I could thank each one personally as I admired their homemade food and talents.
Paying more attention to the spiritual side of life
When I bought a jar of completely sugar-free apple butter at a small booth, I also chatted with a woman about her family. As we talked I could imagine their challenges in tending the apple trees, collecting and coring the apples, canning them and loading heavy boxes of glass jars into the back of a truck.
Needless to say, I was more than delighted to pay her family, and help them keep growing their business!
Her grandson took part in the process, too. He was relaxed, keeping Grandma company in the hot sun, lining up the jars neatly on the table, and giving customer his smiling thanks.
I think one reason I enjoyed such a simple visit to a farmer’s market is because it satisfied me spiritually.
According to some, we all have spiritual needs, such as the need to have meaning and direction, and the need to belong to community. Good spiritual habits can also include things like walking in nature, gardening, creating art, and listening to music.
I had experienced–in myself or in the vendors–almost every one of the above, in just about an hour.
That simple experience inspires me to pay more attention to the spiritual side of life. It doesn’t come naturally to me, I admit. But it’s worth working on.
Here is a short, simple paragraph that talks about our physical and spiritual needs.
What about you?
I’m sure I’m not the only one discovering this truth. I’d love to hear your stories!
The only palliative for the errors of our modern world is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books
I have saved a number of quotes to share about the value of reading classic books.
Now, I’m asking myself, why have I saved them?
Is this to make myself feel better because I am in the minority of people who love classic books?
Well, maybe, but I also think it’s important to know their value in the big picture of life in today’s world.
Sources of strength and enrichment
I’m convinced that an easy source of encouragement, strength, inspiration, enrichment (and pleasure!) is out there for the taking, but sadly passed by.
But that’s understandable.
Generally, we are most comfortable with what is popular and familiar RIGHT NOW.
Skipping the old and worn out in favor of what’s new and shiny–I get it.
Contemporary books are familiar, visually inviting and exciting: eye-catching book covers, reviews by famous people, back cover blurbs. Even the author photo and bio make you feel a connection.
They are relevant, popular, visible and predictable. Your family, friends and co-workers are recommending them.
By contrast, even if you are familiar with the author, the old dusty, musty, colorless, pictureless, heavy classic book can be a put-off, especially with its pages of long, dense paragraphs.
Why do I want to read an old, outdated book about some strange culture and time period that I can’t relate to?
Or, if you’re like me, you “knew” the classics were irrelevant and slow-paced, based on the ones you had to study for homework and tests in high school. So you had a dread of classics in general from that time on.
Isn’t everything better today than in the past? Isn’t “new” better than “old”? (See below for some fun links to answer those questions!)
We invest value in things that have been around and have stood the test of time. …The reason these things draw our attention… is because they were built with love, dedication and complete commitment to making something beautiful.
Larry G. Maguire at larrygmaguire.com
Building character builds society
Compared to their contemporary counterparts, however, one thing most classic books excel in is pointing out the benefits and consequences of character. Building character builds our society.
Today the need for integrity and good character in society is evident from watching a half hour of the news (…or reading contemporary novels)!
In the best books, great men talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts, and pour their souls into ours.
William Ellery Channing
Yes, thank goodness, many parents and teachers do overtly teach character building lessons. The school I worked at even had sessions for the elementary students to learn and practice good manners at lunch time and recess.
But far more engaging than school worksheets is the experience of being immersed in the gripping story of someone struggling with their conscience, or with the fallout from a lack of patience or integrity. Reading a novel seems to make the concepts go deeper, because you’re practically living them along with the character.
A growing number of parents concerned with building character and integrity into their children are finding classic books as a valuable resource for helping to do just that.
Valuable experiences from great people that came before us
All the glory of the world would be buried in oblivion, unless God had provided mortals with the remedy of books.
Richard de Bury, in The Philobiblon of Richard de Bury (1281-1345)
Classic books also remind us that it’s important to value and appreciate the experience and perspective of the great people that came before us, hundreds or thousands of years before. We owe a lot to them and their writings.
People from all countries of the world throughout the ages were human beings the same as we are. They had the same frustrations about work and relationships, the same challenges raising kids, the same anger toward political leaders, the same questions about life. The thrill of finding that camaraderie in a 2nd century writing is powerful!
Help for today
Don’t we want help to view our contemporary world and its many problems with the wealth of perspective from our fellow humans from the past?
Don’t we want our children to grow in all the ways that are really important in the big picture of life and history?
Can we make a difference in our crazy world by our reading choices? Sure!
Pick up a musty old classic book!
It’s a good rule after reading a new book never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.
It is spring time in my new home! A pleasant warmth is filling the air and fresh colors are emerging from the hibernating plants, all a couple months earlier than I’ve what I’ve been used to for the past few decades. And I finally have a weeping willow!
The daffodils preempted all others in their impatience to usher in spring, and the scent of wild chives surrounds me on all sides of the walking path.
Ah, the relief of spring!
This year I am experiencing more kinds of relief than just the climate: the relief of feeling settled after a major move, expectant, and full of faith for guidance into the future.
As an example, I have gone from this…
By the way, in case you haven’t already seen them, here are some more photos from my new area, taken over the holidays. I think they convey some of the down-to-earth warmth I so enjoy here!
It’s a transition time for me, and one of the ways I try to make sense of what’s going on in life is to write down my experiences.
Most of the time I analyze first, then write. But I am having trouble analyzing what’s been going on recently, so I think I’ll write first (and wait for the analysis to show up later on its own!).
I’m calling this set of ponderings “The 14th Hole”, named after my usual walking path through a golf course (which is highly conducive to pondering!).
I invite you to join me in taking a look at the transitions in our lives, and hope you’ll feel free to share your own thoughts and experiences, too!
As always, I am thrilled to get in touch with you, and the “Leave a Reply” comments section below is a great way to comment and contact me.
Here’s wishing you a vibrant springtime, regardless of what climate you live in!
For years my library had an ongoing book sale, and one day I picked up a unique book.
…a startling and exciting collection of poems; startling to those who have assumed that mathematics and science had little in common with poetry, exciting to those lovers of poetry to whom the beauties of mathematics and science have never been manifested.
Louise Seaman Bechtel, in the New York Herald Tribune
I bought Imagination’s Other Place: Poems of Science and Mathematics for a dollar, but although I’d been intrigued by it, it languished untouched on my shelf for years. When I finally sat down with it, it was hours before I came back to the real world.
Once again, as I described in my previous post, I felt that fascination and joy at the meeting of the creative and the scientific.
Isn’t it extraordinary: Ronald Ross wrote a poem to celebrate his discovery of the germ that caused malaria:
Here are the first 2 stanzas of “The Cloud” by Percy Bysshe Shelley:
I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers, From the seas and the streams; I bear light shade for the leaves when laid In their noonday dreams. From my wings are shaken the dews that waken The sweet buds every one, When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast, As she dances about the sun. I wield the flail of the lashing hail, And whiten the green plains under, And then again I dissolve it in rain, And laugh as I pass in thunder.
I sift the snow on the mountains below, And their great pines groan aghast; And all the night ’tis my pillow white, While I sleep in the arms of the blast. Sublime on the towers of my skiey bowers, Lightning my pilot sits; In a cavern under is fettered the thunder, It struggles and howls at fits; Over earth and ocean, with gentle motion, This pilot is guiding me, Lured by the love of the genii that move In the depths of the purple sea; Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills, Over the lakes and the plains, Wherever he dream, under mountain or stream, The Spirit he loves remains; And I all the while bask in Heaven’s blue smile, Whilst he is dissolving in rains.
Another one of my favorites…
“To a Snowflake” by Francis Thompson
What heart could have thought you?— Past our devisal (O filigree petal!) Fashioned so purely, Fragilely, surely, From what Paradisal Imagineless metal, Too costly for cost?
Who hammered you, wrought you, From argentine vapor?— “God was my shaper. Passing surmisal, He hammered, He wrought me, From curled silver vapor, To lust of His mind— Thou could’st not have thought me! So purely, so palely, Tinily, surely, Mightily, frailly, Insculped and embossed, With His hammer of wind, And His graver of frost.
You can read Imagination’s Other Place on Archive.org for free, and if you want even more opportunities to delve into the subject, check out these places:
Helen Plotz, the compiler of Imagination’s Other Place, was ahead of her time. Today the connections between the creative arts and math and science are everywhere.
Here are some of the best videos and articles and poetry I’ve recently found:
Believe it or not, just seeing and saying the word mathematics makes me feel good.
My love for math led me to complete a B.Sc. program in Engineering Mathematics, and yet my most enjoyable hobbies were creative: drawing, writing and photography. So for much of my life, I was pulled in opposite directions by two forces I thought were unrelated to each other.
And yet, from time to time, I’d find connections between math and the creative arts.
Math, Music and Art
I noticed that it is common to find people that are strong in both math and music. And I was delighted to discover that renowned poet and author Lewis Carroll, author of the Alice in Wonderland books, was also math professor Charles Dodgson, author of Symbolic Logic.
Dodgson was not a traditional mathematician. Rather, he applied mathematical and logical solutions to problems that interested him.
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Then I discovered those who enjoyed math not just for its applications and theories, but also for its sheer beauty, and wrote of it in poetic and visually artistic ways.
Feeling lonely for math one day, and browsing in the math section of the public library, I ran across a 1914 book by Theodore Andrea Cook, The Curves of Life. This book introduced me to the fascinating subject of spiral formations in nature. In his book he explains how he came to write about this subject…
…my main object is not mathematics, but the growth of natural objects and the beauty (either in Nature or in art) which is inherent in vitality.
Theodore Andrea Cook, in The Curves of Life
Combining science and arts, how delightful! It awoke a voracious appetite for more of the same, and back to the math section I returned, where I found Ian Stewart’s Nature’s Numbers: The Unreal Reality of Mathematics. This distinguished award-winning mathematician delights in seeing mathematical patterns in flora and fauna.
And in Stewart’s The Magical Maze: Seeing the World Through Mathematical Eyes, “…logic and imagination converge…a maze of ideas, a maze of logic…beauty, surprise, and power.”
Pure Gold (and a jewel of a TED Talk!)
These led to my first discovery of two related concepts that continue to captivate me. The Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio were discovered by early mathematicians, Indian mathematician Virahanka, and Greek mathematicians Euclid and Pythagoras. Currently this unique ratio is known best by its appearance in some patterns in nature, including the spiral arrangement of leaves and other parts of vegetation.
Schools all over North America, including the schools that I worked in, teach the basic concepts of the Fibonacci sequence (adding the two previous numbers together to get the next number: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21…), the Golden Ratio, and the Golden Spiral (a golden spiral gets wider by a factor of 1.618 for every quarter turn it makes) to children as young as elementary age, who–I can confirm–love learning about its applications in nature.
There is a unique ratio that can be used to describe the proportions of everything from nature’s smallest building blocks, such as atoms, to the most advanced patterns in the universe, like the unimaginably large celestial bodies. Nature relies on this innate proportion to maintain balance, but the financial markets also seem to conform to this “golden ratio.”
Do yourself a favor and check out this 6 minute TED Talk by Arthur Benjamin, as he explains the Golden Spiral in his talk “The Magic of Fibonacci Numbers.”
The merging of these usually separate concepts, logic and art, continues to fascinate me. And learning more and more about them is one of my not-so-guilty pleasures!
If this intrigues you enough to click on some links, I have been successful in my mission to pique your curiosity, and add some beauty and joy to your life.
More poetic math and science to come!
[My sincere appreciation goes to Wikimedia Commons for images]
from “O Holy Night”, words by poet Placide Cappeau, music by Adolphe Adam
It’s true! I can attest to it. I feel my own worth as a human being from praying to the Savior, listening and knowing him through reading the Bible.
Think about it…
If someone is willing to die for you, you must realize that you are of great worth to them.
If someone lives for you, you have to believe that you are extremely valuable to them.
That someone is Jesus.
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
He is able to save forever those who come to God through him, because he always lives to plead on their behalf.
Jesus is always pleading our case before the Father, like a defense lawyer on our behalf. Jesus is interceding for us while Satan (whose name means “accuser”) is pointing out our sins and frailties before God.
Talk to him. What better time than right now?
(If you’re not interested in that, but would like to chat about it, send me a short message using the form, it will not appear publicly.)
Wishing you ALL a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!
One of E.P. Roe’s most popular novels is Barriers Burned Away. In my last post I shared my thoughts on the novel, and how a visit to Chicago not long after the Chicago Fire of October 8, 1871 inspired him to write it.
This fascinating book was actually his first attempt at writing a novel!
Any history buffs out there?
If you want more information about the Chicago Fire of 1871 (which actually burned for three days, incredible!), I have two recommendations. This excellent multimedia WTTW PBS website, and this website which also includes literature, art and cycloramas, eyewitness accounts, the O’Leary Legend, souvenirs, media coverage and commemorations.
Barriers Burned Away (1872)
Like several novels I have read from this period of time, Barriers Burned Away showcases the talent and the standard of excellence of one of the many great authors in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
And, surprisingly, Barriers Burned Away is relatively well-known today among vintage novel readers, and in my opinion, based on the excellence of his writing, it is a classic.
WorldCat publication graph for E.P. Roe
WorldCat.org provides publication graphs for many authors, including E.P. Roe, as shown below. Interesting to see how publication of his works is high in the 2020’s. In fact, it’s almost as high as in the 1880’s!
At the time of his death in 1888, his publishers estimated that over 1,400,000 copies of his novels had been sold in the United States and abroad.
1878 Reviews of Barriers Burned Away
Imagining, and writing, for a purpose
Here are portions of a speech given by Dr. Lyman Abbot, an assistant to E.P. Roe, at his memorial. This was recorded in E. P. Roe: Reminiscences of His Life, a book written by his daughter, Mary.
“It is of the latter aspect of his life I wish to speak for a few moments only, in an endeavor to interpret his service to the great American people by his pen through literature.
The chief function of the imagination is to enable us to realize actual scenes with which we are not familiar. This is an important service.
It is well that you who live in these quiet and peaceful scenes should know what is the wretchedness of some of your fellow beings in the slums of New York. It is well that your sympathies should be broadened and deepened, and that you should know the sorrow, the struggle that goes on in those less favored homes.
God has given us imagination in order that we may have noble ideals set before us, and yet ideals so linked to actual life that they shall become inseparable.
That fiction is the highest which by the imagination makes real to our thought the common affairs of life, and yet so blends them with noble ideals that we are able to go back into life with a larger, a nobler, and a more perfect faith.
Dr. Lyman Abbot, quoted by Mary Abigail Roe (1899), in E. P. Roe: Reminiscences of His Life. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company. pp. 232–233.
The more I learned about him, the more I admired E.P. Roe (March 7, 1838 – July 19, 1888). He wasn’t just a respected clergyman, author, and historian, he was also admired for his accomplishments in the field of horticulture.
There is a plaque in Edward Payson Roe Memorial Park in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York, commemorating his work. The park is part of the property he owned, where he came for a quiet place.
Atlas Obscura offers more photos and some biographical information, with the amusing sub-heading, “A plaque on a rock dedicated to a famous, forgotten author, and put in an impossible place.”
One fan of E.P. Roe made a YouTube videowith some biographical commentary here. (A note about the video: it starts out blurry but that only lasts for the first 20 seconds or so, the rest is great.) Included in the video is the claim that at one time E.P. Roe’s books outsold those of his contemporary, Mark Twain!
Here is a great post at The Deliberate Agrarian regarding Roe’s interests in horticulture. I found that he had written several books from 1873 to 1888 on the subject: Play and Profit in my Garden, Success with Small Fruits, The Home Acre, Found Yet Lost. Some of these are available to buy or to read for free.
Here’s hoping you are inspired to “meet” this extraordinary man in some of these ways!
A visit to Chicago not long after the Chicago Fire of October 8, 1871–151 years ago today–touched the heart of the author, Edward Payson Roe, and inspired him to write this novel, published in 1872.
He seems to have asked himself:
How would people respond in a crisis that affected a community regardless of social rank, and how would the tragedy change them and their community, for better or worse?
How important are some of our typical pursuits—pleasure, popularity, recognition, wealth, and entertainment–compared to a day-by-day inner awareness of our value as a human being, our purpose on this earth, a sense of peace, and a realistic, solid basis of hope and security?
This is quite an extraordinary novel, and I LOVED IT. So much so that I now have this and several other E.P. Roe novels on my Kindle. (And I have given my used hardcover copy to a dear friend who loved the last 19th century novel I gave her!)
It is a detailed book about one of the things in our lives that we don’t necessarily focus on, but which is one of the most important: our spiritual life.
In this story a young man, Dennis, needs to leave his struggling family so he can make money to support them. He leaves his quiet rural area and moves to Chicago, one of the largest cities in the U.S. in 1871, when the story takes place.
Dennis and Christine work together at an art gallery, and have similar interests in art, including creating their own paintings. She and her father (the owner) are from a very wealthy European family, and look down on the newly hired young man with the worn-out clothes. Naturally Dennis is frustrated by that, but his value system isn’t based on popularity and people-pleasing, and he can still be relatively content at work while he earns enough to live on.
He has a heart of gold, and if he finds someone in his neighborhood or place of work that he can help, he pours his heart into it. So even in the unfriendly city he is never without genuine friends that support him.
In time, Christine and the others at work are impressed by Dennis’s kindnesses, and the way Dennis respects himself. They notice he doesn’t compromise his values by mistreating them, regardless of how disrespectfully they treat him.
When Christine pretends to be falling in love with him in order to use him for her own purposes, Dennis calls her on it, scolding her for her rudeness and manipulation. It may be the first time in her life that she hears the truth about herself. She is further frustrated by her artistic limitations, seeming to be unable to paint an authentic expression of love on her canvas. She takes to heart Dennis’s words: “The stream cannot rise higher than its fountain.”
Dennis becomes seriously ill and is away from work for a while. During that time Christine realizes how much she cares for him, but her artistic and social ambitions take precedence over a relationship.
Then… the fire rages through Chicago with complete disregard to social status, providing a crucible for burning up the dross in many lives.
Where to find the book
The fact that it is so prevalent online attests to its past and present popularity.
I feel sad to realize that for the first time in my life, this gracious, dignified, warm woman is not on this earth with us. I have so respected her, and felt comforted by her leadership, constancy and dignified reign.
I am thankful for the memorials I’ve witnessed recently, from a British flag at half-mast in my neighborhood, to a beautiful commemorative ceremony held in my province on the grounds of the Alberta legislature in Edmonton to honor her life and legacy. The verses from the Poet Laureate are lovely. One prayer included the words “unwearied devotion to duty,” what a perfect description. Through these I feel I have joined others who mourn her all around the world.
Thank you dear Lord for giving her such a long life, and 70 years’ reign as a gift to the world. Please bless the King of England with great wisdom, power and guidance which are so very necessary to that nation, and to all nations which it touches. Be merciful to all the nations, Lord, we need You so much at this time. Let your truth and peace permeate all peoples on the earth through Jesus your Son. Amen.