The Basics of Life

I used to be in a choir and remember our Director bringing up “The Preacher’s Wife” one day in practice. I just watched it for the first time with Whitney Houston’s other movies. One of the songs on the soundtrack was a regular part of our setlist and it brought back a lot of memories. The same year Joan Osborne had a song on radio and MTV asking the question what if God was just an ordinary man? When this track was brought up in conversation one of the pastor’s kids was adamant that she shouldn’t ask questions like that.

I thought how weird that there are questions you are not supposed to ask. Osborne was twice our age and almost certainly knew more than what our high school education could cover. I knew that questioning is one of the main ways we learn about the world. Much later I discovered Street Epistemology which uses the Socratic method. A person well trained in one on one interactions in this approach can lead to incredible insights! There was just a new course started on learning how to practice SE called Navigating Beliefs.

The choir song that really changed its meaning to me these days is “The Basics of Life” by the group 4Him. It was about the need for society to return to “the virtues that once gave us light” and how “we’ve drifted so far from the truth.” It tries to convince listeners that there was some other time when when morality was much better than current day. It is this generation, according them, which is so far off base to the point that they just can’t even understand the most basic of ethics anymore. The lyrics don’t get into detail for specifics on when this time was so it comes with all the vagueness of a slogan like “Make America Great Again.”

When was this “again” the political slogan refers to? Your guess is as good as mine. What era was the songwriter of “Basics of Life” talking about when of these “morals that governed our lives” and when did they erode? The vagueness actually works as a feature since you can fill in your own answer into the blank. If they listed an exact time it might contradict what the audience wants to believe but when the line is structured this way it now coincides with what was already thought to be correct. I think there should be a detailed explanation to this supposed era. It seems to be rooted in our preconceived collective imaginations and nowhere else.

Going Beyond

The Big Hit...

Joan Osborne is known by just about everybody as a one hit wonder. Like many alternative rock artists from this time who only had one or two songs with regular radio rotation she also had a number of good tracks that just wouldn’t get played. Other bands in a similar position; Blind Melon, Seven Mary Three, Fastball, Veruca Salt. If you didn’t listen to the albums of these bands or particular records from them you could skip over some real gems.


Running Out Of Time
Righteous Love
Angel Face


I’ll Be Around
How Sweet It Is


Brokedown Palace
Till I Get It Right
When The Blue Hour Comes


What Becomes of the Broken Hearted
Heart of Stone
Break Up Make Up


Sweeter Then The Rest
Little Wild One
Can’t Say No
Light Of This World


I Don’t Need No Dr.
I Want to Be Loved
The Same Love That Made Me Laugh


Work On Me
Thirsty For My Tears
Kitten's Got Claws
Secret Room


Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
Buckets of Rain
Tryin’ to Get to Heaven
You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
Dark Eyes
Ring Them Bells


Take It Any Way I Can Get It
What's That You Say
Hands Off
Never Get Tired of Loving You
Trouble and Strife
Meat & Potatoes


Dreamin' About The Day
What You Gonna Do
Wild World
His Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles


(A group she sang lead in. She was only on their first album so far.)
Tennessee Mud
Pretty Mess
Dry County


Christmas Means Love
Christmas in New Orleans
Angels We Have Heard on High
What Do Bad Girls Get?
Great Day in December
Silent Night

Joan still does not have a best of collection that reaches across her full discography. Her first compilation “One of Us” (2005) only covers the first decade and the next one “20th Century Masters” also doesn’t go beyond the same era. Half of these years (1995-2005) were spent working on her second album. Right after this she would put out records every year.


Her best is 2021’s Radio Waves that reworks previously released songs. Since it contains interesting alternative cuts it makes a good choice for both fans which have her full discography as well as those who are unfamiliar with her. It’s much later 2021 release date means that it covers a much wider part of her career yet it still skips over albums such as her excellent from top to bottom 2020 release “Trouble and Strife.”

Here is how I think she should approach a career retrospective. Given that much of what she does is reinterpret the songs of others why not put out a two disc collection that has a full disc of covers while the other focuses on originals? It would accomplish the objective of giving listeners a clear understanding of what she is about while also comulating enough tracks to get at least one or two songs from each album in the mix. What could undo her one hit wonder status better then experiencing two full albums of great material?

From her website about Radio Waves:


The extended break in touring brought on by the Covid pandemic gave me the opportunity to stay home and finally clean out some closets. As I cleaned I found dusty boxes filled with old cassette demos, rough recordings of long – ago rehearsals, and a bunch of CDs given to me by engineers at the many radio stations I’ve visited over the years.

These visits usually included a performance of whatever new material my band and I were promoting, and as I combed through the CDs I realized I had a decent collection of high quality live – in – studio versions of these songs.

Here is the rest of the article on her site.

I studied a book on how different religious teachers taught similar things. While already being somewhat familiar with how religions overlapped I wanted to explore some key areas where they contrasted with each other. The next book I picked up was Steve Hagen’s Buddhism Plain and Simple, which according to the author, this 1997 book was the first to be written in plain and simple English on the Buddha’s teachings. A contemporary language update to The Bible called The Message was being released in segments during this time too. It seems like bringing these ancient texts into a modern vernacular would have happened a lot sooner than the 1990s.

I can’t tell you how many people gave up trying to study them with text that is so poorly translated into English. Beliefs such as “life is suffering” are what many seem to thing the core teaching is about. No wonder they gave up on what was being taught when it is put that way. What is amazing to me is that people still make the same mistakes today when the literature is out there and so easily accessible these days. You don’t even need to take the time to read the print book since these days you can just play the audiobook on your phone as you do chores and errands. There his so little excuse to stay confused especially on these basic teachings.

Is right view a viewpoint?

I don't think it is.

This is why I assembled an essay three years ago about what I would propose the basics of life should be. They are seldomly described this way, at least in the United States where I grew up, but I try to make a case why laying such grounds would improve life. My starting point is The Right View teachings from the Eightfold Path. There is a depth to the truth teachings that makes “don’t bear false witness” seem sophomoric in comparison to me. It is my experience that coming up short in this one area may eventually wreak havoc in nearly all the other areas of your life. My extended family is going through a massive blowout right now. I would argue a lot of suffering that they and other people go through like this may be avoided by studying what different parts of the world believe when it comes to truth teachings. If one’s education environment is narrow it becomes difficult to know why you do or do not believe certain things. You might just go along with what you are taught just because you where told that. There may be little reason beyond that.

I think the fallout of this conflict can be summed up in the book when he says “to hold onto any particular view is to freeze Reality… And then we start to go after each other.” These basics of life teachings put safeguards in place before problems arise. This week I am filling out testimony papers for a domestic court case. A lot of relatives in the family are making conflicting accusations to what happened. Looking back perhaps I should have been more vocal about the article I wrote on the next page when I put it together in early 2019 three years before the court cases. I studied this much sooner than 2019 so I wish I had brought it up nearly a decade ago or those around would knew this would have been more dominate multiple decades ago. Oh well, I suppose all you can say is that's life but there is no question that this is the one book I would send back in a time machine so that I could have read it in my primary education.

Such an eloquent writer the book contains what I think is the best analogy of all time:
“We cannot hold Truth with words. We can only see it, experience it, for ourselves… If you point out the moon to a cat, she probably won’t look at the sky; she’ll come up and sniff your finger. In a similar fashion, it’s easy for us to become fascinated by a particular teaching, or teacher, or book, or system, or culture, or ritual.”

This one book has so many important teachings through it but I felt that I needed to tie some modern books in to strengthen the case I am making. This way rather than one chapter in a book my supplementation can fill out an entire website. My goal in writing it wasn’t make a better book than this one which is already very well written. I needed to isolate one teaching which too many people astonishingly don’t give a lot of thought to. As far as I can tell no one else has written this so that is why I put all my effort into it. I don’t consider myself a writer but no one else grouped these teachings into one spot as far as I can tell. People who haven’t read all these books need to know a few key areas from all of them in a brief timespan.

I attended a Christian video series on truth and how it compared to other ideologies. Yet despite being fourteen hours long it didn’t once bring up these key issues from my essay that can be read in about eight minutes in the next article. That was a waste of time for me but I hope this jettisons the process for others. This next section is about “Frozen Views” which might be a term that you are not familiar with. If I understood what was on the next article earlier it would have revolutionized my life.