Books on Humanism bequeathed to the Shropshire Humanist Library from the estate of Jonathan Cutbill

Simon Nightingale writes: Geoff Hardy, a member of Shropshire Humanists and a long standing friend of Jonathan Cutbill who died earlier this year, has kindly given 16 books on humanism to the Shropshire Humanist Library.

Geoff showed me around Jonathan Cutbill’s lovely terrace house in Castlefields. I’ve never seen so many books in a private house. Room after room was filled to the roof with many racks of shelving full of ordered and catalogued books. Over many years Jonathan had acquired an extraordinary and indeed definitive collection of LGBT publications. Some rare volumes are of great historical interest. The University of London has been delighted to accept them at Senate House where they will be an important resource for research.

As well as a bibliophile, Jonathan was an ardent and well known defender of LGBT rights and co-founder of Gay’s the Word bookshop in the Bloomsbury district of London. More about his life can be read in this obituary.

Shropshire Humanists, like all humanist groups, strongly supports human rights, including LGBT rights locally, nationally and internationally. Details of Humanists UK’s LGBT community and campaigning can be found here.

We are very grateful to Jonathan Cutbill’s generosity and to Geoff Hardy for arranging his donation. Those who want to see the full list of books available in the Shropshire Humanist Library, can contact our treasurer Peter Cann.

A modest selection of books to borrow or buy will always be available at our monthly Thursday evening events at University Centre Shrewsbury.

Shropshire Humanists Show Garden: HOPE #BelieveInTomorrow

Forecasts of torrential rain and gale force winds were not enough to dampen the high spirits and enthusiasm of the dedicated team of local Humanists as they constructed our third Humanist Show Garden.

Competition this year was tough and the overall standard among the show gardens was very high. We were delighted to be awarded a Silver Gilt medal and celebrated the success of our good friends Pippa and Warren who won the top prize, and our lovely friends in the next show garden, Ben and Emma, who received a gold.

We had many visitors admiring our third Shropshire Humanists show garden. Many people were interested in Humanism and took pamphlets and over 25 were keen to join our emailing list.

The garden, designed by our Shropshire Humanist member Carol Seager, was constructed by her and a merry gang of local humanists. The wonderful design, complying with this year’s theme of “New Horizons”, was transformed by Carol and her team into a stunningly beautiful, ingenious and spiritual garden.

Carol Seager would like to thank the many people who have helped make this possible. Not only the construction team but the many people who have generously donated money, supported the fabulous Plant and Cake Sale, helped resource plants and construct the water feature etc. Most important was the support, encouragement, and love of some very special friends when the going got tough.

We all enjoyed it immensely. Another successful humanist collaboration.

The Shropshire Humanists garden draws its inspiration from the symbolism of two different cultures, Japanese and Maori, to inspire a global message of hope. The Maori Koru, representing new beginnings and rebirth, combines with the contemplative qualities of the Japanese Zen garden to inform us of different cultures and places, helping us to broaden our horizons.

In Maori culture the Koru (spiral) represents the fern frond opening and bringing life and purity to the world, along with a strong sense of regrowth, new beginnings and new journeys. The Japanese Zen garden represents the natural world in miniature; a place to contemplate the intimate essence of nature and to meditate about the true meaning of life.

Bounded by steel edging, the white quartz gravel spiral of the Japanese Zen garden vividly contrasts and complements the lush green foliage of the Maori Koru. At the centre where the spirals meet is a large portal, similar to both the Japanese Torii and the Maori Waharoa traditional gateways. The rainfall water feature forms a symbolic division between two worlds but also provides an opening onto new horizons. The flock of white birds in rising flight through the portal join the two worlds.

The Golden Ratio spiral is a feature of many natural forms. Succulents illustrating spiral phyllotaxis follow the curve of the Zen garden. The colour palette has been limited to green and white with accents of red to echo the vermillion red of the central arch. The garden also illustrates how both minimalist planting and abundant, dense planting can be used to dramatic effect. Both New Zealand and Japan are island nations with similar climates ranging from subtropical through temperate to subarctic and they share similar flora such as ferns, mosses and grasses. Some plant species, palms, tree ferns, aloe and agave which thrive in these countries, can be grown with care in the U.K. Plants from around the globe have been selected for their structural properties and their suitability to thrive at the limits of a temperate climate.

The garden can be viewed as a metaphor for understanding our cultural differences, discovering our common humanity and looking forward with hope to a new horizon where tolerance, reason and fairness prevail.

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow “.

20 June: Event to mark International Humanist Day on 21 June

We shall be celebrating International Humanist Day with short talks on various aspects of humanism through the world, including speakers’ experiences of humanism in New Zealand, Germany and South Africa. We will also be talking about the important work of the Humanists International. We shall also review the hostile attitude to humanism in various places round the world, including the death sentence for humanism in some countries.

Thursday 20 June at 7.30 pm, University Centre Shrewsbury, Guildhall, Frankwell Quay, Shrewsbury SY3 8HQ. All welcome.

You are very welcome to come for tea and coffee from 7 pm to meet and chat with other members and guests. A voluntary donation is requested towards room hire and refreshments.

 

A Shropshire Humanist in South Africa

by Simon Nightingale, Chair, Shropshire Humanists

I have recently returned from a two week holiday in Cape Town where I was visiting my son, Sam, who is also a neurologist and is currently doing research there on HIV in the brain.

While there, I met an interesting group of people who call themselves DINK (the Afrikaans word for THINK). They’re all sceptical freethinkers and would consider themselves atheist or at least agnostic. They were keen to hear about humanism and so I gave them a talk. They did a recording of it and you can see it on YouTube.

However, it is similar to the talk I gave given to the Shrewsbury U3A which is rather better recorded.

Interestingly only 17% of the population of South Africa say that they live without religion (in the UK it’s >50%; among young people >70%). Virtually everyone else in South Africa is Christian.

The very large black African community are Christian of one kind or another. The largest group are known as the Church of Zion and it seems they’ve incorporated Evangelist Christian beliefs with a kind of ancient tribal ancestor worship. Very few South Africans call themselves humanist and indeed the members of DINK knew very little about humanism. I encouraged them to consider humanism which is a worldview with positive beliefs and values, rather than just being a negative atheist.

Read the rest of this entry »

Where do we get our morals? (audio)

A discussion between a Christian and a Humanist in front of a packed house, organised by Shropshire Humanists, between Simon Nightingale (Chair of Shropshire Humanists) and Peter Bellingham (Pastor at The Well, Shrewsbury).

Ludlow and Marches Humanists on 19 March: “Losing My Arrogance, a tale in Three Hats”

Ludlow and Marches Humanists: ‘Losing my Arrogance, a tale in Three Hats’. A talk by Andy Boddington, Shropshire Councillor for Ludlow North.

Tuesday 19 March 2019, 7.30pm, at The Friends Meeting House, St Mary’s Lane, Ludlow SY8 1DZ. All welcome. For more information email: rocheforts@tiscali.co.uk

Please note that  this is not arranged by Shropshire Humanists.

Professor Alice Roberts talks about Humanists UK

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