“The time has come for us brights to come out of the closet. What is a bright? A bright is a person with a naturalist as opposed to a supernaturalist world view. We brights don't believe in ghosts or elves or the Easter Bunny -- or God. We disagree about many things, and hold a variety of views about morality, politics and the meaning of life, but we share a disbelief in black magic -- and life after death.” Daniel Dennett July 12 2003 New York Times OpEd.
This site is about having pride in pursuing truth, beauty, and goodness. After two years of letting this site be idle, wondering if I should enter the fray or not, it is time I did. I want to take you on my peripatetic road to why I am a calling myself a bright. Go ahead if you like the capital, use it and sign up to the organization. Get the newsletter.
Why would I buy into the term Bright? Which is supposed to be capitalized as it was founded by Paul Geisert and Mynga Futrell. Well for me I am not gong to use Bright but rather bright because I prefer it as a pro-noun rather than a Proper Name espoused by the Brights who have their own organization. For one it shouldn’t be franchised and two it is a more slippery term and three it gets as tedious as god versus God which only has relevance in specific theologians that insist they know God’s name and how it should be spelled or capitalized.
Maybe it also just takes a bit of the edge off of it as well. The case against the arrogance of the term softens. I am not a Big Bright. Just a little bright with room and desire for others even should they refuse the term. But I am big in my knowledge of its use now. I am big in the importance of justice and truth. I am big in sharing, if only as example, the greatness of human compassion. Maybe I am just a little guy with a big idea. Maybe I do it just to placate the abusers. At some point I don’t care and want to get on with it. Be a Bright! Go for it! But I will continue, as I need, to beat this topic into the ground so no one wonders what I am thinking and feeling.
I would not care about coming out as bright if mistaken assumptions about the world were harmless. If this were about teens looking at Ouija boards and playing with the idea of ESP it would matter less. The road in life is long and varied. But when a President invokes God as being on his side, and his deciding influence to wage war, or that homosexuality is cause for harm and spiritual damnation, it becomes a matter of truth and justice, here and now. When a few scientists denigrate climate change to further their monetary or spiritual agenda against overwhelming evidence... When modern witch hunts in Nigeria and holy wars threaten others it is time for clear thinking and action. In a world forced into globalization, multiculturalism is no longer a home rule to ignore the plight of others. Liberals can no longer hide behind isolationism or personalism and praise physical abuse as being relative or even perceptually acceptable.
Frankly we do need a position, a mission statement, and a unity that gives us the political power against the organized oppression of those who are taking away rights and voices. But I am not that organizational person. I am a justifiably angry individual seeking a cure to the cruelty imposed by false belief. The reframing of the discussion to seem like we are the oppressors is a nasty trick.
Much debate has revolved around the term bright or Bright or maybe even BRIGHT or I suppose B-Right as being arrogant and exclusive. It is not arrogant to use euphony, beauty, or form as the base of a name. Theirs is a pointed attack to weaken resolve. They too choose positive even hyperbolic terms with relish to elevate their goals.
Some of my friends are plumbers. Some are artists. Some are uneducated. Some are really good at soccer. These distinctions better inform us about how to communicate with each other. It is socially advantageous to understand each other. When I engage in conversations with a farmer I am going to use different terms, nuances, and even tonal invocations to help communicate than when I engage with an artist or politician. Thank goodness our language is rich.
Of course any college student or teenager for that matter gets how important definitions and semantics are when after minutes, hours, and days even of arguing the emotional energy winds down to “we just have different definitions” or a favorite of many “you’re putting words in my mouth. I didn’t say that”. The response of what did you say or what did you mean then hopefully solicits a more accurate or mutually agreeable response. Though I could venture it may be another tactic to continue a socially engaged argument that otherwise is already on the ground in pieces beyond resuscitation. A conciliation to agree to disagree with good feelings towards each other. In either case definitions have a worthy purpose.
I am not comfortable calling someone Gay or Sad. Nor Evangelical or Proselytizer. Nor Metaphysician or Wizard. In each case, unless playing with capitals for rhetorical effect I would suspect an organization or something more sinister such as a copyrighted term to sell as a product or service.
I am not a cosmic salesman. I am a guy with a flashlight in the dark.
It’s true that Zebras are capitalized by their distinction as a species but we are already defined as bright by Homo Sapien (which means wise man--though in retrospect using homo and excluding women was probably not a good move if men want more voluntary sex or at least good conversation). Besides I don’t want to play on the word wise which is indeed seen as exclusive though a positive goal for all. Odd that saying I want to be wise would be considered excluding but saying I want to be saved isn’t when wise implies the judicial use of knowledge and saved is singular, oppositional.
“Doesn’t it push people away to imply that you’re bright and others, nonbrights, aren’t.” Well yes and no. I want to emphasize the any-person aspect of being bright. It’s not a bar or standard or elevation. I talk fancy but my thoughts are plebeian, common even, fine. Everyone benefits from clear thinking and being in touch with their emotions; reason and emotion, a cursed nonexistent dichotomy.
I too understand the sentiment of the word gay and its use and then redefining it (hijacking if you are anti-gay-defining) to no longer mean a sophisticated variant of joyful in the moment. In the 60’s I laughed at the word Gay. I did not understand that there had been and was going to be so much hatred towards homosexuality with such political power in a world that had much bigger issues at stake. I never cared. I still don’t except politically. But it has become a peon by conservatives as an indicator of utter moral turpitude and that is what I now fight as injustice. I call people Gay as they wish with pride.
What would people who don’t like bright prefer? Nats for naturalists? Reals for realists? Scios for science based epistemologies? Or even “evies” for evidence based people?
No what they dislike is that we (I use they and we very loosely here) choose bright in spite of the notion that it makes us sound smart or illuminated. Perhaps they would have preferred the term Dark, Impure, Other, or Cloud, or even just Realists. No it was a time for a positive force so we could not be cast as dark, impure, other, or fantastical. If we had not chosen a positive term we would have framed our definition to suit those who want a derogatory name for us. Why would I choose a name that doesn't inspire hope?
Some think we stole the idea of the candle in the dark shining the light of God onto man. There was a time as in Hamerrabi’s code where an “eye for an eye” was progress over a life for an eye (take that you bastard). Our practice of justice and social goodness has advanced. Of course the candle illuminating the dark is an old old metaphor, simile, or allegory depending on the mythical or historical source. But many people know Carl Sagan’s plea for science based reason in his fine book “The Demon-Haunted World: a Candle in the Dark.” It is an anthem to enlightenment.
Daniel Dennett has wittily used the term “supers” as a name for nonbrights who nevertheless have an interest in the topics brights cover but may disagree, as a joke that they already elevate themselves to an arrogant position and now we shouldn’t? Brights and supers. I must laugh along with Dennett when he claims supernaturalism should be subnaturalism or under naturalism as it is less than naturalism and not more. Certainly the ones who coined the term supernaturalism knew of the framing of the definition to make their position look good or would they say superior?
To use this social framing and reframing of sub and super we exclude salient cultures. The meaning or position under with all of its negative earth, dirt, or grounding distinctions including submission is completely lost to most historical Native Americans who stood and looked at their sky spirits in the face with hands open rather then bent over and bowed. Contrast to prayer-full folk cowering with eyes closed and hands incapacitated as if tied together, seemingly ready to be beaten; or like a dog rolled over showing its utter subservience with tail wagging in invitation to acceptance and as utter inability to defend itself. Hard not to see a slave origin here. I digress in unabated dismay. Even in respect towards power I seek dignity. No offense to canines as they evolved this posture in response to brute force. We humans can do more.
Allegories aside, this conflux of meaning has been subsumed to be a total submission to God who can save any and is all powerful. For most Christians and Islamists humans are nothing more than dogs that should roll over and ask for mercy in the face of the one who can destroy or save at will; whether in the sense of winning the football game or enabling salvation through Christ. Or accepting every sign as the sign or a sign.
I am no longer embarrassed to use the word bright. Evangelicals use the word born again or saved. Rationalists coined the term enlightenment. Black Panthers chose a strong image as did Gray Panthers. Democrats, Republicans and Independents choose ready words that are seemingly obvious, strong, and emotionally clear unlike Whig or Tory foreign to many Americans though in our history.
Metaphors have been hijacked back and forth for millennia. It seems unlikely that we will get back Christmas, Easter, Sunday, Do Unto Others, One, Moral, and a host of other terms and ideas stolen to meet the politics and reframing of the day but I refuse to recuse myself from using these terms simply because they have been hijacked already. We infidels, realists, and moral beings want our terms back!
Right now I will use this one small wee word called bright. Be proud of the word bright. More importantly use it to come out and assert the truth, beauty, and goodness of living in the world eyes wide open.
Bright and well