Blowin’ In The Wind – Bob Dylan

Blowin’ In The Wind

Bob Dylan / 2:46

Musician: Bob Dylan: vocals, guitar, harmonica

Recording Studio: Columbia Recording Studios / Studio A, New York: July 9, 1962

As surprising as it may seem, Dylan wrote “Blowin’ in the Wind” in just ten minutes on April 16, 1962. He was in a coffee shop, the Commons, opposite the Gaslight, the mythical center of the folk scene in the heart of Greenwich Village, where not only Dylan but also Richie Havens, Jose Feliciano, and Bruce Springsteen, among others, got their start. In 2004, when CBS newsman Ed Bradley asked Dylan about the speed with which he wrote, Dylan replied honestly: “It came from… that wellspring of creativity.”  To Scorsese, he also said that regardless of where he was—in the subway, a coffee shop, “sometimes talking to someone”—he could be hit by inspiration. It was an exceptional period, and many years later he tried in vain to re-create it.

During the months following its release, “Blowin’ in the Wind” was at the heart of a controversy that had nothing to do with music. A high school student from Millburn, New Jersey, named Lorre Wyatt claimed to be the real composer of the song, which he said he sold for a thousand dollars. Several students even stated they heard Wyatt singing “Blowin’ in the Wind” before the singles by Peter, Paul and Mary and Dylan came out. This claim was taken very seriously, and Newsweek magazine repeated it in November 1963. It was only in 1974 that Lorre Wyatt admitted having lied to impress the other members of his group, the Millburnaires.

Starting with the New World Singers and Peter, Paul and Mary, hundreds of artists inserted “Blowin’ in the Wind” into their repertoire. These include Marlene Dietrich (1963), Joan Baez (1963), Marianne Faithfull (1964), Sam Cooke (1964), and Stevie Wonder (who reached tenth place on the charts), as well as Judy Collins, Elvis Presley, Neil Young, and Ziggy Marley.

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, and how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they’re forever banned?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

Yes, and how many years must a mountain exist
Before it is washed to the sea?
And how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

Yes, and how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
And how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, and how many deaths will it take ’til he knows
That too many people have died?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

SourceBob Dylan: All The Songs

Daniel Dennett from Freedom Evolves

“Daniel Dennett, in Freedom Evolves, writes that it makes no difference whether our moral impulses are evolved or learned. “[T]he theory that explains morality … should be neutral with regard to whether our moral attitudes, habits, preferences, and proclivities are a product of genes or cultures.” I think this is true because culture itself is ultimately a product of evolution. Whether you think “instinct” is purely biological or a learned habit, or a combination of the two, it comes down to the same goal: the minimization of harm to biological organisms.”
~ Dan Barker, Life Driven Purpose, pg 66

The Necessity of Secularism

“The rise and fall of religious beliefs is difficult to predict with assurance. It’s doubtful whether many Romans in the early second century would have predicted the rise of Christianity, whether many Europeans in the early sixteenth century would have predicted the Reformation and the subsequent rejection of Catholicism by much of the continent, whether many Americans in the early twentieth century would have foreseen the simultaneous decline of mainstream Protestant denominations and the rise of Protestant fundamentalism, or whether many in the West anticipated the recent spike in atheists, agnostics, and other nonbelievers. Perhaps over the next one hundred years, some faith will sweep aside other beliefs; perhaps religious beliefs, in general, will decline precipitously and all but disappear. Either outcome is possible.

However, a much more likely outcome is a significant increase in the number of nonbelievers, accompanied by a decrease, but not a collapse, in the number of believers. This increase could come fairly quickly if nonbelievers reach a critical mass, which would allow for greater acceptance and the sense among many nominal believers that it’s no longer socially injurious to acknowledge that one is an atheist or agnostic. The big break in the United States will come if and when a number of politicians who are open atheists and nominal believers to come out of the closet. But even if there is an exponential increase in the number of nonbelievers, it’s improbable that religion will be completely abandoned. Religious belief is resilient. Some debate whether religious belief has a genetic basis, but regardless of whether it has a biological foundation, it’s undeniable it has deep cultural and psychological roots. Beliefs that have had a firm grip on the human psyche for millennia are unlikely to vanish in a century.”
~ Ron Lindsay, (The Necessity of Secularism, pgs 15-16)

Witch Trials Of Europe

Valais: France/Switzerland, 1428–1447

Often considered to be the first in Europe, the Valais trials began in the French-speaking southern region of Valais and spread to German-speaking Wallis. The trials claimed at least 367 victims (the actual toll may be higher), with just as many men as women killed. It all began in August 1428, when delegates from seven different districts demanded investigations into any accused witches or sorcerers. They established a rule that if any single person was accused of witchcraft three times, they were to be arrested. Once arrested, there was no way to escape; those that confessed were burned at the stake and those who didn’t were tortured until they did confess. While the trials were poorly documented, there are a few records that remain from the local clerk of the court, Johannes Fründ.

Trier: Germany, 1581–1593

One of the largest witch trials in European history started in the rural diocese of Trier in 1581, eventually reaching the city itself six years later. The motives behind this massive witch-purging were likely political. Wanting to prove his loyalty to the Jesuits, the newly-appointed Archbishop Johann von Schöneburg ordered a purge of three groups of nonconformists: Protestants, Jews and witches. Very few of those accused of witchcraft were ever released. Between 1587 and 1593, 368 of the accused from 22 villages were burned alive, almost all confessing under torture. Almost a third of the victims were nobility or held positions in the government or local administration, including judges, burgermeisters, councilors, canons and parish priests.

North Berwick: Scotland, 1590–1592

When King James VI of Scotland sailed to Copenhagen to marry Princess Anne of Denmark, a severe coastal storm forced him to land in Norway and take refuge for several weeks. The storm was blamed on witchcraft, which brewed the king’s obsession with eliminating the practice. He became so obsessed he even penned a book, Daemonologie, endorsing witch hunting. The first to fall victim was Gilly Duncan. Accused of using healing cures and subject to prolonged torture, Duncan confessed to having a contract with the devil. She was burned at the stake for her crime. In total, 70 people were accused of witchcraft, including several members of Scottish nobility, although the actual number of those killed remains unknown. These events had such a profound effect that it’s believed Shakespeare adapted parts of the trial—including the torture rituals—into “Macbeth.” The North Berwick witch trials were the first major trials in Scotland, but many followed, claiming an estimated total of 3,000-4,000 lives between 1560 and 1707.

Fulda: Germany, 1603–1606

After returning from a 20-year exile from his post, Balthasar von Dernbach, the prince-abbot of the Fulda monastery, joined the ongoing efforts of the Catholic Counter-Reformation to thwart perceived religious liberalism. Dernbach launched an aggressive investigation into witchcraft and sorcery to purge the city of Fulda of “improper” things. The most well-known victim was a pregnant woman named Merga Bien. Accused of murdering her second husband, their children and a family member of her husband’s employer, she was tortured and forced to confess. Found guilty, Bien was burned at the stake. The witch hunts were stopped upon the death of Dernbach in 1605.

Pendle: England, 1612–1634

Taking place in Pendle Hill—a poor, lawless region in Lancashire, England, where begging and magical healing were common—these trials were among the most famous and well-documented of the 17th century. The previous decades had been rife with a fear of witchcraft, which was only magnified by the obsession of James VI (now also King James I of England) in purging his lands of witches and sorcerers. Required to report anyone who refused to attend the English Church or take communion, the local Justice of the Peace, Roger Nowell, was also tasked with investigating claims of witchcraft. One such claim was made by a local Halifax peddler who accused a local woman, Alizon Device, of giving him a stroke through witchcraft. Device freely confessed to the crime and implicated many of her family members. Other locals implicated their families, only later to be accused themselves. Altogether, 12 were accused of using witchcraft to murder 10 people. Eleven of the accused went to trial—nine women and two men—and 10 were found guilty and hanged.

Torsåker: Sweden, 1674–1675

The largest witch trial in Swedish history—and one of the largest mass killings of witches in recorded history—saw 71 accused witches, including 65 females, or roughly one-fifth of all women in the region, beheaded and burned in a single day. The bloodshed began when minister Laurentius Christophori Hornæus of Ytterlännäs was instructed to investigate witchcraft within his parish. He ordered two young boys to stand at the doors and identify witches by the invisible devil’s mark on their forehead as they walked into church. Much to the dismay of Hornæus, one of the boys identified the minister’s wife, a situation that was quickly hushed up. The accused were suspected of abducting children and taking them to Satan’s Sabbath (eight festivals celebrated by Wiccans and Neopagans) at Blockula (a meadow popular in Swedish folklore where the devil held court). Relying mostly on children, testimonies were extracted through whippings, forced bathing in frozen lakes or by threats to bake the children in an oven. There were very few records of these trials, and the primary source was recorded 60 years after their conclusion by the grandson of minister Hornæus, who recorded his grandmother’s eyewitness account to the proceedings. The trials were thought to have shaky legitimacy since the commission and local courts failed to report the death sentences to a higher court before carrying them out.

Sources:, Cultures of Witchcraft, The Witch Hunts


John Muir

John Muir was born April 21, 1838 also known as “John of the Mountains”, was an American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, glaciologist and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books describing his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada, have been read by millions. His activism has helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and many other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is a prominent American conservation organization. The 211-mile (340 km) John Muir Trail, a hiking trail in the Sierra Nevada, was named in his honor. Other such places include Muir Woods National Monument, Muir Beach, John Muir College, Mount Muir, Camp Muir and Muir Glacier. In Scotland, the John Muir Way, a 130-mile-long route, was named in honor of him.

In his later life, Muir devoted most of his time to the preservation of the Western forests. He petitioned the U.S. Congress for the National Park bill that was passed in 1890, establishing Yosemite National Park. The spiritual quality and enthusiasm toward nature expressed in his writings has inspired readers, including presidents and congressmen, to take action to help preserve large nature areas. Today Muir is referred to as the “Father of the National Parks” and the National Park Service has produced a short documentary about his life.

John Muir has been considered “an inspiration to both Scots and Americans”. Muir’s biographer, Steven J. Holmes, believes that Muir has become “one of the patron saints of twentieth-century American environmental activity,” both political and recreational. As a result, his writings are commonly discussed in books and journals, and he is often quoted by nature photographers such as Ansel Adams. “Muir has profoundly shaped the very categories through which Americans understand and envision their relationships with the natural world,” writes Holmes. Muir was noted for being an ecological thinker, political spokesman, and religious prophet, whose writings became a personal guide into nature for countless individuals, making his name “almost ubiquitous” in the modern environmental consciousness. According to author William Anderson, Muir exemplified “the archetype of our oneness with the earth”, while biographer Donald Worster says he believed his mission was “…saving the American soul from total surrender to materialism.” On April 21, 2013, the first ever John Muir Day was celebrated in Scotland, which marked the 175th anniversary of his birth, paying homage to the conservationist.

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
~ John Muir

4/20 Day

The stoners among you will recognize that, being 4/20 in American date notation, it’s also a day to celebrate smoking weed, since “420” is American argot for marijuana. Why? Here’s why:

In 1971, five high school students in San Rafael, California, used the term “4:20” in connection with a plan to search for an abandoned cannabis crop, based on a treasure map made by the grower. Calling themselves the Waldos, because their typical hang-out spot “was a wall outside the school”, the five students — Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich —designated the Louis Pasteur statue on the grounds of San Rafael High School as their meeting place, and 4:20 pm as their meeting time. The Waldos referred to this plan with the phrase “4:20 Louis”. After several failed attempts to find the crop, the group eventually shortened their phrase to “4:20”, which ultimately evolved into a code-word the teens used to refer to consuming cannabis.

Bicycle Day

Happy Bicycle Day, which doesn’t celebrate bicycles but the effects of LSD:

On April 19, 1943, Albert Hofmann, a researcher at Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, Switzerland, purposely ingested .25 milligrams (250 micrograms) of LSD at his lab. He thought this would be the threshold dose—the lowest amount taken where there are still effects—when in reality the threshold dose for LSD is only 20 micrograms. But what does a bicycle have to do with the day?

Within an hour, Hofmann began to notice changes in his perception and senses. He decided that he should go home, so he hopped on his bicycle and began riding. Because the drug was already greatly affecting him, he had his laboratory assistant help guide him to his house. At times during his bicycle ride, he thought he was going insane, thought his neighbor was a witch and thought the LSD had poisoned him.

He later wrote in LSD: My Problem Child, “On the way home, my condition began to assume threatening forms. Everything in my field of vision wavered and was distorted as if seen in a curved mirror. I also had the sensation of being unable to move from the spot. Nevertheless, my assistant later told me that we had traveled very rapidly.”

Needless to say, his bicycle ride was quite a trip.

The Beatles and Astrid Kirchherr

If you’re a Beatles fan, the Guardian has a good article on Astrid Kirchherr, once engaged to the ex-Beatle Stu Sutcliffe, and who photographed, mothered, and molded the style of the Beatles (i.e., suggesting their “mop top” haircuts) when they played in Hamburg before they were famous. She also received lots of letters from the Beatles, One is below, along with a photo of her with Ringo and John.

Kirchherr died in 2020, and the letters are up for auction.

Agnostic Atheism

Concept of the day:

Agnostic Atheism: as anyone fluent in the contemporary debate between atheists and theists knows, is common parlance among nonbelievers. Roughly, the idea here is that when one uses the term “atheist” they’re making reference to their belief, whereas when one uses the term “agnostic,” they’re making reference to their knowledge. In this way, so the argument goes, one can be an atheist in the sense that they don’t believe that God exists (or that they positively believe that God does not exist) but nevertheless be an agnostic in the sense that they don’t know, or claim to know, that God does not exist.

Further, there is an additional distinction that is made between soft (or weak) atheists and hard (or strong) atheists. On the one hand, soft atheists are those who claim only to lack belief in God. On the other hand, hard atheists are those who claim to know or believe that God does not exist.

Now, descriptively speaking, this taxonomy seems to correspond pretty closely to the way that many atheists now days construe their atheism. So, as far as semantics go, this seems correct. However, and I say this as an atheist, in terms of its philosophical rigor, this construal of atheism seems a bit lacking. To demonstrate this, try to imagine an atheist using the distinction between atheism and agnosticism, as well as the distinction between soft and hard atheism, with respect to any other conception of god apart from the standard, Western monotheistic conception. That would be peculiar, would it not? So, the question is why don’t we atheists bother to qualify our rejection of Zeus or Odin with the caveats of agnosticism and a mere lack of belief? And if we don’t need to do this, why, then, must we do this with respect to the god of Christianity?

Well, frankly, I don’t think we need to. The mere fact that I don’t know *for certain* that Zeus doesn’t exist does not mean that I have to be an agnostic with respect to his existence, any more than the fact that I can’t know for certain that I’m not just a brain in a vat means I have to be agnostic about whether or not I’m just a brain in a vat. In other words, the sort of certainty that agnostic atheists point to in order to distinguish between their atheism and their agnosticism is itself based on a rather sophomoric understanding of epistemology that is quickly done away with by the slightest of philosophical inquiry. I may not know for certain that God does not exist, but this is not at all to say that I’m not entirely rational in going ahead and affirming my belief in the nonexistence of God all the same. And I don’t have to call myself an agnostic while doing so.

Sources: Atheist Republic

#NotAttackingReligion #FreedomOfBelief #JustSomeClarification