Heroism and Memorial Day go hand- in- hand

memorial day_compressed

Memorial Day draws us closer to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and democracy; their lives. Words often do not give justice to the thanks and gratitude we feel and wish to offer these great women and men of the armed forces. As we enter into reflection, a characteristic that comes into our minds is Heroism; a word that we can define with both commonalities and personal experiences; rediscovered when we unite together or rekindled within our own private solitude.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about Heroism; here are some of his words that grants recognition as we pay tribute to our fallen heroes.

“… Self-trust is the essence of heroism. It is the state of the soul at war, and its ultimate objects are the last defiance of falsehood and wrong, and the power to bear all that can be inflicted by evil agents. It speaks the truth, and is just, generous, hospitable, temperate, scornful of petty calculations, and scornful of being scorned. It persists; it is of an undaunted boldness, and of a fortitude not to be wearied out…these men (and women) fan the flame of human love, and raise the standard of civil virtue among mankind. …”

With these words from Emerson and those from our hearts, let us pay tribute to our fallen soldiers and pay homage to their valor.

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…”

Walt Whitman and our changing language

walt whitman 2 The more we know the more we don’t know…in other words, as we amass awareness of our world, through whatever means you choose, it becomes evidently clear that there is so much more than meets the eye; and as our interests grow, then too do we realize that we understand only a fraction of what is available… or what is not available to the intellect.

And as this vast amount of knowledge continues to expand like a field of weeds in the summer, so too does the terminology and acronyms that accompany such information. There are professions that appear to thrive on such abbreviated phrases making outsiders feel less than adequate… for example: JSON – JavaScript Object Notation, or PCI-X Peripheral Component Interconnect Extended … (and I thought java was coffee; and when did an X stand for the word extended! ) As our knowledge base flourishes; interestingly, our conversational vernacular seems to be decreasing as well as becoming more abridged….until we whittle away a complete thought in a modified text…Not that this is bad; just… shall we say…it is like taking one bite out of the cake..by-passing the lemon filling that the baker so intended for you to savor.

Authors that were once widely read by the literate public can be a daunting task in the 21st century. But one would have to wonder why… after all, with all our technology and availability to access information, we would assume that discovering Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Joyce, Flaubert, and even Poe would be less of a challenge today. However, in defense of present day readers, we can also take into account that our language has changed; whereby words and their placement within the sentence have been modified since the days of yore.

And then too there is that pesky nuance that seems to plague us…attention span… many folks do not appear to find that they enjoy having to decipher material that takes time. For many “time” is precious and therefore immediacy is gratifying…hence abbreviations have become the norm.

On the other hand, language can be simple and at the same time complex in idea; it can evoke questions, push to the limits ideals, but with these abstractions comes “think time.” Whereby I would encourage the reader to dip into the workings of literary geniuses as one would take a walk in a forest rather than running like a deer into the thickets, for we would not like all things to change in response to our impatient world… (I imagine that those who like their spirits “aged” would wince at the idea of stepping up the process… I rest my case!)

walt whitman 3 And so I bring to you our esteemed thinker: Walt Whitman, a man who changed the face of poetry during his lifetime; believing that the everyday language of his fellow American was and should be celebrated. He glorified people in all walks of life, nature, and the landscape we know as the United States. His direct and matter of fact ways, his connection with manual labor and heart transformed the poetic ideals of the 19th century… a most radical innovation at the time of publication.

Here is Mr. Whitman speaking on behalf of the more “playful , vivid, and sometimes taboo jargon” we are all quite familiar with… from his prose essay, let us take a moment to ponder a bit from “Slang in America” (1892).

“ View’d freely, the English language is the accretion and growth of every dialect, race, and range of time, and is both the free and compacted composition of all. From this point of view, it stands for Language in the largest sense, and is really the greatest of studies. It involves so much; is indeed a sort of universal absorber, combiner, and conqueror. The scope of its etymologies is the scope not only of man and civilization, but the history of Nature in all departments, and of the organic Universe, brought up to date; for all are comprehended in words, and their backgrounds. This is when words become vitaliz’d, and stand for things, as they unerringly and soon come to do, in the mind that enters on their study with fitting spirit, grasp, and appreciation.

Slang, profoundly consider’d, is the lawless germinal element, below all words and sentences, and behind all poetry, and proves a certain perennial rankness and protestantism in speech. As the United States inherit by far their most precious possession—the language they talk and write—from the Old World, under and out of its feudal institutes, I will allow myself to borrow a simile even of those forms farthest removed from American Democracy. Considering Language then as some mighty potentate, into the majestic audience-hall of the monarch ever enters a personage like one of Shakspere’s clowns, and takes position there, and plays a part even in the stateliest ceremonies. Such is Slang, or indirection, an attempt of common humanity to escape from bald literalism, and express itself illimitably, which in highest walks produces poets and poems, and doubtless in pre-historic times gave the start to, and perfected, the whole immense tangle of the old mythologies. For, curious as it may appear, it is strictly the same impulse-source, the same thing. Slang, too, is the wholesome fermentation or eructation of those processes eternally active in language, by which froth and specks are thrown up, mostly to pass away; though occasionally to settle and permanently crystallize…

Language, be it remember’d, is not an abstract construction of the learn’d, or of dictionary-makers, but is something arising out of the work, needs, ties, joys, affections, tastes, of long generations of humanity, and has its bases broad and low, close to the ground. Its final decisions are made by the masses, people nearest the concrete, having most to do with actual land and sea. It impermeates all, the Past as well as the Present, and is the grandest triumph of the human intellect…

Esteemed thinker: Walt Whitman

ink blot test Point of view; (or POV which I now recognize as a widely used acronym in blogs) is a powerful tool. It enables us to see through someone else’s eyes or if you prefer…walk in their shoes. And with ‘point of view’ we find many perspectives that we either share in agreement with or disagree wholeheartedly…because after all, it is a point of view. A point of view can be an appraisal or opinion; it even has its own literary term when the writer wishes to convey a particular posture… “the narrative view point”… when the story is told from a consistent perspective. It can be in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd person; singular or plural. Sometimes the narrator is all knowing as with the “omniscient”, sometimes as a speculative observer: objective, and then it can be a limited point of view through the scrutiny of a character: subjective.

But when we get to poetry, this genre takes on a whole new realm; for looking at life through the point of view of the poet is quite unique…so unique that many times the reader finds himself or herself disconnected or to the contrary… even more connected than he or she imagined possible.

For the poetic design is composed with limited verbiage; as though every word was a breath that was exhaled… giving life to the thought or idea. Then as we the reader inhales the image; it expands in our own minds allowing us to observe the big idea…and doing such… this point of view is bestowed as a gift that we may keep or discard..whichever seems most fit.

Whitman And so, I hope you will allow today’s blog to borrow a moment of your time for the esteemed thinker: Walt Whitman (1819-1892) ; a most extraordinary man, considered by many (including this blogger) as one of America’s greatest and most significant poets. Born on Long Island, Whitman lived in Brooklyn, N.Y. where his numerous occupations as printer, teacher, editor, and reporter led him to what his name is tantamount with, writer.. His most noted work; Leaves of Grass was self-published; inspired by his travels through the frontiers of the United States and his appreciation for Ralph Waldo Emerson. Although critics of his time were not always kind in regards to his work, his legacy as a monumental contributor to American literature has withstood even the most ardent of critics. Lastly, Walt Whitman is claimed to be the first American “poet of democracy”.

From his book titled Complete Prose Work, here is Mr. Whitman’s point of view regarding poetry.

“… Strange as it may seem, the topmost proof of a race is its own born poetry. The presence of that, or the absence, each tells its story. As the flowering rose or lily, as the ripened fruit to a tree, the apple or the peach, no matter how fine the trunk, or copious or rich the branches and foliage, here waits sine qua non at last. The stamp of entire and finished greatness to any nation, to the American Republic among the rest, must be sternly withheld till it has put what it stands for in the blossom of original, first-class poems. No imitations will do…”

I would be remiss to you, readers of this blog, if I did not grace this page with at least one of Walt Whitman’s poems. There are too many greats to choose… so I will keep to my theme…

When the Full-Grown Poet Came

When the full-grown poet came,
Out spake pleased Nature (the round impassive globe, with all its
shows of day and night,) saying, He is mine;
But out spake too the Soul of man, proud, jealous and unreconciled,
Nay he is mine alone;
—Then the full-grown poet stood between the two, and took each
by the hand;
And to-day and ever so stands, as blender, uniter, tightly holding hands,
Which he will never release until he reconciles the two,
And wholly and joyously blends them.

(To my friend and fellow blogger, Rohan, thank you for your suggestions!)

Esteemed thinker: Henry David Thoreau

moon Scarcely is there a person who is not awed by the moon; and unlike many of the celestial treasures, it shows different phases of itself throughout the month and then starts all over again. If we had to select a gender; many think of it as a male…the man in the moon, although I imagine some may find the feminine side to this lunar beauty.

The moon has its own glossary of terms such as eclipse, which sends us running outside to see it hide behind the earth or palus, a less notable Latin term meaning ‘swamp’ that is used to describe topographical features on the moon which resembles dark plains or swamps. The moon even has its own personal holiday; Lunar Day, representing two ideas: the first refers to the period of time it takes for the Moon to spin completely on its axis in terms of its position to the sun. The second is the amount of time it takes for the Moon to complete a single orbit around the Earth.

Even the ocean are “moved” by the moon…well that is more literally than figuratively as we recollect that the “motion of the seas” are caused by the gravitational forces of its lunar overseer. (Quite a wily fellow isn’t he; and without us looking, too!)

And how we all must agree that the moon is a romantic; flooding beams of light over the earth in the darkest time of the day…night. It permits us to stare upon its continence without finding us rude. I suppose it is use to such gestures for its wonderment invites us to gaze. Even the animals find the moon intriguing; the wolf bays, owls are more chatty, while all the while humans become more nostalgic.

It is not hard to see why all the arts have paid homage to the moon in all the forms that we humans can muster. A mere sampling back in time journeys us to Paul Delvaux, Belgian artist’s 1939 painting Phases of the Moon; Spanish artist Joan Miró’s lithograph (1952) Dog Barking at the Moon, Antonin Dvorak’s Famous Czech Opera Rusalka in 1901, which included “Song To The Moon” , while in 1964 the airwaves played Frank Sinatra’s version of “Fly Me to the Moon”. Then there is the literary fiction The First Man on the Moon by H.G. Wells (1901), and the classic French film Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902) written and directed by Georges Méliès both.

thoreau And so, I bring to you today’s esteemed thinker: Henry David Thoreau (1812-1862). Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts he needs not much of an introduction for this 19th century American essayist has donned most library book shelves around the world. Friend and mentor to Ralph Waldo Emerson, he is most remembered for his philosophical and naturalist writings as well as the small home he built on Emerson’s property on Waldon Pond. In 1854, he published Walden; or, Life in the Woods which told of his life close to nature.

From his essay, Night and Moonlight, here are Mr. Thoreau’s observations which I hope you find a lovely respite out from your busy day… who knows….he may even inspire you to stroll beneath the moon beams tonight!

“…Many men walk by day; few walk by night. It is a very different season. Take a July night, for instance. About ten o’clock,–when man is asleep, and day fairly forgotten,–the beauty of moonlight is seen over lonely pastures where cattle are silently feeding. On all sides novelties present themselves. Instead of the sun there are the moon and stars, instead of the wood-thrush there is the whip-poor-will,–instead of butterflies in the meadows, fire-flies, winged sparks of fire!

It does not concern men who are asleep in their beds, but it is very important to the traveller, whether the moon shines brightly or is obscured. It is not easy to realize the serene joy of all the earth, when she commences to shine unobstructedly, unless you have often been abroad alone in moonlight nights.

How insupportable would be the days, if the night with its dews and darkness did not come to restore the drooping world. As the shades begin to gather around us, our primeval instincts are aroused, and we steal forth from our lairs, like the inhabitants of the jungle, in search of those silent and brooding thoughts which are the natural prey of the intellect…”

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

Heroism and Memorial Day go hand- in- hand

Memorial Day draws us closer to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and democracy; their lives. Words often do not give justice to the thanks and gratitude we feel and wish to offer these great women and men of the armed forces. As we enter into reflection, a characteristic that comes into our minds is Heroism; a word that we can define with both commonalities and personal experiences; rediscovered when we unite together or rekindled within our own private solitude.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about Heroism; here are some of his words that grants recognition as we pay tribute to our fallen heroes.

Our_Banner_in_the_Sky_1861 “…Self-trust is the essence of heroism. It is the state of the soul at war, and its ultimate objects are the last defiance of falsehood and wrong, and the power to bear all that can be inflicted by evil agents. It speaks the truth, and is just, generous, hospitable, temperate, scornful of petty calculations, and scornful of being scorned. It persists; it is of an undaunted boldness, and of a fortitude not to be wearied out…these men (and women) fan the flame of human love, and raise the standard of civil virtue among mankind. …”

With these words from Emerson and those from our hearts, let us pay tribute to our fallen soldiers and pay homage to their valor.

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s thoughts on history

The nature of our spirit can be seen as a connection of events collected through time. To this writer an essential element in the development of creating idea, either consciously or unconsciously, is urged along by the products of the past… “history”!

In my earlier blogs I offered to the reader what Bertrand Russell had to say on the matter of “history”. Today we will lend Ralph Waldo Emerson a moment of our time.

history Greek “There is one mind common to all individual men. Every man is an inlet to the same and to all the same. He that is once admitted to the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole estate. What Plato has thought, he may think; what a saint has felt, he may feel; what at any time has befallen any man, he can understand. …Of the works of this mind history is the record. Its genius is illustrated by the entire series of days. Man is explicable by nothing less than all his history. Without hurry, without rest, the human spirit goes forth from the beginning to embody every faculty, every thought, every emotion, which belongs to it in appropriate events…This human mind wrote history, and this must read it. The Sphinx must solve her own riddle. If the whole of history is in one man, it is all to be explained from individual experience. There is a relation between the hours of our life and the centuries of time. As the air I breathe is drawn from that great repositories of nature, as the light on my book is yielded by a star a hundred millions of miles distant, as the poise of my body depends on the equilibrium of centrifugal and centripetal forces, so the hours should be instructed by the ages, and the ages explained by the hours…Each new fact in his private experience flashes a light on what great bodies of men have done, and the crises of his life refer to national crises. Every revolution was first a thought in one man’s mind, and when the same thought occurs to another man, it is the key to that era…

Ralph Waldo Emerson: Looking at circles beyond the obvious

circle The term circle generally conjures up images of a simple geometric shape; it denotes a plane enclosed figure whose boundary (the circumference) consists of points equidistant from a fixed center. But if we think of a circle in more abstract terms, we can go beyond; for aren’t thoughts a trail of interrelated ideas? Not linear, but linked so they can reconnect; hence…like a circle.

Today this writer will introduce or reintroduce to you, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1870), the central figure in his literary and philosophical group, now known as the American Transcendentalists. He looked at “circles” in a most eloquent way, which I find worthy of contemplation. So…I have taken the liberty of extracting pieces from his essay into a reflection for this day’s blog.

“The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without an end…Our life is an apprenticeship of the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens…Every ultimate fact is only the first of a new series. Every general law only a particular fact of some more general law presented to disclose itself. ..The key to every man is thought. Sturdy and defying though he look, he has a helm which he obeys, which is the idea after which all his facts are classified. He can only be reformed by showing him a new idea which commands his own. The life of man is a self-evolving circle, which, from a ring imperceptibly small, rushes on all sides outwards to new and larger circles, and that without end… “