in daily with advertising and entertainment story-lines, there will be consequences.
Our strategies for this futile pursuit have evolved over time to include a long list including: a lust for power as demonstrated by exploitation of others including sexual harassment and rape and excessive use of drugs and alcohol; “TV-hypnosis”/entertainment and age-regression to the delightful feelings of our diapered infancy.
But perhaps the wearing of diapers is a more honest manifestation of the “cover story” for loneliness and fear. For other people, who rant and rave like an infant with a temper tantrum but without the diapers, that would demonstrate their awareness of their fantasy/age-regression. And the frustration resulting from this failure to experience an ideal happiness, power and importance, continues to multiply society’s ills:
Our dilemma is quite simple, really. We all live together on a fragile planet with an uncertain future. It behooves us to reign-in our egotistical and “unrealistic” fantasies and cooperate with each other. This is now necessary so that we can find the best approaches to prolonging life here. The formula for achieving this is negotiation and compromise. Unfortunately, many have found that by individuating and being angry and violent, they can allay their fears and concentrate on personal power,[xx] happiness and importance now (as promised by our culture). This performance helps to convince others and themselves of the veracity of their act and gives them a temporary good feeling. But it must be constantly renewed because it is only a performance; the “high” quickly fades away. Deep inside, we are all drenched in fear and loneliness in spite of our happy faces and acts of courage and importance.
None of this should be interpreted as an argument to let entertainers “off the hook” for their sexual harassments. If anything, it should encourage us to be more vigilant in our enforcement of laws and standards of common decency, in order to halt this slide toward social chaos.
“[Men and women] build their cultures by huddling together, nervously loquacious at the edge of an abyss”.[xxi] Kenneth Burke published this in 1935. We are now closer than ever to that abyss. Our current situation seems to be more like that of a fear-drenched, lonely, greedy and angry population, huddled in silent, stubborn, individual, solitude; angrily cursing others because they refuse to acknowledge the power and importance we believe we have; or at least deserve.
Much of this explanation is my hypothesis based on decades as a sociologist and psychoanalyst attempting to improve our understanding of bizarre human behavior. More importantly, we need to design and implement a different culture.
[i] Genius is used here in the sense referenced by Megan Garber in “The World Still Spins Around Male Genius”, published in The Atlantic Magazine Weekday email newsletter on May 9, 2018. We are shocked by the disclosure of male celebrities/famous artists because we idolize them as supernatural people.
[ii] 1963: Last paragraph
[iii] Published in 1931; Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1932; Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938; best-selling novel in U.S. 1931 and 1932.
[iv] Hardship in this case is a symbol for the birth trauma which then allows us to expect the return of what came after that, i.e., the feeling of infantile godliness and narcissism; when we felt we were the center of the (continued) universe. and our caregivers were omnipotent and omniscient. It is often perceived as a doorway to power; initiations in general and “river baptisms” attempt to replicate this experience of “rebirth”.
[v] One reason men prefer younger women is that they are trying to replicate their relationship with their mother at the time when they were born.
[vi] Franklyn Foer in the 5/18 issue of The Atlantic Magazine, quotes Vladimir Nabokov: “Reality is one of the few words that means nothing without quotation marks”.
[vii] It is sad to say, but one reason we inculcate our children with “great expectations” is that it makes them optimistic and therefore pleasant to have around; easier to manage and they don’t challenge our fantasies of self-importance. We can even surmise that we have found a way to make entertainers out of our children; never mind that they will pay a high price in disappointment, grief and anger later in life.
[viii] We start off life joined to a mother and this feeling of union persists for some time after birth.
[ix] “Longing” Edited by Jean Petrucelli (2006:41)
[x] “Excellent Sheep” by Wm. Deresiewicz (2014:80)
[xi] Our basic confusion is: “How could it be possible that someone as important and god-like as me could just die and be forgotten with the rest?” Religion supplies the “answer”.
[xii] “The spread of true and false news online” by Soroush Vosough, Deb Roy and Sinan Aral in the 09 March 2018 issue of Science, Vol. 359 pp. 1146-1151
[xiii] The popular song Laura, from the 1945 movie by the same name, exemplifies the allure of the anonymous object/rendezvous which translates unconsciously into “if the objects involved in a triste are anonymous, no one can be blamed or get caught or be punished. The object could even be one’s parent or child.”
[xiv] And I doubt that the writers of the ads and story-lines are consciously aware of these unconscious dynamics; they only know what causes people to purchase commodities; what works in the market place but not why. Although, the information is out there, starting with Edward Bernays (nephew of Sigmund Freud) and his books “Crystallizing Public Opinion” (1923) and “Propaganda” (1928).
[xv] Harper’s Magazine, March 2018, first of Findings, pg. 96.
[xvi] “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-glee”. Including our schemes of power and immortality. From “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest With the Plough, November, 1785” by Robert Burns.
[xvii] “The Beast in the Nursery” by Adam Phillips (2010:22).
[xviii] The use of the term “bath room” instead of toilet is just one example of the way we avoid “reality”.
[xix] The average daily time spent watching television in the U.S. of four and a half hours, is the highest in the world.
[xx] The power-illusion goes something like this: “If I have enough power I will control those around me and the future and life and death.”
[xxi] From “Permanence and Change” by Kenneth Burke (1935:272)
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Ted L. Cox is an 87 year old sociologist and psychoanalyst (retired) who until 2018 divided his time between Park Slope, Brooklyn, N.Y. and Sainte Agathe des Monts, Quebec, Canada. In 2018 he married his Quebecois partner and applied for a residency in Canada. He was born in an upper middle class family in Albany, Georgia (1930), grew up (partly) in New Orleans but, a chronic misfit, has moved sporadically northward ever since; often changing careers and partners. His odyssey might be called a search for truth. In Quebec he lives near ski slopes, cross-country trails, hiking/snow-shoeing trails and a 200 kilometer bike path. When winter ice melts, numerous lakes and streams beckon for canoeing. He and his wife spend some time in nature almost every day. He is the author most recently of The Real Enemy Is Reality: A Challenge for us All.