Esteemed thinker: William H. Seward

alaska 1869 Predicting the future; is it an art or is it a scam? There are people who make their living by claiming they can tell the future using such means as: reading tea leaves, examining “life lines” on a hand, or making predictions with the help of Tarot cards. Naturally, most of us would like someone to forecast our future, tell us what will happen tomorrow, if what we are about to do is a good plan or one that should be abandoned.

Yet, if we examine this notion of telling the future, just possibly there are among us individuals who can anticipate the likelihood of what may transpire at a later date; the ability to analyze a situation and project its outcome. Maybe they are simply individuals like you and I who can dazzle us with what we believe is ‘predicting the future’, but in reality they are merely patient enough to “see” the big picture. If so, then if we all stepped back and took our time…. we too could perform such magic!

Seward, William Today’s blog brings you the esteemed thinker: William H. Seward, (1801-1872) born in Orange County, Florida. He served as New York’s governor, a U.S. Senator, and secretary of state during the Civil war. He was an ardent abolitionist, and one of Abraham Lincoln’s closest advisors helping to ensure Europe did not recognize the Confederacy as an independent nation. On April 14, 1865, nine days after he was gravely injured in a carriage accident, the bedridden Seward was stabbed in the throat by Lewis Powell (alias Lewis Payne), a fellow conspirator of John Wilkes Booth, who had that night assassinated Lincoln. Seward made a remarkable recovery and retained his cabinet post under Pres. Andrew Johnson until 1869.

His purchase of Alaska from the Russians, became known as “Seward’s folly” though, his foresight to negotiate a deal in 1866 certainly proved him to be a man that could “see the future” way beyond those of his skeptics. By 1896 gold had been discovered in the newly purchased regions and Alaska became the gateway to the Klondike gold fields. Years later, during World War II, Alaska would prove to be a strategic importance for the United States and in 1959, earning itself a place as the 49th state.

From William H. Seward’s Alaska Speech of 1869, delivered in Sitka Alaska, I shall take you back to this historic occasion. Take a moment from your busy day and reflect on Mr. Seward premonition or “folly of 1866”…you can decide…

“… Within the period of my own recollection, I have seen twenty new States added to the eighteen which before that time constituted the American Union, and I now see, besides Alaska, ten Territories in a forward condition of preparation for entering into the same great political family. I have seen in my own time not only the first electric telegraph, but even the first railroad and the first steamboat invented by man. And even on this present voyage of mine, I have fallen in with the first steamboat, still afloat, that thirty-five years ago lighted her fires on the Pacific Ocean. These, citizens of Sitka, are the guaranties, not only that Alaska has a future, but that that future has already begun.”

Second photo: Portrait of Secretary of State William H. Seward, officer of the United States government,
Brady National Photographic Art Gallery (Washington, D.C.), photographer, Created/Published: between 1860 and 1865

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 thought: Peace… if not now, when?

Today’s blog is a thought; a sigh of words to be scattered and retrieved; an invitation for the undertone of the day…
I give to you my poetic rendering… Peace; if not now when?

*****

Esteemed thinker: John Muir

muir I am enamored by the seasons in the same way a child discovers the tide; I embrace its mysterious changes like the youngster who scampers in and out, learning that the water goes to- and- fro without ever taking time to rest. For me each new blossom, each tree that sheds its leaves, each bulb that springs up with a flower more lovely than the next is complete wonderment. And so, I enjoy spying upon Mother Nature’s children as if they were my own rather than being a surrogate; taking moments to photograph her family. (I dare share with you a roadside field that decided to flaunt its summer beauty.)

wildflowers

Today’s blog reflects upon the words of the esteemed thinker: John Muir (1838-1914), one of the earliest preservationist in the United States. He was a naturalist, writer, conservationist, and founder of the Sierra Club. John Muir is noted as the Father of the National Park Service, convincing the U.S. government to protect Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier as national parks through his writing. John Muir’s words came from his lifetime 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.

So, I take you out of your hectic world into a day with John Muir and his observation of trees; feast upon this vivid excerpt from Steep Trails.

“No lover of trees will ever forget his first meeting with the sugar pine. In most coniferous trees there is a sameness of form and expression which at length becomes wearisome to most people who travel far in the woods. But the sugar pines are as free from conventional forms as any of the oaks. No two are so much alike as to hide their individuality from any observer. Every tree is appreciated as a study in itself and proclaims in no uncertain terms the surpassing grandeur of the species. The branches, mostly near the summit, are sometimes nearly forty feet long, feathered richly all around with short, leafy branchlets, and tasseled with cones a foot and a half long. And when these superb arms are outspread, radiating in every direction, an immense crownlike mass is formed which, poised on the noble shaft and filled with sunshine, is one of the grandest forest objects conceivable. But though so wild and unconventional when full-grown, the sugar pine is a remarkably regular tree in youth, a strict follower of coniferous fashions, slim, erect, tapering, symmetrical, every branch in place. At the age of fifty or sixty years this shy, fashionable form begins to give way. Special branches are thrust out away from the general outlines of the trees and bent down with cones. Henceforth it becomes more and more original and independent in style, pushes boldly aloft into the winds and sunshine, growing ever more stately and beautiful, a joy and inspiration to every beholder…”

Esteemed thinker: Kwame Anthony Appiah

Abstract modern technology background The world is getting smaller, not by empirical standards of size, but in a metaphorical sense that we are becoming closer together by our mere exposure to one another. Advanced technology in its vast array of formats, as well as the ease of travel, has made the former achievable in rates once never believed possible. And so …one would think with all this exchange of information, either voluntarily solicited or through virtual promotion, we would embrace this unique opportunity to positively affect the lives of others.

Today I bring you the esteemed thinker: Kwame Anthony Appiah, (Born in London (1954) and grew up in Ghana) philosopher, cultural theorist, author, and Princeton University Professor. In his understanding of the world’s unique connection to each other, he ponders this concept and asks us to think about …“how individuals in a rapidly globalized world must balance the demands of cultural identity and shared humanity.” From a conversation in Examined Life: Excursions with contemporary thinkers, here are his words.

appiah “ … we have to figure out how to live in a world in which our responsibilities are, not to just a hundred people with whom we can interact with and see, but to six or seven billion people whom we cannot see and whom we can affect only in indirect ways. And *cosmopolitanism for me is meant to be an answer to that challenge. It is meant to say you cannot retreat to the hundred. You can’t be partial to some tiny group and live out your moral life there; it’s simply not morally permissible. But you cannot abandon your local group either, because that would take you too far away from your humanity. So what we have to do is to learn how to do both.”

*For Appiah, cosmopolitanism asks individuals from varying locations to enter relationships of mutual respect despite their differing beliefs.

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s thoughts on history

The nature of our spirit can be seen as a connection of events collected through time. To this writer an essential element in the development of creating idea, either consciously or unconsciously, is urged along by the products of the past… “history”!

In my earlier blogs I offered to the reader what Bertrand Russell had to say on the matter of “history”. Today we will lend Ralph Waldo Emerson a moment of our time.

history Greek “There is one mind common to all individual men. Every man is an inlet to the same and to all the same. He that is once admitted to the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole estate. What Plato has thought, he may think; what a saint has felt, he may feel; what at any time has befallen any man, he can understand. …Of the works of this mind history is the record. Its genius is illustrated by the entire series of days. Man is explicable by nothing less than all his history. Without hurry, without rest, the human spirit goes forth from the beginning to embody every faculty, every thought, every emotion, which belongs to it in appropriate events…This human mind wrote history, and this must read it. The Sphinx must solve her own riddle. If the whole of history is in one man, it is all to be explained from individual experience. There is a relation between the hours of our life and the centuries of time. As the air I breathe is drawn from that great repositories of nature, as the light on my book is yielded by a star a hundred millions of miles distant, as the poise of my body depends on the equilibrium of centrifugal and centripetal forces, so the hours should be instructed by the ages, and the ages explained by the hours…Each new fact in his private experience flashes a light on what great bodies of men have done, and the crises of his life refer to national crises. Every revolution was first a thought in one man’s mind, and when the same thought occurs to another man, it is the key to that era…

Bertrand Russell and the ‘utility’ of history

History is read, viewed, and even dismissed for a variety of reasons; all of which would be too cumbersome to analyze in brevity. However, I offer up to you the words of Philosopher Bertrand Russell, who suggests quite succinctly, “History is valuable, to begin with, because it is true; and this, though not the whole of its value, is the foundation and condition of all the rest…”

Today’s blog reflects on the “utility” of history; a term coined by Russell… (The term ‘utility” I find most fascinating; for it is not often exercised in regards to the study of history.) So, in the words of Mr. Russell, let us begin…

PH00873 “ … Another and a greater utility, however, belongs also to history. It enlarges the imagination, and suggests possibilities of action and feeling which would not have occurred to an uninstructed mind. It selects from past lives the elements which were significant and important; it fills our thoughts with splendid examples, and with the desire for greater ends than unaided reflection would have discovered. It makes visible and living the growth and greatness of nations, enabling us to extend our hopes beyond the span of our own lives. In all these ways, a knowledge of history is capable of giving statesmanship, and to our daily thoughts, a breadth and scope unattainable by those whose view is limited to the present…”