Quotes, Pics, and Clips VI

I’m resurrecting an installment I used to do, a bite-sized anthology of things I had recently seen or been thinking about in the various areas that interest me.  Here are the first five parts of this series: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V.

ARTS

Like him or not, it’s fun watching Jackson Pollock work:

EDUCATION

“The more computers we have, the more we need shared fairy tales, Greek myths, historical images, and so on….The more specialized and technical our civilization becomes, the harder it is for nonspecialists to participate in the decisions that deeply affect our lives.”  –E.D. Hirsch, Cultural Literacy, 1987.  (I highly recommend this great article about Hirsch’s new book.)

HUMOR

I’ve used this clip in Forensics and English 102 classes to make a point about the nature of debate and persuasion:

LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE

Something I’ve been impressed by as I pick my way through this masterpiece is how Tolstoy dwells at intervals on both the honor and heroics of conflict as well as the strain and loss.  His vision is truly majestic.

“What’s this? Am I falling? My legs are giving way,” thought he, and

fell on his back. He opened his eyes, hoping to see how the struggle of

the Frenchmen with the gunners ended, whether the red-haired gunner had

been killed or not and whether the cannon had been captured or saved.

But he saw nothing. Above him there was now nothing but the sky–the

lofty sky, not clear yet still immeasurably lofty, with gray clouds

gliding slowly across it. “How quiet, peaceful, and solemn; not at all

as I ran,” thought Prince Andrew–“not as we ran, shouting and fighting,

not at all as the gunner and the Frenchman with frightened and angry

faces struggled for the mop: how differently do those clouds glide

across that lofty infinite sky! How was it I did not see that lofty sky

before? And how happy I am to have found it at last! Yes! All is vanity,

all falsehood, except that infinite sky. There is nothing, nothing, but

that. But even it does not exist, there is nothing but quiet and peace.

Thank God!…”

–Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace, Part III, chapter XVI

LIVING WELL

The older I get, the more I enjoy sports.  I’ve watched a lot of clips like this:

POLITICS AND SOCIETY

 “The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If `Thou shalt not covet’ and `Thou shalt not steal’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.”

–John Adams, “A Defense of the American Constitutions,” 1787

RELIGION

I love this story, which I call “the parable of the kite.”  I’ve used it in teaching struggling disciples and my own children:

The second thing that has helped me receive these blessings is the principle of courageous obedience. I am so grateful for God’s gift of laws and commandments. Peace, hope, and direction are outcomes of striving to live the teachings of Jesus and obeying His laws and commandments. The scriptures teach, “Great peace have they which love thy law” (Ps. 119:165). They also teach that “he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23).

While Brother Pinegar served as president of the Provo Missionary Training Center, as you can imagine, we often talked to the missionaries about the feelings of happiness and peace that accompany courageous obedience to true principles. We talked of the influence of the Holy Ghost that comes to those who are obedient. We encouraged the missionaries to make obedience their quest. I enjoyed telling them the story of the little boy who went to the park with his father to fly a kite.

The boy was very young. It was his first experience with kite flying. His father helped him, and after several attempts the kite was in the air. The boy ran and let out more string, and soon the kite was flying high. The little boy was so excited; the kite was beautiful. Eventually there was no more string left to allow the kite to go higher. The boy said to his father, “Daddy, let’s cut the string and let the kite go; I want to see it go higher and higher.”

His father said, “Son, the kite won’t go higher if we cut the string.”

“Yes, it will,” responded the little boy. “The string is holding the kite down; I can feel it.” The father handed a pocketknife to his son. The boy cut the string. In a matter of seconds the kite was out of control. It darted here and there and finally landed in a broken heap. That was difficult for the boy to understand. He felt certain the string was holding the kite down.

The commandments and laws of God are like the kite string. They lead us and guide us upward. Obedience to these laws gives us peace, hope, and direction.

–Patricia P. Pinegar, “Peace, Hope, and Direction,” October 1999 General Conference

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Reviewed: Glenn Beck’s Common Sense and Jeff Shaara’s Rise To Rebellion

14589344Two chapters near the end of Jeff Shaara’s historical novel Rise To Rebellion focus on Thomas Paine’s incendiary pamphlet Common Sense.  Shaara even includes a handful of choice quotes from Paine, making sure the reader understands that Paine was the common man’s advocate for independence, as opposed to the sincere but often elite (and therefore sometimes out of touch) leaders at the Continental Congress.  It was Paine’s words more than those of Adams or Henry or Hancock or Franklin that won over the Americans to the cause of revolution.

Is it a coincidence that I read Shaara’s novel at the same time that I read Glenn Beck’s attempt to update Paine’s pamphlet?  Either way, the contrast proved useful. 

Shaara’s Rise To Rebellion is the best historical novel I’ve ever read.  He begins with the Boston Massacre and takes us through the lives, hearts, families, struggles, and triumphs of our Founding Fathers over the course of the subsequent six years, ending with the Declaration of Independence.  He makes Franklin and Adams his protagonists, and suavely works in tons of trivia, as well as bringing to vivid, three-dimensional life the human stories that made their achievements even more awesome.

Here we see John and Abigail Adams trying to squeeze out a bare living as they raise a young family and maintain a loving marriage–it doesn’t help matters that John soon finds himself thrust into the middle of controversy, as he grows increasingly strong in his convictions over time. 

Here we see Franklin as he tries to manage the office politics of England, at the cost of his own family relationships.  He has much to regret despite his fame and fortune, and the chapters near the end where the emotional break between he and his loyalist son are laid bare are genuinely heartbreaking. 

Continue reading

Quotes, Pics, And Clips III

ARTS: 

Earlier this year, I was looking to expand my musical horizons, so I dipped back into a resource that had done me well in the past: Michael Gelb’s How To Think Like Leonardo da Vinci.  Among nearly endless treasures are Gelb’s lists of essential recordings in various musical styles that best ignite the senses and fire the imagination.  Pay dirt.  Somehow I had never lingered on his recommendation at the bottom of page 118 of Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs

I got a performance of these pieces by the elegant Renee Fleming from the library.  Here’s a video of my favorite of the four works, “September,” (though all four are excellent):

The lyrics are a poem by Hermann Hesse; a lilting appreciation of life’s seasonal changes, not with dread or with bombastic seriousness, but with a pure gratitude for the beauty inherent in natural cycles.  In English, the words are:

The garden is in mourning;
the cool rain seeps into the flowers.
Summertime shudders,
quietly awaiting his end.

Golden leaf after leaf falls
down from the tall acacia tree.
Summer smiles, astonished and feeble,
in his dying dream of a garden.

For a while beside the roses
he remains, yearning for repose.
Slowly he closes
his weary eyes.

EDUCATION: 

“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”         -John Adams

HUMOR:  from the 8/19/97 issue of The Onion:

“Nation’s Educators Alarmed By Poorly Written Teen Suicide Notes”

“WASHINGTON, DC—At the group’s annual convention Sunday, members of the National Education Association called for the formation of a nationwide coalition of parents, teachers and political leaders to address a rapidly growing problem: the alarmingly low quality of teenage suicide notes across the U.S….

“”There seems to be an almost direct link between the rise in suicidal behavior and the decline in students’ overall command of the English language,” said Bangor, ME, junior-high vice-principal Bob Drake. “If this lack of attention paid to developing writing skills continues among teens, we may need to start thinking about revoking their suicide privileges altogether.””

LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE: 

 “How good you are in explosition!  How farflung your fokloire and how velktingeling your volupkabulary!”  -James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 419:11-12

LIVING WELL:

 “It’s not daily increase but daily decrease–hack away the unessentials!”  -Bruce Lee, Tao of Jeet Kun Do

Lee would have gotten along well with Thoreau.

POLITICS AND SOCIETY: 

 

 “War should be avoided, as long as it is possible to preserve a secure and honourable peace; but… peace cannot be honourable or secure, if the sovereign betrays a pusillanimous aversion to war.”  -Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chapter XXXVRELIGION:  

“My secret is that I need God–that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.”  -Douglas Coupland, Life After God

which reminds me:

“For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations…who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.”  -Doctrine and Covenants 123:12