Name: Chuck Bauer.
Where I live: Madison, Wis.
Where and when I was born: Philadelphia, Pa., Jan. 16, 1947.
Family: My stepfather (1915-2008) was a Philadelphia Quaker and conscientious objector who served in combat in World War II. My mother (1916-) was a Lutheran, so I had the benefit of observing religious ritual and its polar opposite, a vivid contrast that helped me to see the range of possibilities in both private contemplation and formalized public display of professed belief.
Education: Graduation from American High School in Frankfurt, Germany in 1965, followed by a summer pre-college program at the American College of Paris; bachelor of fine arts (cum laude) in 1969 from Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, Ohio; master of arts in painting, fine arts, 1970, University of Wisconsin-Madison; additional continuing education practically from the day of graduation.
Occupation: Co-owner and co-founder in 1972 of The Soap Opera in Madison [thesoapopera.com]. We offer retail and wholesale natural body care products, including soaps, aloe vera products, aromatherapy, perfumes, essential oils for perfume and much more.
Military service: None personally, but my stepdad was career Army. I grew up living in Europe and the Far East, from a young age observing peoples and cultures very different from my own.
How I got where I am today: After grad school, the timeless game of “buy it for one dollar and sell it for two” got my attention. On a whim, we started making crafts and selling them on the Library Mall. Artists make stuff, after all, and the regulated sales carts we see today were not required then. We simply spread out a blanket. Selling crafts was fun and an adventure, but winter came and so, again, like so many others who’d hit a wall, I went to California, the place D.H. Lawrence described so aptly as “filled with sunbaked people and half-baked ideas.”
Soon, Chuck Beckwith followed me. He’d discovered a small startup company in Berkeley making natural body care products that were alternative but professionally formulated and manufactured, yet designed for people like us to repackage and relabel for retail sale.
At a young age, I discovered art-making, and specifically painting, as a way to be quietly rebellious, since it’s obvious that practically no one in mainstream society knows or cares anything much about art. Knowing I was different, and noticing the impracticalities and strangeness of art-making, we became a match. My parents, to their eternal credit and great wisdom, offered only positive comment, and I just ran with it. They continually gave me the great gift of simply not interfering. Now, half a century later, art enriches my life. It is the place where one touches infinity.
Where I’m headed: At 64, a good day is one with a nap.
Person in history I admire and why: Michel de Montaigne for his quiet, humane uncertainty and his ability to speak eloquently for what “Everyman” carries within.
A quotation I like: “The philosopher has never killed any priests, whereas the priest has killed a great many philosophers.” (Denis Diderot)
These are a few of my favorite things: Peace and quiet, doubt, making art, asking questions, restoration and protection of rare ecosystems and at-risk species, and hiking.
These are not: Certainty, ignorance, self-righteousness, arrogance, unkindness in any form.
My doubts about religion started: At about the same time the Easter Bunny seemed ridiculous, age 7 or 8. Organized religion presented only unbearable boredom, and though it felt lethal at the time, it was not, of course, but later at puberty it was clear that as a closeted gay person, “believers” could indeed be lethal, and had been for centuries, to anyone found wanting or different from themselves. The nasty irony of professed love, but hateful behavior, simultaneously amused and terrified me and still does.
Why I’m a freethinker: Self-preservation and cultivation of common sense and rationality in a world of ignorant, gullible fools making mischief.
Ways I promote freethought: I do not promote. I avoid promotion, but I try to live in ways that set examples.
Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.
Meet a member
Art is his infinity
Name: Chuck Bauer.