W. Barry Bizot, M.D. – Modern Renaissance Man

 

Recently, while reading the local newspaper’s obituaries I came across an entry for a certain W. Barry Bizot, M.D. I didn’t know Mr. Bizot, but his obit touched my soul with who he was, and what he represented. His life resonated with me.

Mr. Bizot was a modern day Renaissance Man. His obit writer even noted him as such. I only wish I could have known this individual; to have befriended him and been inspired by his interests and life. People like him are a rarity in today’s mundane world. They should be celebrated, recognized and singled out at as true heroes. They are the needles in humanity’s haystack.

I’m copying his entire obit here, in case it ever disappears from the ever-so-ephemeral internet:
(emphasis is mine)

W. Barry Bizot, M.D.

Louisville – William Barry Bizot, M.D. aged 70, died July 20, 2018 after a long struggle with cancer. Born in Louisville, KY in 1947, he lived much of his early adult life in New England.

In 1992 he returned to Louisville, where he became Chief of Internal Medicine for the region’s largest HMO. His principal area of focus was hospital medicine. He was one of the early organizers of what would later evolve into hospitalist internal medicine groups. He took semi-retirement 3 years ago and continued to work several months per year in under-served rural hospitals.

Barry had a varied academic background. His original college major was History/Archaeology. In 1967 he spent a year abroad working on an excavation in Palestine. The Six-Day Arab-Israeli War cut short his archeological work and forced him to pass several weeks as a refugee. Living in the immediacy of a war situation was a formative experience. It brought him to understand that learning in the service of practical human problems was closer to his nature than pure scholarship. This eventually led him to choose a career in medicine.

The change to medicine necessitated a change of major and a second round of college. He paid for this by working days as a commercial artist and studying math and biology at night. He did his medical training at the University of Louisville, Yale University, Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Liverpool.

He felt that medicine taught him more about life than any other experience. The sight of everyday people in times of pain and loss, coping with courage and dignity inspired him and structured his concept of what human worth truly is. He was calm and focused; the kind a person you would want around in a crisis.

An added benefit of his career choice was meeting his future wife, Mary Lewis Bizot. She was two years ahead of him in Medical school. They shared numerous interests both inside and outside of medicine. Above all, both loved the sea and everything nautical. Both were passionate about travel. They soon joined in a lifelong quest for all that was unique, authentic and genuinely uplifting.

Barry was a modern day renaissance man, endlessly curious wanting to know, to see, to learn. He was fun to be around: interesting and engaging. He was often teased about his overly intellectual ways. He laughed as hard as anyone else about it. He paired a hungry mind with an egalitarian spirit. He felt that there was something to be learned from most situations and all people. Whatever topic captured his curiosity became the object of intense and long-lasting focus.

In their fifties, Mary and he embarked on learning a second language, French. This lead to finding his second family in Bretagne and many explorations of the French culture, gastronomy, wine and countryside; each door opening another.

An avid non-fiction reader, he amassed a lifetime’s store of knowledge which he could summon on the spot when needed. History, politics, art, jazz, investing were just a few of his favorite topics. One seldom had to rent a guide tape when going to a gallery or a museum with him. Just be prepared for an earful when asking questions. There was often a large gap between his exuberance for the subject and the average listener’s desire for detail.

A gifted artist, he expressed his talent through the physicality of craft. He loved the entire process of taking a project from concept, to design, to completion: projects that involved engineering, math, combined with beauty. Of these endeavors woodworking was his main love, though he ventured into stained glass, sculpture, and other media.

Barry’s creativity shone through in everything he did. He was full of ideas for projects and dreams of travel, all following the path less traveled. He was a perfectionist always in the pursuit of beauty and a unique adventure of his own invention.

His quiet exterior tended to mask the sociable personality underneath. He valued his friendships more than anything else he had.

He believed in the power of the written word and chose this somewhat old fashioned means for staying connected with far flung friends and family. He saw little need for social media.

Foremost, Barry had a dry and quiet mirth. Like his father and grandfather before him, he regarded folly, vanity and absurdity as the angels’ gift to the comically inclined. He used humor for navigating life right until the end.

He is survived by his wife, Dr. Mary Lewis Bizot, his sister Beth Bizot of Louisville, and his sister Suzanne Bizot of Windham, NH.

Service will be held 10 AM Friday, July 27, 2018 at Highland Presbyterian Church, 1011 Cherokee Rd. Visitation will be held 5-7 PM Thursday, July 26, 2018 at Pearson’s, 149 Breckenridge Ln. His ashes will be spread at sea near Martha’s Vineyard. Latitude: 41.29.83 North, Longitude: 70.31.04 West, Water Depth 75′.

In lieu of flowers, friends and family are asked to make contributions Living Water for the World c/o Highland Presbyterian Church 1011 Cherokee Rd. Louisville, KY 40204 Donations can also be made to Kentucky Refugee Ministries at https://kyrm.org/give/donate-funds/ or via mail at 969B Cherokee Road, Louisville, KY 40204. Please put “In honor of Barry Bizot, M.D.” in the memo line.”

Published in The Courier-Journal on July 22, 2018

 

Life-long learner. Eternal curiosity. Accomplished craftsman. Beauty lover. Artist. Creator. Traveler. Knowledge Adventurer. Project-oriented. Independent. Self-starter. Self-sufficient. Socially capable. Genuine sense of humor. Renaissance Man. A shining star amidst the world’s baseness and senseless inanity.

A consummate human being, one who will be sorely missed on this planetary orb, even if I never knew him. Rest in peace my unknown friend.

 

 

Sources:

 

As with any sourcing on the internet, links can go ‘dead’ after a time. If you find the above-mentioned links no longer working, try the WayBack Machine:  http://archive.org/web/web.php    It’s sometimes a good way to pull up and view websites that are no longer active.

 

Montserrat, Spain

On our recent trip to Spain we made sure to visit Montserrat outside of Barcelona.  Most recently featured in Dan Brown’s book Origin our traveling crew felt we had to include it on our itinerary.  We were not disappointed.  In fact, it was one of the highlights of our trip.

What made it so special?

  • The history – It’s an operating monastery and abbey since 1025 AD
  • The uniqueness – Home to the Catalonian “Black Madonna” statue
  • The wonder – Built high atop the Montserrat mountains
  • The awe – Spectacular grounds and panoramic views of the countryside

We took an hour train ride from Barcelona northwest to the Montserrat mountain range . . . .Photo by Josep Renalias – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Montserrat means “serrated mountain” in Catalan, which describes the appearance of the range; as it looks like a jagged saw tooth.  It’s Spain’s first National Park, and its tallest peak is Sant Jeroni at 1,236 meters (4,055 feet).

The Montserrat Abbey is nestled high in that range and is accessible three ways:  by road, the Montserrat Rack Railway, or the Aeri de Montserrat cable car. We opted for the cable car ride up to the abbey which is located right next to the rail line stop.

Once you arrive at the abbey you also have the option of taking two funiculars for further exploration and adventure:

  • Funicular de Sant Joan goes further up to near the top of the mountains and its various trails to several peaks and/or a path back down to the abbey.
  • Funicular de la Santa Cova descends below the abbey to a path leading towards various shrines and the cave where the statue of the Black Madonna (Our Lady of Montserrat) was reportedly found more than 1,100 years ago.

 

Some History

There are various caves in the mountain range due to its geological formations.  The first evidence of their use by hermits was back in the 7th century AD, with them erecting tiny chapels at various spots throughout the range over the centuries.  Moorish occupation occurred during the 8th & 9th centuries.  Wilfred The Hairy (Count of Barcelona) regained these lands from the Islamic armies, wherein documentation shows he donated some of it to the Monastery of Ripoll in 888 AD, including the various chapels of Montserrat.

According to legend the statue of The Black Madonna (“La Moreneta”) was found in 880 AD by pastors from the town of Monistrol while grazing their flocks on the mountain. At dusk the pastors saw a light and heard heavenly singing in a place on the mountain. A beam of light was coming from a cave where they found the holy statue. They tried moving it to the town of Manresa but after a short distance it become frozen in place and unmovable.  The Ripoll monks decided to build a church and worship the Lady at that spot, erecting the chapel of Santa Maria. Then about 1025 AD they built the monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat next to the chapel.

Work on the present church began in 1560. Historically there were twelve individual hermitages in Montserrat, but they fell into disuse and destruction during the French War when Napoleon’s troops sacked and burned the abbey and its chapels in 1811. Reconstruction of the abbey and monastery did not start again until 1872 based on the plans of architect Francisco de Paula del Villar Lozano. The reconstruction was consecrated as a basilica in 1881 when Our Lady of Montserrat was proclaimed Patron Saint of Catalonia. Many artists employed in the reconstruction were linked to the Art Nouveau movement (known as Modernism in Catalonia).

The abbey’s facade was reconstructed between 1942 and 1968 after the Spanish Civil War – during which saw the violent suppression of the Abbey. It was a sanctuary for scholars, artists, politicians and students during and after the war, and was seen as a symbol of Catalan nationalism.

It was restored again between 1991 and 1996. There are numerous side chapels with beautiful art and architecture from the late 1800s and beyond. The monastery is still functioning with about 70 Benedictine monks. It remains Catalonia’s most important religious retreat.

 

The views are spectacular and we had a wonderful lunch in the formal dining room full of fantastic panoramic windows.

The only places we didn’t get to visit were the Museum and lower funicular (lack of time and energy) and the abbey’s library, cloister and gardens – – which I don’t believe were accessible to the general public – although, I tried getting into the gardens….   🙂

Why was this a visit we wanted to make – particularly since it’s religious and I’m a heretic?  Well….three reasons:

  1. Adventure – seeing an exotic and unique place in another part of the world
  2. Beauty – experiencing the amazing beauty of not only the art, architecture and landscaping, but also the impressive natural mountains and spectacular views
  3. Awe & Wonder – seeing something that was built high upon a mountain, destroyed, rebuilt and a dedication that has endured throughout 12-centuries of frail human existence.

 

Johannes Janssonius engraving of 1657:

 

Images

The following images were photographed by me and are governed by Creative Commons License Attribution-ShareAlike – CC BY-SA  (except otherwise noted)

 

<click on the images for a larger photo>

Arrival and cable-car up to the Monastery

First view of Montserrat Monastery from our arriving train (you can see the structure in the upper-right side of the photo):On the way up via the cable-car:

View from the top of the cable-car station:

 

The Grounds

The following image copyright Matthew Costello – all rights reserved:The monastery (left) and abbey (right):Funicular de Sant Joan:

Great view of the abbey from above: The building on the right houses various restaurants and meeting rooms for groups: Magnificent view of the Llobregat River Valley: The lower funicular station (Funicular de la Santa Cova): My wife and I and our traveling companions, Matt & Sharon Costello:

The garden lies behind that wall up there, I believe: At the entrance:Unfortunately the door was locked:

My beautiful wife in a beautiful setting:

The Stairway to Understanding” by Josep Maria Subirachs (1976):

The Viewpoint of the Apostles: A nice view we didn’t have the opportunity to see, but pictured in the tram terminal:

 

The Atrium of the Basilica

The Atrium is formed by two cloisters in front of the main entrance to the church with six stories of rooms for the monks above. The atrium floor was designed by Father Benet Martinez which reproduces the design by Michelangelo for the Campidoglio in Rome. The space is meant to be a transition between the profane and the sacred.

The following image copyright Matthew Costello – all rights reserved:

Jesus and the twelve disciples sculpted by Agapit Vallmitjana.  The three tympana reliefs are by his brother Venanci Vallmitjana depicting Bishop Urquinaona asking Pope Leo XIII to proclaim Our Lady of Montserrat as patron saint of Catolonia (center), the birth of Mary (right), and the Dormition (left):

Frescoes along the cloister:

The tomb of John of Aragon – 1528.  I love Renaissance-era sculpture!  The floor of the atrium:

 

The Basilica & Black Madonna

The statue of Our Lady of Montserrat is a gilded polychrome Romanesque carving estimated to be from the late 12th-century. The color of the face and hands of Mary and the baby Jesus are most likely due to a slow process of oxidation of the varnish as well as the action of candle smoke and oil lamps over the centuries. The hands of both Mary and Jesus were replaced due to damage from the French War in 1811. The orb in Mary’s right hand represents the sphere of the universe, and the baby Jesus holds a pineapple (it was an orb in the original version).

The church measures 68m long x 21.5m wide x 33m high.  It’s a single nave with six chapels on each side arranged between the buttresses. Above the side chapels are galleries. The side chapels artistically range from classic Renaissance in appearance up to more modern interpretations of various religious motifs.

The following image copyright Matthew Costello – all rights reserved:

High above the altar is the statue of Our Lady of Montserrat (you can see the silhouette of two people in front of it):

The passage on the right side of the church up to the statue, designed by the architect Francesc Folguera.  You first encounter the “Angel Door” with sculpted alabaster angel musicians, patriarchs, prophets, and Mary in the tympanum – completed between 1946-1948:

Continuing up the staircase we find beautiful mosaics – the holy virgins on the right and the saintly mothers on the left:

Mosaics at the niche, executed by Santiago Padrós:

The niche containing the Black Madonna. The statue is protected by a clear covering with her hand and orb exposed allowing visitors to touch it:

The following image copyright Matthew Costello – all rights reserved:

Beautiful silver doors at the bottom of both ascending and descending staircases, designed by Josep Obiols (1956):

The beautiful Chapel of the Niche, located behind the Black Madonna statue (which is in the center of the image below). Planned and constructed by the architect Villar and his son Villar i Carmona.  The chapel contains beautiful stained glass by Antoni Rigalt, mosaics by Santiago Padrós, sculpture of Saint George slaying the dragon by Agapit Vallmitjana (1893), and the dome’s mural painting by Joan Llimona.
This image copyright Matthew Costello – all rights reserved:

 

 

 

Sources:

 

As with any sourcing on the internet, links can go ‘dead’ after a time. If you find the above-mentioned links no longer working, try the WayBack Machine:  http://archive.org/web/web.php    It’s sometimes a good way to pull up and view websites that are no longer active.

 

 

 

 

 

Intellectual Integrity

 

What Is Intellectual Integrity?

Do you have an internal desire to uncover truth – real truth? Do you care about the accuracy of your knowledge, beliefs and claims? Does it bother you if you might be professing knowledge that’s wrong? Does reality matter to you? Do you feel the pursuit of truth deserves a thorough, honest approach and analysis?

If so, then you definitely resonate with the concept of Intellectual Integrity.

Intellectual Integrity has everything to do with . . . .

Honest Inquiry

Intellectual Integrity is a mindset of actually caring about truth for truth’s sake; not truth for convenience. You possess a humble and honest commitment to the pursuit of truth and reality wherever the evidence may lead – even if it flies in the face of cultural and societal norms, existing orthodox paradigms, or entirely against everything you’ve ever “learned” throughout your life. You question everything. You hold yourself to the same standards of evidence as you hold others. You don’t let others do your thinking for you. Your thinking is YOURS!

As my friend Tristan Aramis Valerius once said . . . . it’s an “unfiltered lens of inquiry.”

 

Admitting Limits to Your Knowledge and Beliefs

You’re honest about the limits of your knowledge and what is or isn’t factual, truthful or objective. You humbly realize and admit that the things you know and hold dear to your heart as cherished beliefs are, in fact, very possibly in error and at the very least biased and socially indoctrinated – – unquestioned directives fed to you by authority figures throughout your life.

You possess the humility to willingly step back and honestly and critically re-examine those assumptions and social-conditioned belief structures. Therefore, you’re open to admitting error and changing your cherished beliefs when the evidence dictates it.

 

Objectivity

Willingness to openly and honestly look at all sides of an issue or topic before coming to an objective, fully-considered, well-informed conclusion.  You embrace the Clinical Attitude Toward Arguments.

 

Recognizing the Subjective Influence of Cognitive Biases and Social Indoctrination

You realize the self-deceptiveness of cognitive errors can negatively influence your ability to come to an impartial, unbiased and informed opinion.  Confirmation Bias, Cognitive Dissonance, Rationalization, Paradigms, Orthodox Dogma and Social Conditioning all can – and do – cloud your ability to gain an accurate picture of the world around you. Admit that your thinking processes are flawed.  You’re human after all.

 

Intellectual Courage

Willingness to hold thoughts, values and objective truths beyond the herd.  Ignore knee-jerk emotionalism to inform your knowledge. Be cognizant when emotional triggers are pulled and buttons pushed; it’s typically a propagandist narrative being purveyed.

“Intellectual courage comes into play here, because inevitably we will come to see some truth in some ideas considered dangerous and absurd, and distortion or falsity in some ideas strongly held in our social group. We need courage to be true to our own thinking in such circumstances. The penalties for non-conformity can be severe.” – www.CriticalThinking.org

 

Admitting Ignorance When It’s Appropriate

Don’t claim more than you absolutely know for sure to be accurate and truthful. Reserve your opinion until more factual information is uncovered and known. Be willing to say that you don’t know enough to settle on a belief or opinion.  Hold to an unwillingness to jump to conclusions, particularly on the basis of little-to-no evidence.

Realize you don’t have to “take a side” in any debate or argument; at any time in your life. It’s not illegal to “sit on the fence” about an issue.

 

Informed Opinions

Understand the difference between an informed and uninformed opinion.  One is based on an open, objective, unbiased and thorough inquiry.  The other is based on a foundation of willing ignorance or stupidity.

 

Source Considerations

Realize not all sources of information are reliable, and they most likely all have biases. As difficult as it is to conceive, also realize that any claim to science, religion, spirituality, politics, economics, sociology, anthropology, archaeology, history, etc. are not settled. They can’t be considered an undeniable, unquestionable fact.  Every conclusion is based on a degree of confidence. From a science perspective, it means being open to the concept of falsification even for the most rigid of orthodox paradigms.

 

Lack of Intellectual Integrity

Intellectual Hypocrisy is all about . . . .

  • Disregard for objectivity, truth, reality, facts and accuracy
  • Stupidly maintaining past beliefs in the face of conflicting new evidence
  • Hitching onto the uninformed “opinion” of the herd
  • Allowing yourself to be manipulated by emotional triggers and propaganda
  • Refusing to challenge the existing paradigms and unquestioned norms
  • Not critically questioning what you’re “fed” to believe
  • Lazily falling back on preconceived beliefs and social conditioning
  • Worshiping at the altar of ignorance and irrationality.

 

“Intellectual Hypocrisy – a state of mind unconcerned with genuine integrity. It is often marked by deep-seated contradictions and inconsistencies. Hypocrisy is often implicit in the thinking and action behind human behavior as a function of natural egocentric thinking. Our hypocrisy is hidden from us. Though we expect others to adhere to standards to which we refuse to adhere, we see ourselves as fair. Though we profess certain beliefs, we often fail to behave in accordance with those beliefs.”  – WestSideToastMasters.com

 

Why is Intellectual Integrity Important?

Accuracy.  Integrity.  Truth.  Objectivity.

These are personal values.  Do you care about any of them?  Is integrity important to you as a value?

If you aren’t interested in accuracy or holding correct beliefs then Intellectual Integrity will mean nothing. You’ll simply be happy grabbing a single sound-bite from your biased media source, committing it to your mind and heart as fact, then spewing it out to others as unassailable gospel. Do you really want to be that person?

This is an autodidactic approach.  You won’t get objective truth from your schooling, media, movies, radio, newspaper, social media, family, friends, clergy, academics.  This is up to you.  Do you want truth?  Or do you want to default on laziness?

What is really important?

 

 

Some online sources:

 

As with any sourcing on the internet, links can go ‘dead’ after a time. If you find the above-mentioned links no longer working, try the WayBack Machine:  http://archive.org/web/web.php    It’s sometimes a good way to pull up and view websites that are no longer active.

 

 

 

Live an Aesthetic Life

Aesthetics

“Officially” speaking, Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty and artistic taste. But you don’t have to be a philosopher to bask in the benefits of living an aesthetic life.

Simply having a sensitivity and appreciation for beauty is a good start.  Slow down; pause; observe.  Note and appreciate those things that give you pleasure and inner satisfaction when you experience them with your senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste).  What things appeal and resonate with you?  What ignites a passion and inspires you?  What calms and pauses you for contemplative reflection?

It could be numerous things:

  • Arts (visual) – paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, photography, architecture, metalwork, mixed media, textiles
  • Arts (performing) – music, drama, dance, film
  • Literature – novels and poetry that engage your sense of beauty, inspire and transport you
  • Design – interior, auto, architecture, fashion, engineering
  • Nature – trees, shrubs, flowers, streams, waterfalls, mountains, insects, animals, landscape gardens
  • Cuisine – savoring excellent food and drink in a pleasing ambience
  • Craftsmanship – appreciating well-executed creations of others
  • Science – beautiful discoveries that provide incredible aha moments

What gives you pleasure and inner joy?  Jot down some notes about any special aesthetic things that seem to “do it” for you.  Get a clear idea on what aesthetic elements really appeal to you and give you an innate satisfaction.

 

How to Adopt a Living Aesthetic

So, after considering the beautiful and appealing things that give you pleasure and inner satisfaction, what can you do about it?  So what?

How about you make an effort to surround yourself with those resonating aesthetics?

Why?  Because regularly experiencing the appreciation and pleasure from these beautiful things provides long term benefits for your life.  They can be a powerful influence for growth, fulfillment, happiness, inspiration, accomplishments, etc.  Your overall attitude about life is improved, versus someone that doesn’t identify with aesthetics in any way.

I found an excellent article that zeroes in on the importance of living an aesthetic life:

Benefits of Living the Aesthetic Life by Victoria Raynor

She really understands the importance of aesthetics!  Her vision mirrors my own regarding its influence on our lives.  Her article, while not lengthy, packs a powerful message.

Benefits of beauty and aesthetics she mentions include: it energizes body and spirit, invigorates us, gives instant pleasure; instills interest in our lives, gets us in touch with ourselves, enables the beautiful inside us, reduces stress, ignites creativity, improves mental health, gives us focus, provides calming relaxation and happiness.

I don’t see much of a downside . . .  do you?

And, as she points out . . . we don’t need to be an authority on art, beauty and aesthetics to identify something as pleasing to us. We’re our own judge. It’s our interpretation. We decide what’s beautiful for us; what resonates with our spirit.

So…. be an Aesthete by surrounding yourself with beauty and reap its benefits.

 

Some Ideas . . .

Immerse yourself in soul-satiating aesthetics – outfit your living and working space using elements that resonate with the pleasure points in your soul (furnishings, décor, music, lighting, artistic & intellectual artifacts, collections & curios).

I have what seems like innumerable interests and passions.  Some of these I use to enhance my living aesthetics.

Some examples from my personal life:

My home office & library:

  • I love Art Deco architecture, art and design so when I created my office I decorated it in that theme.
  • I also find beauty in those things that can ignite a sense of adventure and discovery – such as intriguing scientific and navigation instruments, historic artifacts, mysterious megalithic ancient archaeological sites, mythic lands, esoteric woodcuts and symbols. So various objects in my office library reflect these inspiring themes.

 

My garage:

  • Since I was a teen, I have an interest in building, restoring and mildly customizing cars of the 50s & 60s. Along with that hobby, I find appeal in 50s-era gas stations and streamline modern design. So, when tackling the project of refinishing my garage, I chose to do it in a retro-50s style.  Streamlined curved corners to the cabinets I built, which also have a retro Formica countertop and polished aluminum counter edging (like the old dining sets of the 50s and 60s). Matching pub table and retro stools. I decorated the garage with a 1955 Tokheim gas pump, a 1953 Westinghouse wall-mount telephone (restored and working), Texaco neon clock, as well as a lot of appealing retro tin signs on the walls.  Overall, it’s a 1950s Texaco gas station and workshop theme.

 

Our home:

  • My wife and I love to create a cozy, comfortable aesthetic for our home. Appealing furniture, colors and décor that evoke a wonderful and satisfying feeling for the time we’re there.
  • We recently refinished our basement and wanted a theme of Louisville (both the city and its history, as well as the University of Louisville where we’re both alumni). Along with that we wanted a bit of a pub/tavern feel.  We achieved that and did almost all the work ourselves.

 

Our home’s landscape gardens:

  • My wife and I both are passionate about immersing ourselves in a large variety of gorgeous public gardens. We’ve visited dozens over the years and these beautiful oases have inspired us to create our own “Elysium” to immerse ourselves and kindle our spirits.

 

Travel to-and-from work:

  • In a further effort to expose myself to as much beauty as often as possible, I make it a point to drive through Louisville’s Seneca and Cherokee parks both to and from work whenever I can. I avoid the interstate and busy secondary roads with lots of traffic lights and cars.  At the same time I play beautiful music in the car, opening my windows, feel the breeze – all of it taking me away from the stress of work and traffic, focusing instead on the beauty that relaxes and reduces stress.

 

Work Office/Cube/Desk:

  • To the extent possible, enhance your workspace with items that are beautiful and inspire you.

 

Social Activities:

  • Dine and drink at restaurants that have a pleasing ambiance. Choose something other than uninspiring and cold concrete floors, dull furnishings and drab décor.  Find places that call to your soul/spirit – even if in a small way.  Dining alfresco is a favorite of ours – selecting a location that has a satisfying patio with shade, plants, fountains and a decent opportunity for people watching.  In Louisville, O’Shea’s in the Highlands is one of our favorites. Europe’s street cafés are wonderful in this aspect too.  No wonder so many great writers, poets and artists found solace and inspiration at cafés and encouraging social atmospheres throughout Europe.

 

 

A Couple of Observations . . .

I find that living an aesthetic life drives Romanticism and vice versa. They build upon, compliment and feed each other.  There’s much in the way of overlap between the two. Both celebrate beauty. Beauty is the common core.

Also, some people feel you are either an intellectual or an aesthete, but not both. I disagree.  Ideas and discoveries can be beautiful too. And an appreciation of beauty can ignite the intellectual fires within us as well. We can celebrate both beauty and ideas – the best of both worlds.

 

In summary

Surround your life and living spaces with that which pleases your eye, delights you, mystifies you, engages you, impresses you, inspires you, satiates you, resonates with you, inflames your passion, engulfs you in warmth and beauty, gives you joy, triggers your creativity, evokes comfort, fires your intellect, sparks your curiosity, drives discovery, encourages adventure, instills satisfaction, reduces stress.

It doesn’t have to happen overnight, or all at once.  Create it over weeks, months, years, decades.

Think of this living aesthetic as a canvas of personal fulfillment and fire for your spirit.

Carpe diem!

🙂

 

“It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance, for our consideration and application of these things, and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.”
– Henry James

 

“It is through art, and only art, that we can realize our perfection.”
– Oscar Wilde

 

 

 

Sources:

 

 

As with any sourcing on the internet, links can go ‘dead’ after a time. If you find the above-mentioned links no longer working, try the WayBack Machine:  http://archive.org/web/web.php    It’s sometimes a good way to pull up and view websites that are no longer active.

 

 

 

Wonder: From Emotion to Spirituality by Robert C. Fuller

A little over a year ago I listened to a podcast on ArtOfManliness.com entitled The Power Of Wonder wherein Brett McKay interviewed the author of a book (Robert Fuller) on the topic of Wonder.  It was particularly interesting since this topic fascinates and inspires me and it’s difficult to find references of any kind on the subject. (Not to mention that it’s the titled-focus of this web site.)  So after listening to the podcast I ordered the book.

The formal book title is: Wonder: From Emotion to Spirituality.  The author’s professional vitae reflects his major focus on religion – which the book did indeed address. However, I’m extremely appreciative of the fact that he was able to treat this subject with a broader secular approach it so deserves.

“Wonder is what sets us apart from other life forms. No other species wonders about the meaning of existence or the complexity of the universe or themselves.”
– Herbert W. Boyer

 

What is Wonder?

At the time of the publication of the book (2006) the Oxford English Dictionary defined wonder as:

The emotion excited by the perception of something novel and unexpected.

 

The current Oxford English Dictionary definition is:

A feeling of amazement and admiration, caused by something beautiful, remarkable, or unfamiliar.

 

A working definition noted within the book is:

The feeling state that accompanies the total organism’s response to something novel and unexpected (especially those things that strike us as especially powerful, real, true and/or beautiful.)

 

Throughout the book the author mentions many attributes of wonder.  The main components of wonder include:

  • Surprise
  • Bewilderment
  • Astonishment
  • Amazement
  • Perplexity
  • Admiration

Mr. Fuller notes that in searching the indices of his personal library of psychology books published in the last 100 years, he could not find a single mention of “wonder.”  It’s a rare emotion that is difficult to reproduce in a laboratory environment, so it’s rather ignored.

Over and over in the book, and even the podcast, he continually alludes to wonder being driven by powerful experiences of Beauty, Vitality and Truth. He also mentions Beauty, Order and Vitality although I’m not exactly clear what he means by “order.”  Perhaps he means order and harmony in the universe and nature? I really like this reference to powerful experiences of Beauty, Vitality and Truth. It resonates with me.    🙂

What things typically produce wonder?  Nature, Beauty, Music, Art, Science, Discovery, People, Love, Life, Mathematics, Geometry, Religion and Metaphysical Mysteries.

I think another significant cause of wonder is also Knowledge Adventuring.  Researching, questioning and uncovering heretofore little-known facts that leap out at you; smacking you in the face with a realization of awe and wonder about the ramifications and truth of that knowledge. As the author states, powerful displays of Truth can be a cause of wonder.

 

Wonder vs. Awe vs. Curiosity vs. Interest

An interesting element of the book were many excerpts from various sources and the author’s own thoughts to differentiate between various emotions that are easily confused with, or closely related to, wonder.

Awe – Actually….almost every mention of awe in the book is always listed in conjunction with wonder….. i.e. “awe and wonder.”  As already admitted, wonder is rarely the subject of written psychology texts, but apparently awe is even less defined – at least when it comes to distinguishing it from wonder.  It was not clear in the book as to the difference.  When awe was mentioned the typical attributes were: the presence of God; a religious experience; dread; terror; intimidation; vastness of the universe and life; the unknown and maybe unknowable.  In one instance, a source of his states that “wonder generates awe.” Interesting. Perhaps it should be that awe generates wonder?

Curiosity – Mr. Fuller spends some time discussing curiosity and how this is a more active emotion than wonder (which is said to be passive).  Curiosity is summarized as an attempt to analyze, understand and even manipulate the events and objects of our environment. It involves inquiries into the causal workings of physical reality.

Wonder – As opposed to curiosity wonder is a more passive emotion.  It has more to do with cognitive reflection and contemplation about unexpected perceptions. Reflecting on how the various parts relate to a greater whole. It induces receptivity and openness and causes us to consider life and its meaning from broader perspectives. How do we relate to the world?  How do we relate to others? What is possible? Is there a purpose in the universe? Where does existence come from? Like interest, it drives long-term constructive and creative endeavors. It has intrinsic value to the individual. Wonder causes us to philosophize.

Interest – How is interest different than curiosity and wonder? The author and his referenced sources aren’t particularly clear about this.  On the one hand he says that, like wonder, heightened interest “animates and enlivens the mind” and lures us into “constructive and creative” engagement with our surroundings. It “focuses attention” and readies us for “engagement and interaction.” It’s closest to wonder in terms of its effect on motivation.  However, as much as he relates it to wonder, it sounds like it’s more active than wonder – akin to the active emotion of curiosity rather than passive wonder.

I think all these positive emotions are beneficial to us.  It’s quite difficult to split hairs about the subtle differences and nuances among the four.  And to the non-academician – – does such bifurcation really matter?

Awe, wonder, curiosity, interest . . . .  the important aspect to register in our lives is the tremendous effect these have to enrich us SO far beyond the mundane.  What exactly are the benefits and effects of wonder and its related emotions?

 

Benefits and Effects of Wonder on Your Life

Without a doubt these incredible emotions bring enriching positives to the lives of anyone who will entertain them. The book has continual and profuse references to the benefits of experiencing wonder in our life.  It . . .

  • enriches our existence
  • produces personal fulfillment
  • stimulates growth
  • excites our imagination
  • enhances our seeking
  • invigorates us
  • provides a fresh approach to life
  • frees us of environmental conditioning
  • enables our self-direction
  • imbues the world with an alluring quality
  • engages us in self-examination
  • produces a mindful awareness of the world
  • awakens our higher-order thought
  • initiates abstract thinking
  • animates and enlivens the mind and body
  • induces us to pause, admire, and open our hearts and minds
  • kindles a reverence for life

Amazing.  Yet, the vast majority of humanity has no concept of wonder or its benefits. They meander through life impressed by nothing.

“And thus although you can surely go through life without a developed sense of wonder, it is equally true that a life shaped by wonder is attuned to the widest possible world of personal fulfillment.”
– Robert Fuller

 

Religion vs Spirituality

While Mr. Fuller comes from an academic role focused on religion – as I mentioned – he does a good job of sharing wonder in relation to both its religious and secular aspect.

One area where I cannot agree with Mr. Fuller is his claim that religious rituals and doctrines evoke wonder in people. I can understand his claim (since I presume he has a lifetime of indoctrination via many years of formal religious experience) . . . . however, even before I was a heretic, I did not find doctrine and ritual fascinating or wonderful in any way.  Years of being a Catholic, or later, a born-again Christian did not help this claim.  Unless one is ready to abandon every filament of their rational being, rituals overtly come across as inane, meaningless and manipulative; the antithesis to wonder.

As a student in Catholic elementary school I thought First Communion, Confirmation and May Procession rituals all certainly interesting, but even then, they couldn’t hold a candle to to the magic of hiking along the creek in the woods with my father. Nature rules over doctrine. Period.

Even outside of formal religion, rituals and doctrine of fraternal organizations such as Freemasonry (I was a member for a few years) are equally inane and meaningless. I could not perceive benefits or wonder of any kind beyond the fact that I was wasting valuable hours of my life experiencing silly play-acting that was somehow supposed to be mysterious and special to its participants, but which lost its true esoteric meaning and importance long, long ago.

One area I do agree is his references to various people’s connection with spirituality as it relates to nature.  Somewhere in the book he mentions it as “religious naturalism.”  I think a better term would be “spiritual naturalism.”  From my perspective the only god I ever see (if there is one) is a deistic god of nature – – nature as god.

I’ve experienced numerous occasions where I was brought to disbelief, awe, wonder and tears of joy by the sheer majesty and mystery of nature…..NEVER by anything related to orthodox religion.

 

Can Man-made Objects Cause Wonder?

Another area where I find disagreement with the author is his claim that wonder is less likely to be caused by human-made artifacts.

For anyone with even a crude understanding and appreciation of engineering and construction capabilities, there’s a myriad of man-made structures that simply leaves a viewer with slack-jawed awe and wonder.  From monstrous bridges, buildings, palaces, cathedrals, ships, statues, and huge sculptures a viewer is left dumb-struck as to how such edifices and artistic expression could possibly have been erected using the technology of the day.

The most incredible examples of this mind-blowing awe and wonder in human achievement are the innumerable ancient structures around the world built with megalithic blocks of stone. Incredible behemoth stones were quarried, lifted, transported, lifted again, finished and fitted with space-age precision – supposedly with crude tools that could not have accomplished the task at hand. Unless you possess at least a basic understanding of engineering you wouldn’t give these structures a second thought. But if you do have the capacity to see the engineering impossibilities staring you in the face, you can’t help but stand in utter disbelief and awe at the accomplishments of these ancient civilizations.

This is an example of the benefit of “knowledge adventuring” wherein we dig, educate and discover facts not previously known or admitted within the paradigms of orthodox historians.

In a similar vein, one has to simply visit the incredible structures of castles, palaces and cathedrals of Europe to be instantly in awe at the fantastic engineering, art and architecture employed. You can stand in these edifices and simply be blown away by the sheer size and complexity of their structure and artistry.  How did they accomplish it?  How did they cut, move and precisely fit these stones several hundred feet in the air when modern cranes did not exist? It’s absolutely amazing to wonder and admire these accomplishments.

Human-made artifacts aren’t likely to produce wonder?  Think again.

 

Wonder Generates Awe?

As noted above, Mr. Fuller’s book attempts to differentiate between awe and wonder, and states at one point that “wonder generates awe.”  I cannot agree.  In fact, it should be just the opposite.  Awe generates wonder.  One follows from the other; clear and simple.

When we’re exposed to a gorgeous vista, the limitlessness of the cosmos, the incredible beauty of the world around us, the mind-blowing engineering involved in constructing the world’s most impressive edifices . . .  we can’t help but be dumb-struck with awe. . . .gobsmacked by the object and beauty before us.

As I see it, these emotions progress and are triggered thus:

Awe = Gobsmacked by an experience or object.

Wonder = Reflection on the gobsmacked awe, beauty and impressiveness of what we just experienced. Philosophizing on the larger questions of how and why these incredible things are even in existence. How did they come to be?

Curiosity & Interest = The actions we take as a result of the gob-smacked awe and its resulting wonder that drives us to learn, discover, understand, assimilate and integrate the mysteries of these events and objects into our lives.

 

“Once the emotions have been aroused – a sense of the beautiful, the excitement of the new and unknown, a feeling of sympathy, pity, admiration or love – then we wish for knowledge about the object of our emotional response. Once found, it has lasting meaning.”
– Rachel Carson

 

Closing Thoughts

I think an interesting study (if it could even be done) is whether people who lack a sense of wonder about the world can possibly re-develop that sense. I’m not sure. We lose much of our wonder and our senses are dulled into the mundane by years of schooling, work and cultural conditioning.

The only hope, perhaps, would be for individuals to step back away from the cultural paradigms and social conditioning and begin asking questions about those “givens.”  To be Walking Question Marks. To dig, discover, appreciate and enculture an open and awakened mind (Knowledge Adventuring). As a natural progression during this pulling away from the normal and mundane, a person will also gradually stop taking beauty, life and truth for granted. Then wonder can take hold again.

I encourage anyone to wonder about the world all around you. Pursue beauty, life and truth. Enrich your lives with the benefits produced by a sense of wonder.

 

“In wonder you realize that this is it. You have the opportunity to swim through the river of life rather than just float on it, to own your life rather than be owned by it”
– Juan De Pascuale

 

 

 

Sources:

 

As with any sourcing on the internet, links can go ‘dead’ after a time. If you find the above-mentioned links no longer working, try the WayBack Machine:  http://archive.org/web/web.php    It’s sometimes a good way to pull up and view websites that are no longer active.

 

 

 

 

El Escorial Library

Our trip to Spain this month found us visiting some incredible sites.  One of our notable visits (for me, at least) was the Monastery and Royal Palace of El Escorial in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial; specifically the Royal Library.

Biblioteca del monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial, by Xauxa Håkan Svensson, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The library consists of several rooms (most of them no longer used), however, only the Main Hall is opened to the public.  Measuring 177 feet long, 30 feet wide and 33 feet high it’s one large, wondrous gallery of gorgeous woodwork, frescoes, globes, armillaries and books.  It was established as the Royal library by Phillip II when the palace/monastery was created in the late 16th-century.

The library is believed to have been finished about 1585.  It was the first large-room library to use the “wall system” of book storage – where the bookshelves sit flush, lined up along the walls. Prior to that, libraries used lecterns or stalls to hold and store large folios. The initial 4,000 volumes came from Philip’s personal library, as well as additional books and manuscripts belonging to the Crown but kept elsewhere.

Books were purged over the centuries, particularly by a fire in 1671, but the library still maintains about 40,000 volumes including a number of Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Arabic manuscripts.

The library was designed by architect Juan de Herrera. The Herrera-designed bookcases were built by José Flecha, Juan Senén and Martín de Gamboa. The frescoes were painted by Pellegrino Tibaldi based on a theme defined by Father José de Sigüenza. You can see the influence of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel paintings in these Tibaldi works.

The themed friezes are anchored at each end of the hall by semicircular tympanums; the northern end is Philosophy (acquired knowledge) and the southern end is Theology (revealed knowledge). In between the two, within the seven main panels on the ceiling, are representations of the seven subjects of the liberal arts: the Trivium (Grammar, Rhetoric, Dialectics) and Quadrivium (Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, Astronomy). Along the sides directly above the bookcases are images of significant historical figures and scenes corresponding to the liberal art designated on the ceiling above them.

Details about the frescoes:

The vault is occupied by personifications of the Liberal Arts and Sciences, painted di sotto in sù and surrounded by giants. In the lunettes are representations of individuals, from antiquity onwards, who had cultivated these disciplines. Scenes on the friezes refer to the trivium and quadrivium. Of the former, Grammar is represented by the School of Babylon and the Tower of Babel, Rhetoric by Hercules the Gaul and Cicero Defending Gaius Rabirius, and Dialectics or Logic by SS Ambrose and Augustine and Zeno of Elea Showing the Gates of Truth and Error.

Of the quadrivium, Arithmetic is represented by the Gymnosophists and Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, Music by Orpheus Rescuing Eurydice and David Playing the Harp before Saul, Geometry by the Death of Archimedes and the Priests of Egypt Dividing the Lands and Astronomy by the Solar Eclipse at Heliopolis after the Death of Christ and King Hezekiah Contemplating the Orbit of the Sun.

Philosophy on the north wall (the School of Athens with Zeno and Socrates) and Theology on the south (Constantine the Great at the Council of Nicaea) complete the programme as the basis and goal of knowledge. The upper library is decorated with a comprehensive series of portraits of saints, pontiffs, sages and artists.

Source:  https://el-escorial.com/el-escorial-decoration/

The books are shelved with their spines inwards towards the wall; the gilt-edged pages face outwards with the title written on them – ostensibly to protect the bindings from light and allow the pages to “breathe.”  The effect is quite impressive with gold shimmering at the visitor from within the shelves.

The center of the main hall has tables with a collection of maps, globes, astrolabes, and other scientific items – including an outstanding, huge armillary sphere built by Antonio Santucci about 1582. The world and celestial globes were made by Joan Blaeu about 1660. These items conveyed the scientific dimension that Philip II desired for his library.

I was mesmerized by the room’s beauty and grandeur; and was particularly enchanted by the frescoes and what/who they represented.  I was trying my best to discover the various historic figures’ names represented in all the panels on ribbons next to each.

The library fell into neglect after Philip II’s death in 1598.  There was also the aforementioned fire in 1671.  Philip V decided to create a national library in Madrid and therefore the El Escorial library discontinued any additions to its collections.  Finally, the library was reorganized and catalogued in 1885. Thank goodness it was saved and preserved. It’s a gorgeous and magnificent tribute to knowledge, discovery and beauty!

 

Photos from our visit . . . .

 

Some additional images from Creative Commons on flickr . . .

El Escorial – astronomy ball o’ fun” by Rebecca is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

la biblioteca en el monasterio de san lorenzo” by bob is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

The Library at El Escorial” by John Keogh is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

 

 

 

Sources:

  • Jacques Bosser and Guillaume de Laubier, The Most Beautiful Libraries In The World (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2003), 188-197
  • James W.P. Campbell and Will Pryce, The Library: A World History (Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 2013)
  • Carmen Garcia-Frias and Jose Luis Sancho, Guide – Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial (Madrid: Patrimonio Nacional, 2017), 28-32.
  • Jérôme Coignard, Manuel Jover and Jean-François Lasnier, The Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial (Connaissance des Arts), 36-39.
  • El Escorial Monastery, el-escorial.co
  • El Escorial, Wikipedia

 

As with any sourcing on the internet, links can go ‘dead’ after a time. If you find the above-mentioned links no longer working, try the WayBack Machine:  http://archive.org/web/web.php    It’s sometimes a good way to pull up and view websites that are no longer active.

 

 

 

Romanticism

 

What is Romanticism?

Ask anyone on the street what “Romanticism” is and you’re likely to get replies that include:  beautiful flowers, surprise gifts, elegant date nights, heartfelt love letters, tender gestures, etc. – – essentially, anything that generates romance between two people in a relationship.

While that concept is nice (and important) it isn’t the same definition of “Romanticism” as my focus in this article.

Specifically, I speak of Romanticism as a state of mind; an attitude or philosophy toward life, the world and the universe that ignites and maintains a passion for living. It is key to living an enriched life and regularly experiencing wonder and joy.

First, let me differentiate between the specifics of this mindset and the historical period commonly referred to as “Romanticism” (with a capital R). There are similarities.

 

The Romanticism Movement

As a response to the age known as The Enlightenment, artists and intellectuals from all over Europe responded (rebelled) against the rigid reason, order, rationalism and conventions of the period. The rebellion took the form of poets, authors, composers, artists, architects and philosophers embracing an approach to their craft that exalted various characteristics including:

  • Emotions, spontaneity, feelings & intuition
  • Imagination, originality and creativity
  • Nature and the Sublime
  • Beauty
  • Freedom/Liberty
  • Individualism and self-becoming
  • Glorification & Idealization of the Past
  • Heroism & hero-worship
  • Mysticism and the mysterious

This Romanticism “movement” occurred roughly between 1770 – 1870. It crossed over individuals of all political leanings (liberals, conservatives, radicals), as well as being embraced by theists and atheists alike.

Many (most) of it’s attributes apply as well to my current definition of “Romanticism” below . . . .

 

Romanticism as a State of Mind

So . . . This Romanticism period ended about 1870. Does that mean it can’t be experienced or made a focus of life in the modern world? Did it cease to exist across the Earth? Is it now taboo? Is it a fluke that anyone in this modern day should still experience and relish some or all of these attributes?

Throughout this web site whenever I mention “Romanticism,” I’m referring to a certain mindset or attitude that can (and does) embrace many of the same characteristics of the Romantic period practitioners. However, this frame of mind doesn’t require us to be world renown artists, writers or philosophers. It’s simply a personality trait that allows one to embrace and live life with joy, passion and gratitude – an enriched life. It’s a philosophy of life that can be adopted by anyone if they so choose. It comes from within you.

This mindset of romanticism allows us to see the beauty and wonder of the world everywhere; to be grateful and appreciate nuances and details so easily overlooked by the typical urban dweller.

The foci I see most vividly contributing to this modern romanticism include:

Adventure – Experience something (anything) beyond the day-to-day mundane. Get out of your couch-potato comfort zone. Savor the uniqueness of a different experience. Appreciate out-of-the-norm surroundings.

Beauty & Aesthetics – Appreciate and be grateful for elegant beauty wherever you find it (music, art, architecture, landscape gardens, decor, nature, human physiology, human behavior, etc.). Surround yourself at home with aesthetic elements that resonate and inspire you.

Freedom/Liberty – Free yourself from the social, cultural, religious and intellectual restraints imposed on you throughout the formal education and social indoctrination you experienced since birth.

Heroism & Idealism – Find real heroes and attempt to emulate their best qualities. Envision in your mind and heart an idealized reality/existence. What qualities of those heroes inspire you? Can you adopt any of their attributes?

Individualism & Self-expression – Be the best and unique self you can (or wish) to be. Continue to improve and self-learn. What would an idealized self and its associated life look like to you? Let that vision inspire you.

Discovery – Expand your horizons to experience and learn beyond the programming you received in school and your upbringing. There’s a universe of exciting knowledge out there for you to discover; be a Knowledge Adventurer.

Nature – Appreciate the beauty and mysteries of nature, whether grand or simple. Visit and envelope yourself in the world’s gorgeous nature-scapes: forests, mountains, gorges, waterfalls, streams, rivers, storms, snowfalls, plains, bays, glaciers, volcanoes, caves, cliffs, arches, desserts, sea-shores. Yet appreciate the simple wonders of nature too, such as a bee gathering nectar from a flower, or a bird nesting and feeding its young.

Building and creating – Create something . . . anything. Make it an expression of yourself. If you do have an interest in some craft or skill but don’t know how, then learn. There’s much to be gained from how-to websites and videos across the internet. Years ago (a mere two decades) you were stuck with trying to locate a book at a store to learn something new. Now the world’s knowledge and skills are shared on the web. Take advantage of that amazing gift.

History – Experience the magic and mysteriousness of all that came before:  relics, ruins, art, architecture; literature – all from decades, centuries and millennia past. Wonder about the people who produced it. What were they like? How did they accomplish it? Who were they? Could they have possessed knowledge and abilities beyond what we know? Ponder on the passage of time and what you may leave for the generations brought forth in the future.

Slow Down and Notice – Develop a heightened awareness of the world around you so you can experience all of the above. Wonder. Ask questions. Challenge mundaneness. Consider reality beyond existing paradigms. Appreciate what you may heretofore ignored.

Feel The Emotion – Get in touch with your emotions while experiencing all of the above. Allow yourself to feel and experience with your heart – a Romantic:  wondering, questioning, discovering, appreciating. Allow the feelings to fill your soul and mind.

 

Romanticism vs Realism

What about realism, empiricism, science, objectivism, rationalism, and their importance to providing an accurate picture of life? Aren’t they important to living a life of reality and practicality?

Sure. But . . . are the two mutually exclusive?

Romanticism:
feeling, emotion, intuition, imagination, wonder, amazement, gratitude, beauty, appreciation, heroism, idealization, history, creating, subjectivism

Realism:
truth, knowledge, understanding, reason, logic, rationalism, empiricism, objectivism

Certainly not.

We are led to believe that you must be one or the other. And usually it’s indicated that we are more tied to Romanticism in our youth, then more likely to move toward Realism as we age and mature. While this might be the general tendency in life, I have to disagree that they are mutually exclusive.

In fact, I believe that the most well-rounded and accomplished in the world possess qualities of both realms.  I would call it “Romantic Intellectualism.”

 

Let Romanticism Enrich Your Life (Romantic Living)

Treasure, savor, appreciate, relish, admire the entire breadth of these gifts of life. Experience gratitude – even the simplest of things. Feel alive – the energy and emotions of gratitude, satisfaction, delight, wonder, awe, passion, bliss, joy, ecstasy, excitement, enchantment.

Desire to rise and live beyond the mundane standards of the herd. Pursue and embrace the elegant over the mundane, the beauty over the ugly. Think of it as a Romanticist way of living – being a “Romantic” at heart.

Have a passion for life. Don’t let yourself plod aimlessly and without inspiration or passion. Seize life. Follow your passions. Make your life wonderful, and share its magic and wonder with those around you – family and friends. Make sure you live such that on your deathbed you have a sense of having truly lived.

Romanticism is wonder. And, no matter how much of a realist you are, there’s always room for Romanticism in your life.

🙂

 

 

 

Some decent sources:

 

As with any sourcing on the internet, links can go ‘dead’ after a time. If you find the above-mentioned links no longer working, try the WayBack Machine:  http://archive.org/web/web.php    It’s sometimes a good way to pull up and view websites that are no longer active.

 

 

 

The Benefits Of Being An Autodidact

What is autodidacticism and what can it mean for you being an autodidact?

Stack of Old Books” by Austin Kirk is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

What’s an autodidact?

Autodidactism is the process of self-learning, also called self-education.  An autodidact is a person who chooses (on their own) to identify a subject of interest and then learn everything possible about it; preferably researching and studying it in an objective manner.  It can be pursued as a supplement to, or replacement for, “formal” education.

Most autodidacts continue this activity their whole life for a wide variety of subjects they love, thereby becoming life-long learners.  They continually dig deep to expand their knowledge, hone their skills and refine their craft.  They want to learn more, be more and do more than the average member of the herd.

Interestingly, you won’t find much written about autodidacticism.  At one time, before our “modern” society, the most incredible and accomplished geniuses, inventors, architects, engineers, scientists, writers, etc. were autodidacts.  Now, due to government-sponsored education and “professional” qualifications and licensing, you can’t be an autodidact alone in most fields of work/career.  Bureaucratic and government control has taken over and requires “formal” institutionalized learning degrees for professional positions.  It’s the only respected form of education in our society.

Typically, because of these restrictions, your only choice is to accommodate the “formal’ education requirements of your career or job, then use your personal time to pursue the things that truly mean something to your core.

 

But I’m finished with my “formal” education – why bother with learning anything else?

Should any of us be “finished” with education?  “Formal” education isn’t easy. Years of forced study in subjects that may mean nothing to you certainly isn’t fun.  All of that effort and stress to belong to the club of graduates and competitive job seekers.

For the majority of the herd, once they received their high school or college education there’s no need to learn anything more, right?  Why bother?

Why?  Because there’s a world of knowledge out there beyond what you were taught in school. See the list of benefits below.  Be the champion of your own enlightenment.

“Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education.” – Bertrand Russel

“What does education do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.” – Henry David Thoreau

 

Benefits of being an autodidact

Focus on your passion – For those that have a genuine thirst of knowledge, you have the freedom to select any subject you’re passionate about and discover a world of enlightenment.  Discover more.

Linear path to knowledge, discovery and expertise – Self-learning allows you to expose yourself to ALL arenas of knowledge on a subject.  You can pursue a linear path of discovery – A to B to C . . . .  to Z (one thing leads to another).  Discover more.

Move beyond the accepted paradigm – History has shown “accepted facts” and “settled science” (so-called “truths”) are continually overturned by new theories, knowledge and discovery (fighting against and eventually winning against the paradigm’s stubborn “dogma disciples”) – reference Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  A society’s current paradigms are taught in its institutions. Those institutions won’t teach the alternative knowledge that could challenge and overturn those cherished paradigms. They will not give you an unbiased survey of a subject.  Their intention is to indoctrinate you to their paradigms.  Paradigms are not necessarily truths.  Refuse to accept the dogma.  Challenge the paradigms.  Discover more.

Enthusiasm, Excitement, Passion, Discovery – There is a definite identifiable surge of incredible energy, excitement and enthusiasm as you knowledge adventure, discovering little-known facts and truths not shared in “formal” academic pursuits.  Huge “aha” moments that suddenly enlighten you beyond the accepted paradigms.  You can experience pleasure as you learn more about something you really care about.   Discover more.

Self-culture – Another benefit of being an autodidact is that you can “self-culture.” This means being able to expand and adapt your life beyond the social conditioning and enculturation that occurs while being raised within our society and your “formal” education to adopt that society’s paradigms.  Control your life.

Rise above the propaganda – As an autodidact you have an advantage above the herd.  You’re able to see and realize the news spread by TV, newspapers, radio, social media, etc. is nothing more that a giant stage play – not to report objectively – but to push an agenda; to forward a narrative.  Being an autodidact allows you to easily identifying fake news/propaganda, and it’s biased, emotionally-manipulative attempts to “jerk your chain.”  Don’t be susceptible to emotional, irrational propaganda triggers. Control your life.

 

Can anyone become an autodidact?

Supposedly yes, but I don’t think so.

From my perspective the most basic aspect that drives an autodidact is a genuine thirst and lust for knowledge.  I simply don’t see that quality in most people.  If you don’t have an undeniable drive to know, to learn, to discover – you won’t start – and definitely won’t stay with it.  Without this natural inclination self-learning will become too much like the drudgery of “formal” education, rather than an enchanting road to discovery – even though you get to choose the topic of your passion.  And that’s the clincher – passion.

Most people in this modern, mundane world simply don’t identify with a passion of any kind.  It’s been beaten out of them though years of formal “shove-it-down-your-throat” education, enculturation and 8-5 work week.  The average person is too exhausted to even think about self-education, even if they have a hint of their inner passion(s).

But if you have a passion and lust for knowledge and learning, set aside as much time as possible to fit in your research and discoveries:  early mornings, lunch hours, evenings, late at night, weekends…. squeeze in time to pursue it, wherever you can.

Do you have an insatiable desire to know, a lust for knowledge? Do you have an inquisitiveness and curiosity about life?  If yes, then you have the essentials for being an autodidact

 

Careful though . . .

Be wary of confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance in your autodidactic pursuits.  It’s too easy to simply reference material that naturally supports your biased belief system.  Be aware of that pitfall and instead try to look objectively across the spectrum of concepts and ideas on any topic.

 

 

 

Some decent sources:

 

As with any sourcing on the internet, links can go ‘dead’ after a time. If you find the above-mentioned links no longer working, try the WayBack Machine:  http://archive.org/web/web.php    It’s sometimes a good way to pull up and view websites that are no longer active.

 

 

 

Biltmore Library

One of my favorite places in the world is the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.  It was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II, grandson of Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt. Completed and opened to friends and family during Christmas 1895, it’s the largest private residence in the United States, and is still owned by descendants of the family.

George Washington Vanderbilt by John Singer Sargent
Public Domain, Link

 

The “house” is a gorgeous châteauesque-styled mansion designed by Richard Morris Hunt on gloriously landscaped grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmstead.  Originally more than 125,000 acres and encompassing Mount Pisqah, the estate is now down to about 8,000 acres.

Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina, USA – by JcPollock, CC BY-SA 3.0

 

The three mile approach road, mansion, formal gardens and grounds are absolutely breathtaking and one has to pause in awe-and-wonder as to how such a magnificent and grand estate could possibly be located in the North Carolina countryside.  Arriving at the house proper you feel as though you’re on the grounds of a fantastic French chateau.

The mansion is FULL of incredible rooms, lush furnishings and exquisite art.  Its 175,000 square-feet houses 250 rooms, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 3 kitchens, 65 fireplaces, winter garden room, billiard room, banquet hall, breakfast room, music room, smoking room, tapestry gallery, 2-lane bowling alley, gymnasium, and indoor swimming pool.  The specific focus for this article, however, is the spectacular two-story library.

 

Biltmore Library

George was a consummate autodidact, never attending college, yet pulled by a passion of intense reading and learning since his youth.  According to a journal he kept, between 1875 and his untimely death in 1914 he read 3,159 books – an average of 81 per year.

George’s passion was the pursuit of knowledge, learning and appreciation for the arts.  With the help of Richard Morris Hunt, he built this library as a testament to that passion.  The room houses about 10,000 of George Vanderbilt’s 23,000 volume collection.  The rest of the books are throughout the house and in storage.  He was known to read up to eight languages (as well as translating Sanskrit and Hebrew). Works in the collection date all the way back to 1561.

The two-story room is 53 x 72 feet and 27 feet high. Its volumes cover a range of favorite subjects close to George’s heart:  history, art, architecture, landscape design, forestry, nature, interior design, travel, literature, religion, philosophy, and foreign languages.

The incredible ceiling painting titled “The Chariots of Aurora” by Giovanni Pellegrini was obtained from the Palazzo Pisani (now the Conservatorio di Musica B. Marcello) in Venice, Italy. The sculptor Karl Bitter executed the wood mantle and andiron sculptures for the fireplace.

The second floor balcony of the library is accessed via a gorgeous spiral staircase.  To get from one side of the balcony to the other you have to pass behind the fireplace through secret doors above the mantle.

During the tour of the spectacular home, you’re only allowed into a small portion of the library near its entrance; the rest is roped off.  Still . . . it’s incredibly awe-inspiring!.  Every time I enter it from the Tapestry Gallery my soul is energized by the design, architecture and the wealth of knowledge and beauty on its shelves.

I yearn to peruse the library for hours, days and months; pulling volumes from the shelves and sitting in the rich sumptuousness of the room, reading, learning, absorbing, appreciating and succumbing to the treasures within.

Unfortunately you are not allowed to take photos of the interior during your tour, else I would share many.

Enjoy these images.  Thanks to all who choose to share your photos via Creative Commons!  You can also Google many other beautiful copyrighted images online.

 

This photo of Biltmore Estate is courtesy of TripAdvisor

 

2016 Biltmore Candlelight Christmas-36” by Hal McGee is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

Library inside Biltmore” by Chor Ip is licensed under CC BY SA 2.0

 

056 library” by mksfca is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

Library at the Biltmore” by Erin Johnson is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

 

2016 Biltmore Candlelight Christmas-32” by Hal McGee is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
(bust of George Vanderbilt by Scottish artist Mary Grant)

 

2016 Biltmore Candlelight Christmas-42” by Hal McGee is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

2016 Biltmore Candlelight Christmas-57” by Hal McGee is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
(mantle sculpture by Karl Bitter)

 

2016 Biltmore Candlelight Christmas-35” by Hal McGee is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
(doorway from the Library into the Den)

 

2016 Biltmore Candlelight Christmas-58” by Hal McGee is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
(Beautiful andirons by Karl Bitter)

 

Biltmore Estate Library” by Amy Meredith is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

 

Biltmore Estate Library” by Amy Meredith is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

 

 

Some decent sources:

 

As with any sourcing on the internet, links can go ‘dead’ after a time. If you find the above-mentioned links no longer working, try the WayBack Machine:  http://archive.org/web/web.php    It’s sometimes a good way to pull up and view websites that are no longer active.

 

 

 

What is “Mundane”?

 

What do I Mean by “Mundane”?

I use the word “mundane” frequently, and realized I should probably level-set on its meaning.
So . . .  what exactly is “mundane”?

From  my perspective and life-philosophy, the mundane in life is bare minimum “living.”

It looks something like this:

Work, eat, consume, zone out on media, sleep.
Wash, rinse, repeat.

Do the same thing day-after-day, week-after-week, year-after-year.

It’s about just getting through the work day, then escaping through television, social media, shopping, eating and drinking.  Life in a daily rut of routine.

Lower your life expectations to accomplish only the minimum to get by – – basic survival and escapism. Set the bar as low as you can for living.

Most people are:

  • not driven by passion for excelling
  • not driven by Purpose
  • not identifying with important core Values
  • not pursuing Growth and Self-Actualization
  • not achieving life goals
  • not pursuing an enriched life
  • not living with adventure

Instead, most simply become comfortable with routine, and routine only.

 

Can We Ignore the Mundane?

If we strive to be a self-actualizer, can we ignore the mundane in life?  No.
Should we shirk our mundane responsibilities?  No, not unless we arrange to pay others to do them for us.
Should we get satisfaction out of accomplishing mundane tasks?  Yes, I think we should.

However, the enriched living approach should be:

  • Tackle the mundane, get it out of the way.
  • THEN pursue the passion and excellence in our life’s Purpose and Mission.

Take whatever satisfaction you can with accomplishing the mundane, but know there is WAY more to living a life of purpose, joy and satisfaction.

Don’t let the sum of your life be a totality of mundaneness.  Move beyond it to realize greater potential and life happiness.  Pursue living an Enriched Life!

“Are you really living life . . .  Or are you just paying bills until you die?”

 

How to Move Beyond Mundaneness

Eliminate the time vampires in your life and do something – anything – beyond the mundane. Consciously use your time on this Earth better than letting it waste away.  Stop being a couch potato and choose to spend that time making life a bit more of an adventure. . .

Read books, learn something new, keep learning, develop a hobby, travel, tackle projects, build, create, write, visit parks, get out in nature, hike, kayak, visit museums, appreciate art, take up art (whether visual or performing), listen to beautiful music, go to art shows and other festivals, take family outings, go camping, find the magic in discovering history, explore your city, appreciate architecture, drive or walk through a historic neighborhood, visit beautiful landscape gardens, surround yourself with beauty, restore something old, develop a craft, collect something meaningful to you, unclutter your life of the things that aren’t important to you, go to concerts, redecorate or remodel your living space, learn new skills, try something new.

Get the idea?  Reach for more. Choose something that resonates with your interests. Don’t settle for the mundane as the only option for living.

Your efforts don’t have to be perfect.  The goal is to get out of the rut of the mundane and actually LIVE life doing the things that are truly important to your core.

Yes . . . .do the mundane, as a matter of being an element of life, just don’t get mired in the mundane.  Fit more substance into your life.

“Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.”   – Robin Sharma