Arts & Literature

Poem: Thought by Berton Braley

You say “I think” ten times a day
Or fifteen times, or twenty
And even more. Well, anyway
You sure repeat it plenty.
But pause and ponder half a wink
And start your brain-cells clinking;
“I think” you say, but do you Think
Or only Think you’re thinking?

How often is the thing you’ve thought
Out of Yourself created
And not a dictum you’ve been taught
And simply imitated?
Into a reverie, you sink
And like an owl, you’re blinking,
But do you actually Think,
Or only Think you’re thinking?

“I think,” you say – and ladle out
Some fusty old opinion
That probably was known about
In Pharoah’s dominion.
Do new ideas ever slink
Into your cranium’s chinking?
I wonder – do you really think
Or only Think you’re Thinking?

Traditions, customs, fill your head
And some of them have virtue,
But most of them have long been dead
They fester there and hurt you.
Son, chuck that clutter in the drink,
Wake up – don’t sit there blinking!
Wake up! And then perhaps you’ll Think
And not just Think you’re Thinking!

Lando Calrissian: Uniquely Individual

“Lando is not black or white, he’s just Lando. Above and beyond the arguments or discussions of bygone eras, he is of the future….I love Lando! He is simply Lando Calrissian: swashbuckler, gambler, entrepreneur, and survivor. Handsome, interesting, romantic, iconic, and uniquely individual.” -Billy Dee Williams

Quoted in the introduction to Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. New York: Marvel Comics. p. 4. comic book adaptation.

O Captain! My Captain! By Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman composed this elegy, or mourning poem, “O Captain! My Captain!” after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865.

O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Lisa VanDamme on Literature and the Quest for Meaning

One essential condition of fulfillment and happiness is the philosophic conviction that your life belongs to you. But it is only a condition. A truly fulfilled and happy life requires a sense of meaning. How to achieve that meaning is a question for which we have few tried-and-true, culturally established answers. Thankfully, one resource we do have for answering that question, or even knowing how to go about considering it, is great art. This talk explores how classic literature can contribute to the vital quest for meaning.

Recorded live in Cleveland at OCON 2019 on June 26, 2019

Also don’f forget to check out Lisa Van Damme’s amazing Read With Me app. Download it for free!

The Hero’s Journey

What trials unite Katniss Everdeen, Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins and many of literature’s most interesting heroes — and you? Matthew Winkler takes you through the crucial events that make or break a hero as based on the works of Joseph Campbell’s A Hero With a Thousand Faces.

The Marriage

by Yvor Winters (1900-1968)

Incarnate for our marriage you appeared,
Flesh living in the spirit and endeared
By minor graces and slow, sensual change.
Through every nerve we made our spirits range.
We fed our minds on every mortal thing:
The lacy fronds of carrots in the spring,
Their flesh sweet on the tongue, the salty wine
From bitter grapes, which gathered through the vine
The mineral drouth of autumn concentrate,
Wild spring in dream escaping the debate
Of flesh and spirit on those vernal nights,
Its resolution in naive delights,
The young kids bleating softly in the rain––
All this to pass, not to return again.
And when I found your flesh did not resist,
It was the living spirit that I kissed,
It was the spirit’s change in which I lay:
Thus, mind in mind we waited for the day.
When flesh shall fall away, and, falling, stand
Wrinkling with shadow over face and hand,
Still I shall meet you on the verge of dust
And know you as a faithful vestige must.
And, in commemoration of our lust,
May our heirs seal us in a single urn,
A single spirit never to return.

Invictus

“I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

 

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

 

“Invictus” is a Victorian poem by the English poet William Ernest Henley (1849–1903). Written in 1875 and published in 1888 — originally with no title — in his first volume of poems, Book of Verses.

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

By Rudyard Kipling

As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market-Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn.
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breath of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market-Place;
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its ice field, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch.
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch.
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings.
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbor and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Heading said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Heading said: “If you don’t work you die.”

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew,
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not God that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four-
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man-
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began:-
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,

And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

The Math Behind Music

How is it that Beethoven, who is celebrated as one of the most significant composers of all time, wrote many of his most beloved songs while going deaf? The answer lies in the math behind his music. Natalya St. Clair employs the “Moonlight Sonata” to illustrate the way Beethoven was able to convey emotion and creativity using the certainty of mathematics.

Also see her TED blog post The math behind Beethoven’s music.