With much sadness, I have just now changed this website’s description of one of We May Be Wrong’s founding members – from the present tense, to the past.
In 1960, a 24 year old Dr. Paul Clement Czaja (January 9, 1936 – May 8, 2018) had just earned his Ph.D. in philosophy when he persuaded Nancy Rambush (then headmaster of the Whitby School and founder of the American Montessori Association) to let him teach existential philosophy to children. She was impressed with his enthusiasm and his willingness to work for practically nothing, but since she thought parents might not understand the importance of teaching philosophy to children, she asked if he wouldn’t mind teaching other things as well. So Paul “officially” taught creative writing, Latin and various other subjects not often taught to ten year olds. But philosophy was his first love, and it found its way into everything.
Only fourteen years older than me, Paul was more an older brother than a teacher. He showed me how to love the world around me; introduced me to the joy of learning everything I could about it. The way a magnifying glass could make fire; the way Latin could turn language on its head yet still come out as modern English; the thrill of catching butterflies in nets; the way the Greek Alphabet could be painted with Japanese brushes and jet-black ink; the vital inner parts of dissected foetal pigs; the wonders of the Trachtenberg system of mathematical calculation; the wiggling of microscopic paramecia in pond water; the thrill of catching people and their stories with a 35 millimeter still camera, that of making our own stories with a 16 millimeter movie camera, and then, the even weirder thrill of telling stories with frame-by-frame, stop-motion photography; the writings of Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, and James Baldwin; the power of telling stories of our own with just pen and ink. We spliced and edited rolls of movie film we’d made and, somehow, we even enjoyed diagramming sentences, rummaging through grammar the way we searched for the Indo-European roots of words. Though I was not yet a teenager, Paul introduced me to Ingmar Bergman movies, to Van Gogh’s Starry Night, to Rodin’s The Thinker, and to Edward Steichen’s photographic exhibition, The Family of Man.
To say the least, it was not your typical middle-school education.
They say that when a butterfly flaps its wings, it can have profound effects on the other side of the world – a concept I first heard from Paul, I’m sure. If I hadn’t met him, he wouldn’t have written the recommendation that got me into Phillips Exeter, and I wouldn’t have… well, if a single butterfly flapping its wings can have a profound impact, having Paul as a teacher every day (winter and summer) for four impressionable years was like being borne to Mexico by millions of Monarchs. We stayed in touch during my later school years, and then persisted in friendship as the difference in our ages seemed to vanish with the passage of time. And so, I was pleased that he joined We May Be Wrong in 2016 as one of our founding members.
But now, it’s time for a confession. As we tried to get our new website off the ground, Paul proposed that WMBW publish a poem he had written. Being a man of great faith, Paul wrote a lot about God – prayers, poems, meditations. When he proposed that WMBW publish his poem, I disagreed on the ground that I didn’t want the brand new website to come across as “pro” or “anti” anything controversial. I didn’t want to risk alienating potential followers, be they liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, believers or non-believers, by implying some sort of hidden agenda. (The ONLY agenda was to be the benefit of listening to others with an open mind.) Holding the keys to the publishing platform, I declined to publish his poem lest it be misunderstood to evangelize about God, rather than fallibility. But even then, I told him, once the website has been up for a while, we might be able to publish that sort of thing.
Well, the time has come. I wish I’d published it before he left the earth he loved for the better one he yearned for. For Paul, I can only say a prayer of thanks for all he did for me, and for so many other children, and now, share his wonderful poem. (It seems only right that he should have the last word.)
Fire in the Soup: A Creation Story
had just cooled down
being molten magna
the vaporous skies
eons of towering cumulus
clouds of rain
were so great
the whole sphere
much more a watery world,
the rocky land
but one large
in the middle
of a now
beautiful blue planet.
when the heavens
were no longer
by that thick
of sulphurous cloud cover,
the earth’s atmosphere
pure and clear
the stars of the universe
the night sky
seemed to be
with black peppery dots,
that a flame
through the sky
the warm soup
of the sea
that chemical mineral ooze
the very first
that ever was
so singular planet.
when that protozoa
that life causing
once upon a time
the oceanic soup
the pure energy
that first protozoa
of the eternal God —
God is love.
Such a thought
seems to be
–Paul Clement Czaja
The We May Be Wrong Forum is now up and running.
We’re hoping it will be a different kind of discussion Forum — not one in which people belittle those they think are wrong. Not one where people are trying to “win a debate” or feel good by surrounding themselves with people who think like they do. Rather, a Forum in which people can participate in discussions with people who may disagree, but without fear of being mocked or ridiculed, because they aren’t contestants in debate, but partners in a search for understanding.
Impossible? Maybe. Altruistic? Of course. But we think of it as a worthwhile experiment in this age of rampant incivility, and we’re moving forward.
So you’re invited to check out the new WMBW discussion Forum, and help us make the experiment succeed.
Several people have reported they’ve been to the WMBW website and can’t find any place to subscribe to the Thoughts and Opinions posts, or to be put on the mailing list.
One interested reader went so far as to insist that the website did not even offer a way to subscribe. (When we told him he was definitely, unmistakably, absolutely wrong, and called him an idiot, he accused us of hypocrisy — imagine that? 🙂 Just kidding.)
Seriously, for anyone who has missed the websites explanations for how to get on the mailing list, the answer is to click on the round, gray “Follow” icon, which takes you to a screen provided by SpecificFeeds.com (where you can enter the e-mail address where you would like to receive notifications.)
This round, gray “Follow” icon appears (along with other social media icons) at the end of every post on the Thoughts and Opinions page (including this one). It also appears (along with the other social media icons) in the middle of the screen (quite prominently) once you have been on the website for sixty seconds. (We thought it a little rude to throw an invitation to Follow us in the middle of the screen before a first-time visitor had even had a chance to look over the home page; if they left the website before sixty seconds was up, odds seemed small they’d want to follow us anyway. Also, since the same icons appear at the end of every post, and by subscribing, what a visitor is really doing is asking to be notified of more posts, we figured having that option placed at the end of every post made sense.)
FYI, WMBW selected SpecificFeeds.com to provide out mailing list plug-in because:
- we understand that a third-party provider would help prevent robotic subscribers
- they appear serious about protecting subscribers’ e-mail addresses, and
- they allow subscribers several options on how to be receive WMBW news and notifications
- they were free
That said, we’re really just giving them a try, and if you have complaints or suggestions regarding our subscription process, we’ll love to hear from you.
(And again, we’ll never share our mailing list with anyone.)
I’ve spent the last several days in WordPress, trying to get a feel for how to build a basic website. I think I may have finally settled on an appropriate WordPress “theme.” Once I did that, day before yesterday, other aspects of the site seem to be falling into place more easily.
So — knock on wood — I think I may be ready to start inviting you to check out the website, and I may even be ready to start posting real (rather than test) materials. I imagine it will be some time before I have the ability to start adding extra features and plugins. But at least I think that the currrent content — basic as it is — seems to be working properly, and seems to be worth keeping. So, hopefully, instead of scrapping and starting from scratch every few hours, I can actually start to build upon what’s here now.
And THAT, my friends, is a very good feeling!