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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Day 21: Cuke Harvest!

And boy are they happy!
See, just get the seeds in the ground and watch em' grow.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Day 19: Perspective

(ht: Open Culture)

"Matthew Might, a computer science professor at the University of Utah, writes: 'Every fall, I explain to a fresh batch of Ph.D. students what a Ph.D. is. It's hard to describe it in words. So, I use pictures.' In his Illustrated Guide to the PhD, Professor Might creates a visual narrative that puts the daunting degree into perspective. Anyone who has already pursued a Ph.D. will see the wisdom in it. (Or at least I did.) And young, aspiring academics would be wise to pay it heed."

Friday, June 16, 2017

Day 16: Garden Update--Harvest Time!

Got a late start to the garden this year but we are just now beginning to enjoy the fruits of our labor. It's hard work getting the soil turned at the start, but that's the hardest part--and once it's done, it's done! Get the seeds in the ground and the rest goes according to design.

Cukes are still taking their time as are the peppers. Saw tiny watermelons on the vine--about the size of a pill. Unmistakable dark and light stripes--they look so cool! Tomatoes are on the way. Celery is growing slow. Hoping to draw squirrels away from the tomatoes with the celery.

This nice little zucchini harvest means Italian Steak for Father's Day! Yay!


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Day 15: A Father's Purpose: A Lesson In Vanity

FIRST, A MATTER OF INTEREST 
(at least I think it's interesting)

Recently reading Benjamin Franklin's autobiography, I remembered that I had bound in one volume a copy of his works that include writings from Boston and London (1722-1726), Philadelphia (1726-1757), London (1757-1775), Paris (1776-1785), Philadelphia (1785-1790), Poor Richards Almanac (1733-1758) and of course, The Autobiography.

Link Source
As I thumbed through the volume I discovered a great disparity of difference between the Barnes and Noble version I was reading and The Library Of America publication I now held in my hands. With no comment from the editors or publishers, I found large and inexplicable omissions in the B & N text. I was disappointed. Performing some line-by-line and page-by-page comparisons, I noticed the language was lightly softened for the modern reader, but could not shake the disappointment of feeling deceived by the publisher making such changes without commentary.

As I continued by research I made another discovery that may shed light on the mystery. According to Litcharts.com, one significant feature of this great American's Autobiography is that it was first published in French (1791). It was not until 1793 that the first English translation appeared, being translated from the French and not the original English manuscript. Another re translation back into French prepublished the book in 1798. One edition of three volumes was published in 1818 by William Temple Franklin, a grandson.

It could be that B & N published their copy from one of the editions (a revision) but the work contains no explanation and many of the omissions are glaring. Guess we'll never know.

THE POINT

One publishes or completes his work a certain way for his own reason. One is not always inclined to offer an explanation or reason for doing what one does. But in this case, the re-publication of a work should be true to the writer's form, purpose and intent unless the author gives permission to revise.

Franklin published his work for two reasons: the first is to provide a measure of instruction for his son, educate him a little on his heritage and legacy. The other reason is to satisfy his own vanity. "Hereby, too, I shall indulge the inclination so natural to old men, to be talking of themselves and their own past actions . . . I give [vanity] fair quarter where I meet with it, being persuaded that is often productive of good to the possessor and other others . . . " In other words, his vanity was not empty but serves the purpose instilling lasting virtue in his children, to learn from his mistakes as well as his successes.

A father is not always strong. A father is not always successful. A father is not a god and a child should never venerate his parents as such. At some point, one's offspring needs to see a human father. A weak man who struggled, got strong, persevered and then found success. A man must model both success and failure. If his vanity only serves the purpose of showcasing successes, then his successes die with him. But if his vanity gives him transparency that instills virtue in his children and in turn make his children successful, then he leaves a legacy. Selfish vanity deserves no respect.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Day 14: Will To Live

One of my favorite authors is the Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn (I made mention of him in yesterday's post). I was first exposed to his writing as a freshman in high-school and was so captivated by the imagery he conveyed that I read all three volumes of his Gulag Archipelago.

Solzhenitsyn is perhaps one of the most powerful writers of our age, though it seems that age is passing. Suddenly this truth becomes an illustration of the point that stands out to me today: the will to live. Solzhenitsyn was a fighter. He stood for he stood for truth and human dignity in the face of oppressive Communism. He personally demonstrated the will to live by withstanding years of imprisonment and persecution as well as surviving an assassination attempt by poisoning in 1971.

This short prose-poem by Solzhenitsyn is a near-perfect picture that captures the kind of indomitable spirit he displayed, a symbol of strength we are hard-pressed to find today.

"We were sawing firewood when we picked up an elm log and gave a cry of amazement. It was a full year since we had chopped down the trunk, dragged it along behind a tractor and sawn it up into logs, which we had then thrown on to barges and wagons, rolled into stacks and piled up on the ground - and yet this elm log had still not given up! A fresh green shoot had sprouted from it with a promise of a thick, leafy branch, or even a whole new elm tree.

We placed the log on the sawing-horse, as though on an executioner's block, but we could not bring ourselves to bite into it with our saw. How could we? That log cherished life as dearly as we did; indeed, its urge to live was even stronger than ours.”


("The Elm Log". Short Stories and Prose Poems. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1971. Bantam 1973)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Day 13: A Day In The Life

The title by no means is unique to me or The Beatles, sorry to say. I'm of the persuasion that the hit 1967 song was inspired by the short book "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn published in 1962. But I could be wrong. A gripping book, by the way. A short read but deeply moving, full of deep, beautiful and tragic thoughts:


But I'm taking the long way 'round to this post. My intention is to give a kind of a snapshot of a typical week-day in my own life. It's a journal post, after all. 
  • 5:45 a.m. Wake up, fall out of bed, find coffee. Should be brewed and waiting.
  • 6:00 a.m. Shower, get dressed. Drag the comb across my head.
  • 6:15 a.m. Fix breakfast, get lunch together, keep waking up.
  • 7:15 a.m. Leave the house.
  • 8:00 a.m. Arrive at the University
  • 8:05 a.m. Start coffee (most mornings), eat breakfast and get all systems booted up.
  • 8:10 or :15 a.m. Start workday: e-mails, phone calls, so-forth and what-not
  • 8:30 a.m. Once a month, meetings until 11:00 a.m.
  • 11:00 a.m. (when school is in session) Chapel
  • 12:00 p.m. CrossFit in the Fitness Center (or lunch meeting, depending); shower
  • 1:00 p.m. Back in the office (generally, unless meeting carries through until mid-afternoon)
  • 1:15 p.m. Fix lunch and work 
  • 2:30-3:00 p.m.-ish Get out from behind the desk and walk around a bit.
  • 5:00 Close up "shop"
  • 6:30-ish Dinner, clean up, work outside a little, read, write, watch TV until
  • 10:30-ish Go to bed. 
Exciting, my life, eh? 

That's ok. I'm going on vacation in a couple weeks and all this won't matter. 


Monday, June 12, 2017

Day 12: Poetry

The guys over at The Art of Manliness posted this collection of "20 Classic Poems Every Man Should Read."  I believe the primary reason poetry remains a timeless effective literary device in all cultures for the simple reason that many things are best said in through poetry; in other words, narrative cannot convey the depth of meaning mastered by poetry. Besides, poetry keeps a guy from getting calloused over and keeps him feeling.

I'm glad to recall how a few of these poems were introduced into my own life, even memorized at a very young age.

What follows are a few comments on a handful of personally significant poems from the list (above) along with a few choice lines. 


Ulysses (Tennyson): life is for the living, so live it to the full. 

"I cannot rest from travel: I will drink life to the lees . . . 
Come, my friends,‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die."

If (Kipling): "if you can . . . you'll be a man"

Sailing to Byzantium (Yeats): grow old relentlessly pursuing what is beautiful and good. 

"An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium."

Invictus (Henley): Life is abundant with experience, which includes suffering.

"It matters not how strait the gate, 
how charged with punishments the scroll, 
I am the master of my fave,
I am the captain of my soul."

Last, but not least, and perhaps more importantly of all in the list is

Ozymandius (Shelley): what remains when you're gone? What is your legacy? Which part of "you" abides forever? 

AofM

Garden Update

Quick garden update:

Zukes are coming in! Harvesting already!

Cukes are happy too!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Day 11: Franklin's List

80 days is a long time for a 20-year-old to be on a ship, especially in 1728. Few actually “went along for the ride” as mere passengers on a vessel. There was an expectation that each person accomplish a measure of work while on board at the very least; regardless, there remains plenty of time for a young man to think. This is what Benjamin Franklin did on his return trip to Philadelphia from London--he thought.

A common practice of Franklin’s time was for a man to construct a set of resolutions. The young Franklin came away from this return voyage with a short list of traits that ultimately became a list of virtues that he would practice until the age of 79, noting by his own admission that he often failed in his attempt though remained faithful to the spirit of the endeavor.

As an older man he confessed that despite his shortcomings he felt he was far more happier having tried. In other words, he did not achieve the moral perfection expected from the virtues, but he found himself to be a virtuous man. And that’s the point of finding virtue: becoming a whole person.

Here is the list of virtues Franklin developed:

1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness and drink not to elevation.

2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.

3. Order: Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.

4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.

5. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing.

6. Industry: Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.

7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

8. Justice: Wrong none, by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

9. Moderation: Avoid extremes. Forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes or habitation.

11. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; Never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.

12. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Franklin focused on one trait per week, creating a chart for himself by which he could record his progress. His goal was to not make any marks on his chart, no “black marks” against himself. Of course when he began, the number of marks were surprising even to him. But imagine his personal reward when making fewer marks!

What do I intend to do with this? How will I apply this to my own life?

I believe it would be a noble effort to try, but Franklin made this list for himself. He knew himself better than anyone and no two people are alike. For myself, perhaps the best starting point is to begin where Franklin began: with thought. With introspection. Self-examination. This brain is just too busy and I need to slow down and take inventory.

I heard someone say recently that "'thought' is a fancy word that means, 'to change one's mind' so it would be good to think--or die an idiot."  

A pond after a storm is murky, muddy. Over time, the silt settles, the water becomes clear and one can see the bottom. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Strawberry Moon

The first and only "mini-moon" of the year.

Saturn was the bright "star" just below The Ruler of the Night (not pictured) but Saturn proudly led the procession, glowing brightly in the West.

Beautiful night for observation and took a few great pictures.

You might say it was "stellar"!


Day 10: Better Man

I first met Benjamin Franklin in grade school and would you believe that, while his kite-flying-in-a-rainstorm got my attention, it was learning of his inventions that held my interest. I was too young to appreciate his contributions as a Statesman but that he gave us swim fins (attached to the hands, not the feet) made me take notice . Being the proud owner of bifocals (now trifocals) in more recent years keeps me mindful of what happens when a man sits down to think and in turn, makes a contribution that helps many.

On that note, permit me to be clear that Franklin did NOT invent electricity. He developed the lightening rod (among other things). This is like saying that Franklin invented the Gulf Stream--which he only mapped. Review his inventions and see how he harnessed nature. He did not invent nature.

Given the course of the series so far this month, I am revisiting Franklin's Autobiography paying careful attention to his exploration of virtue and moral perfection, noting how a big man from a little town (1706 Boston was still the Massachusetts Bay Colony) could admit his shortcomings and learn from them to be a better man.


Thursday, June 08, 2017

Garden Update

Zukes and Cukes are climbing, Melons creeping along the ground.
All plants blossomed and a harvest is not long in coming.
Bell Peppers are taking their sweet time.

Enjoying cooler temps this last week with rain nearly every night.

I sprinkle crushed eggshells at the base of the plants to deter soft-bellied creepers (they don't like the sharp edges). Also, mix diamotaceous earth with water to spray on the plant to deter other bugs. The mixture sticks like glue and doesn't come off easily once it dries on the plant.


Day 8: Work

When I look back through my work experience, I am intrigued at how my work history forms a kind of “ramp” into what I do now. For the most part, I’ve always worked alone or had positions in companies that permitted me to work alone. I recall how when interviewing for my job here at the University, my supervisor (who now serves as Dean and to this day, remains my supervisor) asked, “are you able to work alone?” To which I was able to reply with a resounding “Yes!”

www.backintheawesomedays.com
My work history began (I think) with doing little jobs around the office when visiting my mom or dad at their work. You know, “busy work” given to kids to keep them out of the way, mostly. Like tearing off the perforated edges from the paper that was roller fed through dot-matrix printers. Remember that “continuous feed” paper that came in large boxes? After that I sometimes traveled with my dad on day-trips. But that was all before I could legally work.

My first job in Junior High School was working for our neighborhood’s HOA. Sure, I mowed my share of lawns for hire, but I was the kid responsible to keep the roadsides clean of trash on the one-mile-and-some-change long stretch that entered our neighborhood (I just looked a Google Maps and could not recognize the place. Holy cow!). After baseball games, the ditches were horrible!

After moving to New Mexico, I went to work for my dad after school and on Saturdays at the Welding Supply store. Stocking shelves, sweeping, mopping, loading and unloading trucks. I am confident that one particular task I performed instilled in me the sense of order in which I like to keep things: I had to collect all the weekly sales invoices and put them in numerical order. Sounds mind-numbing and perhaps it was, but I like order :-)

I worked for K-mart for a short while--never understood why they made stockroom people wear a tie back in those days. It was hot and dirty. Loading and unloading, moving inventory in slacks and a tie just never clicked with me.

Worked a few years selling precious and base metals as well as semi-precious stones to Native American craftsmen then moved to Georgia where I held a part-time position in the Physical Plant at the college I attended while also working part-time in area churches as worship leader or youth pastor.

After moving to South Carolina, finding a job was tough but I finally found work through a temp agency that opened the door to longer jobs at Blue Cross, Blue Shield then remodeled a local Sears store. They eventually hired me (a man died and a position was open they needed filled) and I stayed a few years until I quit and went to work at a HAZMAT company--the worst job of my life. The hours were great and the overtime was amazing--but the work itself was out of balance. They put too much on one person at a time! Nearly worked myself to death.

Then in 2001, I filled out an application for a position here at Columbia International University and have been here ever since! While here, I’ve done other part-time work either teaching as an adjunct or in serving in local churches.

So that's my work history--more or less. 

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Day 7: More On "Journaling"

I was recently reminded how a few great authors honed their writing skills by copying letter for letter, word for word, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, and sometimes entire books written by authors they admired. A handful have reproduced for themselves the classic Don Quixote, for example. Actor Johnny Depp reports how Hunter S. Thompson copied Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby more than once, so he could get in touch with what a masterpiece felt like. Thompson also reproduced Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms to find the the experience of writing like a great author.

When a teenager, I sat and copied by candlelight entire passages and Sonnets of Shakespeare onto parchment with a nib and ink for the same reason--to experience the production of something great by my own hand, learning to write like a master. The same is true also when I play Bach’s Cello Suites.

photo credit: http://www.jazzwritesandsingsforyou.com
My writing is hardly masterful, but I love to write. For many years, I’ve kept a journal as evidenced by the piles found in cabinets and drawers around the house. My problem is that I’m never really sure what to do with them once I’ve written. I never go back and read what I’ve written. So why do it? Why write?

Joan Didion published her reasons for writing, echoing George Orwell’s theme through her short essay, “Why I Write.” Good or bad, one arranges words in order to hear what one thinks--some things sound better (or worse) “out loud.” For Didion, writing was her way to explore the pictures in her mind. But who does one write for? Does it matter? Must everything be published? Not really.

A case might be made that a diary is for personal use while a journal is intended for publication; however, in practice, the case might also be made that there is no distinguishing between the two except for the purposes determined or designed by the writer. A journal may be intensely personal, where the author wrestles “out loud” over issues, makes resolutions, works out a plan. A diary may merely be the record of days, “what” happened “when” and “where.” For some, writing can be an intensely spiritual exercise.

The beginning of this series introduced Jonathan Edwards and Benjamin Franklin’s exploration into virtue; that is, living as a holistic man. A common practice of their day was to not only make resolutions but to also keep a written record of events, some personal and others professional. David Brainerd, a New Englander close to Edwards kept a journal but his intent was to publish his writing. Edwards used his journal for personal examination. Interestingly, those who seek publication would not not have readily done so without the aid (directly or indirectly) of Franklin, who kept personal records of his own--not including his autobiography.

In conclusion, writing comes with ease the more one tries. Even if you copy to get the feel. Accept the challenge to fill a page with what’s on your mind. Should the subject changes as you write, don't stop. Just keep going and watch what happens.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Day 6: An Imperfect Goodbye In A Beautiful World

I didn’t get to say goodbye.

Actually, that’s not true. I did say goodbye.

It was one of those goodbye’s I'd rather forget.

But I can’t.

So I’m stuck with the less-than-memorable goodbye because now she’s gone for good.

She’s been gone for a couple years now and I’ll never forget her. Just wished I could have said "goodbye."

Her high school picture sits front and center on my desk, her youthful black and white Mona Lisa smile cast dreamily off-camera. She always had that far-away look in her eye, like something "over there" always had her attention.


Around the house are mementos that are unique for these are not mementos of her per se, but pictures by her. In turn do they become mementos of her. 


See, she was an artist and her large paintings on the wall or the small water colors on the table are the way she saw the world. Looking at those paintings is to see what she saw, so we look through her eyes. Those canvases and boards hold the work of her hands: the colors she mixed, the strokes and sweeps that bring the sea, the ships, the spray, the sun into the hallway. Her dabs and lines let everyone know of the day she saw the grass, the flowers, the watering can, the ceramic pot. The spray of pink and blue and yellow flowers . . . 


Every time I see a painting, it’s like being inside her head. It’s seeing what made her happy. Even when her days were dark and she was, shall we say, "gone"--the pencils, the watercolors captured what she could not see--those scenes remained in her spirit. Her happy places on paper. Each one signed on the bottom right-hand corner with her nom de plume.

When I last saw her, the occasion was not so happy. Our final hug was just that . . . final. I don't remember if I kissed her. I just remember that I was tired and she was tired and we had reached the end of ourselves.

She was going one way and we were going another and it hurt. We tried to take care of her, to make up for the lost years and weeks and days and hours. We tried--but she was somewhere else and the connection was just gone. And it hurt.

It hurt because I didn’t get to see her off when she left the world she brought me into.

All I can do is look at her paintings and find her in the way she saw the world and know that she understood what was beautiful. I feel like I’m just now understanding her more than I ever have.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Graduation, 2017. Congratulations, Son!






Day 5: Six Words

Permit me to explain: as part of my blog series this month, today’s challenge is to write the story of my life in six words. As one’s life story assumes the end of one’s life just as it assumes it’s beginning, my story is not yet over so what can I say? I can only say what is most important, obviously.

  • I have to think of everything I wanted to be and what I’m doing now.
  • I have to think of who I wanted to be and who I am now. 
  • I have to think of all the expectations I had in younger years and take into account what’s changed (location, career, family, etc.).
  • I have to think of what may or may not happen in the future.
Six words.
So much to think about and so little time.
Like life--so little time.
Life is so short.
So what can I say?

The best narrative I can find that tells the story of my life comes down to these six words:

“I’ll Be Found In The End”

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Day 4: Define Values, Nurture Virtues

Commander Mark Divine (U.S. Navy SEALs, Retired) in his book The Way Of The Seal leads the reader to consider the question, "What do I want most out of life?" The answer to that question is the starting point for the lifelong learner to discover one's values and in turn begin to nurture those values into virtues.

If one is committed to personal growth and seeks to reap a bountiful harvest as the result of that growth, then one must gain strength holistically; that is, through balancing the physical, mental, emotional, intuitional and spiritual areas of his being. Identifying one's values not only helps one answer the question, "why am I here?" but also helps a person on their journey to being whole.

Commander Divine suggests that one identify five values to move toward, and five "toxins" to move away from. This is not a new idea but a reiteration of a very ancient teaching encouraging one to "put off the old" and "put on the new." It is impossible to merely cease one habit without replacing it with another. For example:
  • Instead of lying, story-telling, fact twisting or embellishing, simply tell the truth simply;
  • If one struggles with anger, don't let matters simmer overnight;
  • Instead of using your hands to take from others, go to work for what you need and share any excess you gain by your work so somebody else is not tempted to steal;
  • Use your mouth to build others up, not tear them down; 
  • Stop being bitter, angry, holding grudges, nurturing rage, being annoying, yelling at others and instead always be humble and kind, tender, giving no place to hate, be compassionate, gentle, stay calm, be forgiving, quiet.  
  • Treat people as persons, not as objects who exist for your gratification in any sense of the word.
  • Fight for peace.
A virtuous man (or woman) will be hard after what is good not only for himself or herself but for the good of others.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Day 3: Congratulations, Young Man!


Today we graduate our youngest from High School so to you we say, "Congratulations, Young Man!" We are excited for all your accomplishments.

Our Dedication for your Graduation (read before receiving his diploma): 

"It is said that, 'Great men are like eagles, and build their nest on some lofty solitude.' William, you are well on your way to being a great man. Your inner strength is evident as you soar in every good thing you set your heart and mind to do. We give you the blessing to go even higher."

This is a milestone day in all our lives because we all did this, together. Though he's the last one to graduate from High School, he was preceded by his siblings. Young women and another younger (but older) man who are making their way through life, convinced of what they know yet still trying to figure it all out.
You are all doing the best you can--or at least you should be.

You know who you are.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Day 2: What Does It Take To Be A Man?

Many books fill my shelves and if I can't find what I'm looking for, I know where to find more books. Entire rooms and buildings full of individuals speaking their mind on pages. A silent crowd all speaking at once on their subjects.

No matter where I look, I am unable to find a book or passage that adequately says "this is a man."  Is the man a kind of warlord and conqueror? A wild man? Does he suddenly appear on the scene or does he arrive subtly? Does he "bang on his shield," declaring his existence and receive his entitlement or does he quietly and unassumingly work for all he wants or needs? Benjamin Franklin's quest led him to find virtue by imitating Socrates and Jesus--is a man's life defined by what he dies for? It's an age-old question that even Tom Scholz of one of my favorite bands, "Boston" sought to find out (lyrics here):



There must be something more to manhood than being the adult human male. This is why I like Tom's song. 
  • A man must have heart and soul, strength and gentleness, the ability to look ahead and outside himself. 
  • A man must be willing to give and even if there's nothing to receive. 
  • A man knows what he believes, knows why he believes it and speaks with conviction with what he knows. 
  • A man is aware of what he feels as well as what others feel. He empathizes and sympathizes. 
  • A man is more than a biological construct. He is a thinking, feeling soul. 
In short, a man is forward-moving, seeking to better himself and contribute to those around him. 

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Day 1: All In A Day's Work

The title of today’s blog sounds like the title of a certain magazine column, doesn’t it? Actually, that’s the whole idea behind the word “journal”--a record of the “dailies,” or, “all in a day’s work.” Since the 14th Century, the word “journal” has been used to describe the inventory of what hath “shone forth” in the day. The “diary” (“dia” meaning “day”) as we know it did not become used until the 16th Century.

Why explain all this? For starters, this is a topic “shining forth” on this particular day in my life and I chose to share something I’ve learned. The next 30 days I intend to make record here of what “shines forth” in my day, each day.

I am here reminded of the personal challenges explored by Jonathan Edwards in his “Resolutions” (started in 1716 and expanded through 1723, as far as we know) and Benjamin Franklin in his “Thirteen Virtues” (1726). These two historical giants were personally concerned with and accepted the challenge of living a virtuous life; that is, practicing the qualities and abilities of “manliness” (The “vir” in “virtues” means “man”). Virtue is much more than moral perfection and has more to do with personal character, integrity. The big question is did they find it? Were they achieve what they were after? What about those who followed in their footsteps? 

THE TRUTH

Franklin in his autobiography wrote that his project was more difficult than he imagined and that it
takes more than conviction to arrive at his goal. There must be a certain kind of strength and a unique method to accomplishing virtue. Edwards prefaced his Resolutions with one sentence, confessing that he is powerless to do anything without God’s help. The evidence of his personal struggle in practicing virtuous living is evidenced by the constant revision of his own “Resolutions,” which grew to the grand total of 70.

Difficult to say at this point how this will all turn out. Just crossing the 50 year mark in my own life, I am still on the road to growing as a man. But in one sense, that is key, isn’t it? Remaining a lifelong learner, which I am. I have nothing figured out or perfected--so I make no claims of achievement nor do I expect to understand virtue by the end of the month. Additionally, by no means do to I intend to practice, improve upon or critique the resolutions and methods established by Edwards or Franklin. I simply desire to be inspired by their influence and perhaps explore other aspects of what it means to be a man over this course of time.

All I am able to propose at this point is my intention to share what I learn this month.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Science Sucks!

Hard to stop watching . . .



(ht: BoingBoing)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Why "Murph" on Memorial Day?


"Every year on Memorial Day weekend, CrossFitters in affiliates across the world perform the Hero workout, ‘Murph’. It is a workout that has become synonymous with CrossFit, not just for its brutal toughness, but for what it represents. ‘Murph’ is not simply another workout we do in a class to increase our fitness before moving on to whatever else we have going on in the day. It is a workout designed to honor and remember the men and women of the armed forces that have lost their lives in defense of our freedom. And as is the case with every Hero workout, it has a story of courage and sacrifice behind it.

‘Murph’ is named after Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who was killed in action in Afghanistan June 28th, 2005. He was 29-years-old. After graduating from Penn State University in 1998, Murphy rejected offers to attend law school and instead accepted a commission in the United States Navy and became a SEAL in July 2002. For a man whose nickname was ‘The Protector’, the decision made perfect sense. In fact, when Murphy was in the 8th grade, he was suspended from school for fighting with bullies that were trying to shove a special needs child into a locker. And Gary Williams, author of “Seal of Honor,” a biography of Murphy, recounts a story where Murphy protected a homeless man who was collecting cans from a gang of thugs.

In early 2005 Murphy was assigned to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE as officer in charge of Alpha Platoon and deployed to Afghanistan. In June of that year, Murphy was leading a four-man reconnaissance team in Kunar province as part of a counter-insurgent mission (the other men in Murphy’s team were Danny Dietz, Matthew Axelson and Marcus Luttrell). During the mission the team encountered a group of local goat herders.

A discussion was held among the four SEALs regarding the rules of engagement and what they should do with the herders, who were being held at gunpoint. Eventually the men decided to release them, but not soon after the SEALs were surrounded and ambushed by an overwhelming Taliban force. Murphy, who was trying to reach HQ via satellite phone, willingly exposed himself to enemy fire by stepping into a clearing where he might get a signal to make the call. Murphy was shot in the back, but still managed to calmly complete the call for reinforcements and return to his position to continue the fight with his men. HQ sent an MH-47 Chinook helicopter to rescue the team, but while attempting to set down in rugged terrain, the helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, killing all 16 men on board.



Murphy, Dietz, and Axelson were all killed in action. Luttrell was the only survivor and was eventually rescued after several days of wandering the mountain and being protected by the people of an Afghan village.

The actions and story of the SEALs on June 28th, 2005 are portrayed in the film ‘Lone Survivor’

Murphy was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his courage and sacrifice that day. All three of his men were awarded the Navy’s second-highest honor, the Navy Cross, for their actions. The men who were killed in the rescue attempt were also honored. These included Petty Officer 1st Class Jeff Taylor and Lt. Michael McGreevy, who were posthumously awarded Bronze Stars for Valor and Purple Hearts. CrossFit HQ’s Russell Berger, who served in the 1st Ranger Battalion, writes of these men: “These men were fathers, husbands and sons. They were brothers to their fellow SEALs. They were also CrossFitters. In their actions, these men embodied the values and spirit of true heroes, and to immortalize their courage, bravery and self-sacrifice, the CrossFit Hero workouts were created.”

Friday, May 26, 2017

True Happiness (part 8): Concluding Thoughts On The Subject

The past few days we have given thought to the subject of "happiness" based on Book 3 of Boethius' "Consolation of Philosophy." At this point one begins to wonder if it is possible for man to find happiness at all. Wealth is powerless to deliver on it's promises; honor and fame not only borrowed but are also not universally recognized; and the only land a man truly possess is his burial plot.

But have all these desires and seem to experience something called, "happiness."

"Waiting For Godot" by Samuel Beckett
If we step back and consider true happiness, we realize we find it at that moment when all things are balanced together, a unified whole. This returns us to the definition of happiness Lady Philosophy offers at the very beginning: "a state which is made perfect by the union of all good things."

Let me illustrate:
  • One person is happy to sit on the couch and drink his tea. 
  • Another person is happy to sneak up and pouring boiling water over the head of the first person. 
  • The second person may think himself to be happy but in fact he is not because there is no unity of good between the two people. 
  • Additionally, think about what kind disunity must have occurred within the second person to think of such a horrible act. 
Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? How about Hot Water Challenge which has happened on purpose or as a prank that nearly kills a victim?

This is not a purely theoretical illustration but the principle occur in real life in the forms of how we relate to others daily. The principle shows in the way we drive, in how we wait in line, in how we shop, at our jobs, when we play. Our state of happiness shows in the way we strive for the unity of good things with others. Peace is evidence of happiness.

The telling feature of true happiness centers on UNITY OF ALL GOOD THINGS. The short list we considered these last few days fail at delivering happiness simply because they are fractured from the unity of all good things. They cannot be isolated as the sole source of happiness. There must be a UNITY OF ALL GOOD THINGS.

In closing there might be considered another word here for happiness (I wish I knew the original word translated into English as "happiness" in Boethius): contentment. If one is content, then all good things are kept in balance.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Little More In The Tank

Today's WOD was awesome. Feeling mighty.

4 sets 10 reps of Deadlift (135#, 150#)
then
AMRAP 10 minutes of
1 Deadlift
1 Power Clean
1 Front Squat
1 Shoulder to Overhead Press

Here's a couple post-WOD lifts cause I had a few more in there:

True Happiness (part 7): Land, Fame, Pleasure

"We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (C.S. Lewis, The Weight Of Glory, 1941)

What brings happiness? In previous posts we've defined happiness and have put many sources of happiness to the test and so far, we're still trying to discover the answer to this age-old question.

"HOW MUCH LAND DOES A MAN NEED?"

The great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy answers that question in his short story published in 1886. Pakhom supposes that if he had enough land, life as a peasant farmer would be over--including his fear of the devil himself. Through a series of moves Pakhom begins to acquire land but he is not satisfied with so little--he wants more! In a business deal that's almost too good to be true, Pakhom pays 1,000 rubles to claim as much land as he can in one day by simply walking around, marking the borders with a shovel, but he must end his walk in the same place he began or he will lose his money and any claimed land. 

He begins as early as possible the next day marking his way as he goes, walking wide and far until he realizes that he has gone too far when he notices the sun going down. He must race as fast as he can back to the starting point, or lose everything! And he does--he makes it and is received with great celebration having acquired such a large plot of land. But he has exhausted himself and dies on the spot. The story concludes with Pakhom's servants burying him. “Six feet from his head to his heels was all he needed.”

Land does not bring happiness. 

FAME

"Fame, what you like is in the limo
Fame, what you get is no tomorrow
Fame, what you need you have to borrow
Fame
Fame, 'Nein! It's mine!' is just his line
To bind your time, it drives you to, crime
Fame
Could it be the best, could it be?"  (David Bowie)


1500 years ago, Beothius learned this lesson from Lady Philosophy: it may be attractive to be well known, but there are plenty of places on earth that will never know your name. And one need not travel too far to discover this truth. Besides if your name is famous, the honor really goes to your forefathers because they are the ones people remember when they hear it. 

Fame fails at giving happiness. 

PLEASURE

If we find pleasure on impulse, following the course of nature without restraint, what makes us different than animals? If happiness is found on impulse, then the animals must be more happy than we are. Once the body goes, where will we find happiness then? Are those who are ignored happy if they cannot follow through on their impulses? 

Also, if it is said that happiness is found in wife and children, what if a man is tormented by his wife? What if a man is in grief over his children? What if the husband mistreats the wife? Where is happiness then? Those who are without wife or children--why are they happy without family?

I'll say more on this in tomorrow's conclusion.

CONCLUSION:
"[T]hese things cannot grant the good which they promise; they are not made perfect by the union of all good things in them; they do not lead to happiness as a path . . . " ("Consolation of Philosophy," Book 3, Prose VIII)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

What's Next?

Enjoyed digging deep today 'cause that's where the gold is. Gold is deep.
Train for greater things. Bigger things.

Pain only hurts for a little while but then you get your head together, feeling mightier than before and you think, "what comes next?" Reflecting on the fact that I just turned a year older (50) and knocking this kind of stuff out just thrills me.

Heard a great thought recently that fits in nicely right here: "be an active participant in your own life." I'm tired of sitting by watching life pass me by. Sitting still hurts more than moving. That's why I train, to get stronger and "go places." And becoming an active participant in life has done just that. We'll all be active participants in our death, but why not live a lottle?

I admit: today's WOD got me like, "woah" but when I think that I'm not staying still, that I'm getting stronger--I get excited. Here's what we did today:


3 sets, 10 reps of Bench Press (115#, 125#, 135#) 
then

For time
50 wallballs (20#) buy in
Then
3 rounds of
20 knees to elbows
30 HR push ups
40 walking lunges steps
Then
50 wallballs (20#) cash out

I could eat a cow right now. 

True Happiness (part 6): Places Of Honor

A number of years ago I was invited to lecture in Kenya, Africa. I prepared my lectures, got my shots, packed my bags and found myself in a village somewhere between Niarobi and Kisumu speaking to a group that grew larger daily for a week straight. So many were coming that we started a whole separate conference the next week to cover material for people who were still arriving!

My first day began with tea where I was introduced to local dignitaries along with my credentials and
Me with Johann, my driver
qualifications. Being introduced to the main audience, my host announced my credentials I was warmly received, picking my way through the material as the audience took notes. I planned an hour and a half at the end of each day to field questions: the first half dedicated to answering questions related to the topic on which I spoke; and the second half dedicated to answering "open-ended" questions.

The attendees asked questions that revealed a deep desire to learn--very well thought-out, heart-felt questions. As the first day drew to close, a very old man sitting in the back rose to his feet and asked his question. My translator spoke loudly so everyone could hear (though he was translating into English for me). His question floored me--it went something like this:

"We understand you come from America and are University educated. We understand you hold College and Seminary degrees. We understand you are Licensed and Ordained. You can teach; that is obvious--but who are you? We don't know you. Why should we listen to you? Why should we trust what you say is true?"

About 1500 years ago, Boethius suggested that a man was "made" by places of honor and his high rank should bring a man happiness. Lady Philosophy made another suggestion and it sounded very much like this old African man's question. Is the greatest good for a man found in his exaltation above other men? (Book 3, "Consolation of Philosophy")

reuters.com
A recent Time.com article titled, "Donald Trump After Hours"  shows us a snapshot of how a man with higher honor than another might live happily:

"The waiters know well Trump’s personal preferences. As he settles down, they bring him a Diet Coke, while the rest of us are served water, with the Vice President sitting at one end of the table. With the salad course, Trump is served what appears to be Thousand Island dressing instead of the creamy vinaigrette for his guests. When the chicken arrives, he is the only one given an extra dish of sauce. At the dessert course, he gets two scoops of vanilla ice cream with his chocolate cream pie, instead of the single scoop for everyone else."

The basis of his high position is given to him by others, but who is "he" and what if he is not around those who gave him the place of honor? How is he recognized when not in his home, his home town, his own country? Someone must announce his status, his credentials--but who is he as a man? What if a man is not worthy of the status given to him?
How can a man be happy when he is not recognized or his credentials have no meaning?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Hero WOD: "Jack"

4x15 Back Squat then

"Jack"
AMRAP in 20 minutes of:
10 Push press (115#)
10 KB Swings (40#)
10 Box jumps (20")

[completed 6 rounds, total weight of 4800# lifted--FEELIN' MIGHTY!]

Army Staff Sgt. Jack M. Martin III, 26, of Bethany, Oklahoma, assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, Fort Lewis, Wash., died September 29th, 2009, in Jolo Island, Philippines, from the detonation of an improvised explosive device. Martin is survived by his wife Ashley Martin, his parents Jack and Cheryl Martin, and siblings Abe, Mandi, Amber and Abi.

True Happiness (part 5): Money/Wealth

If happiness is the acquisition of the highest good, how do we find happiness in that which is not the highest good? How have we become "far too easily pleased"? As we think about this, let's discover if money can bring happiness.

Here's a song:  

"Money, get away
Get a good job with good pay and you're okay
Money, it's a gas
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash
New car, caviar, four star daydream
Think I'll buy me a football team . . . 
Money, it's a crime
Share it fairly but don't take a slice of my pie
Money, so they say
Is the root of all evil today
But if you ask for a rise
It's no surprise that they're giving none away."
 

Does money buy happiness? Pink Floyd gives us both sides of the proverbial coin in their 1973 hit. Since nothing's new under the sun, Pink Floyd echoes the truth that Lady Philosophy was trying to impart to Beothius nearly 1500 years previous: if you accumulate all you can get and are still lacking good things, then money is a liar, not able to deliver on its promises. Money cannot bring happiness.

Have you ever stopped to think how money is powerless to protect itself? Leave some laying around and watch what it does. Nothing. Until someone helps it disappear. Money is powerless! Sure, money can fill a need, but it creates more need--such as security. In order to keep your piece of mind, one must spend money to hire protection to keep it. Wealth does not eliminate need--it creates need.

Maybe we've got it backwards: less is more. The less one has, the more freedom from want he has. Things that make you go, "hmmmmmmm". 

Pink Floyd teaches the ancient lesson that money is a crime--share all you want, just don't expect to get any of mine. What's yours is mine and what's mine is mine. Try asking for a raise at work and see what happens. You may get one, but you'll have to agree: they don't just give that stuff away. And even if you get that raise, it will never be enough. 

"If wealth cannot remove want, and even creates it's own wants, what reason is there that you should think it affords satisfaction to a man?" (Book 3, Prose 3, Boethius, "Consolation of Philosophy")

A PARABLE IN REAL LIFE--WHY THE GUY'S NOT HAPPY

I know a guy who began remodeling his home two years ago. His house was only four years old. I'm sure he's done a fine job on the inside of the house, but he's never finished working on it. He recently received two eighteen wheeler loads of bricks to build an outdoor living-room in this back yard. This guy also owns eight cars (that we can see)--although recently, I've only counted six. Always mystified when all the cars are gone but only two people live there . . . anyway he's always washing his cars. His front yard is beautiful, by the way. Mows it twice a week. Stayed green all winter, too.

I think the strangest thing he's done is to build a fence. Don't get me wrong, there was already a fence there--he just had to have his own fence right up against the existing fence--only a couple inches higher so he doesn't have to see the first fence. He likes to look at his own apparently.

I'm sad for him because he's got to pay for all those cars: insure them, secure them, protect them, wash them (by hand), polish them, gas them, oil them . . .

And the house and yard? Like everyone else: insure it, secure it, mow it, edge it, weed it, water it, paint it, exterminate it, heat it, cool it, provide utilities, sewer . . .

And eat.

I'm not sure what he does for a living, but he's not happy. He's often on the phone outside yelling at somebody. Don't know why he can't do that inside. He's also often heard yelling at hired help for whatever reason--and we watch them shake their heads at him when his back is turned. We've never seen him smile. He rarely waves or says "hello."

What makes matters worse is that I know another guy who tries to copy everything the first guy does. But he's rarely ever seen because he's always working. I don't think he's happy either.

Know who's happy? The guy who lives by the rule: "keep what you must, share what you can."
He's the guy who eats to live. Know what I mean? 




Sunday, May 21, 2017

Birthday Breakfast!

Eggs, Hash and home-made New Mexico red chili. Yum!


Friday, May 19, 2017

True Happiness (part 4): "Caged Bird" by Maya Angelou.

Yesterday we thought about happiness and found that the first state of all things is the highest good of all things. In other words, the first state of all creation is happiness.

When reading and thinking of The Bird for yesterday's post, the following poem came to mind and I feel I would be remiss if I did not stop to allow the poem to elaborate on that picture of the happiness of The Bird. (Side note: might there be more to Skynyrd's "Freebird" than meets the eye ear?).

Caged Bird (by Maya Angelou)

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own 


But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Earth, Wind and Ozzy



(ht: Boing Boing)

True Happiness (part 3): The First State Of All Living Things

My first pet was a dog named Rusty. I think was three. I may have done something three-years-oldish to the dog, but all I remember is that he bit my face and I never saw him again. Then there was Petey, a parakeet. Had him a long time. One Sunday morning we were walking out the door on the way to church when he fell off his perch, dead as a door-nail. He’s buried in the woods somewhere in Texas. My parents had a dog names “Whiskers.” Drove me nuts.

Now there are three cats in the house: a massive pure white cat named “Runt” (he was the runt of the litter), “Buddy,” a jet black cat who thinks he rules the world, and “Lilly,” the blondest a cat can possibly be. She’s alright. Runt keeps to himself, which is good. And Buddy . . . what can I say? “Get down!” “Stop that!” Things like that, I suppose.

photovide.com
What makes an animal happy? For Buddy, it’s food in all three bowls (he’ll clink them together with his paw if low or empty). A dog? Whatever makes his tail wag perhaps. Fish? No clue. Just feed ‘em and change their water. Our Son has a turtle upstairs. Can’t tell what makes him happy--maybe being inside his shell makes him happy. He’s in there a lot. Netflix or something.

There’s a beauty to animals, in the house or in the wild. But deep inside even the most domesticated animal is this burning desire to get out. Outside is too big for Buddy--scares him-- but he has gotten out a time or two and sits and the door meowing because he wants to try again. Runt gets out but he’s too fat to jump the fence, but Buddy could go right over.

Reminds me of the bass my dad caught and kept alive in a fish-tank at home (I was very young but remember this distinctly). Can’t have normal fish. Gotta have a bass. I think he was going to try to grow him to good “eating” size. One night we had some people over for games or dinner or something and the fish decided he wanted out. So he got out. Jumped right out of the tank straight down onto my mother’s hair and did his fishy, “Ohcrapohcrapohcrapohcrapnotagoodidea” dance all the way down to her lap. He wanted to be out of that tank because by nature, he did not belong in a tank.

But I digress: Lady Philosophy considers happiness as the first state in all living things (Book 3, Met. 2).

THE LION

Caged and chained, living in fear of his master and eating from his hand but still a sight to behold. Let him taste fresh blood and “their latent will returns; with deep roaring they remember their old selves.”

THE BIRD

Watch him fly, listen to him sing, catch and cage him, feed and water him and keep him. “[Y]et it he fly to the roof of his cage and see the shady trees he loves . . . the woods are all his sorrow calls for, for the woods he sings with his sweet tones.”

THE BENT BRANCH

No matter what bends a branch down, soon as that weight is gone, does it not spring up again?

THE SUN

“PhÅ“bus sinks into the western waves, but by his unknown track he turns his car once more to his rising in the east.”

Conclusion: “All things must find their own peculiar course again, and each rejoices in his own return. Not one can keep the order handed down to it, unless in some way it unites its rising to its end, and so makes firm, immutable, its own encircling course. And you too, creatures of the earth, do dream of your first state, though with a dim idea. With whatsoever thinking it may be, you look to that goal of happiness . . .”
(Read Part 1, Part 2)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Itsy, Bitsy, Teeny, Weeny, Tiny Little

death-trap of spidery . . . death.
I nearly stepped into it!


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

True Happiness (part 2): "What Is Happiness, Anyway?"

We talk and hear much about happiness today but what is happiness that so many are eager to pursue it? What is unhappiness? How does one know if he or she is unhappy if one does not know what happiness is? What words or terms come to mind when thinking of happiness? Delight. Joy. Freedom from care, pain, sorrow, want. Contentment. I don’t like how the dictionary defines happiness: “the state of being happy.” That doesn’t tell me what happiness is.
  • Is happiness a destination or a by-product? 
  • Is happiness a choice?
  • Is happiness good health? 
  • Is happiness a person? or people? 
  • Is happiness a warm donut? A warm puppy? A Warm Gun?
[Original song from The Beatles' White Album]

In Book 3, Prose 2 of Boethius’ “Consolation of Philosophy,” The Love of Wisdom (“philosophy”, personified as a lady in white) defines happiness as “a state which is made perfect by the union of all good things.” A much better definition. In other words, happiness is attaining the highest good. Written in the 400’s AD, Boethius reveals the question of happiness is an ancient one. Mankind across time in every culture has been pursuing happiness, each one on his or her own path to find it.

If The Love of Wisdom ("philosophy") is correct, then it would be right to say that mankind has a built-in desire acquire happiness, apprehend of that which is truly good. The problem is that man gets lost when he considers the many possible paths. Which should he choose?
  • Does money bring happiness? 
  • Or admiration or perhaps places honor? 
  • Maybe happiness is found in power. 
  • Or in fame, glory.
  • Or in pleasure. 
Whatever happiness is, mankind has been looking for ages and each man or woman has his or her own desire, their own reason for wanting it. Whatever happiness is, that pull that makes us hunt it down is powerful. It is a force of nature. We may disagree on what happiness is and we may disagree on how happiness may be secured, but we all agree that happiness must be so incredibly good, some kind of "highest good," that every person should have it.

Monday, May 15, 2017

On Happiness and Possessions. Introductory Thoughts On The Subject of True Happiness (part 1)

“Is this your first entrance upon the stage of life? Are you come here unprepared and a stranger to the scene? Think you that there is any certainty in the affairs of mankind, when you know that often on swift hour can utterly destroy a man?” (Beothius, "Consolation of Philosophy," Book 2, Prose III)*

The allegorical “Lady Philosophy” sitting on the edge of despairing Boethius’ bed asks if he just fell off the proverbial turnip wagon. He’s not a young man (most likely middle-aged) who has been digging himself an emotional hole from which “the love of wisdom” is trying to raise him. He’s up to his proverbial eyeballs in a veritable “slough of despond,”** the quicksand of despair, worrying over his loss of fortune. Truth be told, that’s the way the big wheel spins when it comes to fortune.

“Wheel goes round, landing on a leap of fate
Life redirected in ways unexpected
Sometimes the odd number wins
The way the big wheel spins”

(Rush, “The Big Wheel”)

Lady Philosophy tells Boethius truthfully why he’s not happy as he is “paying the penalty for your mistaken expectations.” He has not lost his fortune at all! His wife’s father is distraught over his son-in-law’s unjust captivity, his wife longs for her husband and his sons are successful! “Fortune’s hatred has not yet been so great as to destroy all your holds upon happiness: the tempest that is fallen upon you is not too great for you: your anchors hold yet firm and they they should keep ever nigh to you confidence in the present and hope for future time.” (Prose IV)

Yet Lady Philosophy reveals an inescapable fact regarding happiness: “either its completeness never appears, or it never remains.” (Prose IV) One man has abundant wealth but his birth or breeding give him shame; Another man is famous for being nobly born but is without abundant wealth. A third man has wealth and good breeding but is without wife. A fourth man is happily married but is without children and has no heir. A fifth man has children but they bring him shame. “So none is readily at peace with the lost his fortune sends him . . the feelings of the most fortunate men are the most easily affected . . . so small are the troubles which can rob them of complete happiness.” Does this mean happiness is impossible? Or is man to simply be content with misery?

Man is given one possession that is key to his happiness: “If then you are master of yourself, you will be in possession of that which you will never wish to lose, and which Fortune will never be able to take from you.” In other words, happiness comes from a made-up mind and not from the supposed randomness found in the mechanics of the Universe. No, the machine grinds and the Fortune will never be attained due to uncertainty, as it exists outside the person.

Riches merely change hands, especially after one is dead, so riches cannot bring happiness. Riches wear out the man who accumulates. Precious stones are attractive, but they do not need a man in order to be brilliant. All of creation is beautiful and does not require man to view it; besides, “Fortune will never make yours what Nature has made to belong to other things.” Of all that man reckons would bring him happiness, not a single one actually belong to him. Like the saying goes: “you can’t take it with you.”

So what does a man have to bring happiness? “Cease then to seek the wealth you have lost. You have found your friends, and they are the most precious of all riches.”

Chris understood this.



End Part 1
------------

*All quotes are from Boethius, Book 2.

** to borrow from Bunyan--or does Bunyan borrow from Boethius, as the latter precedes the former by nearly 1000 years?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Only From The World of Pure Imagination

I don't know about you, but I'll never watch this scene the same way again. How musical! How lyrical! The rhythm of the scene! What genius!



(ht: Boing Boing)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Distractions From Consolation

The Consolation Of Philosophy” is in some ways a familiar story: an innocent man is unjustly convicted and executed. What makes his story unlike so many other is that, among other writings, he gives us a kind of journal of how he received consolation while waiting to die. Written in the 6th Century AD, Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius left a legacy of instruction fit for the life-long learner.

Encyclopedia Britannica
Face a-dew with tears, Boethius lamented his condition--he lost everything and was awaiting execution. As nothing could save him from his situation, was there any hope for his languishing spirit? Philosophy appears to him in a vision in the form of a nurse and sitting on the end of his bed, applies a healing balm to his weary soul by helping him remember foundational truths he appears to have forgotten. Like the farmer expecting a crop, he may have to find another means of sustenance, as it were, as lamenting will not help a fallow ground to grow a crop. As if collecting flowers and herbs, one does not search for the blooms of the field under the cover of the woods should he? Everything has a season, in it’s time. There’s an order to follow and sometimes one must wait, try again, or look somewhere else. But if a plant is growing and the hope of a harvest is plain to see, why would one cut if off? This is principally what Boethius was doing. No wonder he was depressed.

Philosophy (personified as a woman) was a brilliant psychologist for the lover of wisdom (the true philosopher) must nurture his soul. Boethius had not been doing that (what did Socrates say about the unexamined life?). The allegorical Lady Philosophy points out that Boethius has forgotten who he was so it should come as no surprise that he should sit in the proverbial darkness staring at the proverbial ground. “You are overwhelmed by this variety of mutinous passions: grief, rage, and gloom tear your mind asunder, and so in this present mood stronger measures cannot yet come night to heal you,” she says. He is distracted and deceived by his emotions and by a dream of things he cannot have (“fortune”). When she arrived, he was sitting with the muse of Poetry in tears; in effect, he maintained his own emotional wreckage by feeding his distress with dark and misguided feelings, thinking this would be the best for himself. Lady Philosophy observes, “How much I wonder how it is that you can be so sick though you are set in such a health-giving state of mind!”

There are only hints that the writer substituted the virtues of wisdom for the wealth of knowledge, replacing soundness of mind with the teachings of Epicurus and the Stoics, whose ideas still thrive to this day. The Epicureans believe we should “live by chance,” doing anything and everything that feels good. Just pursue happiness and be happy in that pursuit. Do your own thing, just don’t hurt anyone or interfere with someone else’s happiness. The Stoics thought we should “live by luck” by accepting things as they are--don’t fight your circumstances but pay attention to where they take you. Trust your feelings.

Lady Philosophy speaks truth: there is no light when stars are hidden by black clouds. Still water is clear like glass, but blow the wind and it becomes impenetrable and dark. Don’t let your joy die, put away your fear, let false hope go and stop grieving! “Where these distractions reign, the mind is clouded o’er, the soul is bound in chains.” The Universe is not randomly guided nor does it operate by chance. Enjoying the harvest of crops requires the order of seasons, so there is an order and a time for everything and a great designer behind it all.

There is a time and place for feelings and every man's fortune is his own but they must be coupled with wisdom. Wisdom keeps the emotions from wandering aimlessly and getting lost in the vast territory of the unknown. Fortune, that is, that which becomes the purpose of life is not without a guide otherwise fate would be cruel and unfair. Wisdom is the foundation of contentment and good judgment.

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