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: Jane Addams

garbage city In our diverse and independent lives men and women, regardless of ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, and economic demographics, in spite of our similarities, differences of opinion, or attitudes; we all own a common annoyance… that of garbage. Trash, waste, compost, rubbish, and even sewage; we produce and eventually must dispose of it. Just the mere mention of the word makes our nose wriggle with anticipation of a most unpleasant, if not putrid odor. It produces some of the most adversarial thoughts, so much so that entire towns have come together keep it at bay. And so; the elimination of our combined garbage can become a most problematic undertaking…what to do with it?

For many, we take our garbage for granted, walking it out to a bin or trash can …and for a nominal fee, often included as a tax, it is whisked away by the first light of the morning without us having to worry about its next resting place, or we flush it away where it becomes part of a larger entity known as “the sewer system”. Some of us take a more devoted interest in our refuse sorting it into categories; arranging assigned bins such as glass, paper, and plastic where we feel wholly satisfied that we are part of a solution. Though minimal in the enormity of our disposal problem, it is a help.

Yet garbage was and is not always as simple as ‘taking it out’ like one takes a dog out for a walk. Historically, garbage gradually become an increasing problem with the onslaught of higher density living. Those who resided in sparse settlements could manage its elimination more easily, though maybe not ecologically sound, they rid themselves of the “nasty stuff”. However, as towns grew into cities, lack of sanitation control manifested itself into random distribution of filth and the contamination of water supplies…creating such horrific epidemics for humanity such as the Bubonic Plague in the 18th century, and our own modern 21st century out breaks of cholera.

Even today we are still cleaning up the environmental mess that garbage and the thoughtless disposal of waste created in earlier decades; rivers are unfit to swim in, fish and wildlife have unhealthy habitats, and beaches are often closed due to encroachment of sewage by illegal dumping by ships or coastal communities. It was not until 1979 that the United States took sweeping steps to limit open dumping. However, on the more positive note, little by little we have made progress and new laws for the disposal of our trash along with an international consciousness and home-grown grass-root efforts are exerting a forward momentum.

Alas, we need not despair for garbage, as big a problem as it is, has a way of uniting us…after all, how else would you get to meet your neighbor if it wasn’t for the fact that sometime…at the exact moment… they too will be carrying a similar plastic tie-wrapped bag out from the house…for as we all know, everyone has their own form of “garbage”.

jane addams. Today’s blog bids you to take a few moments of your time for the esteemed thinker: Jane Addams (1860-1935) born in Cedarville, Illinois; she was a pioneer for social reform, insisting that the fullest possible good be required from public and social agencies for the poor. Her name is attached to Hull-House, a settlement house founded in 1889, Chicago, to improve the living standards for recently arriving European immigrants. Miss Addams became politically involved; she made speeches about the needs of the neighborhood, raised money, convinced young women of well-to-do families to help, took care of children, nursed the sick, and listened to outpourings from troubled people, and actively involved the suffragette movement. She was jointly awarded the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize 1931 on behalf of her work in diplomacy and peace.

I now bring you the words of this legendary change maker; from her essay of 1915, “Why Women Should Vote”.

“… A woman’s simplest duty, one would say, is to keep her house clean and wholesome and to feed her children properly. Yet if she lives in a tenement house, as so many of my neighbors do, she cannot fulfill these simple obligations by her own efforts because she is utterly dependent upon the city administration for the conditions which render decent living possible. Her basement will not be dry, her stairways will not be fireproof, her house will not be provided with sufficient windows to give light and air, nor will it be equipped with sanitary plumbing, unless the Public Works Department sends inspectors who constantly insist that these elementary decencies be provided. Women who live in the country sweep their own dooryards and may either feed the refuse of the table to a flock of chickens or allow it innocently to decay in the open air and sunshine. In a crowded city quarter, however, if the street is not cleaned by the city authorities-no amount of private sweeping will keep the tenement free from grime; if the garbage is not properly collected and destroyed a tenement house mother may see her children sicken and die of diseases from which she alone is powerless to shield them, although her tenderness and devotion are unbounded. She cannot even secure untainted meat for her household, she cannot provide fresh fruit, unless the meat has been inspected by city officials, and the decayed fruit, which is so often placed upon sale in the tenement districts, has been destroyed in the interests of public health. In short, if woman would keep on with her old business of caring for her house and rearing her children she will have to have some conscience in regard to public affairs lying quite outside of her immediate household. The individual conscience and devotion are no longer effective…”

Hull house

Esteemed thinker: Marie Curie

Marie curie_toned The first time you looked through a telescope and saw craters of the moon and the first time you placed a celery stalk in water mixed with food coloring and its leaves turned from green to blue… you knew you were in the presence of magic. Oh, not the fake kind of magic where your Uncle was hiding the coin in his other hand…even the ‘young’ you understood this was a trick! No, it’s the kind of magic that seduces you, a yearning to learn more … it’s the special magic that nagged at your youthful imagination to find out what makes the leaves turn colors in autumn, why does the wind whistle through the oak’s canopy, and how is it that the firefly wears a little light that goes on at night… the real magic that comes alive with knowledge.

Just perhaps this is how it must be for the life of the scientist; a quest to discover or uncover magic. Of course I am using magic as a metaphor in relationship to scientific discovery, however just for a moment think about it …it often seems like such work would be aligned with the spirit of wonderment… almost a childishly magical realm…

And so with the thoughts of the magic in science, today’s blog brings you the esteemed thinker: Marie Curie; given name Maria Salomea Skłodowska and best known as Madame Curie (1867-1934)… legendary woman scientist… pioneer in the study of radioactivity. Born in Russian occupied Poland, at the age of fifteen she obtained a higher education (forbidden to girls in Poland) from a clandestine, revolving academy for women taught in private homes. In 1891 she went to Paris to study at the Sorbonne where she met and married the French professor and physicist Pierre Curie (1895). Their life together was mutually respected whereby their research and discoveries led the way for future generations. Marie Curie’s life is nothing short of a heroine, having earned two Nobel Prizes in Physics and in Chemistry and culminating in the tragic death from radium; the very discovery that brought her fame.

So, let us take pause to hear a bit of her words during a debate she presided over in Madrid (1933) on “The Future of Culture”. We will celebrate this extraordinary woman with a brief but solitary moment out of own busy day…

“… I am among those who think that science has great beauty. A scientist in his laboratory is not only a technician: *he is also a child placed before natural phenomena which impress him like a fairy tale. We should not allow it to be believed that all scientific progress can be reduced to mechanisms, machines, gearings, even though such machinery also has its own beauty. Neither do I believe that the spirit of adventure runs any risk of disappearing in our world. If I see anything vital around me, it is precisely that spirit of adventure, which seems indestructible and it akin to curiosity… ”

* it is curious that Madame Curie only used the masculine pronouns ‘he’ and ‘him’ although she herself was a great and renown scientist at this time in her life. However, when we reflect back with the knowledge that women in France had only gained the right to vote in 1944 (by the order of 21 April 1944 adopted by the provisional government of General de Gaulle in Algiers) it really is not too curious after-all…

Esteemed thought: Peace… if not now, when?

Today’s blog is a thought; a sigh of words to be scattered and retrieved; an invitation for the undertone of the day…
I give to you my poetic rendering… Peace; if not now when?

*****

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

Einstein on mankind-womankind

farm “What an extraordinary situation is that of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn: for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he feels it. But from the point of view of daily life, without going deeper, we exist for our fellow-men–in the first place for those on whose smiles and welfare all our happiness depends, and next for all those unknown to us personally with whose destinies we are bound up by the tie of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labours of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving. I am strongly drawn to the simple life and am often oppressed by the feeling that I am engrossing an unnecessary amount of the labour of my fellow-men. I regard class differences as contrary to justice and, in the last resort, based on force. I also consider that plain living is good for everybody physically and mentally…”