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“Skipper Dippel takes an unconventional view of convention. The intellectual life is one of questioning, not necessarily disassembling, the status quo. And what does his questioning say about today’s generation? On the surface, it reveals an irrational pursuit of wealth and fame, where the adherence to a moral standard forms a heresy against personal achievement. It is the progression of culture turned on its head, a loss of community, service, and fruitful dimension. However, Dippel’s role is not to admonish. It is as guidepost, detailing the best of what the civilization has and has always had to offer.”

Christopher Klim,
Executive Editor of Best New Writing, author The Winners Circle

Instilling Values in Transcending Generations

This third book of a series on “The Language of Conscience” is a well thought out appeal to human values as opposed to the drive to success, profit, and personal aggrandizement that marks much of modern endeavor. The author, a businessman by profession, is obviously also a serious thinker with a broad eclectic outlook shaped by the panorama of human thought. Dippel, a life-long Central Texan with deep roots in the Germanic origins of Brenham, is not at all bound by either Teutonic or American perspectives of who he is or who he thinks we should be. He states early his theme, that our raison d’etre must be to pass on moral rather than relative values, to instill in our children the best of our culture, as over against the more`s of a materialistic and militaristic world.

Mr. Dippel refers to universal thinkers like Aristotle and Machiavelli as poles of perspective –Machiavelli seeing humankind as inherently evil, Aristotle seeing us as redeemable, and while he recognizes the genius of the one as progenitor of empires of self-preservation and personal achievement, he sees in the other the basis of a moral order based on natural law. He draws from Moses, from Confucius, from St. Thomas Aquinas, from Mahatma Gandhi, from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from Jesus a tapestry of morality that blends the best of Oriental thought and the best of western traditions.

He does not view the political-economic order as the fundamental unit of society. He sees the family as fundamental, and its primary mission the instillation of character. In a world driven by power and profit, therefore easily succumbing to whatever will protect self and amass wealth; we must hear the still, small voice that calls us to accept, to tolerate, to understand. As this author presses his argument for openness to other peoples than western societies, other world-views than the Judaeo-Christian traditions of his own German-American background, he soars infinitely higher than what would normally be expected in the thought of a successful Texas banker. He recognizes modern America as wandering through varying epochs of outlook: the power politics of the first half of the twentieth century, the focus on economics and technology of the latter twentieth century, the calamities of the dawn of the twenty-first. The first two have established a social climate that encouraged polarization and disregard (even hate) for other human beings. The third has forced us to see the necessary kinship among us, and have forced not only a reaction of charity, but even a willingness to hear other voices – Islam, Buddhism, and atheism.

Dippel distinguishes between religion as structure and moral values as catalysts for attitudes and action. While on the one hand he admits to a sense of order and high discipline, on the other he is persuaded that the wisdom that humanizes is not fenced in by our denominations, our theologies, our zeitgeists. The values we must instill in our children must move from killing and hating towards tolerance and responsibility based on conscience. He consistently reminds us of the dark view of Machiavelli, of the inherent evil of humankind, which leads naturally to building walls, to being harshly selective in associations, to the polarization which leads to prejudice and exclusion and even blaming the helpless for their own helplessness. And he just as consistently refers to the perspectives of those universal thinkers whose view is that humankind is redeemable. In an addendum to the book he refers to the Ten Commandments with their moral injunctions (six through ten), and their requirement of reverence for God (one through four). He does not push the Jewish-Christian motif, but cites the Eight Levels of Charity of Rambam – the 12th century Jewish scholar – and in his “Triangles of Enlightened Conservatism,” the Golden Rule expressed by both Jesus and Confucius.

All of this continues to focus on the central theme of the books, that the human family as the basic unit of society is responsible for passing on to our children values that lead them away from acquisition, the defeat of enemies, or the favoring of an elite, and toward respect for the concept of an Absolute (God?) and the embrace of other human beings. A poignant post-script is a memorial statement to a young relative killed in Iraq, who saw war as more than killing enemies, but also as passing on a painful heritage to children in the Middle East.

The work is obviously the distillation of many years of serious reflection on Dippel’s own sense of life-purpose, in light of his twentieth-century American upbringing in a small Texas community. “Can any good thing come out of Brenham?” This book is an eloquent answer to such a question.

--- William A. Lawson
Houston, Texas

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