The Simple Things of Life…

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The simple things of life are often the most puzzling. © 2017 Bruce Kraus. All rights reserved.
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Dagfinn Bakke: Northern Norway

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© Dagfinn Bakke

As a Canadian with a German-Norwegian ethnic background, I have always been fascinated with the country of Norway, it’s people, and their culture. As it turns out, I just happen to have a whole lot of family there, many of which I have never met. Although I have travelled through much of Sweden, Lapland, and Finland, through unfortunate circumstance, I never did have the opportunity to visit Norway so many years ago.

Dagfinn Bakke’s artwork is an excellent example of the simplicity of Norwegian life on the untamed islands of Northern Norway.

Dagfinn Bakke (born in 1933) is an artist, illustrator and graphic artist. He lives and works in Lofoten. Dagfinn Bakke has exhibited in several countries, and his work is exhibited in many public art galleries, including the National Gallery of Norway. Several public buildings have his adornments in addition to the thow Hurtigruten (Norwegian Coastal Steamer) “Finnmarken” and “Nordnorge”. The nature of northern Norway where Dagfinn Bakke grew up has been the main inspiration for his art.

visitnorway.com

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The Invitation

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The Last Supper (Italian: Il Cenacolo [il tʃeˈnaːkolo] or L’Ultima Cena [ˈlultima ˈtʃeːna]) is a late 15th-century mural painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan. It is one of the world’s most famous paintings. Wikipedia
How many of us would turn down an invitation to have dinner with the Queen of England? Who amongst us would decline to have a casual lunch with the Dali Lama? Would we say no to a formal audience with the Pope? Would we decline a special invitation to a state dinner at the White House? How about a dinner date with Madonna?

The truth is that the majority of us would set aside our petty politics, and climb off our moral superiority high chair in order to accept the aforementioned invitations. We might have some inward insecurities and doubt, but most people would gladly accept an open invitation to meet someone great or famous amongst us.

Yet, there remains a very special invitation open to all of us. That invitation has been open to all of humanity for over two thousand years. Some 3.5 billion people on the planet have responded to that invitation. The question is will you?

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me. Revelation 3:20 Berean Study Bible

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Finally…a Little Wisdom for Millennials

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Introduction

This letter was originally published on the  James Maddison Program in American Ideals and Institutions web site of Princeton University.

Some Thoughts and Advice for Our Students and All Students

August 29, 2017

We are scholars and teachers at Princeton, Harvard, and Yale who have some thoughts to share and advice to offer students who are headed off to colleges around the country. Our advice can be distilled to three words:

Think for yourself.

Now, that might sound easy. But you will find—as you may have discovered already in high school—that thinking for yourself can be a challenge. It always demands self-discipline and these days can require courage.

In today’s climate, it’s all-too-easy to allow your views and outlook to be shaped by dominant opinion on your campus or in the broader academic culture. The danger any student—or faculty member—faces today is falling into the vice of conformism, yielding to groupthink.

At many colleges and universities what John Stuart Mill called “the tyranny of public opinion” does more than merely discourage students from dissenting from prevailing views on moral, political, and other types of questions. It leads them to suppose that dominant views are so obviously correct that only a bigot or a crank could question them.

Since no one wants to be, or be thought of as, a bigot or a crank, the easy, lazy way to proceed is simply by falling into line with campus orthodoxies.

Don’t do that. Think for yourself.

Thinking for yourself means questioning dominant ideas even when others insist on their being treated as unquestionable. It means deciding what one believes not by conforming to fashionable opinions, but by taking the trouble to learn and honestly consider the strongest arguments to be advanced on both or all sides of questions—including arguments for positions that others revile and want to stigmatize and against positions others seek to immunize from critical scrutiny.

The love of truth and the desire to attain it should motivate you to think for yourself. The central point of a college education is to seek truth and to learn the skills and acquire the virtues necessary to be a lifelong truth-seeker. Open-mindedness, critical thinking, and debate are essential to discovering the truth. Moreover, they are our best antidotes to bigotry.

Merriam-Webster’s first definition of the word “bigot” is a person “who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.”

The only people who need fear open-minded inquiry and robust debate are the actual bigots, including those on campuses or in the broader society who seek to protect the hegemony of their opinions by claiming that to question those opinions is itself bigotry.

So don’t be tyrannized by public opinion. Don’t get trapped in an echo chamber. Whether you in the end reject or embrace a view, make sure you decide where you stand by critically assessing the arguments for the competing positions.

Think for yourself.

Good luck to you in college!

Paul Bloom
Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology
Yale University

Nicholas Christakis
Sol Goldman Family Professor of Social and Natural Science
Yale University

Carlos Eire
T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of History and Religious Studies
Yale University

Maria E. Garlock
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Co-Director of the Program in Architecture and Engineering
Princeton University

David Gelernter
Professor of Computer Science
Yale University

Robert P. George
McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions
Princeton University

Mary Ann Glendon
Learned Hand Professor of Law
Harvard University

Joshua Katz
Cotsen Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Classics
Princeton University

Thomas P. Kelly
Professor of Philosophy
Princeton University

Jon Levenson
Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies
Harvard University

John B. Londregan
Professor of Politics and International Affairs
Princeton University

Michael A. Reynolds
Associate Professor of Near Eastern Studies
Princeton University

Jacqueline C. Rivers
Lecturer in Sociology and African and African-American Studies
Harvard University

Noël Valis
Professor of Spanish
Yale University

Tyler VanderWeele
Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Director of the Program on Integrative Knowledge and Human Flourishing
Harvard University

Adrian Vermeule
Ralph S. Tyler, Jr. Professor of Constitutional Law
Harvard University

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The Carnivorous Planter

 

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There is a devil lurking in the shadows seeking to devour whosoever comes its way. It is an elongated beast, some 5 metres in length and 1 metre broad across its back. It perches menacingly, its hollowed out back standing at least 60 centimetres above the ground. It’s dark brown flesh is scarred from many a battle. It reeks of peat and earthly moss. Deep within its back lay the flowing orange fire that lures its victims to a sudden and untimely disaster.

That insidious monster is my neighbour’s flower planter situated obnoxiously between my double driveway and theirs. It is an accident waiting to happen, violating at least one city bylaw. This devil disguised as an innocuous marigold flower planter has destroyed more of our vehicles than I care to elaborate. Front bumpers, rear bumpers, lower body panels, tires, wheels, and doors – the dastardly creature has attacked and devoured them all.

I have pleaded with my neighbour for well over a decade to remove the barrier or at least cut it back to be in compliance with city bylaw. It is nearly impossible for a car to turn left from the street on to our driveway without the danger of being accosted by that mud brown devil incarnate of a beast called a flower planter. We have spent literally thousands of dollars repairing various automobiles of ours (not to mention friends) after a confrontation with the beast.

Last night was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back. We just purchased a brand new car that cost us literally half the price of our home in 1995. The new Honda hot hatch was parked on the far left side of the driveway, far away from the smelly monster. My wife and daughter were taking our “old” car out for a spin. Our youngest was familiarizing herself with her “new” hand-me-down. After picking up some ice-cream at the local supermarket, she tried to maneuver the Honda coupe into the far right side of the driveway, being ever so careful not to hit our shiny new car.

Lo and behold, the monster was awakened, lunged out, and took a big bite out of the front bumper. It’s talons tearing and scratching at the lower front of the car.

My devastated daughter just sat in the car and cried. Her “new” car was no longer immaculate, but wounded and mangled. By the time I was called outside to inspect the damage, I was livid with anger – not at my daughter, but at that damn planter and at myself for allowing this to go on for so long.

Sometimes, being a good neighbour is a one way street with little or no cooperation from the other party. That’s it – the war is on. That planter is going to be removed come hell or high water.

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