Esteemed thinker: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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MLK Memorial Sculpture

A prize is an honor that from the earliest stage of our remembrance we have yearned to receive. Some prizes are earned after long and arduous work and commitment, and then some prizes are received after very little work or accomplishments. A prize can be given and accepted as a token, or it can live out well beyond the life of the receiver. Some prizes are cherished and others prizes such as laughter and happiness are seldom acknowledged as such and rather taken for granted.

We find prizes are consumed such as candy which pours out from the innards of a “pinata” after it receives quite a beating and then tumbles down like hail and gathered in a frenzied scurry, while other prizes are worn like jewelry around the neck such as a medal earned by an athlete. Some are prizes are trophies to be displayed on the mantle and others are plaques that adorn the wall. Some prizes such as gold have been fought over, plundered for, and even annihilated others for its possession.

And then there is a prize rewarded to those who have accomplished the greatest of deeds, given to one who has dedicated his or her life for the betterment of others. It is a prize distinguished above the rest in hopes that we, humanity, can carry on the work of these individuals. Such a reward is honored and revered and ever so noble; the Nobel Peace Prize. It is a prize that is presented to one that *“shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

Peace… a most cherished prize for us all. Funny, something so valuable is basically a state of being, an idea, a solution, and ever so sensible….

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

1964

Today’s post is dedicated to a man who is synonymous with peace, the esteemed thinker: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968). Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. King was a paramount figure in the twentieth-century and a pivotal force behind the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Dr. King’s noted idea of somebodiness gave black and poor people a new sense of worth and dignity. His philosophy of nonviolent action, and his approach for rational and non-destructive social change, awakened the conscience of the United States and redirected the nation’s priorities. His life was tragically cut short when in 1968, standing on his hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee, he was assassinated… To this day the nation continues to mourn his death and the loss of a truly great man.

I invite you now to take time out of your hectic day for the words of the illustrious Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Here is a portion selected from his 1964 Nobel Peace Prized acceptance speech….words of wisdom, indeed…

“I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…

I think Alfred Nobel would know what I mean when I say that I accept this award in the spirit of a curator of some precious heirloom which he holds in trust for its true owners – all those to whom beauty is truth and truth beauty – and in whose eyes the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold…”

* Quote from Alfred Nobel
First image: 1973 steel memorial sculpture by William Tarr

Ralph Waldo Emerson and quietude

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Perhaps we need a requiem for a quiet moment for I fear that moments of quietude are on the endangered list; right behind solitude. To find quiet is like trying to find a spot at a picnic without ants. We are in a time where there is a constant flow of attention and noise. Close your eyes and take a moment. Listen. It matters not if you are alone in a room for regardless of how hard you may try there is some underlying noise. The hum of the refrigerator or the off and on of the gas heater. Go outside; there is a chronic bombardment of noises echoing from cars, planes, construction, and lawn mowers.  Even among the spender offered by far-off parks, a helicopter circles the canyons and waterfalls. A bulwark of noises all too great for Mother Nature’s whispers.

And so, we must believe that there are places where stillness exists and nature is given back her power to speak… I hope. Ralph Waldo Emerson 2jpg

Today’s post brings back the esteemed thinker and expert on tranquility; Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1870), who said “Nature is made to conspire with spirit to emancipate us.” The central figure in his literary and philosophical group, now known as the American Transcendentalists, he was a preacher, philosopher, and poet, as well as being considered having the finest spirit and ideals of his age. Emerson was a bold thinker having penned essays and gave lecture that offer models of clarity, style, and thought, which guaranteed him a formidable presence in 19th century American life. He offered his views on the harmonies of man and nature, intellectual and spiritual independence, self-reliance, and Utopian friendship. He was a committed Abolitionist, a champion of the Native Americans, and a crusader for peace and social justice.

I now invite you to contemplate a stanza from his poem titled Walden, snipped from his book Society and Solitude (1875).

In cities high the careful crowds

Of woe-worn mortals darkling go,

But in these sunny solitudes

My quiet roses blow.

John Muir and summer

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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

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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

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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.