Monday, June 24, 2019

Nikolai Berdyaev: On Slavery and Freedom


"We live in a nightmare of falsehoods, and there are few who are sufficiently awake and aware to see things as they are. Our first duty is to clear away illusions and recover a sense of reality."--Nikolai Berdyaev

Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev (1874 –1948) was a Russian Christian universalist mystic and Christian anarchist political philosopher. My first encounter with Berdyaev was in a book titled Four Existentialist Theologians in the early 1980s after our return from Mexico. I recorded and eventually memorized this statement in my "quote book": "Slavery is passivity. The victory over slavery is creative activity."

While reviewing and discarding some papers I was reminded of Berdyaev and stimulated to see how much of his thought and writings were gathered on Wiki Quotes. If you are looking for a way to become acquainted with great thinkers of the past, Wiki Quotes might become as rewarding a pasttime for you as it has for me.

The following excerpts been culled from the page on Berdyaev.

"Pain in the human world is the birth of personality... Already in the animal world individuality suffers. Freedom gives rise to suffering. One can lessen it if one refuses freedom."

* * * *

"Only the free man is a personality, and he is that even if the whole world should wish to enslave him."

* * * *

"Man, human personality (the individual) is the supreme value, not the community, not the collective realities which belong to the object world, such as society, nation, state, civilization, church."

* * * *
About Berdyaev:
It is difficult to fit the work of Nikolai Berdyaev into any neat category. The label that was used most frequently to characterize him was that of an "existential Christian philosopher" but … his voice is equally relevant to psychology and psychoanalysis and it also constitutes a uniquely original commentary on the very nature of the person in our postmodern world especially in relation to spirituality.-- Renos K. Papadopoulos

* * * *

Berdyaev lived through the Russian Revolution and those tumultuous times leading up to it with the idiosyncratic madness of the Tsar and Rasputin.. The following, titled The End of Time, was written in 1919.

"The whole economic system of Capitalism is an offshoot of a devouring and overwhelming lust, of a kind that can hold sway only in a society that has deliberately renounced the Christian asceticism and turned away from Heaven to give itself over exclusively to earthly gratifications. ... It is the result of a secularization of economic life, and by it the hierarchical subordination of the material to the spiritual is inverted. The autonomy of economics has ended in their dominating the whole life of human societies: the worship of Mammon has become the determining force of the age. And the worst of it is that this undisguised “mammonism” is regarded as a very good thing, an attainment to the knowledge of truth and a release from illusions. Economic materialism formulates this to perfection when it brands the whole spiritual life of man as a deception and a dream."

When years later Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was exiled to the States, he similarly excoriated the predominant American ethic, "I want what I want," which Berdyaev scratched at above and here:

In order to be able to go on living it is possible that the bankrupt peoples will have to enter on a new path of self-denial, by curbing their covetousness and putting a check on the indefinite expansion of their wants, and by having smaller families.

* * * *
One last observation and a link to more:

"We live in a nightmare of falsehoods, and there are few who are sufficiently awake and aware to see things as they are. Our first duty is to clear away illusions and recover a sense of reality."

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Local Art Scene: Upcoming Arts Events for the Last Week in June

Piece from STRATA show at the DAI
Grandma's Marathon has always been more than a marathon. It marks the beginning of the busy Twin Ports Summer Scene. For decades it was a reminder that next weekend is the Park Point Art Fair. Now it is also a reminder that Rhubarb Fest is coming, also.

Here are some noteworthy events for your Art Happenings calendar.

Tuesday, June 25, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Creative Crosswalk Painting with Moira Villiard
Moira & team of volunteers will be painting crosswalks near the Myers-Wilkins Elementary School, 8th Avenue E. & 10th Street
"The Hillside streets will become safer and more colorful this summer when local artist, Moira Villiard, in partnership with Zeitgeist and local residents. The will produce four creative crosswalks at currently dangerous intersections. The crosswalks and intersections will be painted to attract more attention to crosswalks and the people using them, promoting pedestrian and bicycle safety by slowing traffic in the residential area, while also highlighting neighborhood culture and identity through public art. Zeitgeist will lead community engagement efforts to allow residents to influence the design of the murals that they will be walking, biking, and driving through daily. Neighbors are encouraged to come out to help paint the design." For more information, contact Shawna Mullen, Zeitgeist Active Transportation Coordinator. 218-929-1908.;

Friday, June 28, 5-8 p.m.
Downtown Duluth Arts Walk 
Between 20 and 30 arts spaces will be open again, continuing the "Last Friday of Each Month" art event. Duluth Fine Pianos, 331 W. Superior Street (next to Starbucks!) will be hosting jazz musicians  Ryan Frane on piano, Matt Mobley on bass, and Sam Miltich on guitar from 6-8 p.m.
Esther Piszczek's framed work on paper, glass, mirrors, and clay decorates the walls of Duluth Fine Pianos. Come out to hear some music, see the art, or just say hi to all the good people there. Duluth Fine Pianos is participating in the Downtown Duluth Arts Collective's night of art and entertainment, featuring Downtown Duluth art galleries, eateries, bars and performance venues. Email or call 218-461-8380 for more information. Downtown Duluth Arts Walk Google Map [NOTE: I will attend the DDAW 5-6:30 p.m.]

Saturday, June 29, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Chum Rhubarb Festival, London Road at 11th Avenue E.
"Chum’s 15th annual Rhubarb Festival promises lots of rhubarb — including hundreds of pies, muffins and crisps, as well as rhubarb brats and burritos. There will also be live music, games, crafts, auctions and stage shows." You can check out my Rhubarb Fest photos from last summer here.

Saturday, June 29, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Sunday, June 30, 12 p.m.-4 p.m.
Sue Brown Chapin Watercolors Gallery on 4th Grand Opening, 47 4th Street, Cloquet Stop by to see Sue Brown Chapin's new space and register to win a framed original. Following the opening, Gallery on 4th will be open Thursday afternoons, 1-6 p.m., and by appointment.
Directions: Presbyterian Church Building, upper level, door to right of main door, look for sign.

Cross this bridge to Park Point Art Fair. Watercolor by Sue Rauschenfels
Saturday, June 29, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sunday, June 30, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Park Point Art Fair
Park Point Public Beach House, 5000 Minnesota Avenue
"The annual Park Point Art Fair will feature the juried fine art and crafts of more than 120 artists from the upper Midwest and beyond. In addition to the outdoor gallery, there will be a food court, demonstration areas, a stage with live music and more — all at the Park Point Recreation Area.
Located at the foot of the recreation area’s Beach House and ball fields, the event is accessible by bus and bike, as well as the nearby airstrip and public boat launch. With artist tents lining a paved path that extends through the park, the show allows people with physical disabilities the chance to fully experience the event."

Sunday, June 30, 5 p.m.
Beer & Hymns, at Sir Benedict's Tavern, 805 E. Superior Street
"A gathering for beer drinking and hymn singing on the last Sunday of every month."

* * * * 

by Bookmarking the

My Most Read Stories On Medium This Week and a C.S. Lewis Quote

Friday was the longest day of the year. It was also the kickoff for Grandma's Marathon weekend with their pre-marathon 5K event that I ran two years ago. The weather has been perfect for running and/or walking... or watching. Saturday's marathon was once again run with enthusiasm. 9000 runners this year.

The week my most-read stories on Medium were:

12 Powerful Novellas That Moved Me When I First Read Them 

A Pocketful of Points to Ponder by Socrates
Published in A Philosopher's Stone

The Chemistry of Photography: A Father’s Day Tribute
My Father's Day tribute

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Infobahn
Published in The Startup

Creating Crossword Puzzles for Fun & Profit: A Visit with Christina Iverson
Also published in The Startup

The Virtue of Discipline
On becoming our better selves.

Memories: Both a Comfort and a Curse

Awed by Two Van Gogh Paintings at the National Gallery

* * * *
"Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters."--C.S. Lewis

Saturday, June 22, 2019

TapRoots: An Invitation to Join Me in a Wisdom Game from the 500 BC Foundry

Can obtaining Wisdom be fun? Certainly learning can be fun. I would agree there are games that serve as diversions, and games that sharpen our thinking. And then there are games which teach us things, about our world and even our selves.

When I was a kid I used to play a game called Geography with my parents. It involved a map of the world with all the major cities, plus an egg timer and a spherical die that had letters on it instead of numbers. You would roll the die, and once you had the letter revealed the egg timer would be turned over. You had one minute to find as many cities as possible that began with that letter.

This blog post is about a website called 500 BC Foundry. I'm still not entirely sure what it is but the more I explore, the more interesting it becomes.

It may be that the problem in our 21st world is that we're TOO BUSY to really explore things that are deeper than superficial. 500 BC Foundry has many layers, though they also have tools to help you dig, if you can dig that.

When we're too busy it is because we have committed to too many things. The end result is an inability to focus on much of anything for very long because those various commitments are knocking at the door and on the windows.

ALL THIS TO SAY, slow down, take a deep breath and check out the 500 BC Foundry. There's a link at the end of this post.

One of the authors on the site is Plato-McBoar. The name should be considered a clue. Plato McBoar is our philosophizing, business-savvy boar with an irregularly large brain. He loves truffles with a side of tea and crumpets. (The tone here should also be a considered a clue.)

For what it's worth, one of the features on the site is a bit of Blockchain technology, which appears to have some real value for those who play to win. There are some people who feel that Blockchain will change the world as much as the Internet itself has disrupted everything.

This game, if I understand correctly, revolved around Digibles, which are digital collectibles. IF YOU PLAY YOU CAN GATHER DIGITAL CURRENCY and theoretically this currency can be exchanged for real world valuations. If you enter through the link below you can look for this heading and learn more: Digital Collectibles Are Changing the Crypto-Landscape

According to Plato McBoar, "TapRoots is a game to help you know and grow yourself. Soon, with blockchain-powered rewards, we hope to make investing in yourself even more fun."

* * * *

There are some people who have invested a lot of creative energy into making this online game in which players discover ancient truths and wisdom that they can apply to their present lives. At first brush it seems complicated, but as you take time to investigate various links and features, you will discover some rather profitable features and opportunities.

The motto here is: You owe it to yourself to get to know yourself. Knowing oneself is essential to a great life. Knowing oneself precedes "To thine own self be true." How can you be true to yourself when you are oblivious to who you are.

What Phelan, the Founder, discovered was that the insights from antiquity remain relevant today. This understanding led her to seek a way to share these insights via a new medium, in the tech-infused world we now live in, using the tools of our contemporary culture. The end result was TapRoots, a game of self-discovery.

In ancient times, people used sharpened flint as a tool. Today we have apps devoted to transferring the wisdom of the ages into our present seeking minds. That's what TapRoots is all about.

* * * *
For what it's worth, I like what I've been finding in the 500 BC Foundry and TapRoots. I'm interested in what they are attempting to do. And it may be the right timing for this because there are so many distractions now to take us away from who we are. How can you be to thine own self true if you don't even know who you are?

So, I'm playing a new game, just to see where it goes. If you want to play, to be part of it, here's where you can learn more... and be part of a contemporary game that can potentially make a difference in your life.

Sign up to get cool rewards at 500 BC Foundry 
and by doing so, my rank will improve. 

* * * *  

Where this will lead I have no idea, but I will keep you posted.
It's the Beginning of Summer, a good time to kick off your shoes and dive in.

Here's the Link, one more time:

Let's Do It!

If You Fly Delta, This Credit Card Can Earn You Tens of Thousands of Free Miles

An out of this world offer...  Read on.
OK, here's the deal. I can earn 12,500 Delta Sky Miles for each person who signs up to get an American Express Personal or Business card before the end of July. AND you can get 60,000 Sky Miles!

Here's how it works: If you make $2000 in purchases within the first three months you will earn 60,000 Delta Sky Miles.

To be honest, I've never pursued these things because I'm not the credit card kind of guy. Then, a couple years ago we had friends who told us how much they enjoyed accumulating, and using, their miles. And guess what? Since then I've enjoyed collecting all those miles now, too.

I used to travel a lot through the two companies I've worked for, and one perk from all that travel was receiving Sky Miles. By means of Sky Miles I flew my daughter to Ireland one year and to Scotland a few years later. 

Maybe you have kids or grandkids you wish you could see more often. Or maybe an exotic trip you've always wished you could afford. Delta Sky Miles might be just the ticket, and if you meet the criteria (a pretty low bar, actually) you can bag 60,000 Sky Miles right at the start. It was a lot easier than I thought.

It does require a little discipline in this respect. Neither Susie nor I like having to pay interest on debt, so we make it a point to pay off the card every month. If you are in the habit of living within your means, this should not be a problem. It has not been an issue at all for us, which is why I am letting you know about it.

OK, I am letting you know because I JUST NOTICED that I am permitted to use Social Media to tell people about this.

Apply for an American Express Card with this link. 
We can both get rewarded if you're approved! 

Decorative glass in the underground corridor
at Mnpls Airport, a Delta hub.
EACH FRIEND (& you're my friend if you're reading this) CAN EARN
60,000 Bonus Miles after they use their new Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months and a $50 Statement Credit after they make a Delta purchase with their new Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

This Limited Time Offer ends 07/31/2019.

You will be able to choose from all available American Express Personal and Business Card offers. I will receive my referral bonus no matter what Card you are approved for.

Thanks for taking time to consider the offer. I hope it works for you.

Corridor from main terminal to the B terminal at Mpls-St. Paul Airport.

Are Children Today Being Raised "Too Safe to Succeed"?

"The worst of all public dangers is the committee of public safety."--C.S. Lewis

This past month I read The Coddling of the American Mind, an insightful book that helped me understand some of the controversial events taking place on campuses the past few years.  The book is by a first amendment expert (Greg Lukianoff) and a social psychologist (Jonathan Haidt), which I found to be an interesting combination.

The book is awash with disturbing anecdotes that show how screwed up things have become as the Z-generation enters into the college experience. One of the problems, which they go to great lengths to demonstrate, is that our efforts to raise children in a "safe" world has had the unintended consequence of making them fragile.

The authors have been fairly prolific writers, with articles in high profile magazines such as The Atlantic. The follow anecdote is from an article in Reason titled The Fragile Generation, by Haigt and Lenore Skenazy. After citing two or three examples of society being overprotective they write:

And then there was the query that ran in Parents magazine a few years back: "Your child's old enough to stay home briefly, and often does. But is it okay to leave her and her playmate home while you dash to the dry cleaner?" Absolutely not, the magazine averred: "Take the kids with you, or save your errand for another time." After all, "you want to make sure that no one's feelings get too hurt if there's a squabble."

As you read that, you were probably as stunned as I to see the editors' rationale for not leaving the kids home. You don't want anyone's feelings hurt if there is a squabble.

Really? The subtitle of the article is "Bad policy and paranoid parenting are making kids too safe to succeed."

Whatever happened to the stories we were told about how baby birds had to break out of their shells on their own, or they wouldn't thrive. That illustration from nature was applied to life. You may want to help but then the baby birds will fail to learn something important that evidently is imprinted in their little brains.

When I saw the C. S. Lewis quote about "the committee of public safety" it dawned on me that our current over-protective parenting styles and "safety culture" did not suddenly spring up. It's had a much longer evolution than I'd realized.

Yes, it's good to have safe streets where you won't get mugged or shot, but safety from getting into an argument while playing, lest feelings be ruffled? If your kid sprains an ankle playing football in the front yard, should the parents worry about being carted off to jail for negligence?

When I was growing up we would have annual family reunions in which dozens of cousins would play unsupervised for 12 hours a day while the parents played cards or caught up on family stories. We played kick the can, spud and other games, and one year even created a "haunted house" in my aunt's basement.

When my parents went out and my brothers and I were left home alone we often played a game we'd created called Boston Strangler. The game didn't produce nightmares, nor did it cause any of us psychological damage. Sometimes my younger brothers couldn't wait for mom and dad to go out so we could play again.

My aim here is to raise questions and hopefully create an interest in learning more about what has been happening in our current period in history. You can follow these links to learn more.

Related Links
The Fragile Generation
The Three Great Untruths that Are Harming Young Americans

Friday, June 21, 2019

Kylie Jenner: World's Youngest Self-Made Billionaire? Only In America.

 Creative Commons
 Attribution 3.0 Unported
When I was doing the karaoke scene in the 90s* one of my openers would frequently be the 1964 hit Come A Little Bit Closer, by Jay & the Americans. It fit my range and I'd enjoyed the song in my youth.

For 50 years I'd always assumed that Jay & the Americans were a Latino group from South o' the Border, based on that song and another in the playlist, Only In America, which opens like this:

Only in America
Can a guy from anywhere
Go to sleep a pauper and wake up a millionaire

Only in America
Can a kid without a cent
Get a break and maybe grow up to be President

I had no idea that Jay Black (real name, David Blatt) and his buddies were from Long Island. The sentiments in this song were similar to what many have believed who migrate here from abroad.

Only in America
Can a kid who's washin' cars
Take a giant step and reach right up and touch the stars

The song, of course, is about a poor boy ending up with his dream girl who also happens to be from a higher class. But it's also cherishing this "land of opportunity."

I remember reading a book by a young man from Indonesia who seemed shocked to discover upon his arrival that the streets were not actually paved with gold. (Currently a lot of our local streets are pockmarked with potholes, but that's another story.)

This song came to mind for me when I read this week that Kylie Jenner, age 21, has become the world's youngest "self-made billionaire"? It seemed like an "only in America" kind of story.

(How the other half lives.) Photo by Vita Vilcina on Unsplash 
The story I read appeared in Inc. Magazine, referencing the annual Forbes listing of the world's richest which they publish each spring. The article begins, "If you hope to become a billionaire, the United States may be the best place to live. That's one obvious conclusion from Forbes' list of billionaires for 2018."

The article by Minda Zetlin is titled Here's Why the U.S. Created More Billionaires Than Any Other Nation in 2018. Zetlin points out that the rich did not all get richer in 2018, that 46% declined in net worth for various reasons. (I remember Ted Turner noting that when he went from 10 billion to two billion, he still ate pretty well.)

The U.S. leads the league in billionaires, adding 21 new ones to their roster for a total of 607. That is 50% more than were on the Forbes list in 2010.

How they obtained their riches is what the meat of the article is about. Though some billionaires inherited their fortunes, entrepreneurs make up the bulk of the new billionaires. And though Kylie Jenner is the youngest ever, other notables have climbed that ladder in their 20s, including Mark Zuckerberg at 23.

There's a sense in which she gained a lot of help by flowing in the tailwinds of the Kardasians, but building a following of 104 million on Snapchat didn't hurt anything either. Oh, and did we forget to mention she created a cosmetic business? She didn't inherit her wealth. She essentially leveraged her fame, with her name an established brand.

I know that a lot of people have issues with capitalism right now, but you can be sure Kylie is not one of them.

At the pinnacle is Jeff Bezos, followed by the familiar names of Gates (the college dropout) and Buffet (Warren, not that guy from Margaritaville.)

Only in America.

* * * *
Related Links
To see the Forbes article visit
Wikipedia entry on Kylie detailing her entrepreneurial acumen. She skipped college and has no college debt.
A REAL rags to riches story about a freed slave and black woman who made a fortune in the cosmetics game, Sarah Breedlove Walker.

EdNote: No doubt Kylie's privileged background contributed to her achievements. She didn't start her career as a shoeshine boy or bellhop, so would probably be disqualified as a Horatio Alger story role model.

* I actually sang karaoke in 14 states.