Walker Evans and choices

Cereal aisle One has only to take a stroll down the aisle of the grocery store to see that the choices offered are more than one stomach could ever tolerate. Perhaps that is why we are often reminded that if you are trying to watch your weight you should not go to the store hungry. The cereal shelves are a fine example of choice overload, flakes of every size and concoction, from sugar coating to corn and rye, it seems as though we have been given quite a palette of breakfast delights.

But lest we really take time to pause just perhaps all this abundance is actually what could be referred to as “false generosity”. Are all these enticing products for our nutritional benefit or have they been formulated for our ever-greedy taste buds and another’s financial appetite? And although the food industry and manufactures have given us such ample reason to eat, their generosity may actually be something very different than what meets the eye.

Today’s blog reintroduces the esteemed thinker: Walker Evans (1903-1975), an artistic icon who became one of the most influential American photographers. In 1926 he traveled to Paris where he developed an interest in literature. However, upon his return to the United States a year later, he resorted to a different medium, photography, as his artistic outlet. Rejecting the prevailing aestheticized view of artistic photography, he instead chose a straightforward and direct style where he concentrated on photographing quotidian American life during the second quarter of the 20th century. He is universally regarded as the premier photographic artist among the Farm Security Administration staff during the late 1930s.

I now bring you one of his photographs, Grocery Store Window, Macon, Georgia (1935) a flashback in time to a date in history when choices of what to eat were often not a luxury but rather a function of necessity.

walker evans grocery store

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…”

Einstein on wealth

tug a war ” I am absolutely convinced that no wealth in the world can help humanity forward, even in the hands of the most devoted worker in this cause. The example of great and pure characters is the only thing that can produce fine ideas and noble deeds. Money only appeals to selfishness and always tempts its owners irresistibly to abuse it. Can anyone imagine Moses, Jesus, or Gandhi armed with the money-bags of Carnegie?”