Benjamin Franklin and advice

Advice

As long as there have been generations advice has been passed from elder to child and those who bestowed such information were looked upon as sage-like and wise. Older individuals were assumed to have accrued knowledge and wisdom from their own personal trials and tribulations. It became a perfectly natural set of circumstances that parceling out answers to a child’s question or giving advice was the job of a parent and grandparent; a responsibility they inherited from the previous generation of elders…

However, that was once the course of action taken from the beginning of time until we have turned over the pages of the calendar to the present. Alas, today, finding and retrieving information, getting an answer to a question, seeking advice, these missions have all has been usurped and supplanted by the internet.

We live in an age where there is not only a demand but an expectation for instantaneous results; where retrieval is met with little patience for wait time. Just a “google away” one can eliminate the “middle man; no longer does a child have to wait for a parent to come home from work or interrupt their reading of the newspaper to get an answer. Now they are able to bypass this hierarchal position that has been “outsourced” by the internet.

So unfortunate does it appear to be for parents who yearn to be adviser and confidant… however, before one laments take heed… for in fact it is the child who we should be sad for. The internet may be able to answer with lightning speed, but it remains to be a rather cold and unaffectionate replacement for these sages.

Today’s post brings you the esteemed thinker: Benjamin Franklin (170Benjamin franklin6-1790), one of America’s “Founding Fathers”. The list of his accolades are so numerous that it shall be limited here to statesman, philosopher, inventor, publisher, scientist, and sage.  Barely rivaled, his illustrious career and writings make him a favored celebrity in America’s lively history.  Born in Boston, Massachusetts, his father, Josiah, had come to the British colony and set up shop as a candle maker, while his mother, Abiah Folger, took care of the home and ten children. His parents could not afford to get him an education, so Benjamin had only two years of formal schooling, however, his curiosity and thirst for learning kept him reading anything he could get his hands on, culminating in a most illustrious life.

His work in the sciences included shaping our understanding of electricity with inventions such as the lightening rod. As a statesman during the time when the United States was finding its own voice and independence, he was one of five men who drafted the Declaration of Independence (1776).

And so, I bring you back to the early days when writing was the only way of communicating to those who were not in speaking distance. From his autobiography, Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin (1834) we will see that even such a great and wise man as he was took time to listen and reflect on his father’s advice.

“… I suppose you may like to know what kind of a man my father was. He had an excellent constitution, was of a middle stature, well set, and very strong: he could draw prettily, was a little skilled in music; his voice was sonorous and agreeable, that when he played on his violin and sung withal, as he was accustomed to do after the business of the day was over, it was extremely agreeable to hear. He had some knowledge of mechanics, and, on occasion, was very handy with other tradesmen’s tools; but his great excellence was his sound understanding and solid judgment in prudential matters, both in private and public affairs. It is true, he was never employed in the latter, the numerous family he had to educate and the strictness of his circumstances keeping him close to his trade: but I remember well his being frequently visited by leading men, who consulted him for his opinion in public affairs, and those of the church he belonged to, and who showed great respect for his judgment and advice: he was also much consulted by private persons about their affairs when any difficulty occurred, and frequently chosen an arbitrator between contending parties. At his table he liked to have, as often as he could, some sensible friend or neighbour to converse with, and always took care to start some ingenious or useful topic for discourse, which might tend to improve the minds of his children. By this means he turned our attention to what was good, just, and prudent in the conduct of life; and little or no notice was ever taken of what related to the victuals on the table, whether it was well or ill dressed, in or out of season, of good or bad flavour, preferable or inferior to this or that other thing of the kind, so that I was brought up in such a perfect inattention to those matters as to be quite indifferent as to what kind of food was set before me. Indeed, I am so unobservant of it, that to this day I can scarce tell a few hours after dinner of what dishes it consisted. This has been a great convenience to me in travelling, where my companions have been sometimes very unhappy for want of a suitable gratification of their more delicate, because better instructed, tastes and appetites…”

First image: Created / PublishedNew York : Published by S. Zickel, No. 19, Dey-Street, c1871.

Second image: Benjamin Franklin: reproduction (1913) by Charles Willson Peale, 1741-1827, artist

 

Esteemed thinker: Samuel J. Tilden

NY public library

There is an adage that bears repeating, “the best things in life are free”; yet in spite of its hopeful message if you were to ask much of the population there would be a multitude of naysayers. After all, most of what folks are looking for can only be purchased. However there are many who would agree that Mother Nature does offer all her wonders, but often within her generosity are forces she possesses that can eradicate a home with an evening storm, capsize a way-faring vessel with a wave’s thirsty gulp, and destroy a city with a shrug of her fault line.

But to those who are willing to keep hoping and set skepticism aside, you have only to look within your neighborhoods. There are places where one can obtain knowledge, leisure, amusement, and harmony all for free. It is a location that welcomes you during the coldest of winter days and the hottest of summer afternoons. This place you say; all this for free? Upon which I remind you of the public library.

Today’s post brings to you the esteemed thinker: Samuel J. Tilden (1814-1886), a prominent political figure and philanthropist. who was cheated out of the presidency by the electoral college. Born in New Lebanon, New York. His early education was sporadic due to chronic poor health that followed him into adult life where he attended Yale University and studied law at NYU.  Tilden_of_NY

A man of great principals, in 1848 he led the revolt of the Democratic party in New York State against the creation of five slave States. He opposed slavery and was an active supporter of the Union during the civil war.  Known as a reformer, he fought  against bribery and corruption, bringing down New York’s powerful and corrupt Tweed Ring that controlled and defrauded New York City for years.

Tilden was elected the 25th governor of New York. His popularity as a strong advocate against corruption won him the presidential nomination, becoming the Democratic candidate for president in the hotly disputed election of 1876. A look back in history would describe him as having been cheated out of the presidency by the electoral college.  However, Tilden’s acceptance of his defeat was most honorable and may have prevented the country civil unrest, even though he won the popular vote against Rutherford r B. Hayes.

Having never married he remained a bachelor and acquired considerable wealth. With no heirs, upon his death he left the majority of his estate in trust for the establishment of a free public library for New York City. This bequest eventually helped build the New York City Library in Manhattan.

I now bring you a Harper’s Weekly cartoon, originally printed in January 27, 1877 and drawn by the famous Thomas Nast.  Titled  “Compromise- Indeed” it conveys concerns the Electoral Commission Act passed by Congress to resolve the disputed presidential election of 1876.

Tilden cartoon

 

First image: New York Public Library

 

Christopher Morley and portals

There are many thidoorwayngs that we do in our lives that may provoke one’s heart to beat a little faster. And though this activity may be as simple as turning the knob or pulling back on a handle, it is actually not the act, but rather the anticipation of what lies behind that stirs the thumping. Opening a door, a behavior that we do every day, is such an event that may cause your adrenaline to tingle and a lump in your throat to form.

From the very earliest time of your life to the present the door has made us grow limp at the knees. Take for example the first day of kindergarten, standing before the door that would suddenly escort you through a threshold that would forever leave you on one side and your mother on the other.

It was a door that stood between you and your first date, your prom, your visit to the doctor, the dentist, a driving test, and a job interview. A door, no matter what it may be made of…glass, paneled, steel, or wood, the door has the ability to cause us so much pain and so much happiness.
So the next time you come upon a door, I would venture to say, treat it kindly, for you may not know not what lies behind its portals.

Today’s blog returns the esteemed thinker: Christopher D. Morley, (1890-1957) American author, journalist, poet, and essayist. Born in Haverford, PA, Morley wrote for the New York Evening Post (1920-1923) and the Saturday Review of Literature (1924-1941), which he helped found. christopher morley 3

From his book, Mince Pie, I bring to you a snippet from “On Doors, ” a most profound look at a rather unassuming subject.

“…There are many kinds of doors. Revolving doors for hotels, shops and public buildings. These are typical of the brisk, bustling ways of modern life. Can you imagine John Milton or William Penn skipping through a revolving door? Then there are the curious little slatted doors that still swing outside denatured bar-rooms and extend only from shoulder to knee. There are trapdoors, sliding doors, double doors, stage doors, prison doors, glass doors. But the symbol and mystery of a door resides in its quality of concealment. A glass door is not a door at all, but a window. The meaning of a door is to hide what lies inside; to keep the heart in suspense.

Also, there are many ways of opening doors. There is the cheery push of elbow with which the waiter shoves open the kitchen door when he bears in your tray of supper. There is the suspicious and tentative withdrawal of a door before the unhappy book agent or peddler…
The opening and closing of doors is a part of the stern fluency of life. Life will not stay still and let us alone. We are continually opening doors with hope, closing them with despair. Life lasts not much longer than a pipe of tobacco, and destiny knocks us out like the ashes…”

First Image: 12th Century, French, limestone and oolitic

John Muir and summer

Sierra forest Lake_of_the_Lone_Indian_JMW

Summer… when fireflies come out at dusk and ice melts too fast in lemonade; ice cream tastes better even though it’s the same-old flavor. It has two weather patterns, hot and very hot, and when it rains it likes to pour. We complain in the summer because the steering wheel burns our hands and the sand burns our feet. The weeds grow thick and the air grows thick and everything feels sticky. The mosquitoes swarm and the flies love the picnics. It’s too crowded at the beach and the jellyfish fills in the empty spaces. Days are long, nights are short but then, without us noticing, when we turn the calendar over Labor Day comes and goes… we feel a sudden sense of remorse because summer is no longer there to complain about!

Today’s blog brings us the esteemed thinker: John Muir (1838-1914), one of the earliest preservationist in the United State. Naturalist, writer, conservationist, and founder of the Sierra Club, John Muir is noted as the Father of the National Park Service. muirHis foresight and influence to convince the U.S. government to protect Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier as national parks was a testimony to his writing. John Muir’s illustrious words came from a lifetime of work as a wilderness explorer, and his unyielding desire to maintain a natural environment that would not be exploited; still a rallying cry for all who wish to preserve our world.

I now bring you from his work of 1911, My First Summer in The Sierra; surely his personal reflections will remind you of the wonders that nature brings.

“… Warm, mellow summer. The glowing sunbeams make every nerve tingle. The new needles of the pines and firs are nearly full grown and shine gloriously… Summer is ripe. Flocks of seeds are already out of their cups and pods seeking their predestined places. Some will strike root and grow up beside their parents, others flying on the wings of the wind far from them, among strangers. Most of the young birds are full feathered and out of their nests, though still looked after by both father and mother, protected and fed and to some extent educated. How beautiful the home life of birds! No wonder we all love them…”

First image: Sierra Forest

4th of July

flag

All around the neighborhoods, in the cities, on the farmlands, in the mountains, along the grassy plains, and even rocking on the oceans and seashores. Americans are celebrating Independence Day…the Fourth of July. The skies are doused with the smells from smoky barbecues and diamond-studded sparklers…while the night skies will be ablaze with fireworks’ shows that dazzle, awe, and surprise… dogs will bark, some will hide, while children coax them out from beneath the bed with pieces of soggy hot dog buns. How lucky and grateful are we in the United States to be able to celebrate this historic occasion, while I lament that still others round the globe are unable to express freedom such as ours.

Today’s blog, in honor of the 4th of July, brings to you the words of the esteemed thinker: Edwin Percy Whipple (b. Massachusetts 1819-1886). Who? Oh, maybe you will recognize him by ‘E.P. Whipple’…is that better? Oh, still no recollection…well let me give you a bit of background about him. Of his time, he was considered a “compelling” speaker, lecturer, intellect, and literary critic; offering him an opportunity as the literary editor for the Boston Daily Globe. He was not stranger to the literary world having been the trustee of the Boston Public Library, 1868-1870. During the height of the lyceum movement*, he delivered as many as one thousand public lectures from Bangor to St. Louis.EP Whipple

From his essay The True Glory of a Nation, we take a moment to pause and read the words of Mr. Whipple…and though he may not be the most celebrated writer today, his thoughts regarding the people who “are” a nation indeed parallels the glory of why we “can” honor Independence Day.

“The true glory of a nation is an intelligent, honest, industrious people. The civilization of a people depends on their individual character; and a constitution which is not the outgrowth of this character is not worth the parchment on which it is written. You look in vain in the past for a single instance where the people have preserved their liberties after their individual character was lost. It is not in the magnificence of its palaces, not in the beautiful creations of art lavished on its public edifices, not in costly libraries and galleries of pictures, not in the number or wealth of its cities, that we find a nation’s glory. …The true glory of a nation is the living temple of a loyal, industrious, upright people…”

* Lyceum movement in the United States, especially in the northeast, was the beginning of adult education; organizations sponsored lectures and debates often on current interes

Esteemed thinker: Edwin Hubble

hubble-space

The idea that the universe is infinite is a term that defies logic. Humans are a species that likes to feel that beliefs and ideas can be packaged with a beginning and an end. So when it comes to comprehending beyond our visual scope of our universe, we have a difficult time comprehending that there is a forever expanding cosmos. The notion of “endless” is mind-boggling.  NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, launched on April 24, 1990, on the space shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Center in Florida has given us its shared view from a space. It can see astronomical objects with an angular size of 0.05 arc seconds, which is like seeing a pair of fireflies in Tokyo from your home in Maryland. Hubble has peered back into the very distant past, to locations more than 13.4 billion light years from Earth.

And so, having passed its 25th anniversary, there are some who may not know its namesake. Today’s post brings you the esteemed thinker: Edwin Hubble (1889-1953), American mathematician and astronomer,  born in Marshfield, Missouri.  Having received his first telescope at the early age of eight, his passion for astronomy was established quite early.

Although his father wanted him to pursue different interests, Hubble studied astronomy,  physics, and law; after which he traveled to Britain as a Rhodes Scholar. On his return to the United States, he set out to teach high school and coach basketball, but, he soon switched gears and continued to pursue astronomy studies. In 1915, he earned time on one of the Yerkes Observatory telescopes, launching his new career.

He began his PhD in astronomy in 1914, but postponed his work in 1917 to enlist, serving in France during World War I.  After the war, Hubble was fortunate to be at Mount Wilson, the center of observational work underpinning the new astrophysics, later called cosmology, and the 100-inch Hooker Telescope, then the most powerful on Earth that had just been completed and installed.

He began to classify all the known nebulae and to measure their velocities from the spectra of their emitted light. In 1929 he made another startling find – all galaxies seemed to be receding from us with velocities that increased in proportion to their distance from us – a relationship now known as Hubble’s Law. This discovery was a Edwin hubblesensational  breakthrough for the astronomy of that time as it overturned the conventional view of a static Universe and showed that the Universe itself was expanding.

Hubble worked at Mount Wilson until 1942, when he left to serve in World War II. He was awarded the Medal of Merit in 1946. Returning to his Observatory, his last great contribution to astronomy was a central role in the design and construction of the Hale 200-inch Telescope on Palomar Mountain. Notes as being four times as powerful as the Hooker, the Hale would be the largest telescope on Earth for decades.

Although wishing to win a Nobel Prize, all the effort was in vain since there was no category for astronomy.

From The Realm of the Nebulae (1936), I bring you the words of the great Edwin Hubble, a man with dreams that gave us the universe. “With increasing distance, our knowledge fades, and fades rapidly. Eventually, we reach the dim boundary—the utmost limits of our telescopes. There, we measure shadows, and we search among ghostly errors of measurement for landmarks that are scarcely more substantial. The search will continue. Not until the empirical resources are exhausted, need we pass on to the dreamy realms of speculation…”

First image taken from the Hubble Telescope.

Esteemed thinker: Georgia O’Keefe

crayons  If you have ever wondered how some of your classmates may have grown up to be corporate executives one has to look no further than into your childhood. Take a mental sabbatical down memory lane and find your elementary school classroom. Picture a day the teacher asked you to take out of your desk or remove from your cubby the new box of crayons your parents bought for you. Maybe it was purchased the “Five and Dime”, or maybe it was from the toy store. Now, look at yours and then check out your neighbor’s desk. Theirs is not an ordinary box of crayons with just a handful of colors; but the jumbo pack of 64 with the built in sharpener. This is the box of crayons that was coveted by most of the kids. It’s the one that dared to be shared but in order to get inside the sacred lid had to be negotiated. This was the box owned by the student that could wield negotiations with others as if they were at the end of the conference table. To borrow a color would perhaps require relinquishing a turn on the swing, giving up being line-leader, or even handing over a chocolate chip cookie.

Owning such a box of crayons was more than a palette of colors to create pictures to impress the teacher, it was entrance into a world that allotted ‘carte blanc’ privileges; and like flying first class it could even get you window-seat on the school bus!

georgia o'keefeToday’s blog brings you the esteemed thinker” Georgia O’Keefe, (1887-1986) who was born and raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Considered one of the most prominent artists of the twentieth century, she began her career by studying at the Art Institute of Chicago (1905–1906) and the Art Students League in New York (1907–1908), where she learned the techniques of traditional realist painting. By 1915 she had begun to develop her own artistic personality, a series of abstract charcoal drawings.
Her relationship as an artist was immediately recognized by Alfred Stieglitz, photographer and owner of the famous 291 gallery; one of the few places in the United States where European avant-garde art was exhibited. Their relationship blossoms into a well-known love affair and eventually they wed.

O’Keefe’s colorful paintings are world renown, depicting landscapes, flowers, and animal bones generated from her time in New York, Lake George area and New Mexico. She was able to create intricate detail, color shadows and distinct nuances on canvas. Her passion for her art and life can be seen in all her work.
I now invite you to read a most colorful excerpt from a letter written to her photographer friend Marie Chabot in 1941. It is not difficult to imagine how she viewed the world.

“It is breathtaking as one rises up over the world one has been living in, looking out at and looks down at it stretching away and away. The Rio Grande, the mountains, then the pattern of rivers, ridges, washes, roads, fields, water holes, wet and dry. Then little lakes, a brown pattern, then after a while as we go over the Amarillo country, a fascinating restrained pattern of different greens and cooler browns on the square and on the bias with a few curved shades and many lakes. It is very handsome way off into the level distance, fantastically handsome – like marvelous rug patterns of maybe ‘Abstract Paintings’…”

Georgia O'Keefe landscape

Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico/Out Back of Marie’s II, 1930, Oil on canvas mounted to board