Esteemed thinker: Dicaearchus of Messina

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The term “globalization” is tossed about with impunity giving the 21st century readers the feeling that we are living in the most influential of times. Yet, this superiority complex might have been fulfilled by the confusion of terms; Globalization vs. transfer of information. Despite what you may wish to think, globalization has been taking place centuries before we ever came around and reached a pinnacle that directly impacted our modern world. One must look back to what is considered a turning point of historical magnitude and influence, the age of Atlantic exploration.

In contrast, what we are presently encountering is a term I have coined as “Herculean speed” the enabling of immediate transfer of information. Rather, it is the gathering and delivery of data that has been expeditated… and not an expansion of globalization.

Let’s begin with 1492, a most infamous date most can relate with; there is historical agreement that this was a turning point in world history. The ascent of a wealthy, powerful, and imperial Europe led to the emergence of the first-ever completely global market, creating international rivals seeking to dominate. Europe found itself at the center of the global economic network and as a result commanding large empires. Ruthless, destructive, and exploitive; a reign of terror; it was globalization that impacted our today.

And so, while we may feel smug about our “speed’ let us be reminded that those who came before directed the Renaissance of globalization, while we just move it along. As the expression goes, “Slow and steady wins the race”. Perhaps we need to look back at that forgotten adage….

Today’s post brings you the esteemed thinker: Dicaearchus of Messina (b.@310 BC); a Greek Philosopher, geographer, and cartographer. He was a pupil of Aristotle spending most of his life in Sparta. His most remembered work in geography is Peridos ges (Tour of the Earth) and a history of Greek life, Bios Hellados.  His work, Circuit of the Earth, was a descriptive geography in which Dicaearchus said that the earth has the shape of a globe. Following his belief of earth’s sphericity led him to make maps as well as deliberate other phenomena such as the cause of ebb-and flood-tides and the source of the Nile River.

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Dicaearchus Map around 300 BC

Dicaearchus was the first to introduce reference lines in maps which later led to the origin of the geographical coordinates. He assumed the existence of a southern hemisphere, and made an estimate of the earth’s circumference, (the exaggerated measurement of 40,000 miles). His map remained for a long time the standard.

And so, we salute the great mind that came before, the great mind that serendipitously encouraged globalization.

Esteemed thinker: Albert Einstein

the thinker There is a notion that the intellect of men and women are determined by the dominant part of the brain they favor, the right or the left. According to some, people who are right- brained thinkers are those that are more creative in the arts, more intuitive and subjective; while the left- brained people are those that are gifted in the sciences and mathematics, more logical and analytical. This simple division has made for wonderful excuses not to perform certain tasks… for those who find calculating the sales tax a burden or drawing a map on a paper napkin excruciatingly painful can simply flit their hand up and smile, blaming their inadequacies to their lop-sided brain.

On the other hand, just like the color wheel is not just black and white; in between the two extremes we have hues of grey. And though we often think of the color grey as so distasteful when we find it upon the head, that we wash it away as soon as a single strand appears, we should think not negatively of this color.

On the contrary, a person who uses both the left and right side of his or her brain is to be thought of in a positive light, which I will now coin as “grey brained” ….one that utilizes all senses to accomplish what ever task is at hand. Perhaps if everyone thought with their “grey matter” all the time, what a rational world we might have!

Einstein Today’s blog returns the illustrious, esteemed thinker: Albert Einstein (1879- 1955) born at Ulm, in Württemberg, Germany. A man that needs little introduction, he is one of the most important and influential physicist of the 20th century. Well acknowledged for having developed the special and general theories of relativity, in 1921, he won the Nobel Prize for physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect.

And so, I have snipped a most profound statement from his book titled The world as I see it (1949). Upon reading his words I believe you will agree that both the left and right side of the brain, if you contend we favor one to another, are both essential…! And who can argue with his genius?

“…The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle…”

Second image: Turner, Orren Jack, photographer, c1947.

Ralph Waldo Emerson and gifts

sky_compressed_with name We live in a world that often regards material things as having great value, and it is often not until one is feeling poorly that we begin to value health with greater esteem. Yet, this notion of placing importance on tangible items is not a concept that is germane only to our present century, but rather one that has been well rooted seemingly forever. And so it appears that we rank highly those gifts that fit among the category of expensive or prestigious.

Perhaps this trait is a characteristic inherent to most all humans, for realistically, who would like to trade their personal comforts with those who are less endowed with equal possessions. After a weekend of camping, a hot shower and clean sheets are indeed most welcome.

But there are gifts bestowed to us with unprecedented value and are delivered by unlikely sources, such as the artist, the poet, the musician, Mother Nature; this sampling of such makes us take pause and silently reminds us that valuable gifts are not just the things we like to wear or ride in, but those things that bear witness to the uniqueness of life…that we must stop for a moment and enjoy … just because….

Ralph Waldo Emerson 2jpg Following our theme of gifts, I welcome back the “gifted” and esteemed thinker: Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) preacher, philosopher, and poet, considered having the finest spirit and ideals of his age. He 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. Emerson 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.

From his essay so aptly titled, Gifts, take a moment for his words. Written in the 1800s, they still resonate with reason.

“It is said that the world is in a state of bankruptcy, that the world owes the world more than the world can pay, and ought to go into chancery, and be sold. I do not think this general insolvency, which involves in some sort all the population, to be the reason of the difficulty experienced at Christmas and New Year, and other times, in bestowing gifts; since it is always so pleasant to be generous, though very vexatious to pay debts. But the impediment lies in the choosing. If, at any time, it comes into my head that a present is due from me to somebody, I am puzzled what to give until the opportunity is gone.

Flowers and fruits are always fit presents; flowers, because they are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty out values all the utilities of the world. These gay natures contrast with the somewhat stern countenance of ordinary nature; they are like music heard out of a workhouse. Nature does not cocker us: we are children, not pets: she is not fond: everything is dealt to us without fear or favor, after severe universal laws. Yet these delicate flowers look like the frolic and interference of love and beauty. Men used to tell us that we love flattery, even though we are not deceived by it, because it shows that we are of importance enough to be courted. Something like that pleasure the flowers give us: what am I to whom these sweet hints are addressed?

Fruits are acceptable gifts because they are the flower of commodities, and admit of fantastic values being attached to them. If a man should send to me to come a hundred miles to visit him, and should set before me a basket of fine summer fruit, I should think there was some proportion between the labor and the reward…”

Esteemed thinker: David Hume

mic With each generation there comes change and with each generation there are those who look back at their elders as being rather antiquated. Changes within the generations are often parallel with technological advancements, relegating the elders into the unintentional but often considered outdated group. As change has ambushed the populations of the world so have many of the once heralded skills that have now been relegated as something one either does not partake in or “picks up” as they go along…such is the art of “eloquence”. Ahhh, a term that presently has been modified to mean something other than its original connotation, “a skillful way with words.”

There was once a time when the fine art of speaking, oration, was eloquence; when writing was eloquence, and those who attributed their time and learning to “eloquence” were looked upon with great regard. Yet rarely do we hear speakers of such finesse that we would call he or she an orator, and rarely in our day’s occurrences do we read anything which could be identified with such a title as eloquence, for with its meaning too has its execution been diminished.

So, for those who yearn for eloquence they will have to look back in time for certainly in the sound bites of today’s world, your “eloquent writing” would be snipped before you even got started …for after all… 140 characters is all you are allocated in a “tweet”!

David Hume Today’s blog takes us into the 1700s with the esteemed thinker: David Hume (1711-1776)born in Edinburgh, he was a Scottish philosopher , historian, economist, and recognized by contemporary philosophers as precursor to cognitive science. He was considered a skeptic regarding philosophy and relentless critic of religion and metaphysics. Although best known for his Treatise of Human Nature (1740) and six volumes on The History of England (1754 -1762), Hume made two other major lasting contributions to economics. One is his idea that economic freedom is necessary condition for political freedom. The second is his assertion that “you cannot deduce ought from is”—that is, value judgments cannot be made purely on the basis of facts.

I now bring you the words of Mr. Hume who will expound further about “eloquence” and which was eloquently snipped from his essay, so aptly titled “Eloquence” (1742).

“…in many respects, of an opposite character to the ancient; and that, if we be superior in philosophy, we are still, notwithstanding all our refinements, much inferior in eloquence…In enumerating the great men, who have done honour to our country, we exult in our poets and philosophers; but what orators are ever mentioned? Or where are the monuments of their genius to be met with? There are found, indeed, in our histories, the names of several, who directed the resolutions of our parliament: But neither themselves nor others have taken the pains to preserve their speeches; and the authority, which they possessed, seems to have been owing to their experience, wisdom, or power, more than to their talents for oratory. At present, there are above half a dozen speakers in the two houses, who, in the judgment of the public, have reached very near the same pitch of eloquence; and no man pretends to give any one the preference above the rest. This seems to me a certain proof, that none of them have attained much beyond a mediocrity in their art, and that the species of eloquence, which they aspire to, gives no exercise to the sublimer faculties of the mind, but may be reached by ordinary talents and a slight application….

One is somewhat at a loss to what cause we may ascribe so sensible a decline of eloquence in later ages. The genius of mankind, at all times, is, perhaps, equal: The moderns have applied themselves, with great industry and success, to all the other arts and sciences: And a learned nation possesses a popular government; a circumstance which seems requisite for the full display of these noble talents: But notwithstanding all these advantages, our progress in eloquence is very inconsiderable, in comparison of the advances, which we have made in all other parts of learning…”

Second image: Oil portrait of Hume by David Ramsay (1776)

Arthur Schopenhauer and the quest for happiness

Happiness posterThere is rarely a time during the day that we are not reminded of things that we do not have, must have, or should aspire to. And though this is surely not unique to the 21st century, what has become more prominent in comparison to decades and centuries ago is the manner and multitude of times these reminders are triggered. Reminders of how we should be younger, drive a better car, obtain faster technology service, and even create smarter children, but left alone many of these ideas may not have ever entered our need list to what has now become to many as an obsession.

With all these prompts comes a subliminal reminder that without these things we are missing out on being truly happy. And so it seems that the goal throughout one’s life is to meet up with standards that perhaps we may not really have generated ourselves, but has been energized by a new quest by what I will call “artificial cultural needs” or a need to acquire.

Obtaining a better and healthy life for one’s self and family is surely an essential need; however, if we were to stand back and evaluate the messages, both verbal and visual, that we see and hear each day, we may realize that sometimes, just perhaps, we are being corralled like cattle to the feeding trough. Are we really so hungry that we need to stop and get off the highway before we get home, are we really so bald that we need to implant more hair, are we really that old that we need to have injections to make us appear younger for only a brief period of time?

What is true happiness? That is the question that has been put forth to the ages for all to ponder and if someone had the answer, they probably wouldn’t tell us…for that would be like so many other promises, something we would have to buy!

-Arthur_Schopenhauer-1845 Today blog invites back the esteemed thinker: Arthur Schopenhauer, (1788-1860), 19th century German philosopher. Schopenhauer was the first Western philosopher to have access to translations of philosophical material from India, both Vedic and Buddhist, by which he was greatly affected. Although he was a rather pessimistic man, aesthetics and beauty were a central theme throughout his thoughts. “Schopenhauer emphasized that in the face of a world filled with endless strife, we ought to minimize our natural desires for the sake of achieving a more tranquil frame of mind and a disposition towards universal beneficence.” He is noted for his works, On the Will in Nature (1836), The Freedom of the Will (1841), and The Foundations of Morality (1841).

I now bring you a bit of his words about happiness taken from his book of essays titled, The Wisdom of Life. Perhaps he may unravel fro you some of the mysteries shrouding our quest for happiness…

“… So it is with man; the measure of the happiness he can attain is determined beforehand by his individuality. More especially is this the case with the mental powers, which fix once for all his capacity for the higher kinds of pleasure. If these powers are small, no efforts from without, nothing that his fellowmen or that fortune can do for him, will suffice to raise him above the ordinary degree of human happiness and pleasure … For the highest, most varied and lasting pleasures are those of the mind, however much our youth may deceive us on this point; and the pleasures of the mind turn chiefly on the powers of the mind. It is clear, then, that our happiness depends in a great degree upon what we are, upon our individuality, whilst lot or destiny is generally taken to mean only what we have, or our reputation….

…The only thing that stands in our power to achieve, is to make the most advantageous use possible of the personal qualities we possess, and accordingly to follow such pursuits only as will call them into play, to strive after the kind of perfection of which they admit and to avoid every other; consequently, to choose the position, occupation and manner of life which are most suitable for their development…”

First image: 1936: Poster for Federal Theatre Project presentation of “The pursuit of happiness” at the Waterloo Theater

George Santayana and the ideal

??????????????????????????????? Our lives are an intersection of circumstances and regardless of how well we map out our day there are interruptions, both accidental and purposeful, which alter our course. And though we plan and strategize, it is inevitable that there will be some interlude or distraction that sets us off on an ulterior direction. Yet while we are quite aware of these occurrences, the daily set backs or amends made to an agenda; humans have been conditioned to reach for and desire the highest challenge… obtaining the ideal. And if you were to ask most anyone they would agree that the ideal situation, ideal mate, ideal job, ideal house, all fits very nicely into their ideal plan.

Yet, is “ideal” obtainable? If it is agreed upon that ideal is defined as perfection then realistically can we find it? Taking into account our everyday existence of the inevitable “alterations” that lurk ahead ….is it unrealistic to yearn for such high standards?

Or is it possible that we are striving for something that does exist… however, it is found only under the supervision and guidance of what humans, and only humans possess…an imagination. And just perhaps this imagination we all are harboring can and will manifest itself through some means of personal expression…for our intellect is not finite, but rather boundless. Within our day to day existence there is an accumulation of experiences and values which we have stored and with a bit of effort, like a trusty oil lamp, it can shine brilliantly exposing to us ideals that rivals conditions that seem impossible to reproduce. And though Nature seems to be able to express herself “ideally” just perhaps our desires and will for it can satisfy the quest. But whatever ideal situation you are striving for it is prudent to think like the keeper of the lighthouse… don’t let it burn out!

santayan 2 I return to you today with the esteemed thinker: George Santayana, (1863-1952) a multi talented philosopher and writer. During his early career, his strong interest in literature and aesthetics was evident, but by 1904, his attention turned almost fully to philosophical pursuits. If one were to categorize his philosophical views, he would be called a naturalist. Here the interaction of our physical makeup is what he emphasizes as generating meaning and value, which Santayana calls “psyche,” and our material environment. In 1936 his novel, The Last Puritan was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

So, let us take a moment out from our hectic day to reflect upon the insightful words; snipped out of his book, The Sense of Beauty…. Here is Mr. Santayana….

“… Accordingly our consciousness of the ideal becomes distinct in proportion as we advance in virtue and in proportion to the vigour and definiteness with which our faculties work. When the vital harmony is complete, when the act is pure, faith in perfection passes into vision. That man is unhappy indeed, who in all his life has had no glimpse of perfection, who in the ecstasy of love, or in the delight of contemplation, has never been able to say: It is attained. Such moments of inspiration are the source of the arts, which have no higher function than to renew them…

A work of art is indeed a monument to such a moment, the memorial to such a vision; and its charm varies with its power of recalling us from the distractions of common life to the joy of a more natural and perfect activity…”

Esteemed thinker: George Santayana

telephone operator The utterance of sound comes in forms that are pleasing to the ear or displeasing to the psyche. We may be aroused by the mellow song of a lark coming through the window or may shudder when awakened out of a sound sleep by the ringing of a renegade alarm clock. The sounds we hear when we rise from bed may set our mood happily, such as the coffee pot starting its every day routine, or it may propel us into gloom such as by way of the newscaster giving us our daily dose of troubles.

Most all creatures in the world use their voice to convey sounds that may produce harmony or disharmony.
The dog barks in a threatening growl to warn or in a series of light snips to greet. The cat hisses when you accidentally step on its tail, (a most unpleasant cry and experience for both the stepper and steppe), or it may meow in a truly affectionate manner hoping that you will give it your attention.

But as for humans, we have been granted sounds that go beyond the ordinary; we have the gift of speech, the ability to communicate in staccato, such as with an imperative sentence… “Watch out!” or those laced in metaphor as in poetry. The sounds that flow from our lips are a powerful tool and can leave an impression deeper than one’s footprint stuck in mud. The first time a baby learns to say ‘mama’ or ‘dada’, we are elated, for this sense of recognition is now a bond that goes beyond mere sounds.

And so, as we journey through the day and into the night the sounds we make, may it be a sigh, a groan, or dinner conversation, can play a most significant role. For with each utterance that we generate, there is some individual or creature that receives it… we can make music to the ears or not… but with certainty and limited effort, it is quite an extraordinary feat to create… this thing we call sound…

George_Santayana For today’s post I present to you the esteemed thinker: George Santayana (1863- 1952). Born in Madrid, Spain, he was a philosopher, critic, essayist, novelist, poet and known for being a naturalist before it became a popular subject. Rivaling Emerson in literary accomplishments, he made relationships between literature, art, religion and philosophy prominent themes throughout his writings. Santayana received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1889 and was a faculty member at Harvard University from 1889 to 1912, eventually earning a place now called Classical American Philosophy. He is notably remembered for his quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

From his book Reason in Art, I have extracted for you a small portion from the chapter titled “Speech and Signification”. Take time to ponder the words of Mr. Santayana for his thoughts and concepts are most provocative.

“Music rationalises sound, but a more momentous rationalising of sound is seen in language. Language is one of the most useful of things, yet the greater part of it still remains (what it must all have been in the beginning) useless and without ulterior significance. The musical side of language is its primary and elementary side. Man is endowed with vocal organs so plastic as to emit a great variety of delicately varied sounds; and by good fortune his ear has a parallel sensibility, so that much vocal expression can be registered and confronted by auditory feeling. It has been said that man’s pre-eminence in nature is due to his possessing hands; his modest participation in the ideal world may similarly be due to his possessing tongue and ear. For when he finds shouting and vague moaning after a while fatiguing, he can draw a new pleasure from uttering all sorts of labial, dental, and gutteral sounds. Their rhythms and oppositions can entertain him, and he can begin to use his lingual gamut to designate the whole range of his perceptions and passions…

Language had originally no obligation to subserve an end which we may sometimes measure it by now, and depute to be its proper function, namely, to stand for things and adapt itself perfectly to their structure. In language as in every other existence idealism precedes realism, since it must be a part of nature living its own life before it can become a symbol for the rest and bend to external control. The vocal and musical medium is, and must always remain, alien, to the spatial… Yet when sounds were attached to an event or emotion, the sounds became symbols for that disparate fact…”

First image: Title: TELEPHONE OPERATORS, Creator(s): Harris & Ewing, photographer, Date created/Published: [between 1914 and 1917]