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Søren Kierkegaard said: “Truth is Subjectivity. Objective truths are concerned with the facts of a person’s being, while subjective truths are concerned with a person’s way of being.” He opined that objective truths for the study of subjects like mathematics and science are relevant and necessary but argued that objective truths do not shed any light on a person’s inner relationship to his existence.

Alfred North Whitehead said: “There are no whole (objective) truths; all truths are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that play the devil”.

The problem with objective truth as it relates to history is that we can’t really know what happened in the past because we weren’t there and because there are as many historical interpretations of what transpired as there are historians writing about that history. Hence revisionists’ claims that the constant revision of history is part of the normal scholarly process of writing history.

In Descent from the Hill, Helena’s father, Rolf, claims that if you read four biographies of the same person, after you finish them you’ll wonder if the four authors were writing about the same person. He’s essentially denying that objective truth is possible beyond math and science. “Each author uses different references and has his own personal biases”. Of course Rolf has a secondary gain in claiming that truth is usually subjective, but I will not go into that so as to not leave a spoiler for those who have not yet read the novel.

The basis of truth used by Nazi Germany was the Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest. The leaders of Germany saw their nation as a superior group a “Stronger People” and the rest of the world as an inferior people, a “Weaker People”. Is this truth—that they espoused—objective or subjective? You be the judge.



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It’s often called “shell shock”, but that is incorrect as PTSD extends far beyond the combat scenario. Any form of extreme trauma—especially when life threatening—can cause PTSD. Exposure to such trauma has been part of the human story since we evolved as a species and were threatened by saber toothed tigers and drastic environmental change. Achilles suffered from it as did Shakespeare’s Henry IV.

When the afflicted remember the event that caused PTSD, a portion of the brain is activated and causes them to suffer severe insomnia, kaleidoscopic nightmares, panic attacks, and other characteristic symptoms. I have listened to many patients describe their nightmares as being “too real”. Many patients become reclusive and too many resort to suicide to end their misery.

Although psychiatric intervention and drug therapy can help the afflicted, cures are probably rare. But medical intervention is mandatory to prevent debilitating suffering and the patient’s propensity to resort to suicide.

Was Pope John Paul I poisoned?

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Several readers have asked if I really believe Pope John Paul I was poisoned. I don’t know that he was poisoned because it was never proved. Most of what we know that could lead to such a conclusion is supposition and the “proof” that conspiracy theorists cling to is specious at best.

But there is much in the history of the Roman Catholic Church that would make one believe that it is certainly possible. Historians frequently state that the Romans refined the poisoner’s prowess and the Church of Rome perfected it. John VIII was likely poisoned in 882 and Formosus in 892. The daughter of John X’s mistress supposedly poisoned him. Benedict XI ate figs with powdered sugar. It tasted good, but the powdered sugar was laced with powdered glass. Alexander VI drank wine that was laced with arsenic and he died an excruciating death. There are many other examples where historians have concluded that popes died as a result of poisoning.

So I really can’t conclude that someone poisoned John Paul I, but the conspiracy theorists have had a feast with this one. Anyone interested in knowing more about this possibility should read In God’s Name by David Yallop. As Morris West says: “Read the book. Weigh the evidence. Make your own judgement.”

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What is Descent from the Hill about? Is it for me?

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This is the most common question that people ask me and in doing so they are questioning whether the book is someting they will like. That’s certainly understandable, so let’s see what it’s about and then you decide if you might like to read it:

Descent from the Hill is a coming of age story about a young patrician New Englander whose life becomes intertwined with those of his 3 college roommates and their families starting in 1960 and throughout the ensuing years. The story unfolds against a backdrop of actual historical events that are referenced at the end of the book. After graduation from a college they call The Hill, they experience life in an era plagued by world shaking chaos-war, drugs, rebellion, abortion, and more. As time passes, they find themselves victimized by historical events they were familiar with but which they never suspected would impact their lives to such a great extent. When tyranny and betrayal by government despots and god-brokers upend their lives, the plot boils over with startling discoveries that create a dramatic finale.

Descent from the Hill describes a journey made by members of the baby boom generation. It’s a journey during which the characters’ lives are touched by current events, historical events, and the prior acts of their parents-acts committed in the name of survival, but acts that will haunt them and their children until all family members confront them.


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They’re an aging bunch. Many will retire soon (if they can). Emerging dinosaurs–that’s all they are–so why should anyone care about what happened to them and what they did about it? It’s a valid question, but there are good reasons to learn from what happened to the boomers and what they did about it.

First of all, we MUST learn from history or we are doomed to repeat its mistakes–or something like that. The bigger problem is that few learn from history because few read history and even fewer of those who read history retain much of what they read. And therein lies the benefit of reading historical fiction: when you read fiction that’s based on actual events you get to see an author’s concept of how people might have been changed by what was going on and how they may have changed the status quo. It’s far more enlightening than reading a history book to pass a test.

Then consider that there are about 80,000,000 baby boomers in America today, and these same individuals created the world we live in today. They represent the transition between “old” and “new” because the boomers built the bridge that connected the two and created a cultural earthquake in the process. Prior to the 1950’s, life was different. We fought wars because we’d been attacked. Black people were called Negroes and had no civil rights. Few women worked and even fewer thought about burning their bras. There was no birth control pill and sexual liberation was considered morally felonious. Abortion was a crime and orphanages were plentiful. No president in recent history, and certainly no president who represented so much to so many, had been assassinated.

So think about these issues when you read Descent from the Hill–and afterwards. It’s all there–and then some.


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Four college graduates set out to change the world that lies before them. During their journey, they believe they are in control of their destiny and what they determined would be their legacy, i.e. to help create a better world for those they’d leave behind after their departure. But are they really in control of anything more than their daily activities–their experiences? Can they really make a difference in a world torn by greed, war, and the duplicitous plotting of despots and god brokers? Or is Bea Windsor the one who really understands the control issue when she asks her son, Justin: “When will you realize that control is nothing more than a blighted illusion?”

I think Marc Goldstein is the only character who understands the control issue at an early age. When Justin asks him: “Weren’t we going to try to change the world?” Marc reminds him that at graduation he had said “… make a difference.” He reminds Justin that he never thought anyone could change the world. Marc is the conscience of the group. He doesn’t take life for granted and understands that sometimes you have to work within a system you might not totally agree with. He knows he can’t control it.

Control is an important issue in Descent from the Hill. As we follow the lives of the major characters that are impacted by the historical events upon which this work is based, it behooves the reader to ask the questions: “What do we really control?” “Can we change the world?” Or is it more important to make sure the world doesn’t change us to the extent that we become its marionettes, dangling from strings controlled by those who would dictate our every action?

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