I spent the afternoon assisting at the ACLU table at the Hudson Valley Pride Festival. It was a good day to be outside, and the festival was well-attended. We, unexpectedly, had some high-schoolers assisting for most of the day – and once again, I have to say how impressed I am with ‘kids these days’ – they are the promise of a better future.
This was my first time at a pride event, but, sadly, I’d forgotten my phone so I have no pictures. I also was unaware that my husband had texted to let me know he was there to pick me up, or that my daughter had texted to let me know that she was home (and therefore would be eating with us). No worries, though – my husband found us, and helped pack up and take down the tent. And he was there to witness the drama of the medivac helicopter that came in to pick someone up after most of the festival space had been cleaned up – no idea what had happened to get to that point, but it certainly wasn’t because they were in a hurry – I assume that it was because, for whatever reason, it was necessary to transport the patient to one of the more distant major hospitals – probably Westchester or Albany. I don’t even know if the patient had been at the park for the festival, or if something had happened in one of the houses near the park. I hope whoever it was is recovering from whatever it was.
I was struck today, in a space where all were welcome, how important it is that we work to preserve that spirit of inclusion – and it most definitely does require work, particularly for those of us that perhaps came of age in a less accepting time – love and compassion, acceptance for the different, are not always easy, but they are very necessary for the survival of humanity. Our current political climate seems to have encouraged more people to wish for – to push for – a return to some idealized version of the past – a past that never was as wonderful as nostalgia would have it, and was also far less tolerant, far less inclusive, than where we are now. We need to keep moving forward to a better, more peaceful, world. We need to work to avoid falling into the trap of moving backwards instead.
“No government, no organisation, no citizen can afford to be less than vigilant in combating bigotry, intolerance and hatred. And frankly, our way of life depends on that vigilance.” — Barry O’Farrell
I’ve used this quote before, but, in these days of science denial, science ignorance, and willful disregard for scientific findings when they don’t suit the agenda of the day, it seems increasingly important. With so many people doubling down on their absolute certainty of what is, it is necessary to remember that we fail to honor the past, and do a disservice to the future, when we stop looking for answers because we choose to believe that the answers have already been found.
So this weekend, I turn to the inimitable Richard Feynman for something to think about this weekend.
“We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.
…It is our responsibility to leave the people of the future a free hand. In the impetuous youth of humanity, we can make grave errors that can stunt our growth for a long time. This we will do if we say we have the answers now, so young and ignorant as we are. If we suppress all discussion, all criticism, proclaiming “This is the answer, my friends; man is saved!” we will doom humanity for a long time to the chains of authority, confined to the limits of our present imagination. It has been done so many times before.
…It is our responsibility as scientists, knowing the great progress which comes from a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance, the great progress which is the fruit of freedom of thought, to proclaim the value of this freedom; to teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed and discussed; and to demand this freedom as our duty to all coming generations.”
Image of the Veil Nebula borrowed from nasa.gov
“If by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”” – John F. Kennedy, September 14, 1960
To borrow a line from Marilyn Monroe – Happy Birthday, Mr. President.
The man who would one day become the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, was born on this day in 1917. His life, full of personal tragedy, was ultimately cut short by an assassin’s bullet on November 22, 1963. His untimely death cemented his place in history, and kept him warmly in the hearts of the people – especially baby boomers. Would his legacy have been as positive had he survived to complete his first term, and a likely second? Would the trajectory of the war in Vietnam have been the same? What of the deepening Cold War after the Cuban Missile Crisis? Impossible to say. And, in the long run, nothing more than an academic brain teaser, something to while away a rainy afternoon – we are where we are.
JFK is the source of many inspirational, and interesting, quotes. Many of which I’ve shared before. Since liberal bashing is “in” these days, I figured that the quote above was worth dusting off in honor of the anniversary of his birth.
Photo from insidegov.com
I’ve been thinking about this quote quite a bit recently, and since it’s a fairly lazy holiday weekend, I thought I’d share it again – any topics that I might want write about today conflict too much with the spirit of the holiday weekend. And I figured I’d try to get through the next couple of days without opining too much. So, instead, I offer the reminder that we always need to keep moving forward, and not give up.
The origins of this particular Einstein quote are a bit questionable – it apparently came from a letter he’d written to his son in 1930, and was quoted in a 2007 biography. He may well have written it – it seems in line with other things he’d said and written. But maybe he didn’t. Perhaps it doesn’t matter if the origins are murky because the quote itself is an apt reminder that we always need to keep moving. Keep changing. Keep growing. When we let a defeat, or a tragedy, stop us and stall us, that’s when we falter and risk falling – as long as we keep pedaling and moving forward, we can stay upright.
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
― Albert Einstein
Today marks the start of Memorial Day weekend here in the US. Memorial Day, itself, is officially on Monday, but the weekend of the holiday has become a sales and barbecue extravaganza that kicks off the summer season here in the US.
It has also, erroneously, but with good intent, become a day for much ‘Support Our Troops’ and ‘Honor Our Veterans’ rhetoric. But that’s not what it was established to be (that’s what Veteran’s Day is for). Memorial Day was established immediately after the US Civil War, and was originally called Decoration Day, and the purpose, then as now, was to honor our war dead – and up until the time of World War I, the southern US states did not use that designated date to honor their own Civil War dead – they chose their own separate dates (& some of them still do have separate dates to honor those killed in the Civil War). After WWI, the purpose was intentionally changed to honor all American soldiers that were killed in any war, anywhere. Far too high a number. And sadly, one that keeps on increasing as men of power continue their own quests to maintain – and extend – their power. War, for the kings and presidents, has never been for any ideal – that’s only what the young men, and women, sent out to battle are led to believe.
We should all enjoy the holiday – because we can – but we should also never lose sight of what it really means, either. Or of what those poppies that the veteran’s groups distribute actually represent.
In Flanders Fields” John F. Prescott
Image from “McCRAE, JOHN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 24, 2015, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mccrae_john_14E.html.
“I should dearly love that the world should be ever so little better for my presence. Even on this small stage we have our two sides, and something might be done by throwing all one’s weight on the scale of breadth, tolerance, charity, temperance, peace, and kindliness to man and beast. We can’t all strike very big blows, and even the little ones count for something.” — Arthur Conan Doyle, 1894
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, he of Sherlock Holmes fame, was born this day in 1859. Physician, prolific author, fascinated by the paranormal, seeker of justice, Doyle led an interesting life. In addition to detective stories, Doyle also wrote science fiction, fantasy, and humor. Of course, it is Holmes that he is most closely associated with. And in the early days of detective fiction, Holmes was truly groundbreaking. Doyle also had an interesting relationship, for a time, with Harry Houdini – Doyle was fascinated by spiritualists, fairies, psychic phenomena, and Houdini was very much convinced that it was all a fraud. Oddly, Doyle thought that Houdini may have possessed psychic powers. Not a position that Houdini endorsed.
But it is the quote above, from the Stark Munro Letters, a novel Doyle published in 1894, that most resonates. Particularly as I work on this month’s (late) #1000Speak post. We cannot all strike big blows, but we can all do something. The spreading ripples. And the existentialist part of me thinks that leaving the world better for our having been here, is what we should all aspire to. If we did, imagine how much more peaceful the world would be.
The Rio Grande – south of Taos, July 2016.