Esteemed thinker: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLK_memorial_scuplture

MLK Memorial Sculpture

A prize is an honor that from the earliest stage of our remembrance we have yearned to receive. Some prizes are earned after long and arduous work and commitment, and then some prizes are received after very little work or accomplishments. A prize can be given and accepted as a token, or it can live out well beyond the life of the receiver. Some prizes are cherished and others prizes such as laughter and happiness are seldom acknowledged as such and rather taken for granted.

We find prizes are consumed such as candy which pours out from the innards of a “pinata” after it receives quite a beating and then tumbles down like hail and gathered in a frenzied scurry, while other prizes are worn like jewelry around the neck such as a medal earned by an athlete. Some are prizes are trophies to be displayed on the mantle and others are plaques that adorn the wall. Some prizes such as gold have been fought over, plundered for, and even annihilated others for its possession.

And then there is a prize rewarded to those who have accomplished the greatest of deeds, given to one who has dedicated his or her life for the betterment of others. It is a prize distinguished above the rest in hopes that we, humanity, can carry on the work of these individuals. Such a reward is honored and revered and ever so noble; the Nobel Peace Prize. It is a prize that is presented to one that *“shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

Peace… a most cherished prize for us all. Funny, something so valuable is basically a state of being, an idea, a solution, and ever so sensible….

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

1964

Today’s post is dedicated to a man who is synonymous with peace, the esteemed thinker: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968). Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. King was a paramount figure in the twentieth-century and a pivotal force behind the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Dr. King’s noted idea of somebodiness gave black and poor people a new sense of worth and dignity. His philosophy of nonviolent action, and his approach for rational and non-destructive social change, awakened the conscience of the United States and redirected the nation’s priorities. His life was tragically cut short when in 1968, standing on his hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee, he was assassinated… To this day the nation continues to mourn his death and the loss of a truly great man.

I invite you now to take time out of your hectic day for the words of the illustrious Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Here is a portion selected from his 1964 Nobel Peace Prized acceptance speech….words of wisdom, indeed…

“I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. 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 think Alfred Nobel would know what I mean when I say that I accept this award in the spirit of a curator of some precious heirloom which he holds in trust for its true owners – all those to whom beauty is truth and truth beauty – and in whose eyes the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold…”

* Quote from Alfred Nobel
First image: 1973 steel memorial sculpture by William Tarr

Esteemed thinker: Nellie Bly

yellow journalismThe media has a dramatic effect on the attention of the populous severely influencing who will succeed and who may not. It has the power to guide and influence in a positive way, yet regularly chooses paths that would ordinarily be dismissed as follies. How often have we been bombarded by irresponsible reporting, leading us through the briar patch and around the same thorny trail… and then at the end giving exclusive coverage to those who have, shall we say, have the squeakiest wheel. Not always accurate or relevant, more time is allotted to individuals that do not merit the notoriety they inherit.

So, like a disease we had all thought had been eradicated, yellow journalism has been resurrected, gaining credence under the guise of information, whereby the best vaccine we can hope for is to inoculate with common-sense in hope that the subjected majority finds the means to the filter for themselves what is organically truthful.

Nellie BlyToday’s blog brings to you the esteemed thinker: Nelly Bly, (1864-1922) born in Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania. Elizabeth Jane Cochran was her given name however after her unique start to a most illustrious journalist career she used the pseudonym, Nelly Bly. In 1885 she sent an angry reply to the Pittsburgh Dispatch, regarding an article titled “What Girls Are Good For”. The editor was so enamored with her writing that he offered her a reporter’s job.

Nellie Bly broke the male barrier in journalism during an era when women reporters were relegated to cover only “women’s issues.” She became one of the most famous and influential American reporters, earning recognition for her fine undercover work in a mental institute 1887 for her exposé on the conditions of asylum patients at Blackwell’s Island in New York City. She gained international recognition by traveling around the world following the fictional character from Jules Verne’s novel, Around the World in Eighty Days.

Nellie Bly was a unconventional reporter who went undercover to seek out the truth and wrote her articles not with sensationalism but with facts. From a follow-up article titled in The New York World, 1887, “Untruths In Every Line”. I submit to you a few lines from Nellie Bly’s own words.

“On my first arrival in New York the editor of the Sun said to me in an interview, “There is nothing so valuable as a reporter who gives facts; who, when told that two and two make four, puts it four instead of three or five.” I have always been particular in stating only facts in all my work, but never did I confine myself so closely to this rule as in my story of “Behind Asylum Bars.” As the Sun undertook to prove that I really passed ten days as an insane girl on Blackwell’s Island, I would like to correct the many mistakes and misstatements which I found throughout the six columns recently published about me in that journal . . .”

First image: N.Y. : Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann, Puck Building, 1910 October 12

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 thinker: Robert Louis Stevenson

wolf It is a difficult task being a reader today, not because there is not enough to read, but rather there is too much. Unlike those who lived in a time where all published material was executed by a printer, who had the laborious job of setting out one block letter at a time and manually turning a press that would emboss the ink to the paper… words today fly off the screen and are dumped into the ethereal airspace… so many pieces of writing that it would be presumptuous to believe we could count them all. Henceforth, we the reader has to decipher and manage this material like panning with a sieve to separate sand from gold nuggets, what we believe to be fact from fiction … and by following this procedure, as I stated before, it can only be sorted as a most cumbersome and challenging act.

And just like those professions who we trust to be sincere and honorable, so do we often believe is true for the author…yet naively often we wander into their passages and articles…like Little Red Riding Hood in the forest… just perhaps we need to be more wary of the wolf.

Robert Louis Stevenson Today’s blog brings to you the esteemed thinker: Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), Scottish poet, novelist, and essayist. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, he became one of the most celebrated authors, having penned such great works as Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He was a most prolific and notable writer; giving us pause to wonder what are the elements that fuels such literary grandness that were achieved by our acclaimed Mr. Stevenson; for once you become engrossed in his work it is hard not to concur that he demonstrates classical distinction.

So, I bid you to set aside a moment to read from his essay: “The Morality of the Profession of Letters” and then you will understand a bit of his thinking… discovering the constitutional make-up of a great writer.

“….Man is imperfect; yet, in his literature, he must express himself and his own views and preferences; for to do anything else is to do a far more perilous thing than to risk being immoral: it is to be sure of being untrue. To ape a sentiment, even a good one, is to travesty a sentiment; that will not be helpful. To conceal a sentiment, if you are sure you hold it, is to take a liberty with truth. There is probably no point of view possible to a sane man but contains some truth and, in the true connection, might be profitable to the race. I am not afraid of the truth, if any one could tell it me, but I am afraid of parts of it impertinently uttered. There is a time to dance and a time to mourn; to be harsh as well as to be sentimental; to be ascetic as well as to glorify the appetites; and if a man were to combine all these extremes into his work, each in its place and proportion, that work would be the world’s masterpiece of morality as well as of art. Partiality is immorality; for any book is wrong that gives a misleading picture of the world and life. The trouble is that the weakling must be partial; the work of one proving dank and depressing; of another, cheap and vulgar; of a third, epileptically sensual; of a fourth, sourly ascetic. In literature as in conduct, you can never hope to do exactly right. All you can do is to make as sure as possible; and for that there is but one rule. Nothing should be done in a hurry that can be done slowly. It is no use to write a book and put it by for nine or even ninety years; for in the writing you will have partly convinced yourself; the delay must precede any beginning; and if you meditate a work of art, you should first long roll the subject under the tongue to make sure you like the flavour, before you brew a volume that shall taste of it from end to end; or if you propose to enter on the field of controversy, you should first have thought upon the question under all conditions, in health as well as in sickness, in sorrow as well as in joy. It is this nearness of examination necessary for any true and kind writing, that makes the practice of the art a prolonged and noble education for the writer…”

Esteemed thinker: Percy Bysshe Shelley on poetry

When we read poetry we are often enlightened in ways that consume our very spirit. When we write poetry we reveal our spirit. For some, poetry is found in books, some find it in their dreams, and then others solicit it from every nook and cranny.

My poem As the Shore Unfolds found its way to you on a postcard… but since I haven’t all your addresses, it was easier to post it here on my blog.

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Today’s blog continues my personally joyful expedition about Poetry with thoughts from the esteemed Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). English poet of the Romantic period in literature, he was married to Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, and son-in-law to philosopher William Goodwin. Today’s thoughts are snipped from his work, A Defence of Poetry and Other Essays. Here is the great Shelley in his own words…

Percy Shelley “… Poetry is ever accompanied with pleasure: all spirits on which it falls open themselves to receive the wisdom which is mingled with its delight. In the infancy of the world, neither poets themselves
nor their auditors are fully aware of the excellence of poetry: for it acts in a divine and unapprehended manner, beyond and above consciousness; and it is reserved for future generations to contemplate
and measure the mighty cause and effect in all the strength and splendour of their union. Even in modern times, no living poet ever arrived at the fullness of his fame; the jury which sits in judgement upon a poet, belonging as he does to all time, must be composed of his peers: it must be impanelled by Time from the selectest of the wise of many generations. A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds; his auditors are as men entranced by the melody of an unseen musician, who feel that they are moved and softened, yet know not whence or why…”

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… “

Bertrand Russell on Belief

When we read from the passages of esteemed thinkers, we reflect upon ourselves, our world, and what we are doing in it. In this spirit we decide if we want to make room in our own philosophy for such perspectives and in doing so we consider our individual “beliefs”. Such a term, belief, is riddled with metrics and questions that can take us into another sticky territory… “what is truth” … (which goes far beyond today’s blog.)

Here is a bit of Bertrand Russell on belief, which to this blogger is worthy of a moment’s reflection.

Bertrand russell _2 “… When we survey our beliefs, we find that we hold different beliefs with very different degrees of conviction. Some-such as the belief that I am sitting in a chair, or that 2+2=4 can be doubted by few except those who have had a long training in philosophy. Such beliefs are held so firmly that non- philosophers who deny them are put into lunatic asylums. Other beliefs, such as the facts of history, are held rather less firmly, but still in the main without much doubt where they are well authenticated. Beliefs about the future, as that the sun will rise tomorrow and the trains will run approximately as in Bradshaw, may be held with almost as great conviction as beliefs about the past. Scientific laws are generally believed less firmly, and there is a gradation among them such as seems nearly certain to such as have only a slight probability in their favor. Philosophical beliefs, finally, will, with most people, take a still lower place, since the opposite beliefs of others can hardly fail to induce doubt. Belief, therefore, is a matter of degree. To speak of belief, disbelief, doubt, and suspense of judgment as the only possibilities is as if, from the writing on the thermometer, we were to suppose that blood heat, summer heat, temperate, and freezing were the only temperatures. This is a continuous gradation in belief, and the more firmly we believe anything, the less willing we are to abandon it in the case of conflict…”