"Today's Issues" Discussion Group

For this Sunday, April 21, the Today’s Issues group will discuss two essays from the April 18 issue of the New York Review of Books

Page 18, Brenda Whipple, “Let Walt Whitman Alone,” from the introduction her to Walt Whitman Speaks: His Final Thoughts on Life, Writing, Spirituality, and the Promise of America.

Page 51, Giles Harvey, “Waterworld,” a review of The Wall by John Lancaster, a novel that explores the psychology of Orwellian language and reality-denial.  

The group meets in the parlor of the Religious Education building next to the church.  Please do the reading and join our lively discussion.

The first reading can be read without a password on the NYR site.  The second one requires a password. Email tedgoertzel@gmail.com if you need a copyu


Leslie Patrick (Pat) McGovern (1930 to 2013), a much missed member of our group, wrote an essay describing the group for the Church Newsletter, which is reproduced here as a memorial to him and to communicate the purpose and flavor of the group. 

So, exactly what is the “Today’s Issues” group? 

 by L. P. McGovern

             You may have noticed “Today’s Issues” listed at 9:30 a.m. each Sunday on the weekly schedule.  The “Today’s Issues” group meets in the front parlor of the RE Building. 

            “Today’s Issues” used to be known as Adult RE, until we gave up that title because it no longer really applied.  Now there’s a separate group with the Adult RE title.

            The “Today’s Issues” group only occasionally discusses strictly religious topics.  Religion is not our sole, nor even frequent, topic.

            Nevertheless, we see ourselves as within the UU framework because we feel we are practicing “the free and disciplined search for truth” every Sunday (to quote our affirmation).

            This may sound like a lofty goal for a smallish Sunday morning discussion group, and it probably is, but, nevertheless, we attempt it every Sunday – and have a good time doing so.

            These days, our search for truth takes us to the pages of The New York Review of Books (NYROB).  NYROB is issued on a bi-weekly schedule and features reviews of books on a wide variety of topics. A good example is a review the group discussed on June 6 of the book by Michael Lewis called The Big Short.  In my opinion, this article represents the best point-by-point explanation of the financial manipulations that led to the recent economic collapse.  It furnished an excellent basis for discussion. 

            Since the reviews deal with a wide variety of topics, we feel that NYROB is a very good source of material.  On the other hand, we have discussed complete books on several occasions.  We find, however, that ideas in books can be repeated from chapter to chapter and thus spark no new talking points.

            In a sense, the reviews in NYROB constitute a concentrated source of ideas.  We take this approach because we feel that a discussion needs a specific basis or the conversation gets out of hand and becomes too centrifugal.

            Most of us view the discussion as recreational, say like a more sedentary Sunday morning tennis match.  There is disagreement in the discussion. We don’t feel that just sitting around, nodding our heads in agreement would be much fun Sunday after Sunday.  But we try not to be too disagreeable with our disagreements.  We also make room for occasional personal anecdotes, although overuse of this privilege is discouraged.

            Occasionally, one of the NYROB articles represents a review of an artistic event – such as a recent showing by the 20th century Russian painter Chagall.  When we discussed the Chagall article, member-in-good-standing Ernie Novak gave us a PowerPoint presentation of Chagall’s works.  Ernie has presented other artists as well – much to our delight.

            So, if you feel like recreational discussion, read the articles that are listed ahead each week and make an appearance in the front parlor at the appointed hour.  We’ll welcome you there.