Esteemed thinker: Henri Rousseau

There are twenty-four hours in the day all making up the exact amount of minutes, sixty-per-hour to be exact. However, it is curious that some of these hours seem to fly by, not allowing us to complete specific tasks. It is during this time that we often say, “time flies”. Yet, on the opposite pole, there exists times when we feel an hour goes by so slowly that we wish it away. These creeping hours are universally agreed upon to be relegated to the occasions when we wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to fall back to sleep.

During these fitful hours nothing seems to agree. Our pillows are too flat or too thick, our sheets are too hot or too cold, and the room is too quiet or too noisy. The clock’s ticking or lit numbers seem too loud or too bright, and seem only remind to us that we should be asleep.

Twenty-four hours in the day may be the official count however, during unintentional times we are awake instead of sleeping, twenty –four hours seems interminable. rousseau image

Today’s blog brings to you the esteemed thinker: Henri Rousseau (1844-1910), a self-taught French artist born in Laval, France. His nickname, “Le Douanier” (“the customs officer”) by his acquaintances in the Parisian avant-garde was given to him because of his occupation as a toll collector. During his life as an artist he was often ridiculed as not being good, and unlike his peers who profited by their art, Rousseau did not.
His style, often described as childlike and naïve, did in fact portray his subjects with bold colors and very personalized style. His style was never appreciated by the conservative art officials in Paris, yet he was able to find exhibitions that accepted his work to be shown.

It was contemporary artist friends such as Camille Pissarro who praised his direct approach. After his death in 1910, his work did influence other artists; from his friend Picasso to Max Ernst and the Surrealists.

And so, I bring you a most famous painting by “Le Douanier”, which envisions those set hours we call night….here is an oil on canvas titled “The Sleeping Gypsy” (1897).

rousseau_ sleeping gypsy

Second image: Henri Rousseau 1902 photomechanical print : photogravure

P.T. Barnum and debt

debtIf you wanted to know where to look for advice you would only have to twist your head from side to side for it rests on both of your shoulders. Advice are those “either or suggestions” that we grapple with; they are the suggestions we often do not know which one to adhere to. For when we are in need, both sides can be ever so convincing.

Advice is the food we feed our indecisions, sometimes it is fattening…filled with saturated fats and sugars….not very good for us but very satisfying; and then there is the more nutritious proposals, not as immediately fulfilling but in the long run more wholesome. And there lies the problem, which advice to ignore and which one to adopt; for as we twist our head from side-to-side, our hunger for contentment amplifies. Perhaps this is why many a person has succumbed to advice that grants immediate rewards… deciding to attend to the details later. But when “later” comes round such advice heaves and sighs under the weight of debt and disappointment. And with poor advice it is often too late to realize that like unwanted calories, debt increase at a rate where suddenly we are quite a bit stouter.

Alas, the burden of deciding which advice to take is not easy. And wouldn’t it be nice if there was the proverbial crystal ball that could tell us which side of our head to listen to. But like the little devil and angel on either shoulder, we can only hope our choice is correct.

Barnum circus posterToday’s post returns to you a man who presumes to have the right advice: the esteemed thinker: P.T. Barnum (1801-1891). Although the Barnum name is part of the American circus legacy, Mr. Barnum was 61 years old when the circus collaboration was presented to him. It was in his marketing ingenuity and genius that brought him to the forefront of 19th century society. He crafted his life by taking chances and making changes. He was mostly successful in business although at times suffered for under his miscalculations

From his book The Art of Money Getting, I have extracted some words of advice in the essay, “Avoid Debt”.

“Young men starting in life should avoid running into debt. There is scarcely anything that drags a person down like debt. It is a slavish position to get in, yet we find many a young man, hardly out of his “teens,” running in debt… Grunting and groaning and working for what he has eaten up or worn out, and now when he is called upon to pay up, he has nothing to show for his money; this is properly termed “working for a dead horse.” I do not speak of merchants buying and selling on credit, or of those who buy on credit in order to turn the purchase to a profit…

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master. When you have it mastering you; when interest is constantly piling up against you, it will keep you down in the worst kind of slavery. But let money work for you, and you have the most devoted servant in the world. It is no “eye-servant.” There is nothing animate or inanimate that will work so faithfully as money when placed at interest, well secured. It works night and day, and in wet or dry weather…”

William Cobbett and observations

dandelion_avery
The mind is truly amazing and one of its unique abilities is the way it filters extraneous information allowing us to function uninterrupted unlike an overloaded circuit breaker that abruptly shuts down. And although we are constantly bombarded both internally and externally, our minds ability to sort allows us to carry on. However, as we sort we are also apt to miss certain things which do not always take a prominent position of importance. Traveling in a vehicle requires us to look forward, as when we are the driver of car in contrast to times we don’t look around at all but rather stay to ourselves, such as riding in a subway. Here wondering eyes that happen upon another may be considered nosy or even rude.

There are specific moments however when observing one’s surroundings is initiated with a more than a casual interest; when something is new, when we are lost, or when we reminisce; otherwise many are quite content simply getting to and fro from one destination to another without taking additional time out for the sights. For example our observations become enhanced if we are in a location that we have never ventured, such as on a vacation. We are more relaxed, allowing our minds to examine the new, the different, and the picturesque. Our senses are heightened; we permit curiosity to take over and our adventurous spirit to be released.

When we are lost our observational skills resemble those of Sherlock Holmes. We look for clues, familiar sights, locations, people that may lead us back on to the correct path. The physical beauty of our surroundings are irrelevant and no matter how much the sun may be shining upon the landscape, our observational mission is primarily directed to uncovering where we have gone astray.

Then there are those of us who return to places and locations after so many years away; here we find that our observations are directed into comparison mode. We endeavor to find a street, a house, even a tree that once existed and when it is not there we try to make sense out of the new thing in its place. We rummage through our mind comparing our yesterday with today.

How quickly does the day go by. How often have we arrived at a destination and the very act of traveling was like a dream since we are so preoccupied with matters at hand or matters that are weighing on our mind we don’t even remember the act of getting from one place to another. How curious is it that one can go through a season and not remember seeing the buds awakening on the winter trees, or the migration of robins returning, or even the full moon against the black sky even when it was directly over head.

Perhaps all this filtering is like censorship and we have managed to censor what may be the most remarkable part of our days. Perhaps we need to turn off our “auto pilot” just so we don’t miss the show.

William Cobbett by John Raphael Smith Today’s blog returns the esteemed thinker: William Cobbett (1763-1835) English born political reformer, writer, and editor. Although he is not widely read today, he is not a man to be dismissed. His outspoken editorials and mouthpiece for the general population during England’s Industrial Revolution, one finds him dodging prison and “escaping” to the United States for a period of time. His ability to connect to people may have originated from his innate and keen ability to observe. From 1821 to 1836 Cobbett traveled on horseback through rural England whereby he documented his observations of daily life and surroundings.

From his book titled Rural Rides I bring you a sampling of his work. Though it is but a brief passage, it is written with rich details whereby we too have become an observer. I present to you, Mr. Cobbett…

“This, to my fancy, is a very nice country. It is continual hill and dell. Now and then a chain of hills higher than the rest, and these are downs, or woods. To stand upon any of the hills and look around you, you almost think you see the ups and downs of sea in a heavy swell (as the sailors call it) after what they call a gale of wind. The undulations are endless, and the great variety in the height, breadth, length, and form of the little hills, has a very delightful effect.—The soil, which, to look on it, appears to be more than half flint stones, is very good in quality, and, in general, better on the tops of the lesser hills than in the valleys. It has great tenacity; does not wash away like sand, or light loam. It is a stiff, tenacious loam, mixed with flint stones. Bears Saint-foin well, and all sorts of grass, which make the fields on the hills as green as meadows, even at this season; and the grass does not burn up in summer.—In a country so full of hills one would expect endless runs of water and springs. There are none: absolutely none. No water-furrow is ever made in the land. No ditches round the fields. And, even in the deep valleys, such as that in which this village is situated, though it winds round for ten or fifteen miles, there is no run of water even now. ..”

Second image: National Portrait Gallery (London) William Cobbett by John Raphael Smith ,chalk, engraved 1812

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the self

self portrait The language we use, the language we hear and read, the language we have become accustomed to is constantly being remodeled. And as this remodeling reshapes our day to day jargon, there are those who embrace it and others who look upon it with trepidation. Words that we once used in conversation before have either died out for lack of use, such as ‘thou”, while other words have been altered, such as ‘television’ is now simply ‘tv’. Quickly finding its way into our vernacular is a whole range of creative words mostly due to new technologies and ideas. Selfie, a more recent addition in English, was retailored from “self” to give rise to its meaning….the ability to instantly snap a picture of one’s self. And with this technological advancement, for surely it would be rather cumbersome to take a selfie if we had to prepare a tripod every time we had a whim, along with this adapted self-portraiture, comes the instantaneous ability to declare its arrival to the world.

The concept of self portraiture is not new for as long as there have been artists there have always been portrait painters. However, what is different in the twenty-first century is technology and its dominant place in all societies. Regardless of which hemisphere you live in, we have accrued a most powerful set of tools. Powerful in the sense that some may believe it has transformed much of society into being quite self-indulgent; self-absorbed, self-centered, and perhaps narcissist.

Harsh words… well perhaps, though words that should not be directed only towards the present for humanity has always taken a liking to itself. Perhaps the “selfie” today is yesterday’s “mirror”. Perhaps our inventive technology has been able to just magnify what we already suspected about society, perhaps technology is presenting us with a faster and closer look at what was always there; perhaps we are getting the same images of mankind and womankind now as ‘close-ups’ rather than ‘landscape’.

After all, are we so much more different than our ancestors? I suppose there is something to that old adage… “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…”

mlk Today’s blog brings back a very great individual, the esteemed thinker: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968); a man widely regarded as America’s paramount advocate of nonviolence. Through his use of the words and acts of nonviolent resistance he was able to achieve seemingly-impossible goals. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and social activist who led the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. In 1964 King received the Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest person ever to receive this high honor. At the young age of 39, he was tragically assassinated, leaving behind a forever grieving nation.

I now offer to you a moment of time to read the words of a most honored man. From his Sermon Delivered in 1957 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, “Conquering Self-Centeredness”…I present to you Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“…An individual has not begun to live until he can rise above the narrow horizons of his particular individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. And this is one of the big problems of life, that so many people never quite get to the point of rising above self. And so they end up the tragic victims of self-centeredness. They end up the victims of distorted and disrupted personality.

Life has its beginning and its maturity comes into being when an individual rises above self to something greater. Few individuals learn this, and so they go through life merely existing and never living. … They start out, the minute you talk with them, talking about what they can do, what they have done. They’re the people who will tell you, before you talk with them five minutes, where they have been and who they know. They’re the people who can tell you in a few seconds, how many degrees they have and where they went to school and how much money they have. We meet these people every day. And so this is not a foreign subject. It is not something far off. It is a problem that meets us in everyday life. We meet it in ourselves, we meet in other selves: the problem of self-centeredness…

And the way to solve this problem is not to drown out the ego but to find your sense of importance in something outside of the self. And you are then able to live because you have given your life to something outside and something that is meaningful, objectified. You rise above this self-absorption to something outside… This is the way to go through life with a balance, with the proper perspective because you’ve given yourself to something greater than self…”

First image: A.K. Kuznetsov, standing inside greenhouse with a tripod-mounted camera, as seen through his reflected image in a mirrored sphere, ca. 1885.

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 thinkers: Voices of Peace

Reelfoot Lake State Park, Tennessee Onomatopoeia is a funny sounding word, a poetic device used by writers when they craft their work. For those who may wish for a reminder definition: onomatopoeia are words used to imitate natural sounds such as hiss, splash, and bang. Most of us use them in our conversations such as, “I drizzled sugar over my cereal.” Drizzle is our onomatopoeia.

Let us take a look at the word Peace…in English the c in the middle of the word is soft as compared to the hard c in the middle of the word chocolate. They both conjure up positive images (unless you are not a fan of chocolate) yet the latter does not sound like what it is; a most delicious flavor. On the other hand the word Peace, with its soft c at the end almost tries to extend itself a little longer than many other words, as though it were a breeze although rallies us like a hurricane. (Say it aloud and you’ll see what I mean.)

Is Peace an onomatopoeia? Perhaps not by formal rhetorical rights however, I find myself justifying it as such. For me Peace sounds like what it denotes, yet sadly it is not always fulfilled within the constraint of its meaning. It is often presented as lovely as a delicate flower in a bud vase, but then too often maligned, misused, abused, mangled, lied to, and toppled without regard to its heirs and heiresses.

Today’s blog is devoted to Peace; dear to all man and womankind. Many esteemed thinkers have offered us their words… here is just a mere sampling of their wisdom.

window “For it isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” Eleanor Roosevelt

“I think that people want peace so much that one of these days government had better get out of their way and let them have it.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” Nelson Mandela

“The real and lasting victories are those of peace, and not of war”. Ralph Waldo Emerson

“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 believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Peace is not an absence of war; it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.” Baruch Spinoza

“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” Albert Einstein

“Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.” Buddha

“Only in freedom is permanent peace possible.” Jane Addams

Einstein on mankind-womankind

farm “What an extraordinary situation is that of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn: for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he feels it. But from the point of view of daily life, without going deeper, we exist for our fellow-men–in the first place for those on whose smiles and welfare all our happiness depends, and next for all those unknown to us personally with whose destinies we are bound up by the tie of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labours of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving. I am strongly drawn to the simple life and am often oppressed by the feeling that I am engrossing an unnecessary amount of the labour of my fellow-men. I regard class differences as contrary to justice and, in the last resort, based on force. I also consider that plain living is good for everybody physically and mentally…”