AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

30 August 2019

Robert Plant, "In the Evening"

Magic.

Watkins, Early Evening, 2019


Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.

Roald Dahl

Courage.

Schlesinger, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, 1831


Should we not be concerned as to whether this fear of error is not just the error itself?  I have the courage to be mistaken.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

All.

Whitey Morgan & The 78s, "Crazy"

WOO-HOO!

HAPPY FRIDAY!

Flint, Michigan's finest ...

Obligation.


The obligation to amuse and instruct myself was entirely my own, and people who didn't know that were childish people, to be avoided if possible. Certainly not to be trusted.

John Taylor Gatto, from Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

Not.

Must.


I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

William Blake

Happy Birthday, David

David, Self-portrait, 1794


Jacques-Louis David was born on this date in 1748.

To give a body and a perfect form to one's thought, this - and only this - is to be an artist.

Jacques-Louis David

Simon Schama's Power of Art episode on David ...

Needed.


The blue-backed notebooks, the two pencils and the pencil sharpener (a pocket knife was too wasteful), the marble-topped tables, the smell of early morning, sweeping out and mopping, were all you needed.

Ernest Hemingway

27 August 2019

Spirit.

Réau, Penumbra II, 2012


NUTTING

 —It seems a day
(I speak of one from many singled out)
One of those heavenly days that cannot die;
When, in the eagerness of boyish hope,
I left our cottage-threshold, sallying forth
With a huge wallet o'er my shoulders slung,
A nutting-crook in hand; and turned my steps
Tow'rd some far-distant wood, a Figure quaint,
Tricked out in proud disguise of cast-off weeds
Which for that service had been husbanded,
By exhortation of my frugal Dame—
Motley accoutrement, of power to smile
At thorns, and brakes, and brambles,—and, in truth,
More ragged than need was! O'er pathless rocks,
Through beds of matted fern, and tangled thickets,
Forcing my way, I came to one dear nook
Unvisited, where not a broken bough
Drooped with its withered leaves, ungracious sign
Of devastation; but the hazels rose
Tall and erect, with tempting clusters hung,
A virgin scene!—A little while I stood,
Breathing with such suppression of the heart
As joy delights in; and, with wise restraint
Voluptuous, fearless of a rival, eyed
The banquet;—or beneath the trees I sate
Among the flowers, and with the flowers I played;
A temper known to those, who, after long
And weary expectation, have been blest
With sudden happiness beyond all hope.
Perhaps it was a bower beneath whose leaves
The violets of five seasons re-appear
And fade, unseen by any human eye;
Where fairy water-breaks do murmur on
For ever; and I saw the sparkling foam,
And—with my cheek on one of those green stones
That, fleeced with moss, under the shady trees,
Lay round me, scattered like a flock of sheep—
I heard the murmur, and the murmuring sound,
In that sweet mood when pleasure loves to pay
Tribute to ease; and, of its joy secure,
The heart luxuriates with indifferent things,
Wasting its kindliness on stocks and stones,
And on the vacant air. Then up I rose,
And dragged to earth both branch and bough, with crash
And merciless ravage: and the shady nook
Of hazels, and the green and mossy bower,
Deformed and sullied, patiently gave up
Their quiet being: and, unless I now
Confound my present feelings with the past;
Ere from the mutilated bower I turned
Exulting, rich beyond the wealth of kings,
I felt a sense of pain when I beheld
The silent trees, and saw the intruding sky.—
Then, dearest Maiden, move along these shades
In gentleness of heart; with gentle hand
Touch—for there is a spirit in the woods.

William Wordsworth

Laugh.

Hot 8 Brass Band, "Love Will Tear Us Apart"

Excellent.

An excellent book ...

Happy Birthday, Hegel


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born on this date in 1770.

Not curiosity, not vanity, not the consideration of expediency, not duty and conscientiousness, but an unquenchable, unhappy thirst that brooks no compromise leads us to truth. 

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

25 August 2019

Reflect.


The blue waters of the Chesapeake lap against the shore. Sunbathers lounge in deckchairs as black children and white children run and play on the beach. And close by stands a magnificent oak tree, its trunk stretching three great arms and canopies of leaves high into the tranquil sky.

Over half a millennium, the Algernoune Oak has witnessed war and peace and the fall of empires, but never a day like the one in late August 1619. It was here that the White Lion, a 160-ton English privateer ship, landed at what was then known as Point Comfort. On board were more than 20 captives seized from the Kingdom of Ndongo in Angola and transported across the Atlantic. This dislocated, unwilling, violated group were the first enslaved Africans to set foot in English North America – ushering in the era of slavery in what would become the United States.

This site, now Fort Monroe in Hampton, southern Virginia, will host a weekend of 400th anniversary commemorations on 23-25 August, culminating in a symbolic release of butterflies and nationwide ringing of bells. Americans of all races will reflect on a historical pivot point that illuminates pain and suffering but also resilience and reinvention. 

CONNECT

24 August 2019

Germany.


Nobody in the long history of baseball ever craved the spotlight more than Herman “Germany” Schaefer, for whom no gag was too outrageous or primitive and no audience too small or unfriendly. To protest an umpire’s decision to keep a game going in fading light, he trotted out to his position with a lantern in hand. On rainy days, he carried an umbrella onto the field, wore a raincoat and boots to the plate, or splashed barefoot in the puddles. He tip-toed along the foul line like a tightrope walker and rowed across the outfield grass using bats as oars. And, most famously, he occasionally stole first base.

Schaefer first pulled off his signature stunt in a game against Cleveland, most likely in 1908 (the exact date is unclear). “They say it can’t be done,” Tigers outfielder Davy Jones told author Larry Ritter many years later, “but I saw him do it.”

Jones was perched on third base in the late stages of a tied ballgame. Schaefer was on first base. Hoping to draw a throw that would allow Jones to race home with the go-ahead run, Schaefer stole second. However, the catcher, wise to the strategy, held onto the ball. “So now we had men on second and third,” Jones recalled. “Well, on the next pitch Schaefer yelled, ‘Let’s try it again!’ And with a blood-curdling shout he took off like a wild Indian back to first base, and dove in headfirst in a cloud of dust. He figured the catcher might throw to first–since he evidently wouldn’t throw to second–and then I would come home same as before. But nothing happened. Nothing at all. Everybody just stood there and watched Schaefer, with their mouths open, not knowing what the devil was going on.”

Even if the catcher had thrown to first, Jones said, he was too flabbergasted to move off third. “The umpires were just as confused as everybody else. However, it turned out that at that time there wasn’t any rule against a guy going from second back to first, if that’s the way he wanted to play baseball, so they had to let it stand. So there we were, back where we started, with Schaefer on first and me on third. And on the next pitch darned if he didn’t let out another war whoop and take off again for second base. By this time the Cleveland catcher evidently had enough, because he finally threw to second to get Schaefer, and when he did I took off for home and both of us were safe.”


Read the rest at The Detroit Athletic Company.

The Babys, "She's My Girl"

Architecture.

McKim, Mead, & White, The Towers at Narragansett Pier, 1886


They can do without architecture who have no olives nor wines in the cellar.

Henry David Thoreau

Storehouse.


Herman Melville’s epic Moby-Dick was first published as The Whale on October 18, 1851 – the book was “expurgated to avoid offending delicate political and moral sensibilities”. In November of that year, the uncensored version, featuring the Epilogue telling of how Ishmael survived to tell his tale, was published in the USA. Now called Moby-Dick, the long book, with its educational, insightful, obsessive and not a little prolix chapters on whaling and the whale, was not an instant hit. The book that most of us with a desire to write wish they had written was far from universally enjoyed. It still isn’t. Clive James wrote in 2007: “It’s not so much that I find language contortedly and even wilfully archaic: more than that I find it makes a meal of itself, as if foretelling a modern critical age in which it is fated more to be taught than enjoyed.”

Nowadays the book’s a ‘classic’, but how many of us have read all the words – 135 chapters – and finished it? Not many. Not enough. Garrison Keillor noted in 2016: “With the time I’ve wasted over the past 40 years looking for my reading glasses, I could have written Moby-Dick and written it better. Not all that yik-yak about melancholy and breakfast and the nature of evil, but cut to the chase and harpoon the dang whale and bring a couple of dames aboard the Pequod for the general interest.” He was only half joking. He’d never read the thing.

Moby Dick is a “storehouse of language, incident and strange wisdom”, the story of the heroic whale who endures a persistent effort to exterminate it. The book is worth the effort. But it takes time. We need help. We need a way to let us move through the book. Step forward artist and librarian Matt Kish, who took on the mammoth task of illustrating the book’s 552 pages of what he calls “the greatest novel ever written”.

CONNECT

Matt Kish on Moby-Dick ...

American.

Happy Birthday, Borges


Jorge Luis Borges was born on this date in 1899.

A writer - and, I believe, generally all persons - must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.

Jorge Luis Borges

Presence.


I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else.

G.K. Chesterton

Happy Birthday, McKim

McKim, Boston Public Library, 1895


Charles Follen McKim was born on this date in 1847.

23 August 2019

Excellent.

An excellent book ...

Beirut, "Postcards from Italy"

Strive.


Keep on advancing. Learn, learn and think much about what you learn. Life is very serious matter. It goes well only for those who have intelligence and heart. To live is to be among men, and to be among men is to strive.

Jose Rizal

22 August 2019

Try.


Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win.

Harper Lee, from To Kill a Mockingbird

Thank you, Christopher.

Adam & The Ants, "Dirk Wears White Socks"

True.


Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty.

Henry David Thoreau

Bruce Cockburn, "Understanding Nothing"

Wait.


I dragged myself to my corner. I was aching all over. I felt a cool hand wiping the blood from my forehead. It was the French girl. She was smiling  her mournful smile as she slipped me a crust of bread. She looked straight into my eyes. I knew she wanted to talk to me but that she was paralyzed with fear. She remained like that for some time, and then her face lit up and she said, in almost perfect German: "Bite your lips, little brother.  Don't cry.  Keep your anger, your hate, for another day, for later.  The day will come but not now.  Wait. Clench your teeth and wait.

Elie Wiesel, from Night

Free.

Believe.


I bring no doctrine, I refuse to give advice, and in an argument I immediately back down. But I know that today many are feeling their way tentatively, not knowing what to put their trust in. To them I say: Believe those who seek the truth, doubt those that find it, doubt everything, but don’t doubt yourself.

André Gide

Believe.


I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind — that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.

I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious.


I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.


I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech — alike for the humblest man and the mightiest, and in the utmost freedom of conduct that is consistent with living in organized society.


I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.


I believe in the reality of progress.


I —But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant.


H.L. Mencken

Freedom.


The relative freedom which we enjoy depends of public opinion. The law is no protection. Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country. If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.

George Orwell

Freedom.

Raise.


If, to expose the fraud and imposition of monarchy, to promote universal peace, civilization, and commerce, and to break the chains of political superstition, and raise degraded man to his proper rank; if these things be libelous, let the name of libeler be engraved on my tomb.

Thomas Paine

Liberty.


Modern liberty means that nobody is allowed to discuss it. Good taste, the last and vilest of human superstitions, has succeeded in silencing us where all the rest have failed.

G.K. Chesterton

Engage.


The pursuit of knowledge and the maintenance of a free and democratic society require the cultivation and practice of the virtues of intellectual humility, openness of mind, and, above all, love of truth. These virtues will manifest themselves and be strengthened by one’s willingness to listen attentively and respectfully to intelligent people who challenge one’s beliefs and who represent causes one disagrees with and points of view one does not share.

That’s why all of us should seek respectfully to engage with people who challenge our views. And we should oppose efforts to silence those with whom we disagree—especially on college and university campuses. As John Stuart Mill taught, a recognition of the possibility that we may be in error is a good reason to listen to and honestly consider—and not merely to tolerate grudgingly—points of view that we do not share, and even perspectives that we find shocking or scandalous. What’s more, as Mill noted, even if one happens to be right about this or that disputed matter, seriously and respectfully engaging people who disagree will deepen one’s understanding of the truth and sharpen one’s ability to defend it.

None of us is infallible. Whether you are a person of the left, the right, or the center, there are reasonable people of goodwill who do not share your fundamental convictions. This does not mean that all opinions are equally valid or that all speakers are equally worth listening to. It certainly does not mean that there is no truth to be discovered. Nor does it mean that you are necessarily wrong. But they are not necessarily wrong either. So someone who has not fallen into the idolatry of worshiping his or her own opinions and loving them above truth itself will want to listen to people who see things differently in order to learn what considerations—evidence, reasons, arguments—led them to a place different from where one happens, at least for now, to find oneself.

All of us should be willing—even eager—to engage with anyone who is prepared to do business in the currency of truth-seeking discourse by offering reasons, marshaling evidence, and making arguments. The more important the subject under discussion, the more willing we should be to listen and engage—especially if the person with whom we are in conversation will challenge our deeply held—even our most cherished and identity-forming—beliefs ...

Our willingness to listen to and respectfully engage those with whom we disagree (especially about matters of profound importance) contributes vitally to the maintenance of a milieu in which people feel free to speak their minds, consider unpopular positions, and explore lines of argument that may undercut established ways of thinking. Such an ethos protects us against dogmatism and groupthink, both of which are toxic to the health of academic communities and to the functioning of democracies.

Cornel West and Robert George

CONNECT

Argument.


All liberty required was that the space for discourse itself be protected. Liberty lay in the argument itself, not the resolution of that argument, in the ability to quarrel, even with the most cherished beliefs of others; a free society was not placid but turbulent. The bazaar of conflict was the place where freedom rang.

Salman Rushdie

Uncomfortable.


Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one.

Voltaire

Safety.

Peale, Thomas Jefferson, 1791


If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union, or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it.

Thomas Jefferson

Defend.


If you accept – and I do – that freedom of speech is important, then you are going to have to defend the indefensible. That means you are going to be defending the right of people to read, or to write, or to say, what you don’t say or like or want said. The Law is a huge blunt weapon that does not and will not make distinctions between what you find acceptable and what you don’t. This is how the Law is made. People making art find out where the limits of free expression are by going beyond them and getting into trouble.  The Law is a blunt instrument. It’s not a scalpel. It’s a club. If there is something you consider indefensible, and there is something you consider defensible, and the same laws can take them both out, you are going to find yourself defending the indefensible.

Neil Gaiman

Right.


No one has the right to live without being shocked. No one has the right to spend their life without being offended.

Philip Pullman

Happy Birthday, Debussy


Claude Debussy was born on this date in 1862.

There is no theory. You have only to listen. Pleasure is the law. I love music passionately. And because l love it, I try to free it from barren traditions that stifle it. It is a free art gushing forth — an open-air art, boundless as the elements, the wind, the sky, the sea. It must never be shut in and become an academic art.

Claude Debussy

Alain Planès performs Rêverie ...

Excellent.

An excellent book ...

Sainte-Colombe, Prélude, Courante and Double Gavotte

Lucile Boulanger performs ...

Memorable.


Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.

Charles Dickens

21 August 2019

Moment.

Manet, A Garden Urn, 1879


When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?

Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehogb

Spread.


Always.


Riches, prestige, everything can be lost. But the happiness in your own heart can only be dimmed; it will always be there, as long as you live, to make you happy again.

Anne Frank

Balanced.


The ARMFUL

For every parcel I stoop down to seize
I lose some other off my arms and knees,
And the whole pile is slipping, bottles, buns
Extremes too hard to comprehend at once,
Yet nothing I should care to leave behind.
With all I have to hold with hand and mind
And heart, if need be, I will do my best
To keep their building balanced at my breast.
I crouch down to prevent them as they fall;
Then sit down in the middle of them all.
I had to drop the armful in the road
And try to stack them in a better load.

Robert Frost

Happy Birthday, Greuze

Greuze, The Guitarist, 1757


Jean-Baptiste Greuze was born on this date in 1725.

Antifragility.


If there is something in nature you don't understand, odds are it makes sense in a deeper way that is beyond your understanding. So there is a logic to natural things that is much superior to our own. Just as there is a dichotomy in law: "innocent until proven guilty" as opposed to "guilty until proven innocent", let me express my rule as follows: what Mother Nature does is rigorous until proven otherwise; what humans and science do is flawed until proven otherwise.

Few understand that procrastination is our natural defense, letting things take care of themselves and exercise their antifragility; it results from some ecological or naturalistic wisdom, and is not always bad -- at an existential level, it is my body rebelling against its entrapment. It is my soul fighting the Procrustean bed of modernity.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Again.


I wonder what Great-Grandpa Firchau would think about THIS.

Thank you, Kurt.