Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Monday, June 19, 2017
"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."
Sunday, June 18, 2017
Friday, June 16, 2017
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
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.
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.
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
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 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
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:
- 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.
Monday, June 12, 2017
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.
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die."
"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."
Sunday, June 11, 2017
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:
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.
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."
Saturday, June 10, 2017
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.
Friday, June 09, 2017
Thursday, June 08, 2017
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.
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
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|
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
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.
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
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.
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:
Sunday, June 04, 2017
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.
- 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.
Saturday, June 03, 2017
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."
You are all doing the best you can--or at least you should be.
You know who you are.
Friday, June 02, 2017
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):
- 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.
Thursday, June 01, 2017
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.
Franklin in his autobiography wrote that his project was more difficult than he imagined and that it
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.
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...
(ht: Open Culture) " Matthew Might , a computer science professor at the University of Utah, writes: 'Every fall, I explain to ...