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Impact Statement

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This was going to be a very different post. I was calling it something like “The Meaning of Life,” or whatever, and blithering on about what the meaning of “meaning” is.

Bu in order to do it, I went to the website fo the Council for Secular Humanism to see if the link to the new edition of Free Inquiry was up–it isn’t; they’re still showing the last one–and I found this instead:


In case you’re wondering, I’m referring to the long statement beginning “We Need Your Immediate Help,” and it’s a very interesting statement indeed.  There’s also a link to a fact sheet, and that’s interesting, too.

On one level, all this is interesting to me because it would make a pretty good basis for a murder mystery–the mysterious donor with the whacking huge annual gift who prefers to remain anonymous suddenly becoming incommunicado for no reason anybody knows for sure; the apparent forcing out of the Council’s founder.

Yes, a detective story writer could do a lot with that.

But the other reason it’s interesting is the way in which it illuminates just how significant an impact a single person can have on the success of an organization, and of a cause.

I don’t want to exaggerate this.  I don’t really believe that money can buy you anything, that you can make a writer a best seller or get a candidate elected or a referendum passed just because you have the majority of the cash.

There’s certainly a threshhold level, beneath which you just don’t have the resources to get the public’s attention, but after that, if you don’t have something else going for you, you aren’t going to get anywhere.

Kurtz built the Council for Secular Humanism from scratch in the 1960s, and along with it what is now called the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the Centers for Inquirty, two magazines (Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer) and a book publishing company that is one of the most successful small presses in the nation, Prometheus Books.

(Okay, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry used to have the much cooler name of Committe for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, or CSICOP.)

The movement is not a shell.  It brings in better than two million dollars in donations and other money every year.  It has an expanding membership base (although the numbers are really, really small).  It will survive the loss of this donor.

But it does make me think, again, that individuals are enormously important in history. 

And it makes me think about how many really good set ups there are out there for murder mysteries. 

An Addendum:

For what it’s worth, this


is a link to something called the Internet Renaissance Band, a site with Medieval and Renaissance music, and maybe the second or third site I ever found on the Internet. 

It hasn’t been updated in nearly a decade, but it’s still there.  Curtis Clark, whose site it is, teaches something like biology in the California university system, or state university system.  I couldn’t find the bio he used to have up.

But I really love this site.  One Christmas, I just played midi files from it all morning while I cooked.

Written by janeh

June 19th, 2010 at 7:33 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response to 'Impact Statement'

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  1. Oh yes. A determined individual with a cause can do a LOT, and not just the people who can write checks for $800,000 a year. It’s hard to imagine modern conservatism without WFB, libertarianism without Ayn Rand or several other causes or hobbies without that talented initial figure. But sometimes, it isn’t even talent that’s critical, but enthusiasm and persistence.

    We sometimes discuss literary merit as though it were as objective as the periodic table (Jane, sometimes) or a lie agreed upon (me, in a bad mood) but there is yet another side. Take a look at HP Lovecraft and August Derleth.

    Today, Lovecraft has a modest but secure place in American letters, and a nice volume in the Library of America. When he was alive, he was being paid a fifth of a cent a word by pulp magazines, and the stomach cancer which killed him was probably brought on by malnutrition.

    After Lovecraft’s death Derleth, an admirer and small-time writer, founded a small press (“Arkham House”) by siphoning off money loaned him to build a house and printed 1,250 copies of Lovecraft short stories in hardcover at $5.00 a volume. It took him four years to get his money back, but he persisted until almost all of Lovecraft was available in hard covers under copyright and in the form Lovecraft attended. So it became possible to find, read and criticize the writing, and to take it seriously if it was worthy of being taken seriously. And Arkham House is still printing Lovecraft after 70 years. Lovecraft would have been just the same writer without Derleth, but I don’t think he’d have six volumes in the local Barnes & Noble without him.

    Jane is right about the limits. If Lovecraft had had no talent, Derleth would have simply wasted his time and money. And if there were not a market for the CSH’s “product” Kurtz’ money would have been poured out futilely, like water in the sand. But there are, if you will, preconditions for possible takeoff. They don’t all require money, but they all require something. And for lack of that something, many human projects are seeds which never come to flower.


    19 Jun 10 at 9:25 am

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