Esteemed thinker: Joseph Conrad

airplanes There are many things that fill the mind as we contemplate growing older. And upon doing so we have the capacity to reduce history by simply skipping back through the years; not only in a nostalgic way, but also in a manner that we find ourselves making comparisons from the present to the past; as if skimming through the pages of “Life Magazine”. What was once easy to find, ordinary things that were part of our lives, are now just ‘not’. Take for example: eating out at a diner is now fast food, composing work on a typewriter is now on a computer, making a call on a rotary dialed telephone is on a cell phone. Even the ordinary light bulb will be phased out marking another notch in the belt of technological advancements.

Exemplified by the growth of progress that many have witnessed are the revolutionary changes in travel, well deserving to receive its own column in the list of accolades. For some may remember John Glenn’s ride into space that mesmerized us on our black and white TV’s, and decades later this space capsule was replaced by the space shuttle, a fantastic and almost unbelievable way of travel that if one did not see it with their own eyes could only deem it came out of the imagination of Jules Verne. Yet with all the advancements made, becoming an astronaut is no longer the dreams of most children and the International Space Station news has been relegated to page two of the newspaper…

If we sneak back into time, flying in a plane was once as extraordinary as space travel for it was not common place, and if you were so lucky, the seat next to the window was second best to being in the cockpit. The shear thrill of rising off the ground and watching earth slowly fade away was as fictional as a storybook adventure, yet today it is not more exciting than a bus ride.

Brimming with memories we move forward, charging ahead with our technology and curiosity, but knowing that whenever we wish we can always take an unstructured look back to what once was.

Joseph conrad Today’s blog brings to you the great novelist, short story writer and esteemed thinker: Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) born in Berdyczow, located in a Ukranian province of Poland. His given name was Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski. From a very early beginning his life was difficult and harsh, at three his father was imprisoned in Warsaw for alleged revolutionary political affiliations and at eight his mother died of tuberculosis. The orphaned boy was taken in by his uncle. Conrad’s early adult life was spent at as a merchant seaman and traveling abroad where his experiences would later influence his writing. His short stories and novels like Lord Jim, Heart of Darkness and The Secret Agent, gained him easy fame and recognition as an influential writer. Although Conrad wrote in English and in 1886 was granted English nationality, he always considered himself Polish.

From his book Notes on Life and Letters we will now take a quick journey into his piece titled “Flight -1917”. I invite you to sneak a few moments out from your busy day to get a “bird’s eye view” from Mr. Conrad’s vantage point…where we will join him aboard an airplane. In his own words…..

“…The machine on its carriage seemed as big as a cottage, and much more imposing. My young pilot went up like a bird. There was an idle, able-bodied ladder loafing against a shed within fifteen feet of me, but as nobody seemed to notice it, I recommended myself mentally to Heaven and started climbing after the pilot. The close view of the real fragility of that rigid structure startled me considerably, while Commander O. discomposed me still more by shouting repeatedly: “Don’t put your foot there!” I didn’t know where to put my foot. There was a slight crack; I heard some swear-words below me, and then with a supreme effort I rolled in and dropped into a basket-chair, absolutely winded. A small crowd of mechanics and officers were looking up at me from the ground, and while I gasped visibly I thought to myself that they would be sure to put it down to sheer nervousness…

As to my feelings in the air, those who will read these lines will know their own, which are so much nearer the mind and the heart than any writings of an unprofessional can be. At first all my faculties were absorbed and as if neutralised by the sheer novelty of the situation. The first to emerge was the sense of security so much more perfect than in any small boat I’ve ever been in; the, as it were, material, stillness, and immobility (though it was a bumpy day). I very soon ceased to hear the roar of the wind and engines—unless, indeed, some cylinders missed, when I became acutely aware of that. Within the rigid spread of the powerful planes, so strangely motionless I had sometimes the illusion of sitting as if by enchantment in a block of suspended marble. Even while looking over at the aeroplane’s shadow running prettily over land and sea, I had the impression of extreme slowness. I imagine that had she suddenly nose-dived out of control, I would have gone to the final smash without a single additional heartbeat. I am sure I would not have known. It is doubtless otherwise with the man in control…”

First Image : N.Y. : Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann, Puck Building, 1911 August 23

Robert Louis Stevenson and autumn

??????????????????????????????? There is something quite enchanting about seasons; for the changes endowed upon much of the earth are as if nature was staging a new theater production. And if you are not careful, if you are quite busy going about your business, as most industrious people do, we are apt to find ourselves missing the show. Because the world is a sphere, those of us who are presently ensconced in autumn live in the hemisphere which is now trounced by falling leaves.

Here the world is noiselessly changing; for those who walk and kick up leaves, and those who admire the landscapes, in our little part of the universe, (and I say little for we take up just a tiny bit of room) the leaves must have drunk up all the yellow, and orange, and brown … for being quite greedy, it stands to reason that surely they have grown too lazy and hang slothfully upon the trees rusting, and then with very little effort, with the slightest push from a breeze, drop off and flutter idly to the ground.

In autumn there is a thinning, the days have shortened and perhaps because the temperatures have fallen, evening comes upon us earlier with its blanket of darkness and covers the day like a warm friend…

No wonder we refer to autumn as fall, the time when the earth seems to be slowly curling, drying, chilling, it is falling into a state of sleep. And right before our eyes it is vanishing into thin air…

Robert-louis-stevenson Today I bring back to you the ever popular esteemed thinker: Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) Our Scottish author has entertained readers of all ages with his classic novels; Kidnapped, Treasure Island, and even Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Although Stevenson was ill much of his life, he was a prolific writer of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. His beautifully crafted essays expose his keen understanding of human nature.

I invite you to steal a moment away from your day with a portion trimmed from his 1875 essay titled An Autumn Effect. Join Mr. Stevenson on an autumn walk as he shares with us his thoughts. And if you live in the hemisphere where we are now engaged in this season called fall, perhaps you too will reminisce with the same observations, only with an eye that is more than a century of years later.

“… It was well, perhaps, that I had this first enthusiasm to encourage me up the long hill above High Wycombe; for the day was a bad day for walking at best, and now began to draw towards afternoon, dull, heavy, and lifeless. A pall of grey cloud covered the sky, and its colour reacted on the colour of the landscape. Near at hand, indeed, the hedgerow trees were still fairly green, shot through with bright autumnal yellows, bright as sunshine. But a little way off, the solid bricks of woodland that lay squarely on slope and hill-top were not green, but russet and grey, and ever less russet and more grey as they drew off into the distance. As they drew off into the distance, also, the woods seemed to mass themselves together, and lie thin and straight, like clouds, upon the limit of one’s view. Not that this massing was complete, or gave the idea of any extent of forest, for every here and there the trees would break up and go down into a valley in open order, or stand in long Indian file along the horizon, tree after tree relieved, foolishly enough, against the sky. I say foolishly enough, although I have seen the effect employed cleverly in art, and such long line of single trees thrown out against the customary sunset of a Japanese picture with a certain fantastic effect that was not to be despised; but this was over water and level land, where it did not jar, as here, with the soft contour of hills and valleys. The whole scene had an indefinable look of being painted, the colour was so abstract and correct, and there was something so sketchy and merely impressional about these distant single trees on the horizon that one was forced to think of it all as of a clever French landscape. For it is rather in nature that we see resemblance to art, than in art to nature; and we say a hundred times, ‘How like a picture!’ for once that we say, ‘How like the truth!’ The forms in which we learn to think of landscape are forms that we have got from painted canvas. Any man can see and understand a picture; it is reserved for the few to separate anything out of the confusion of nature, and see that distinctly and with intelligence…”