Esteemed thinker: Rev. Owen Whitfield

Protesting is an exercise we have performed throughout the ages. People living in all lands around globe have declared and aired their disagreements sometimes peacefully and sometimes not. The method of protesting however has changed in comparison to the centuries prior to the current millennium.

The dumping of tea in Boston Harbor was a dramatic display of injustice by a defiant group of colonists, Sons of Liberty, in 1773. The call to join the efforts was rallied by word of mouth, a clandestine ploy where colonists went as far as disguising themselves as Native Americans and slipped aboard a British ship and relieved them of their cargo. In contrast, today’s call to protest often comes in the form of a text message where the silent voices are set free to cast their opinions world-wide, and in a matter of seconds their message is heard and repeated. And though the methods have changed over the centuries the demand for change is the similar.

Today’s blog brings you the esteemed thinker: Rev. Owen Whitfield (1892-1965). Born in Jonestown, Missouri to a sharecropper family, he himself became a sharecropper as well as a Reverand. By the mid-1930s the Great Depression was taking an extraordinary toll on poor tenant farmers whereby the federal government and its new subsidies was making it more profitable for landowners to dismiss their farmers. Seeing the plight of African American tenant farmers like himself and other poor farmers he rallied support for change.

Owen Whitfield In 1937 Whitfield joined and later became president of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, a multi-racial group of advocates. In 1939 he brought to the attention of the cause to President Franklin Roosevelt, explaining in a letter the exploitation of the tenant farmers and requesting changes be met.

Whitfield was instrumental in helping bring about reform, most notably by way of organizing The 1939 Roadside Sharecroppers Demonstration, a peaceable protest in Southeast Missouri. More than fifteen hundred men, women and children piled their meager belongings along US Highways 60 and 61 in the lowlands, also known as the Bootheel. Tenant farmers had been ruined by environmental disaster, falling crop prices, poverty and disease, New Deal agricultural policies, and the mechanization of cotton production. Now landowners had decided to hire day laborers to replace their tenants. Families who normally expected to occupy a plot of land for a year or more face seasonal employment with no guarantee of work or shelter.

Due to death threats, Whitfield did not participate in the demonstration but rather rallied politicians in the north for support. His efforts were effective and the government did begin to initiate some changes beginning with housing; the Delmos Security homes were erected for 600 farmers.

Esteemed thinker: Nikola Tesla

futureIt is astounding to think that only a hundred and fifteen years ago, which is not a very long ago in the realm of time, the world was in the throes of a new millennium. This was the Edwardian era, the very beginning of the 20th century, and the future seemed as unrealistic as one could imagine. Airplanes, radios, and wireless transmission were at its infancy. And if only the predictions had come true, what a different world it would be. Andrew Carnegie hoped warfare would “become the most dishonorable” profession and Secretary of the Navy John D. Long held the common belief that war would be abolished.”

Forward to the 21st century, where we began with such inventions as segways, ipods, braile gloves and hybrid cars. Sadly we cannot celebrate the predictions of Carnegie and Long for they did not hold up to the test of time. Which leads us to today’s esteemed thinker: Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) a world renowned scientist who made some of his own predictions seventy or so years before the millennium.

nikola tesla Nikola Tesla, born in Smiljan, Lika, which was then part of the Austo-Hungarian Empire, the region of modern day Croatia. In 1873 he began his studies in mathematics and physics at the University in Prague, however became fascinated with electricity. In 1881 he started his career in electrical engineering in Budapst and privately built a reduction motor, a radical idea that was not received well in Europe. As a result he moved to the United States and worked with Thomas Edison. For the next 59 years he established himself as a great inventor, which included constructing his theory of alternating current, in direct conflict with Edison’s theory of direct current. In 1882, Tesla discovered the rotating magnetic field, a fundamental principle in physics and the basis of nearly all devices that use alternating current. Alternating current became standard power in the 20th Century, an accomplishment that ultimately changed the world.

I now bring to you a snippet from an article in the 1935 issue of Liberty magazine. Here is one of many predictions made by the inventor, Nikola Tesla, a man who probably did not predict his own beneficial contribution to everyday life.

“… At present we suffer from the derangement of our civilization because we have not yet completely adjusted ourselves to the machine age. The solution of our problems does not lie in destroying but in mastering the machine. Innumerable activities still performed by human hands today will be performed by automatons. At this very moment scientists working in the laboratories of American universities are attempting to create what has been described as a ” thinking machine.” I anticipated this development. I actually constructed “robots.”

Today the robot is an accepted fact, but the principle has not been pushed far enough. In the twenty-first century the robot will take the place which slave labor occupied in ancient civilization. There is no reason at all why most of this should not come to pass in less than a century, freeing mankind to pursue its higher aspirations…”

Esteemed thinker: Albert Einstein

the thinker There is a notion that the intellect of men and women are determined by the dominant part of the brain they favor, the right or the left. According to some, people who are right- brained thinkers are those that are more creative in the arts, more intuitive and subjective; while the left- brained people are those that are gifted in the sciences and mathematics, more logical and analytical. This simple division has made for wonderful excuses not to perform certain tasks… for those who find calculating the sales tax a burden or drawing a map on a paper napkin excruciatingly painful can simply flit their hand up and smile, blaming their inadequacies to their lop-sided brain.

On the other hand, just like the color wheel is not just black and white; in between the two extremes we have hues of grey. And though we often think of the color grey as so distasteful when we find it upon the head, that we wash it away as soon as a single strand appears, we should think not negatively of this color.

On the contrary, a person who uses both the left and right side of his or her brain is to be thought of in a positive light, which I will now coin as “grey brained” ….one that utilizes all senses to accomplish what ever task is at hand. Perhaps if everyone thought with their “grey matter” all the time, what a rational world we might have!

Einstein Today’s blog returns the illustrious, esteemed thinker: Albert Einstein (1879- 1955) born at Ulm, in Württemberg, Germany. A man that needs little introduction, he is one of the most important and influential physicist of the 20th century. Well acknowledged for having developed the special and general theories of relativity, in 1921, he won the Nobel Prize for physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect.

And so, I have snipped a most profound statement from his book titled The world as I see it (1949). Upon reading his words I believe you will agree that both the left and right side of the brain, if you contend we favor one to another, are both essential…! And who can argue with his genius?

“…The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle…”

Second image: Turner, Orren Jack, photographer, c1947.

Esteemed thinker: Christopher D. Morley

cherry flowers changing The earth is most ingenious; for her ability to transform herself is akin to our flipping over the days on the calendar. For example, it was only a week or so ago that she celebrated the spring equinox (although somewhat arbitrary depending upon which side of the hemisphere you live) This is an occasion, when put into scientific terms, marks that special moment when the sun crosses the celestial equator going from south to north. At the equinox, Earth’s two hemispheres are receiving the sun’s rays equally…day and nights are approximately equal in length. Hence we get the word equinox from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night).

But for earth… this is really just a wardrobe crisis; much like hanging up one’s suit of clothes and exchanging it for another. Here the winter apparel has been put into storage and out comes the spring attire, which to our delight is much more colorful and often rather bold. For like those designers that dictate to us what colors are now “in”, so does Mother Nature play couturier with the seasons, choosing which blooms will festoon the trees and shrubs.

So, now the sun rises earlier, the flowers are sprouting, and the days are getting longer. So it seems that we have more time, an illusion created to fool us into believing that the 24 hours allocated are now more!

Christopher Darlington Morley_ Today’s blog introduces the esteemed thinker: Christopher D. Morley (1890-1957), a clever and prolific American journalist, novelist, playwright, and poet. Born in Haverford, PA, he was a Harvard Graduate. Morley wrote for the New York Evening Post (1920-1923) and the Saturday Review of Literature (1924-1941), which he helped found. Out of his keenness for the Sherlock Holmes stories, Morley helped found a group of Holmes enthusiasts, the Baker Street Irregulars. His 1939 novel Kitty Foyle, was made into an Academy Award-winning movie.

Here to brighten your day with a bit of wit and reminder of the vernal equinox and spring; from his book Mince Pie, I bring you the words of Christopher Morley.

“ Once a year, about the approach of the vernal equinox or the seedsman’s catalogue, we wake up at 6 o’clock in the morning. This is an immediate warning and apprisement that something is adrift. Three hundred and sixty-four days in the year we wake, placidly enough, at seven-ten, ten minutes after the alarm clock has jangled. But on this particular day, whether it be the end of February or the middle of March, we wake with the old recognizable nostalgia. It is the last polyp or vestige of our anthropomorphic and primal self, trailing its pathetic little wisp of glory for the one day of the whole calendar. All the rest of the year we are the plodding percheron of commerce, patiently tugging our wain; but on that morning there wambles back, for the nonce, the pang of Eden. We wake at 6 o’clock; it is a blue and golden morning and we feel it imperative to get outdoors as quickly as possible. Not for an instant do we feel the customary respectable and sanctioned desire to kiss the sheets yet an hour or so. The traipsing, trolloping humor of spring is in our veins; we feel that we must be about felling an aurochs or a narwhal for breakfast. We leap into our clothes and hurry downstairs and out of the front door and skirmish round the house to see and smell and feel.

It is spring. It is unmistakably spring, because the pewit bushes are budding and on yonder aspen we can hear a forsythia bursting into song. It is spring, when the feet of the floorwalker pain him and smoking-car windows have to be pried open with chisels. We skip lightheartedly round the house to see if those bobolink bulbs we planted are showing any signs yet, and discover the whisk brush that fell out of the window last November. And then the newsboy comes along the street and sees us prancing about and we feel sheepish and ashamed and hurry indoors again…”

Esteemed thinker: Henri Bergson

Henri bergson Some of us remember our dreams, some of us don’t, while others choose not to; but when you awaken, if your memory allows you the luxury of recall, dreams are often presented in a disjointed and unintelligible jumble of ideas and scenes. And so, trying to explain your “sleep-time story” often translates into a laundry list of sound-bites making little sense in the light of day. For while you are in a dream you are producing… shall we say… a most peculiar movie, which follows a sequence of events and situations that go from “reel to reel” (or “REM to REM”) . So what is it that makes our dreams so odd, so weird, so incoherent? Some superstitions and ‘old wives tales’ make all kinds of proclamations with rather unscientific explanations regarding how one will dream. For example: sleeping with knives under your pillow will keep nightmares away, or eating garlic at dinner will guarantee bad dreams…does that mean nibbling cookies will grant us sweet dreams!

Today’s blog invites you to hear from our esteemed thinker: Henri Bergson (1859-1941). As a French philosopher, Bergson was highly acclaimed for rejecting the current trend of thinking, rationalism for intuition and experience. His influence on the 19th and early 20th thinkers crossed over the oceans and was embraced by greats such as French novelist Claude Simon, American Philosopher and psychologists William James, English mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, and American author and artist John Dos Passos. In 1927 Bergson won the Nobel Prize in literature.

dreamcatcher_cepia And so, let us take a moment to experience a bit of insight from his essay and work titled Dreams; allow Henri Bergson to reveal the source of our strange and often incoherent nightly visions…the dream.

“… The incoherence of the dream seems to me easy enough to explain. As it is characteristic of the dream not to demand a complete adjustment between the memory image and the sensation, but, on the contrary, to allow some play between them, very different memories can suit the same sensation. For example, there may be in the field of vision a green spot with white points. This might be a lawn spangled with white flowers. It might be a billiard-table with its balls. It might be a host of other things besides. These different memory images, all capable of utilizing the same sensation, chase after it. Sometimes they attain it, one after the other. And so the lawn becomes a billiard-table, and we watch these extraordinary transformations. Often it is at the same time, and altogether that these memory images join the sensation, and then the lawn will be a billiard-table. From this come those absurd dreams where an object remains as it is and at the same time becomes something else. As I have just said, the mind, confronted by these absurd visions, seeks an explanation and often thereby aggravates the incoherence…”

Esteemed thinker: A.A. Milne

a.a. milne There are a multitude of experts in the world, and I use that term loosely, who are relied upon to tell others what they like. For example; the interior designer tells the home owner what they like, the stock broker tells the buyer what stocks they like; the advertiser tells the consumer what products they like, and so goes the list. Writers are not immune to this phenomenon for reviewers will relay to the public what they, the reader, will like. So one has to wonder, what makes an ideal author? What are the criteria to which one would find a favorable light cast upon their continence…no, let’s have it cast upon their work.

Is the ideal author one that is the designator for the disenfranchised, the author that dares write what others only think… the author that delights the reader with whimsical stories… or the writer that retells the tales of yore?

So for today’s blog, after we ponder the question, I give you a moment to pause with the thoughts from our esteemed thinker: A.A. Milne (1882-1956). Our London born author is best known (thanks to Walt Disney productions) for his classic work Winnie-the-Poo… But please toss this aside for a moment ; for though the charming tales claimed him international notoriety and success, his career began as the assistant editor of Punch , a British humor magazine; he was a prolific writer, gaining recognition as a novelist, poet, short story and play writer, and essayist. Now, I give you Alan Alexander Milne aka A.A. Milne and a bit of wit from his essay, The Ideal Author

“Samuel Butler* made a habit (and urged it upon every young writer) of carrying a notebook about with him. The most profitable ideas, he felt, do not come from much seeking, but rise unbidden in the mind, and if they are not put down at once on paper, they may be lost forever. But with a notebook in the pocket you are safe; no thought is too fleeting to escape you. Thus, if an inspiration for a five-thousand word story comes suddenly to you during the dessert, you murmur an apology to your neighbour, whip out your pocket-book, and jot down a few rough notes….

If I do not follow Butler’s advice myself, it is not because I get no brilliant inspirations away from my inkpot, nor because, having had the inspirations, I am capable of retaining them until I get back to my inkpot again, but simply because I should never have the notebook and the pencil in the right pockets. But though I do not imitate him, I can admire his wisdom, even while making fun of it. Yet I am sure it was unwise of him to take the public into his confidence. The public prefers to think that an author does not require these earthly aids to composition. It will never quite reconcile itself to the fact that an author is following a profession— a profession by means of which he pays the rent and settles the weekly bills. No doubt the public wants its favourite writers to go on living, but not in the sordid way that its barrister and banker friends live. It would prefer to feel that manna dropped on them from Heaven, and that the ravens erected them a residence; but, having regretfully to reject this theory, it likes to keep up the pretence that the thousand pounds that an author received for his last story came as something of a surprise to him—being, in fact, really more of a coincidence than a reward.

For this reason a layman will never hesitate to ask of an author a free contribution for some local publication.. But the same man would be horrified at the idea of asking a Harley Street surgeon (perhaps even more closely connected with him) to remove his adenoids for nothing. To ask for this (he would feel) would be almost as bad as to ask a gift of ten guineas (or whatever the fee is), whereas to ask a writer for an article is like asking a friend to decant your port for you—a delicate compliment to his particular talent…”

*Samuel Butler was an English Victorian writer.

Esteemed thinker: Ray Bradbury

ray Bradbury There is something very daunting when you enter a library; we are absorbed by the immediate sense of quiet, the cerebral, and an appreciation of timelessness. For those who are readers, writers, and book lovers, it is analogous to a child being let loose in a toy store…where one may choose not one but often as many as 20 items for free. The only caveat is that you must return them. But alas, that seems quite fair.

The library for me is a wonderland; however it is a place that I worry about. Once frequented, many are passed up, some say out-dated…and for others an inconvenient way to find a book. Nevertheless, those of you who have not visited one in awhile drop by and window shop…meander around the shelves … it is like a stroll along the beach where footsteps were forever left behind, only here there are books.

In today’s blog I invite you to revisit the library with the esteemed thinker: Ray Bradbury, (1920-2012) an American writer especially renowned for his work in the genre of science fiction. Bradbury’s career as an author started when he was a child and spanned for over 70 years. His reputation was clenched with his collection of books in 1950 titled under The Martian Chronicles.

Now, let us steal a moment for one of our iconic writers of the 20th century; here are his words from the biography Becoming Ray Bradbury (2011)… enjoy his unique analogy …

“The library was the great watering place where animals, large and small, came from the night to drink and smile at each other across the green-glass-shadowed glades between the book-mountains. So here you were gamboling on spring nights like lambs, lolling like warm trout in winy springs on summer nights, racing the curled mice-leaves on autumn nights, always to the same Monday place, the same Monday building. You ran, you dawdled, you flew, but you got there. And there was always that special moment when, at the big doors, you paused before you opened them out and went in among all those lives, in among all those whispers of old voices so high an so quiet it would take a dog, trotting between the stacks, to hear them. And trot you did.”