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Archive for the ‘Quote’ Category


The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him?

‘No, thank you,’ he will think. ‘Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, although these are things which cannot inspire envy.’

Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning


Thought I’d kick off the first day of autumn by sharing a painting, And the Glimmer Comes, which I look at from my chair now, a few words from the always inspiring Viktor Frankl on finding meaning in one’s life and a piece of music that brings it all together for me, as someone just in the autumn of his life. Well, I say just but I guess that would be based on a lifespan of 120 years.

High hopes, I suppose.

The music is an atmospheric piece, Good Night, Day, from the late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (1969-2018) who was best known for his scores for films such as Arrival, Blade Runner 2049 and The Theory of Everything.

I am going to leave it at that. Have a good first day of fall.

 


 

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“Light Comes Darkness Goes”- Now at the West End Gallery


As for … the idea that we could lose our freedom by succumbing to a wave of religious hysteria, I am sorry to say that I consider it possible. I hope that it is not probable. But there is a latent deep strain of religious fanaticism in this, our culture; it is rooted in our history and it has broken out many times in the past.

“It is with us now; there has been a sharp rise in strongly evangelical sects in this country in recent years, some of which hold beliefs theocratic in the extreme, anti-intellectual, anti-scientific, and anti-libertarian.

“It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics. This is equally true whether the faith is Communism or Holy-Rollerism; indeed it is the bounden duty of the faithful to do so. The custodians of the True Faith cannot logically admit tolerance of heresy to be a virtue.

“Nevertheless this business of legislating religious beliefs into law has never been more than sporadically successful in this country — Sunday closing laws here and there, birth control legislation in spots, the Prohibition experiment, temporary enclaves of theocracy such as Voliva’s Zion, Smith’s Nauvoo, and a few others. The country is split up into such a variety of faiths and sects that a degree of uneasy tolerance now exists from expedient compromise; the minorities constitute a majority of opposition against each other.

“Could it be otherwise here? Could any one sect obtain a working majority at the polls and take over the country? Perhaps not — but a combination of a dynamic evangelist, television, enough money, and modern techniques of advertising and propaganda might make Billy Sunday’s efforts look like a corner store compared to Sears Roebuck.

“Throw in a Depression for good measure, promise a material heaven here on earth, add a dash of anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Negroism, and a good large dose of anti-“furriners” in general and anti-intellectuals here at home, and the result might be something quite frightening — particularly when one recalls that our voting system is such that a minority distributed as pluralities in enough states can constitute a working majority in Washington.”

–Robert Heinlein, Afterword to Revolt in 2100, 1953


In my Virtual Gallery Talk a few weeks back, I spoke about my belief that artists, writers and others who devote themselves to observation and creation based on their sensing of patterns often create work that is prescient or prophetic. Simply by going down the list of science fiction greats such as Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke and so many others, you can find many examples of scenarios and concepts in their literature that came to be.

In the talk, I mentioned as an example the novel The Parable of the Sower from the late Octavia Butler which was written in 1993 and describes a chaotic and dangerous USA in 2024 that doesn’t seem implausible at this point. I felt that she was obviously observing patterns of behavior and extrapolating them out in her imagination to come to a created future state of being that was in the realm of possibility.

Of course, it’s just supposition at the time. But sometimes, out of the many speculations for the future that are put out into the world every year, a few strike close to the reality that follows.

I submit the words above from sci-fi giant Robert Heinlein written as an afterword to his 1953 book Revolt in 2100 which involves a citizen rebellion against an authoritarian theocracy in 2100. I suggest you pay special attention to the second, third and final two paragraphs. It certainly seems as though we may be at the culmination of a pattern that Heinlein observed 67 years or more ago.

A most dangerous culmination, I must add.

We have limited time to avert his vision but it will be very difficult to ever fully repress the embedded behaviors and beliefs that led to it. I have often felt that the current president*** was merely the product of a very long arc, comprised of a series of events over many decades, that bent to this very moment. His peculiar set of skills, as vile as they are, fit the needs of this pattern and he became the sharp end of a spear that is following its arc. For all his his awful behavior, malice and stupidity, he is merely the current tool of this pattern.

I have thought over the past few years that we were actually fortunate that such a flawed and horrible person ascended into this position as the spear for this pattern.

Yeah, I said we were lucky to have this piece of crap. But that’s the point, he is a piece of crap. He is so flawed, so self-destructively attached to his own hubris, desires and prejudices, that he ignites a passionate fury in those who stand opposed to his faux nationalism, his desire for total rule, and his very real racism.

With this piece of crap, we at least have some warning of his ill intent.

It gives us a chance.

Think about it. If he had been still as insidious in his actions but had been smoother, saying the right things and not outright pissing off a majority of Americans, he would be cakewalking into a reelection now due to our complacency and unwillingness to rock the boat. This could mean a complete dismantling of the American Experiment over the next four years. It would be (and still could be) a situation that would be (and still could be) beyond reversal.

Maybe even taking us into the 2100 of Heinlein’s book.

So, this morning, let’s hope that Heinlein’s observations don’t come to fruition.

Plus, let’s give thanks for the president***– thank god he’s stupid. Thank god he’s impulsive and self-destructive. Thank god he is only interested in hearing his own voice– or maybe one with a thick Russian accent. Thank god he thinks he is the smartest man in any room. Thank god he is weak willed. Thank god he has no self restraint. Thank god he has not an iota of empathy. Thank god he thinks so little of the common man. Thank god he thinks he is bulletproof and above the law. Thank god he lies as easily as he breathes– which has a little huffing, by the way. Thank god he belittles the military and the scientists. Thank god he has no loyalty to anyone– save someone with a thick Russian accent and a name that rhymes with Rootin’ Tootin’.

The list of thanks I have for this president*** is too long to list so let me sum up in this way:

Thank god our president*** is a total piece of crap.

Now, get out there and have a good day!

 

 

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“America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, ‘It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.’ It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: ‘if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?’ There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand – glued to a lollipop stick and flying from the cash register.

Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say Napoleonic times. Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.”

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five


I was going to write a much longer entry this morning about the vast income inequality that is the underlying problem for many of this country’s ills but thought I’d share the selection above from Kurt Vonnegut. This was brought on by a study released by the RAND Corporation that was featured in a recent TIME Magazine article pointedly titled, The Top 1% of Americans Have Taken $50 Trillion From the Bottom 90%—And That’s Made the U.S. Less Secure.

Even though they kind of give away the message of the story in that ridiculously long title, believe me when I say that it is an article that should be read. It shows how that if we had simply maintained the same income distribution that the US had in the the three decades following World War II, from 1945 to 1974, that the aggregate income of the bottom 90% of workers would be $2.5 trillion higher each year.

2.5 TRILLION.

That is such a large number that most of us cannot even begin to fathom it unless we break it down into smaller, more digestible bits. Well, in this case, 2.5 trillion breaks down to about $1144 more per month for every working person in the bottom 90% of the population. Or to put it another way, the level of income inequality we have accepted since 1974 costs the median income of the average full time worker about $42,000 per year.

The Counterfactual Column is What Might Have Been With Income Equality Maintained

I could go on with numbers and figures but what I want you to do is imagine if we had maintained that level. You might have to go back to the period fro 1945-1974 to get an idea. It was a time that so many people here yearn for now because it was marked by many of those things to which we all aspire still. The great American Middle Class was at its peak. Think Happy Days, okay? Building and infrastructure increased tremendously as our national highway system was built and suburban communities popped up with housing developments. The average worker could buy a home and prosper with a single income, most often in jobs that came with health insurance and a retirement plan.

I want you to imagine what this country look like now if we had continued that arc?

Our infrastructure would be the best in the world. Our GDP would be through the roof. Our health system and school systems would be among the best in the world. Small businesses would boom because wealth builds from the bottom up, despite what supply-siders would have you believe with their snakeoil concoction of Trickle Down economics. People would not be so upside down in their mortgages or auto loans.

It comes down to the fact that most could live comfortably on a regular job that would have vacations, healthcare, pensions and more free time for ourselves.

There are a lot more examples that I know I am missing. This is just off the cuff so I hope you will take the time to imagine them.

I am not saying it would be perfect. Social problems– crime, civil rights, homelessness, etc– would remain but might not be exacerbated by the high levels of poverty that we see now.

The rich would still be rich but just not as rich. Ask anybody old enough if there were rich folks in those years between 1945 to 1974. The wealthy were still rich as hell. Maybe Betsy DeVos would only have one luxury super yacht instead of the three or five or whatever the hell she has now.

But that is the beauty of the ruse the wealthy has perpetrated on the American people. The average worker worries about the welfare of the richest of us more than those folks in their own economic strata. You see it whenever there is talk about raising the minimum wage. It is the people who make just a bit more than the minimum wage who scream against it the loudest. I think they see it as devaluing them in some way.

And maybe it does. It should. Instead of railing against someone getting a living wage and a better life, they should be yelling about why they themselves aren’t getting a bigger piece of the pie.

You also see it in the people who attend the president***’s rallies. Most of those folks are working class who are rotting for a creature who is peddling policies that go directly against their own self interest. He doesn’t talk about higher wages for those with jobs. He doesn’t offer them better healthcare. Well, he promises healthcare then moves on to a newer distraction without delivering anything at all. He spouts about the stock market and has these working folks believing it is the economy, even though the bulk of them don’t own a share of stock or understand that in order to return maximum profits to their shareholders, these companies need to keep wages and expenses low.

They root for their own lower wages.

I could keep going and going and going. I don’t have an answer except to say that we will never get back to that time if we don’t acknowledge that there is a real problem. And even then, we have so empowered the top 1% that they will never willingly agree to go back to that level even though they would not experience any real decrease in the quality of their lifestyle. In fact, they would be rewarded with a society that would be far more pleasant in which to live.

Okay, that’s enough. At least I got it off my chest.  Just read the article.

And remember that this not from some left wing think tank. It’s the RAND Corporation. Look them up if you’re not aware of them.

Oh, and have a good day.

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View of California Wildfires From Above the Clouds


“In all your years and all your travels,” I asked, “what do you think is the most important thing you’ve learned about life?”

He paused a moment, then with the twinkle sparkling under those brambly eyebrows he replied: “In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on. In all the confusions of today, with all our troubles . . . with politicians and people slinging the word fear around, all of us become discouraged . . . tempted to say this is the end, the finish. But life — it goes on. It always has. It always will. Don’t forget that.”

–Robert Frost , on his 80th birthday, speaking to journalist Ray Josephs, 1954


What a time it is.

Much of the imagery you see these days is downright terrifying and disheartening, from the apocalyptic fire scenes from the west coast to the images of clashes in the streets between protesters and police to the scenes of armed white supremacists being given virtual carte blanche treatment as they move about the country to the ugly, hateful stupidity displayed so publicly now by the president’s red hatted followers as they gather to piss and moan about “their country” being taken from them.

Oh, what a time it is.

I wish I could quote Dickens and say that it was the best of times, it was worst of times but quite honestly, where is the best of times to be found these days?

I saw the photo at the top of the California wildfires as seen from above the clouds and at first glimpse thought it was a closeup of the coronavirus. It wouldn’t surprise me if they had somehow sprang from the same Pandora’s Box and ultimately resembled one another. The destructive effect of the two on the lives of those involved is much the same, that’s for sure.

I guess I can only look to the words of Robert Frost and many others who have told us that life will go on. Even though they seem wise enough that I want to trust that they somehow know this to be true, these days I find myself doubting them. But for today, I am going to trust their judgement.

Life goes on.

Here’s the Beatles with their Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da which uses that phrase as a refrain. Keep it in mind as you hopefully have a good Sunday.


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Paul Klee- Fish Magic 1925


He has found his style, when he cannot do otherwise.

-Paul Klee


Paul Klee always seems to have something in his works and his words to which I can relate. I know these words relate to my own experience as an artist.

I do what I do. I am what I am.

I just can’t do anything else.

It can be frustrating at those times when I feel blocked and find myself wishing I was someone else with different and greater talents and skills. Or when people ask me why I don’t paint in a different way or ask me to do something outside of my artistic realm or area of interest.

So I do what I do and I live with that.

There was a scene from a PBS series years ago that I have mentioned here before  (and borrow from in what follows) that perfectly encapsulates this situation.

It was an episode of Mystery! on PBS starring Kenneth Branagh as the Swedish detective Wallander. It was an okay, nice production but nothing remarkable in the story. But there was a part at the end that struck home with me and related very much to my life as a painter. Wallander’s father, played by the great character actor David Warner ( I always remember him best for his portrayal as Evil in the Terry Gilliam film Time Bandits, was, like me, a landscape painter. Now aged and in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, his son comes to him and intimates to his father, after having recently killed a serial killer, that he can’t go on as a detective, that he can’t take the stress.

The painter tries to comfort his son then recalls how when Wallander was a boy he would ask his father about his painting, asking, “Why are they always the same, Dad? Why don’t you do something different?

He said he could never explain. Each morning when he began to paint, he would tell himself that maybe today he would do a seascape or a still life or maybe an abstract, just splash on the paint and see where it takes him. But then he would start and each day he would paint the same thing- a landscape. Whatever he did, that was what came out. He then said to his son, ” What you have is your painting- I may not like it, you may not like it but it’s yours.

That may not translate as well on paper without the atmospheric camera shots and the underscored music but for me it said a lot in how I think about my body of work. Like the father, I used to worry that I would have to do other things- still lifes, portraits, etc.- to prove my worth as a painter but at the end of each day I found myself looking at a landscape, most often with a red tree.

As time has passed, I have shed away those worries. I don’t paint portraits. Don’t really paint still life. I paint what comes out and most often it is the landscape. And it usually includes that red tree that I once damned when I first realized it had became a part of who I am.

I realized you have to stop damning who you are…

 

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Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.

–NOT Abraham Lincoln


I was thinking about character this morning and came across the quote above, which has been used on occasion by political organizations in recent times and is usually attributed to Abraham Lincoln.

Great words and most likely the truth.

But it turns out that the words were actually not from Lincoln but instead were spoken about Lincoln.  The words actually come from my new hero of words, Robert Green Ingersoll, who I briefly profiled in a blog post this past week.

In 1883, at an event in Washington DC, Ingersoll was introducing a speaker who was going to lecture on the late President Lincoln. During his introduction Ingersoll said of Lincoln’s prowess as an orator, comparing Lincoln’s speech at Gettysburgwith that of the speaker, Edward Everett, who followed him and rambled on for a very long time :

“… If you want to know the difference between an orator and a speaker, read the oration of Lincoln at Gettysburg, and then read the speech of Everett at the same place. One came from the heart, the other was born only of the voice. Lincoln’s speech will be remembered forever. Everett’s no man will read. It was like plucked flowers.

After a round of applause, Ingersoll then added:

If you want to find out what a man is to the bottom, give him power. Any man can stand adversity — only a great man can stand prosperity. It is the glory of Abraham Lincoln that he never abused power only on the side of mercy. [Applause]. He was a perfectly honest man. When he had power, he used it in mercy …”

Ingersoll modified these comments for a later lecture on Lincoln:

“Nothing discloses real character like the use of power. It is easy for the weak to be gentle. Most people can bear adversity. But if you wish to know what a man really is, give him power. This is the supreme test. It is the glory of Lincoln that, having almost absolute power, he never abused it, except on the side of mercy.”

Over the years, Ingersoll’s words were used often in many newspapers and magazines and correctly attributed to him. But as time wore on, his words were condensed down to the form you see at the top with Ingersoll’s name being forgotten, instead replaced by the very man of which he spoke.

As great and lauded as he was, Bob Ingersoll was just destined to be overlooked by history, I guess.

But his observation on character certainly holds true today.

We have a man who holds what is most likely the most powerful position in the world, the president*** of the USA, who has been given ( and has taken) almost absolute power. It has certainly revealed his true character.

And it ain’t pretty.

A multitude of revelations have come out in recent days, all painting him (almost always with his own words) as the soulless, selfish, ugly creature, something that seems so obvious to me and many others by the simple witnessing of his actions. Yet, reading through the reactions of his ardent followers on social media, it is portrayed as some sort of character assassination.

My question is: Can it be character assassination when the character of the person ( I am giving him the benefit of a doubt here, folks) in question is fully revealed as it truly is?

His actions and his words– spoken in his recorded voice— all reveal a character that is lacking any positive attributes. It is a character that shows itself as being small in scale and weak in practice.

It is a character that would let tens of thousands–maybe even hundreds of thousands– of the citizens he was entrusted to protect die, suffer and lose their livelihoods so that he might protect his political and financial aspirations.

He has told us who he is with his own words and he has demonstrated his character day after day for the past four years.

If at this point, you still believe that he has a reverence for or loyalty to this country, a respect for its citizens, or any interests beyond his own, you, my friend, are a fool.

I am going to condense that for you, probably not in a way that would please the great Robert G. Ingersoll:

If you still support this goddamn creep, you’re a fucking idiot.

Apologies to my less profane friends out there but this a time for plain speaking. Just my opinion.

Try to have a good day.

 

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The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naïve and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.

H.L. Mencken


I have been trying to stay away from current events but seeing this morning that the Department of Justice is looking to take over the defense of the president in a defamation lawsuit brought against the president*** by a private citizen over an alleged rape that took place twenty years ago just raises my blood. The fact that we, the people, are now paying for his legal defense and any subsequent settlement for is beyond the pale.

It is just another mile marker on the road to authoritarianism.

Factor in what is happening under the rulers this thing in our white house so much admires and refuses to criticize, often even as they imperil our citizen soldiers. You have the kidnappings of opposition leaders in Belarus. The poisoning of opposition leader and Putin critic Alexei Navalny in Russia, which was, by the way, not the first such occasion under the Putin regime. And then there is the crazy number of Putin critics and journalists who “accidentally” fall from high rise windows or mysteriously get shot with sight of the Kremlin.

Not to mention the brutal killing and dismemberment of a US based journalist by the Saudi regime that he often coos about, an atrocity that is now barely a blip in a radar screen filled with atrocities.

That’s the world to which our creature in charge aspires. And 40% or so of our population thinks, or in the absence of thought, believes that this is just fine and dandy.

I can’t accept that.

I will not succumb to the dark world being forced upon us. Will not keep my mouth shut. Will not close my eyes to the wrongs being perpetrated. Will not turn my head away from the rampant corruption or the many injustices of this regime.

I won’t do it.

And the 40% of us that are his true believers view this as being unpatriotic.

Well, we obviously have different views on patriotism.

I am going to defer to Aristotle on this: “It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen.

If being a good citizen requires me to be less than a good man, then I will cease being a good citizen.

Sorry for the spew this morning. Here’s a song that says this much better than my angry words. It’s from way back in 1984 from Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul and his album Voice of America. You might know him better as Miami Steve Van Zandt from Springsteen’s E Street Band or as Silvio, Tony’s lieutenant and the owner of the Bada Bing Club on The Sopranos. Or from his Sirius radio channel Little Steven’s Underground Garage or from his Netflix series, Lilyhammer. He’s a busy, multifaceted guy.

And a patriot by my and Mencken’s definitions. Here’s his I Am a Patriot.

The painting at the top, The Way of the Brave,  is from quite a few years back. It’s a longtime favorite of mine and one that I used when I last played this song here back in 2009. It still fits the song.

Have a good day.

 

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“At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door and say,—’Come out unto us.’ But keep thy state; come not into their confusion. The power men possess to annoy me I give them by a weak curiosity. No man can come near me but through my act.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson


In my Gallery Talk I spoke about the struggle to go inside myself to create in these crazy days. The outer world and its many problems seems to be keeping me from the inner. It’s a frustration that more or less paralyzes me, requiring me to go put in a lot of extra effort just to get down to work.

I am trying to reconcile this, to somehow get past this feeling.

I came across this snippet above from Emerson and it reminded me that I am the one letting the outer world in. Oh, I know you can’t keep it completely out but I was the one opening the door and inviting it in. I was the one who listened to it as it went on about its problems and thought I could somehow help it out, foolish as that idea seems when I write it out. I went, as Emerson writes, into their confusion.

It also reminds me that I get to choose how I respond to the outer world. And being paralyzed is not a choice. It’s a refusal to choose.

So, I choose to shed the paralysis, to get back to work, to explore those inner paths once more. It’s my choice and what I do.

We all have that power to choose how we react to our own forms of paralysis, fear, anger, frustration and so many other negative aspects of our world. Most likely you don’t need to hear this. You probably know this as well as I. But I know I sometimes fall out of rhythm and have to be reminded once in a while.

The painting at the top is from a few years back and lives now with me in the studio. It’s one of those pieces that really hit high notes personally for me right from the moment it took form on the easel. It’s one of those pieces that surprises me in that it hasn’t yet found a home but also please me because I get to live with it for a bit longer. I thought it echoed with the words of Emerson today. It originally echoed with the words from the Rudyard Kipling poem after which it is named, If.

I was going to include the poem here in print but here’s a fine reading of it by actor John Hurt complete with the words shown. And some powerful black and white images.

Have a good day and choose well.


 

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**********************

Justice is the only worship.
Love is the only priest.
Ignorance is the only slavery.
Happiness is the only good.
The time to be happy is now,
The place to be happy is here,
The way to be happy is to make others so.
Wisdom is the science of happiness.

–Robert Green Ingersoll

***********************

After writing yesterday about a person* with no honor whatsoever I thought I would write just a few words about a man with honor in abundance.

Most likely you don’t know his name, Robert G. Ingersoll. I know he was unknown to me. But while looking up a quote I kept coming across quotes from well known men who spoke of this man in what can only be described as glowing terms. Thomas Edison described him as being perhaps the closest thing to a perfect man on this earth. And Clarence Darrow eulogized him with these words: 

“Robert G. Ingersoll was a great man. a wonderful intellect, a great soul of matchless courage, one of the great men of the earth — and yet we have no right to bow down to his memory simply because he was great. Great orators, great soldiers, great lawyers, often use their gifts for a most unholy cause. We meet to pay a tribute of love and respect to Robert G. Ingersoll because he used his matchless power for the good of man.

And Walt Whitman said this of the living Ingersoll:

“It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is ‘Leaves of Grass’ … He lives, embodies, the individuality, I preach. I see in Bob [Ingersoll] the noblest specimen—- American-flavored—- pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light.”

I found myself asking who the heck was this guy?

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) was perhaps the most famous American of his day. He was a lawyer who was recognized as the preeminent orator of his time. As an enlightened freethinker and pioneer of humane, rational, and agnostic views, Ingersoll was a tireless advocate of rational thought, battling superstition and hypocrisy wherever he found it. Ingersoll would regularly address huge audiences, opening their minds to ideas that often provoked guarded whispers in private. He was a man far ahead of his time, advocating such progressive causes as agnosticism, birth control, voting rights for women, the advancement of science, civil rights, and freedom of speech. He had a wide influence in his day but somehow has been overlooked in the century or so that has passed since his death in 1899.

Ingersoll was born in 1833 not too far from here, up in Dresden, near the west shore of Seneca Lake. I just discovered that there is actually a small museum there dedicated to his life and work. I look forward to visiting it at some point. He only lived there as an infant because his father, an abolitionist preacher, was often on the move. However, a collection of his works published just after his death is called the Dresden Editions, published by the Dresden Publishing Company which was formed to publish this 12 volume set and was named specifically  after his birthplace.

I am still discovering more on this interesting fellow so I am going to urge you to do so as well on your own. I would think that someone who garnered so much openly warm praise from the great men of his time deserves a few moments and has something to offer us now.

Note:

I thought his words at the top were an appropriate response to the ignorance and abhorrent behavior we have been exposed to on a daily basis for the past four years. Also, Ingersoll was a Colonel in the Union army during the Civil War and is buried at Arlington National Cememtery, not far from the Tomb of the Unknowns.

He was captured during the war which I guess, by current standards, makes him a sucker for enlisting and a loser for being captured.

However, even though Ingersoll might be considered a sucker and a loser, I sincerely doubt that the current occupant of our white house will have any of the greats of this age, save Kid Rock and Scott Baio, trumpeting his good works, his love for humanity or his good heart once he is stone cold and forever dead.

 

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A Year of Augusts

pablopicassoskeleton******************

Your willingness to wrestle with your demons

will cause your angels to sing.

August Wilson

******************

Aah, September 1, 2020.

In most years, this would be a day where I begin to feel some sort of relief from the grim cruelty of August, my least favorite month. That is putting it mildly because, truth be known, I hate August. It’s something I’ve written about before here on the blog, as seen in the enclosed posts below. It seems to seep out every five years and since its last appearance there have been several more other awful Augusts to further make my case against it.

The funny thing is that this year I wasn’t even cognizant of my deep hatred for August. Oh, it was as difficult and stressful as all Augusts are for me. Instead, I realized that my recognition of it was hampered by the fact that this entire year has been comprised of Augusts. Every month has been filled with the same sort of tension and uncertainty that normally mark Augusts for me.

March was an August, April was an August and so on.

So, though we have passed the threshold into September, I don’t feel the same sort of relief it might bring in a normal year. This is obviously no normal year. It might say September on the calendar, but this year it’s just another goddamn August.

Man, what I would give for a year with one August. Or better yet, none.

From August 12, 2015:

As the post below from back in August of 2010 points out, most years I struggle with the month of August and this particular one is no different.  The doldrums set in and I am filled with an anxiety and a stifling restlessness that combine to create a sense of desperation within me. If I hadn’t experienced this before, this feeling would seem unbearable.

But it’s not something new so I realize that it’s just a matter of hanging on and letting it pass, all the while trying to pull something from it that will show itself in my work. I have found that such keen desperation is often the source of great work, much as playwright August Wilson a fitting first name!— points out so eloquently in the quote above. So, while I find myself fighting through the cruel days and demons of August, I do so as I listen for the song of angels to begin.

And from experience, I know they will begin soon enough. Sing, angels, sing!

From August 18, 2010:

This print from Picasso [ Above] very much sums up my feelings for the month of August. 

I have never been a fan of August. Memories of the so-called dog days of summer spent as a child. Hot from a relentless sun. Bored. Burnt grass crunching underfoot. The coming school year hanging overhead like the sword of Damocles.

August has always had a faint aura of death around it for me. I remember the death of my grandfather in ’68. My beloved dog Maggie years later. Several friends over the years, from a variety of causes. Elvis. The bright glare of the August sun seeming to taunt the grief of the moment.

August.

We were watching something on television the other night, perhaps Mad Men– I can’t really remember. Anyway, the character in the scene that was on said, “I hate August.” 

It made my ears prick up and I couldn’t help but mutter, “I’m with you there, brother.”

August.

Well, I’ve got a lot to do this August  morning. It takes a lot of work to keep busy to ward off the cruelty of  August…

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