Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Tag: character

My Confession

I have a confession to make. It’s not one I’m proud of, especially given my small participation in trying to reduce gun violence in America. On May 23rd, in Santa Barbara, a gunman killed six people and then himself on a college campus. On June 5th, in Seattle, a gunman killed one person on a college campus. On June 8th, in Las Vegas, a couple killed three people, including two police officers and then themselves. And yesterday, in Troutdale, Oregon, a student killed another student and then himself. Oh, and on June 3rd, in New Brunswick, Canada, a gunman killed three police officers. Nineteen days have passed since the murders in Santa Barbara. Eighteen people died in those 5 incidents.

According to the Brady Campaign, on average, 86 people are killed by gun violence in America every day (33 are murdered and another 50 kill themselves). Every day another 205 are shot and survive (including 148 shot during an assault, 10 suicide attempts and 45 “accidents”). To annualize those numbers is to understand the magnitude of our psychosis. 31,346 people are killed due to gun violence every year. Another 74,835 are injured, but survive. That amounts to over 100,000 Americans victims of gun violence every year.

In the 543 days since 20 six- and seven-year olds were murdered along with six of their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, there have been 74 school shootings. Seventy four! If the chart below of school shootings doesn’t scare the bejeezus out of you, you have liquid nitrogen running through your veins.

Yesterday, President Obama said, “The country has to do some soul searching about this. This is becoming the norm, and we take it for granted, in ways that as a parent are terrifying to me.” Ah, but all of these people must be crazy, whispered the 2A “patriots.” To wit, the president said, “The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people.”

The United States has a gun homicide rate 20 times higher than other developed countries. Surely, we are not to believe that we have 20 times more mentally troubled people than these other developed countries. Their reply, “It’s the person not the gun. A gun is an inanimate object. If it weren’t for the gun, they would find another method.” To wit, I would refer you to author Steven King’s response in his book Guns:

 “I read a jaw-dropping online defense of these weapons from a California woman recently. Guns, she said, are just tools. Like spoons, she said. Would you outlaw spoons simply because some people use them to eat too much? Lady, let’s see you try to kill twenty school kids with a fucking spoon.”

There are over 300,000,000 guns in America. If having a gun made people safer, America would be the safest country on the planet. We’re not. Not even close.

The White House tweeted the following comment from the president yesterday:

So, my question to you is this: What will it take? The slaughter of 20 school children didn’t do it. Eighty six deaths and 205 injuries a day hasn’t done it.  Seriously, what will it take for us to say, “Enough”?  Is there a number? Is there a victim? Are we content with this and numb to the stories? Have we swallowed the “good guy” line from the NRA and now consider these deaths and injuries collateral damage and friendly fire in order for us to “exercise” our “God given” Second Amendment right? Or are we ready to insist on change? Will we demand a better, safer future for our children? As one of the millions who work every day to bring about change I believe we deserve, I hope so, because here is my confession: I have muddled the most recent shootings. I can’t keep them straight in my head. I feel horrible for the victims, family members and friends of the victims, because they deserve to be remembered. I just can’t keep them straight anymore. I demand better of myself and my country. What about you?

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A Conversation With My Daughter

feminist

 

“Taught from their infancy that beauty is woman’s sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.”

Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

I am lucky. As a heterosexual, white, American man, I found, out of the millions of available women, the best. Does that sound right? “I,” “I found,” “I am lucky.” Let me try to rephrase that. A strong, compassionate, brilliant woman, a woman with talent and brains and limited tolerance for fools, a woman destined to positively impact the lives of countless people, chose me. Better. Although I was right, I was/am lucky.

I had the most incredible conversation with my 19 year old daughter last night. It was a text message conversation, but, in many ways, the technology was not a barrier to thought or feelings, but an aid. Perhaps it is the inherent delay in responding or the necessity to distill thoughts into typed words. Whatever the cause, the effect was blinding, pure logic bathed in compassion. The subject: Feminism.

Again, I’m a guy. But that does not preclude me from discussing or even embracing feminism. Ultimately, feminism is one wavelength within the light spectrum of equality.

Plato wrote in The Republic,“If women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things.” That was in 380 B.C.

On October 9, 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban on her school bus for having the audacity to think, “Let us pick up our books and our pens,” I said. “They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” (I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban)

Clearly, in 2,392 years we have done little to evolve as humans. Why do some (males and females) see feminists as the enemy? Why have some vilified them as militant, anti-men?

To help answer this question, I need to back up to a 30,000 foot view of “civilized society.” My daughter is an artist, and the best kind. She is infused with talent, an incredible work ethic blended with a strong desire to learn and stirred by passion; truly a recipe for greatness, both as an artist and as a compassionate human. As we chatted last night we wandered into a metaphor that, I think carries some veracity. The idea that while seeing all issues in pure black and white is easy (read: requires little or no thought), it is boring and excludes the rainbow of colors that make life (and art) joyful. Seeing (or rather acknowledging) the gray in an issue requires us to pause and consider differing opinions, perspectives and, potentially, shaking the ledge upon which we base our morals. It is neither comfortable nor easy, but it is necessary and should be required! Somewhere along the line, Descartes argument cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am) has been bludgeoned into “I am, therefore I need not think.” How sad.

Feminism is not the charge of a select group of women but rather the obligation of all rational thinkers, therefore, all of humankind. Where it is the weak minded and threatened man who disdains feminists, so too is it the weak minded and male-oriented, society-molded female who defends organized subjugation. To subjugate one is to imprison all. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best, “”No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Our willing abdication of thought may inevitably lead to an Orwellian future of newspeak, doublethink, thoughtcrimes and perpetual war. How far down this road are we already? Who wants to drive?

I am proud of my daughter. She is strong-willed, passionate and compassionate, thinks for herself and wants to make the world a better place. If that is the definition of a feminist, sign me up.

House (and Senate) Calls

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 The NRA is frothing at the mouth again, this time over the President’s nominee for Surgeon General. The reason? The President’s nominee, Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA and a member of Doctors for America, had the audacity to say in a January 9, 2013 letter to Vice President Biden that guns are a public health care issue. In response to the nomination, the NRA sent a letter to President Obama calling on him to reject his nominee.

“Who is this 37 year old foreigner and political hack King Obama has nominated? And why should we listen to a physician regarding firearms?”

I’m glad you asked.

First, this “foreigner” is a US citizen who was born in the UK and moved with his parents to Florida when he was three years old. He graduated as valedictorian from his high school in Miami. He then graduated magna cum laude (in 3 years) from Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in Biochemical Sciences. He then received an MD from Yale School of Medicine and an MBA in Health Care Management from Yale School of Management, where he was a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine in at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He is currently a physician at Brigham & Women’s and an instructor at Harvard University.

Now, as to your second question, firearms cause injury to human flesh. It is the emergency departments of local hospitals that see the carnage and devastation guns cause. It is the physician’s duty to save lives. A physician does not receive a dossier on the patient in front of them bleeding from a gunshot wound. They do not pause to determine the legality/justification of the gun’s discharge. They only see the damage. Following the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, 52 medical organizations joined forces to send letters to the leaderships of the United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives and directly to the President of the United States. The audacity, indeed.

Of course, it is not the 52 medical organizations calling for change or Dr. Murthy’s CV the NRA really has a problem with, although even the thought of any gun control leads the NRA to a version of reduction ad absurdum apparently leading to tyranny, confiscation, black helicopters, concentration camps and a socialistic New World Order. Rather, it is the position of the organization Dr. Murthy founded, Doctors for America, whose mission statement reads:

“Doctors for America is a national movement of physicians and medical students working together to improve the health of the nation and to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, high quality health care.”

And whose core values and culture are listed as:

    1. We are bold and fearless.
    2. We are creative and flexible.
    3. We value everyone.  Every voice matters.
    4. We cultivate strong relationships and a family spirit with partners and colleagues.
    5. We are accountable to one another in our individual and collective work.
    6. We are open and honest.
    7. We are passionate and determined.
    8. We grow and learn and help others do the same.
    9. We have fun and celebrate!
    10. 10. We ensure every action meets our highest standard: will it help create a healthier America for everyone?

End times, indeed. But it is the group’s position on gun violence prevention that has the NRA exorcised. Once again, facts be damned, Obama’s coming for our guns! And once again, our feckless Congress is caving to the NRA’s demands. Yesterday, in an editorial piece in the New York Times, the editorial board wrote that, “There are now reports that the White House and Senate Democratic leaders might delay a vote on the nomination until after the midterm elections or urge the nominee to withdraw.” Unconscionable.

In Common Sense, Thomas Paine, writing to General William Howe, wrote:

arguing with the dead

Shame on the NRA, but more shame on Congress, should they not vigorously defend this nominee. Gun violence is a public health crisis. To ignore it is an abdication of responsibility, against the wishes of Americans and placating the lowest common denominator of society.

A Champion for Change

Champions of Change

The White House website has a section devoted to recognizing ordinary Americans for the tireless efforts they spend moving America forward.  President Obama’s declaration of American “exceptionalism” offended the rest of the world and rang hollow to Americans beleaguered by a societal abdication of responsibility, a systemic idolization of celebrity, an education system “wrestling” to merge science with religion, a federal legislative body paralyzed by intransigence and hatred and a country awash in daily gun violence.

The site recently asked for nominations for White House Champion of Change for Gun Violence Prevention. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America founder Shannon Watts was my choice and I, along with many others, nominated her. Here is my rationale:

No single person has harnessed the overwhelming passion Americans have to prevent gun violence since Sarah Brady. Born out of anger and disbelief after the senseless murder of twenty school children and 6 educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, Ms. Watts formed a grassroots organization combining social media networking with passionate activism, targeting elected officials, businesses and the gun lobby while giving voice to thousands of mothers across America who see daily gun violence as a plague on the future for our children.

In little over one year, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America has become the voice for compassionate Americans and a major target for the gun lobby. The recent partnership with Mayors Against Illegal Guns speaks to the clout earned by Moms Demand Action.

It is never a good idea to threaten a bear cub around its mother. Moms Demand Action continues to show what effect threatening America’s children with continued gun violence will have as over 125,000 mama bears in all 50 states unite. As a father, I applaud Ms. Watts for her determination, organization and vision and can think of no other individual more deserving of this recognition.

Albert Einstein said, “If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity.” Whether she is selected or not, she is a champion for change and has created an organization whose passion and compassion will continue to be heard in the gun violence debate in 2014 and beyond.

The Wolfe of Main Street

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“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”

Published in 1940, two years after the loquacious author Thomas Wolfe unexpectedly died, You Can’t Go Home Again belongs to a select group of novels whose title has entered American speech as a catch phrase. Catch-22 also enjoys this status of being a book few have read but we all seem to use the phrase in daily life with a winking acknowledgment.

We all know what “you can’t go home again” means, but a deeper understanding of the sentiment behind the phrase yields a bountiful crop of compassionate undergrowth.

To begin with the obvious, anyone returning to their hometown following a period away notices the changes. Gone is the local drug store, replaced by a pharmacy chain. Gone is the chain toy store you once protested against when it bought out the local toy store. Gone is the barber shop at which you used to get your hair cut, where they had to use the booster seat to allow you to sit high enough for the barber, who doubled as your neighbor. Mom and Pop stores are eaten by chains, which are, in turn, swallowed by larger chains; themselves prey to the threat from the internet and online shopping. Sure, the ice cream parlor still remains, but the menu has changed, the furnishings updated, the uniforms different and the charm captured by childhood gone. Restaurants change name, fields become strip malls and the potato farm beyond the outfield has grown into a neighborhood.

Still, the phrase refers to to time not distance or travel. How often is the frustration of the dieter who weighs themselves daily validated by the comments of those who do not see the individual on a daily basis? How many times do we catch our reflection in the morning mirror wondering who that old person is staring back? So too, is the change of “home” incremental yet perpetual.  Daily life contains checklists, both mental and written, which drive our actions.

  • Get up at 6:00, eat breakfast, shower, shave, dress
  • Run to the supermarket (we need bananas and bread (critical))
  • Must stop at the Post Office to drop off the package to ensure it arrives at Aunt Clara’s before her birthday on Tuesday
  • I’d like to get to Barnes & Noble to pick up that new book Charlie was raving about
  • Dinner with the group tonight (whose house is it at?)
  • Get to bed at a “decent” time tonight. That twitch in my lower eye lid is driving me crazy.

Seldom do we slow down enough to see how much has changed. Perhaps this is done on purpose. Each of us carries a mental picture of everyone else in their mind. Ask yourself, “When was this “picture” snapped?” My image of my grandfather (my father’s father) was snapped in his basement, hovering over his workbench. When was that? 1970-something? My image of my grandmother (my father’s mother) is of her sitting at her kitchen table scratching at the incessant itching in her hands, offering me one snack after another. When was that? My image of my other grandmother (my mother’s mother) resides in actual snapshots; photographs I’ve seen which merge with stories I’ve heard from those older than me, and thus capable of holding a memory. And so it is with everyone I’ve ever met. Name someone and I will unconsciously recall a moment in time and an age of that person at which they are forever frozen. This is one of the conundrums I have with the concept of heaven. Should I die and be admitted to the ultimate club and see my paternal great-grandmother (who, in my youth seemed to be Methuselah’s age when she died), how old would she seem to me? And at what age would she appear to her great-grandmother who died when my great-grandmother was in cloth diapers in Italy?

Memories rush up to meet us without recall demands made; the mystique of “family” softened by the endless waves of time. There is a promontory rock in my hometown against which an endless line of waves crash. This rock has endured wave upon wave since before my birth and will endure them for countless millennia after I die, with little change to the rock. Ovid said, ““Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.” Persistence measured in thousands of years eludes my capacity of comprehension.

And while Main Street changes over time, we cannot forget that it is a two-way street. Those exposed to the daily changes accept them as the new “normal.” Times change and we have to keep up! The reinsertion of the returning local into this new equation causes an unintentional sheering of expectations from memory. The resident expects the returning friend/relative to merge with the existing daily life to which they have become accustomed through the gradual hollowing out of the stone of the local landscape. The collision of the returning individual’s memory with the resident’s daily reality, coupled with the mental image we carry of the individual, can yield conflict and confusion. Family mystique is usually best carried by those who have physically had to relocate. A myth develops over time of something the individual perceives as having been taken from them, whereas the reality is simply human beings in one small community clashing and embracing, subject to the baggage we all carry. Grudges are held, “hatred” festers, blame is assigned and emotional distance creates a gulf where no physical distance exists. To the physically removed family member, these animosities seem petty and counterproductive. Consider the view of the astronaut aboard the International Space Station looking through the port hole at the earth as it passes constantly from daylight into night and back again. How meaningless do our conflicts seem from afar? How insignificant do national borders seem, religious differences resulting in warfare, the skin color or sex of one ant from another? Unfortunately, few of us have the ability to step back and observe from such a height, even figuratively. Wolfe expands upon his catch phrase below:

 Some things will never change. Some things will always be the same. Lean down your ear upon the earth and listen.

The voice of forest water in the night, a woman’s laughter in the dark, the clean, hard rattle of raked gravel, the cricketing stitch of midday in hot meadows, the delicate web of children’s voices in bright air–these things will never change.

The glitter of sunlight on roughened water, the glory of the stars, the innocence of morning, the smell of the sea in harbors, the feathery blur and smoky buddings of young boughs, and something there that comes and goes and never can be captured, the thorn of spring, the sharp and tongueless cry–these things will always be the same.

All things belonging to the earth will never change–the leaf, the blade, the flower, the wind that cries and sleeps and wakes again, the trees whose stiff arms clash and tremble in the dark, and the dust of lovers long since buried in the earth–all things proceeding from the earth to seasons, all things that lapse and change and come again upon the earth–these things will always be the same, for they come up from the earth that never changes, they go back into the earth that lasts forever. Only the earth endures, but it endures forever.

The tarantula, the adder, and the asp will also never change. Pain and death will always be the same. But under the pavements trembling like a pulse, under the buildings trembling like a cry, under the waste of time, under the hoof of the beast above the broken bones of cities, there will be something growing like a flower, something bursting from the earth again, forever deathless, faithful, coming into life again like April.”

Can all of this be summarized as “stop to smell the roses?” Maybe, but we never seem to take the time to add it to our list of things to do.

We can go home again, if only in our memories, and there, we have never left.

Character Candling

candling egg

From Merriam Webster:

candle (transitive verb): to examine by holding between the eye and a light; especially : to test (eggs) in this way for staleness, blood clots, fertility, and growth

Have you ever looked at a word you’ve written a thousand times as though it couldn’t possibly be spelled that way? You doubt yourself, double check it in the dictionary and carry on. I have recently had the opportunity to reassess personal relationships I’ve held sacred, but upon examination found I have done so without a compelling reason.  No longer a child, I held up these individuals to the same light of reason, logic, compassion and magnanimity  to which I would hope to be judged, not unlike candling an egg. Rather than record my observations, I sought insight from those more intelligent. Here are my thoughts via their appropriated words, alpha by author:

“Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.”     Maya Angelou

“Beware the man of a single book.”     St. Thomas Aquinas

“Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.”     Isaac Asimov

“The basic stimulus to the intelligence is doubt, a feeling that the meaning of an experience is not self-evident.”     W.H. Auden

“I think we risk becoming the best informed society that has ever died of ignorance.”     Reuben Blades

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”     Derek Bok

“There is no such uncertainty as a sure thing.”     Robert Burns

“The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.”     Albert Camus

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”     George Carlin

“The IQ and the life expectancy of the average American recently passed each other in opposite directions.”     George Carlin

“I prefer tongue-tied knowledge to ignorant loquacity.”     Marcus Tullius Cicero

“I am not ashamed to confess I am ignorant of what I do not know.”     Marcus Tullius Cicero

“He only employs his passion who can make no use of his reason.”     Marcus Tullius Cicero

“To live is to think.”     Marcus Tullius Cicero

“Confidence is ignorance. If you’re feeling cocky, it’s because there’s something you don’t know.”     Eoin Colfer

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”     Confucius

“Ignorance is the night of the mind, a night without moon or star.”     Confucius

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.”     Confucius

“He who knows all the answers has not been asked all the questions.”     Confucius

“Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace.”     Dalai Lama

“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”     Charles Darwin

“And, in fine, of false sciences I thought I knew the worth sufficiently to escape being deceived by the professions of an alchemist, the predictions of an astrologer, the impostures of a magician, or by the artifices and boasting of any of those who profess to know things of which they are ignorant.”     René Descartes

“Military guys are rarely as smart as they think they are, and they’ve never gotten over the fact that civilians run the military.”     Maureen Dowd

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.”     Albert Einstein

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”     Albert Einstein

“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”     Harlan Ellison

“Fear always springs from ignorance.”     Ralph Waldo Emerson

“There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.”     Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.”     Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.”     Euripides

“Anger exceeding limits causes fear and excessive kindness eliminates respect.”     Euripides

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”     F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Stupidity lies in wanting to draw conclusions.”     Gustave Flaubert

“Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.”     Benjamin Franklin

“The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance.”     Benjamin Franklin

“The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance.”     Benjamin Franklin

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”     Benjamin Franklin

“I wash my hands of those who imagine chattering to be knowledge, silence to be ignorance, and affection to be art.”     Kahlil Gibran

“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”     Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Point me out the happy man and I will point you out either extreme egotism, selfishness, evil — or else an absolute ignorance.”     Graham Greene

“If you’re gonna be stupid you gotta be tough.”     John Grisham

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”     Stephen Hawking

“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.”     Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

“The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: Be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge.”     Elbert Hubbard

“God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas but for scars.”     Elbert Hubbard

“The learned man knows that he is ignorant.”     Victor Hugo

“The tax which will be paid for the purpose of education is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.”     Thomas Jefferson

“Those who never retract their opinions love themselves more than they love truth.”     Joseph Joubert

“The only means of strengthening one’s intellect is to make up one’s mind about nothing — to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts.”     John Keats

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”     Søren Kierkegaard

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”     Martin Luther King, Jr.

“A fool can easily be known by what proceeds from his or her mouth.”     Adedayo Kingjerry

“Living is easy with eyes closed.”     John Lennon

“Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.”     Michael Levine

“I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.”     Abraham Lincoln

“A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”     Nelson Mandela

“Military intelligence is a contradiction in terms.”     Groucho Marx

“A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition.”     Henry Miller

“We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”     George Orwell

“I would prefer an intelligent hell to a stupid paradise.”     Blaise Pascal

“And whenever anyone informs us that he has found a man who knows all the arts, and all things else that anybody knows, and every single thing with a higher degree of accuracy than any other man –whoever tells us this, I think that we can only imagine him to be a simple creature who is likely to have been deceived by some wizard or actor whom he met, and whom he thought all-knowing, because he himself was unable to analyze the nature of knowledge and ignorance and imitation.”     Plato

“A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring; There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again.”     Alexander Pope

“There is no reply to the ignorant like keeping silence.”     Proverb

“Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; an argument an exchange of ignorance.”     Robert Quillen

“When ignorance gets started it knows no bounds.”     Will Rogers

“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”     Bertrand Russell

“A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.”     Bertrand Russell

“Two things are to be remembered: that a man whose opinions and theories are worth studying may be presumed to have had some intelligence, but that no man is likely to have arrived at complete and final truth on any subject whatever. When an intelligent man expresses a view which seems to us obviously absurd, we should not attempt to prove that it is somehow true, but we should try to understand how it ever came to seem true. This exercise of historical and psychological imagination at once enlarges the scope of our thinking, and helps us to realize how foolish many of our own cherished prejudices will seem to an age which has a different temper of mind.”     Bertrand Russell

“Ignorant people see life as either existence or non-existence, but wise men see it beyond both existence and non-existence to something that transcends them both; this is an observation of the Middle Way.”     Seneca

“There is no darkness but ignorance.”     William Shakespeare

“A knavish speech sleeps in a fool’s ear.”     William Shakespeare

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”     William Shakespeare

“The shortest route to courage is absolute ignorance.”     Dan Simmons

“There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.”     Socrates

“It’s an universal law– intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”     Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.”     Maurice Switzer

“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.”     Thomas Stephen Szasz

“Ignorance and inconsideration are the two great causes of the ruin of mankind.”     John Tillotson

“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.”     Leo Tolstoy

“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.”     Mark Twain

“Ignorance is a virus. Once it starts spreading, it can only be cured by reason. For the sake of humanity, we must be that cure.”     Neil deGrasse Tyson

“He must be very ignorant for he answers every question he is asked.”     Voltaire

“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”     Voltaire

“If your brains were dynamite there wouldn’t be enough to blow your hat off.”     Kurt Vonnegut

“Irony is wasted on the stupid.”     Oscar Wilde

“The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing.”     Oscar Wilde

“He had just about enough intelligence to open his mouth when he wanted to eat, but certainly no more.”     P.G. Wodehouse

“Ignorance is not bliss – it is oblivion.”     Philip Wylie

“Rich people have small TVs and big libraries, and poor people have small libraries and big TVs.”     Zig Ziglar

Which quote is your favorite?

Mine?

“Many wearing rapiers are afraid of goosequills.”     William Shakespeare.

Although you may recognize it as:

“The pen is mightier than the sword (or gun).”

Fingerprints

Fingerprints

Fingerprints

“Instill the love of you into all the world, for a good character is what is remembered.”  Parable 24, The Teaching for Merikare.

“The more the marble wastes, the more the statue grows.”  Sonnet, Michelangelo Buonarroti

Every time we leave the house we return a different person.  Every encounter we have with another changes us.  Infants born into the world arrive with a specific DNA, never to change and upon which the character they will become is only tempered and nudged by experience. Like a block of clay they arrive, specific in color and texture, but subject to the fingerprints and tool marks left by every encounter they have with another and every experience they survive. Such is life.

It is easy to look back and recall experiences we think most greatly influenced our character. Usually, we are wrong. It is not the seminal moments, the major events in our lives, but the repeated subtle interactions with people we subconsciously catch ourselves admiring. The slashes and gouges we endure in our clay mold are ultimately not as important as the fingerprints left by those who show us compassion and genuine kindness. It is this nurturing, gentle kindness that we should aspire to impart on others.  As it is impossible to walk the beach without leaving footprints, so too, is it impossible to live in the world without leaving our fingerprints on the clay character of others.

I think of these ideas today as I reflect on the life of one who left the fingerprints of kindness, friendship and all that is honest and noble in the world upon me. Growing up in Rhode Island, my best friend’s parents infused in me, over many years and confirmed through a variety of life events (both wondrous and horrible), the strength of character I hope to achieve.

Consider the entire spectrum of characters you have encountered in your life. Now, select from that vast population only the people who have exhibited nothing but kindness, honesty and compassion. It is a finite few. This select group of individuals has, at some point in your life, stopped you, caught you breathless and amazed at their reaction to a situation seemingly beyond your limits of altruism or empathy. These are the giants in your life whose strengths of character have left the deepest fingerprints in your clay. So it is for me with Bob Michaud, Eric Fisher and my best friend’s father, Mr. Nash.

Many years out from Cub Scouts, Little League, blizzards and high school, I still count Mr. Nash as one of the giants in my life. A man whose quiet consistency belied an inner strength, whose friendship and encouragement spoke to a fierce sense of fairness, whose work-life balance set the gold standard for me to strive toward. It is not my goal to achieve these standards, but rather to continue to work toward them. Consistent effort marks the man. Our clay never hardens.

Appreciate these giants in your life. Treasure their fingerprints.