Monday Morning Insight: New Year, New Things

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

It’s the first Monday of 2017 — and for many folks it’s still a holiday, so that’s not a bad way to start the year!

The first quote I’ll present in this series this year is a promise from the 21st chapter of the Revelation of Saint John:

He that sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Sunrise!

(“Sunrise!” by Larry, on Flickr, under Creative Commons.)

 

Other translations render the verb tense a bit differently, but I like this one because it’s a statement of intention and purpose: not “I would like to” or “I am in the process of” but “this is what I do,” specifically, “I make all things new.” And not some things, not most things, but all things.

If we believe the one saying that is the one through whom all things were made in the first place — as the Gospel of John presents in its first chapter — then it is no great stretch to believe that he can remake the old into the new and even that he intends to do so. We might even go so far as to think that he delights in doing so.

And that’s a nice thought with which to start this New Year.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Monday Morning Insight: The Angry Truth

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

It’s the last Monday of 2016, and I think everyone will agree it’s been quite a year.

One characteristic of this year, and especially this political year in the US, has been the sometimes difficult relationship both sides of our cultural divide have with the truth. From presenting things as true that are unverified, to believing things to be true in the face of reasonable doubt, to “news” from various sources that ranges from fake to simply untrustworthy, truth has sometimes been hard to find.

With that in mind, it seems like a good time to focus on a little piece of wisdom I read a long time ago from Wally Bock, a Marine veteran and management consultant here in North Carolina. I wrote it down when I first read it, and it’s a warning many of us should take to heart:

You can hide from the truth, but it will find you. When it does, it will be angry.

Truth ->

“Truth ->,” by Jeremy Brooks. (On Flickr, under Creative Commons.)

 

It may seem odd for me to focus on an idea like that; after all, my first album was called Truths and Lies and Make-Believe. “Perceptions and illusions,” I sang, and I meant it.

But the idea that angry truth may find me one day gives me pause. So I don’t offer any commentary on the quote, just a suggestion — for myself as much as for anyone — for this week leading up to the New Year and maybe, just maybe, for the New Year itself: Don’t hide from the truth. Face it. Acknowledge it. And either learn to live with it, or find a way to alter it.

___
P.S. If you want to know more about Wally Bock, here’s his web site. And here’s his June 2009 blog post that ended with this week’s quote.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Monday Morning Insight: The American Crisis

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

On this date in 1776, the first article of a series known as “The American Crisis” was printed in the Pennsylvania Journal. Written by Thomas Paine and signed “Common Sense” — after his own pamphlet which had been published in January and was fundamental to the case for the colonies’ Independence — the series was meant to encourage the American public to remain steadfast in the Revolutionary War.

Paine wrote the first article in a particularly dark moment of the war, when General George Washington had been forced to retreat across the Delaware River. Washington had the article read to his troops to bolster their morale. And how could it not, with an opening like this?

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.

The American Crisis

The first page of “The American Crisis,” number one (1776). (Image on Wikimedia Commons.)

 

Two hundred forty years later, our republic — for which Paine and so many others risked so much — is in the latest of a series of recurring but relatively minor crises over how best to govern our affairs. In some respects this may be because “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly,” and a great many of us have obtained a great deal with far less labor, risk and cost than our forbears.

I don’t think this latest internal strife is the existential crisis that some have made it out to be; in spite of all our faults and foibles, I remain optimistic about our prospects. But this passage from further on in “The American Crisis” seems particularly apt:

‘Tis surprising to see how rapidly a panic will sometimes run through a country…. Yet panics, in some cases, have their uses; they produce as much good as hurt. Their duration is always short; the mind soon grows through them, and acquires a firmer habit than before. But their peculiar advantage is, that they are the touchstones of sincerity and hypocrisy, and bring things and men to light, which might otherwise have lain forever undiscovered. In fact, they have the same effect on secret traitors, which an imaginary apparition would have upon a private murderer. They sift out the hidden thoughts of man, and hold them up in public to the world.

In the days of our Revolution, panics spread through word of mouth and the printing press: how different from these days of mass media and rapid messaging! And in this modern age, many people — whether secret traitors or not — are all too quick to reveal their hidden thoughts even without a panic, especially when those thoughts are hateful or destructive or degrading. The concept of shame has fallen out of favor, after all.

It is hard to deny that recent events have been “touchstones of sincerity and hypocrisy” in our ongoing discourse, and have brought things to light about many of us … about our prejudices and preferences, our desires and depravities … “which might otherwise have lain forever undiscovered.” These are just the latest in long lines of events, monumental and minuscule, that have prompted outpourings of angst, turmoil, and passion. Yet I still remain optimistic about our future, that we stand a reasonable chance of getting through these strange days with our nation intact.

And in the end, as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy points out, some of the best advice may simply be, “Don’t Panic!” Because this panic, too, will come to an end.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Monday Morning Insight, from the First U.S. Chief Justice

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

Today is John Jay’s birthday (born in 1745). Jay was President of the Continental Congress in 1778-79, wrote five of The Federalist Papers in support of the U.S. Constitution, and once the Constitution was ratified he served from 1789-95 as the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Before and after presiding over the Continental Congress, in 1777 and again in 1785, Jay — a slaveholder himself — tried to get slavery abolished in his home state of New York. In a 1785 letter, he wrote,

That men should pray and fight for their own freedom, and yet keep others in slavery, is certainly acting a very inconsistent, as well as unjust and, perhaps, impious part, but the history of mankind is filled with instances of human improprieties.

And he wrote in a 1786 letter,

It is much to be wished that slavery may be abolished. The honour of the States, as well as justice and humanity, in my opinion, loudly call upon them to emancipate these unhappy people. To contend for our own liberty, and to deny that blessing to others, involves an inconsistency not to be excused.

Upon leaving the Supreme Court, Jay became Governor of New York. He served in that office from 1795-1801, and in 1799 he signed into law an act to emancipate the slaves in that state. In order to pass the legislature, the emancipation was only gradual, but by the time Jay died on 17 May 1829, there had been no slaves and no indentured servitude in New York for nearly two years.

Chain expressing freedom

(Image: “Chain expressing freedom,” by Stepph, on Wikimedia Commons.)

 

Like other Founding Fathers of our great nation, Jay was a complex and sometimes contradictory fellow. Some would chide him for not doing enough to abolish slavery, for not being forceful enough or speeding up the process. But even if he did not take the final step, he had the courage to take the first steps.

May we all have the courage to take the first steps toward whatever we deem important.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Monday Morning Insight: Physics and Creativity

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

In one of the strange coincidences that makes our world so interesting, on this date 115 years ago two great but very different innovators — Walt Disney and Werner Heisenberg — were born.

German physicist Heisenberg (5 December 1901 – 1 February 1976) received a Nobel Prize as one of the founders of quantum mechanics, and formulated the principle of uncertainty that bears his name. That principle refers to our inability to know all the complementary states of a particle at the same time; specifically, Heisenberg said that as we determine the position of a particle with higher and higher precision, our knowledge of its momentum loses precision.

The uncertainty principle is a bit different from the “observer effect” in which our efforts to measure something end up affecting the thing we’re measuring — something that’s been noticed in everyday life, as well as in particle physics — but Heisenberg wrote about the observer effect in Physics and Philosophy:

We have to remember that what we observe is not nature herself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.

That reminded me of a story I once heard about Walt Disney (5 December 1901 – 15 December 1966), whose creation of Mickey Mouse and all that followed — cartoons, movies, theme parks — has been well-chronicled.

As I heard it from Dr. Howard Hendricks at a National Youthworkers’ Convention many years ago, when Disney was in school his class was given an assignment to draw a picture of flowers. Disney drew his flowers with faces on them, and when the teacher told him that flowers didn’t have faces on them he told his teacher, “Mine do.”

Creativity

Something of an uncertainty principle of creativity? (Image: “Creativity,” by Denise Krebs, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

That story about Disney may be apocryphal — as I heard Russell Ackoff say once, “An apocryphal story is one that may not be true, but ought to be” — but if it’s true it seems to me a great example of Heisenberg’s quote. Disney was not observing nature itself, but his observation of nature was affected by what he brought to it: a sense of playfulness, a degree of whimsy, that could not be extinguished by a teacher’s admonition. To be creative, we have to allow ourselves to play and trust more to our inner vision than to what our senses (or other people) might be telling us.

The paths Heisenberg and Disney took in their lives were quite different — one the path of hard science, one the path of business and entertainment — but both gave us new ways of seeing the world.

And as you look at the world this week, I hope you can see its wonders in exciting new ways — and let yourself play.

___
P.S. A reminder: My completely-revised-and-updated edition of Quality Education has been out for almost a week, and so far it’s gone as high as number 13 on Amazon’s list of “Education Policy and Reform” titles. It’s available on Kindle and in Paperback. I’d be pleased if you’d check it out, and share the link with a friend!

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Monday Morning Insight: Choosing Our Plan of Life

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

For no other reason than that I like the quote, here are some words from John Stuart Mill — from On Liberty — to consider this morning:

He who lets the world, or his own portion of it, choose his plan of life for him, has no need of any other faculty than the ape-like one of imitation. He who chooses his plan for himself, employs all his faculties. He must use observation to see, reasoning and judgment to foresee, activity to gather materials for decision, discrimination to decide, and when he has decided, firmness and self-control to hold to his deliberate decision.

Every day we have opportunity to choose our “plan of life,” even if only for that day. And we have it in our power to observe, to think and judge, to consider, to decide, and finally to act on the basis of that decision.

When we cede that power to others, when we allow them to choose our plan for us, we diminish ourselves.

Resolute

(Image: “Resolute,” by Kenoi Cabral, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

I hope you will find truth and courage as you choose and implement the plan of your life.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Monday Morning Insight: Service as Gratitude

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the U.S., so I thought this Benjamin Franklin quotation about gratitude might be appropriate for this Monday morning:

When I am employed in serving others, I do not look upon myself as conferring favors, but as paying debts. I have received much kindness from men to whom I shall never have an opportunity of making the least direct returns; and numberless mercies from God, who is infinitely above being benefited by our services. Those kindnesses from men I can, therefore, only return on their fellow-men, and I can only show my gratitude for those mercies from God by a readiness to help His other children.

I hope you have opportunity to be thankful — today, on Thanksgiving, and every day. And if you choose to demonstrate your gratitude by serving someone else, whether in a grand gesture or a very small way, I hope it brings you joy and peace to have done a little good in this world.

Gratitude Road

There’s a road by this name in Bristol, UK, but it’s not a bad address for all of us, every day. (Image: “Gratitude Road,” by Bart Maguire, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

As always, I thank you for your time and your attention. I wish you well.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Monday Morning Insight: My Country, Right or Wrong

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

Since the week starts with Election Day Eve, I thought this 1872 quote from U.S. Senator Carl Schurz (2 March 1829 – 14 May 1906) would be appropriate:

My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.

When we vote, we either vote to keep the country right or to set the country right. It depends on our point of view, whether we think the country is or isn’t moving in the right direction.

But the work goes on after we vote, too.

(Image: “2016,” by Gordon Johnson, on Pixabay under Creative Commons.)

 

Every day we have the chance to keep our little corner of the country right, or to set it right if it begins to go wrong. It’s harder work than voting (when we vote, we delegate the work to others), but it’s more direct.

And if more of us did the work, it would be far more effective.

The trouble is, recently so many people have put so much effort into tearing down each other, a lot of work needs to be done no matter who wins the election. I hope we’re up to it.

But, have a great week, no matter what happens tomorrow!

___
P.S. Don’t forget, if you’re not already sure who you want to vote for, you’re welcome to write in yours truly for any office, anywhere.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Monday Morning Insight: A Ghost’s Report

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

Hey, it’s Halloween, so why not start the week with a famous report from a well-known ghost (not the Gray Man)? Briefly released from Purgatory to walk the earth, this ghost said,

… I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotty and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine.
But this eternal blazon must not be
To ears of flesh and blood.

Many readers will recognize the source: Hamlet, Act I, Scene V.

The old haunted abbey - Whitby.

(Image: “The old haunted abbey – Whitby,” by Darren Flinders, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

I hope you survive the horrors of the day — that they don’t harrow your soul or freeze your blood or make your hair stand on end — and that you have an awesome week!

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Monday Morning Insight: Good Manners, Part II (Heinlein Edition)

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

Last week in this series I presented a quote from Jonathan Swift on the meaning of mannerly behavior. This week I’m offering up a quote from Science Fiction Grand Master Robert A. Heinlein’s novel Friday (emphasis in original):

Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms … but a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.

I’m not sure that needs much commentary, so I’ll just insert this relevant image:

Well, amen. #sundaythought #nice #beadecenthumanbeing

(Image: “Well, amen (etc.)” by Francesca Castelli, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

Have a great week….

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather