Treasured Poems from a Treasured Volume

famous poemsIn the introduction to a treasured book of the past, A Treasury of the World’s Best Loved Poems (1961), readers are asked to ponder the question: “What is poetry?”

The introduction’s writer recalls the many and varied attempts at definition throughout the ages, citing poetry as:

  • “the music of the soul” (Voltaire)
  • “the art of uniting pleasure with truth” (Samuel Johnson)
  • “the universal language which the heart holds with nature and itself” (William Hazlitt)
  • that which “makes me feel as if the top of my head were taken off” (Emily Dickinson)
  • “not the assertion of truth, but the making of that truth more fully real to us” (T.S. Eliot)
  • Or as Albert Einstein said of truth, perhaps great poetry is “that which stands the test of experience.”

Read more

ATG’s Thinker Thoughts

Welcome to ATG’s “Thinker Thoughts”, a new initiative intended to help us THINK more deeply and deliberately amid the hurried pace of life’s existence. Each week, we’ll post our “Thinker Thoughts”, a short quote to reflect on from a recent commentary. Give it a think and let us know your thinker thoughts!
This week’s Thinker Thoughts come from New York Times‘ David Brooks’ April 11, 2017 column, “This Age of Wonkery“:

People today seem less likely to give themselves intellectual labels or join self-conscious philosophical movements. Young people today seem more likely to have their worldviews shaped by trips they have taken, or causes they have been involved in, or the racial or ethnic or gender identity group they identify with. That’s changed the nature of the American intellectual scene, the way people approach the world and the lives they live.”

…intellectual life was just seen as more central to progress. Intellectuals establish the criteria by which things are measured and goals are set. Intellectuals create the frameworks within which politicians operate. How can you have a plan unless you are given a theory? Intellectuals create the age. Doing that sort of work meant leading the sort of exceptional life that allowed you to emerge from the cave — to see truth squarely and to be fully committed to the cause. Creating a just society was the same thing as transforming yourself into a moral person.”

See our previous Thinker Thoughts on learning from early humans and the importance of generosity of spirit

ATG’s Thinker Thoughts

Welcome to ATG’s “Thinker Thoughts”, a new initiative intended to help us THINK more deeply and deliberately amid the hurried pace of life’s existence. Each week, we’ll post our “Thinker Thoughts”, a short quote to reflect on from a recent commentary. Give it a think and let us know your thinker thoughts!
This week’s Thinker Thoughts come from an article in the April 2017 issue of The Atlantic, “Professor Caveman: Why Bill Schindler is teaching college students to live like early humans“, by Richard Schiffman:

 Schindler is keen to correct the popular conception of our ancestors as ignorant cavemen. People today have ‘thoroughly domesticated themselves,’ he told me. Early humans, by contrast, had to be much more inventive, adept at problem-solving, and subtly attuned to changes in the natural environment. Their need to cooperate made them socially connected, as people nowadays are desperate to be…”

Above and beyond its applications to his scholarly work, Schindler says that his mastery of early-human technologies has given him a sense of personal competence. He believes that our overdependence on technologies we don’t fully understand and are incapable of creating is disempowering. ‘The true value of all this is not trying to live a prehistoric life,’ he told me. ‘It’s applying what we learn from the past to address contemporary problems.’ For example: how to be healthy and happy. Ancient peoples faced dangers, he points out, but little routine emotional stress, and few of the chronic illnesses that arise from poor diet and lack of physical activity. They can also teach us a lot about how to interact with the natural world, he says. ‘In the past, when people killed too many animals or overharvested plants, they saw the impact on the world,’ Schindler told me. But today, living apart from nature, we do not see the results of our food and energy choices.'”

ATG’s Thinker Thoughts

Welcome to ATG’s “Thinker Thoughts”, a new initiative intended to help us THINK more deeply and deliberately amid the hurried pace of life’s existence. Each week, we’ll post our Thinker Thoughts, a short quote to reflect on from a recent commentary. Give it a think and let us know your thinker thoughts!
This week’s Thinker Thoughts come from the New York Times‘ op-ed, “Check This Box if You’re a Good Person” (April 4, 2017), written by Rebecca Sabky, a former admissions director at Dartmouth College:

Until admissions committees figure out a way to effectively recognize the genuine but intangible personal qualities of applicants, we must rely on little things to make the difference. Sometimes an inappropriate email address is more telling than a personal essay. The way a student acts toward his parents on a campus tour can mean as much as a standardized test score. And, as I learned from that custodian, a sincere character evaluation from someone unexpected will mean more to us than any boilerplate recommendation from a former president or famous golfer…Colleges should foster the growth of individuals who show promise not just in leadership and academics, but also in generosity of spirit.”

Happy National Tartan Day!

national tartan day
Tartan store in Edinburgh, Scotland

On April 4, 2008, President George W. Bush signed a Presidential Proclamation designating April 6th as “National Tartan Day.”*

“Americans of Scottish descent have made enduring contributions to our Nation with their hard work, faith, and values,” the Proclamation reads. “On National Tartan Day, we celebrate the spirit and character of Scottish Americans and recognize their many contributions to our culture and our way of life.” Read more

Growing in Gritty-ness

Einstein quotes about intelligence“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” –Albert Einstein, physicist, 1879-1955

The question of individual success has long fascinated philosophers and life thinkers. From Confucius, the 6th century BC Chinese philosopher, who once wrote, “The nature of man is always the same; it is their habits that separate them”, to the 4th century BC ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle – “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit” – one can find various musings throughout the centuries on humanity’s capacity to accomplish great and marvelous things.

Yet, even with centuries of life wisdom at our disposal, and a repertoire of more recent research that shed light on human behavior, it seems that man’s quest to understand the underlying factors of man’s success may never cease, as evidenced by Angela Duckworth’s 2016 book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Read more

Let There Be Light

Genesis 1 commentary

“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good.” (Genesis 1:1-4)

Light is indeed good as we are reminded in the opening days of March that we will not be held forever frozen in the cold, dark abyss of winter. Around the 7th day of March each year, it begins to dawn on us that Daylight Savings time is just a wisp of wind around the corner and that the extra light will do us “good.” Good because it helps to bring us out of winter’s hibernating stupor and good because it reassures us that there is order in the universe – that we can find consistency and dependability in the rhythmic coming and going of seasons. Read more

Singing in the New Year 2017: Hallelujah!

“There’s a blaze of light in every word;
it doesn’t matter which you heard,
the holy, or the broken Hallelujah!
Edinburgh sunset
Edinburgh, Scotland; December 2016
I couldn’t feel, so I learned to touch.
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you.
And even though it all went wrong,
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
with nothing on my lips but Hallelujah!”

– Lines taken from the legendary song “Hallelujah” by the legendary Canadian poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen (1934-November 7, 2016)