Here is a narrow street here in Houston that I came across a few days ago.
You might not equate such a narrow and old street with our sprawling and perpetually new city.
And yet there is indeed such a street in Houston.
My posts have been brief of late as I work on a new web site and think things out about how I want to proceed.
Thank you for reading Texas Liberal.
I am very much at home when I am in motion.
Here is a picture I took a few days ago on the commuter train from the Chicago suburbs into Downtown Chicago.
On a train such as the one I was on when I took this picture , or when I am driving, or when I am taking a walk—-I have many productive thoughts.
The place where we return each day after our work—or where we return after a vacation—has many virtues.
Being in motion also has many virtues.
When in motion we see new things and we are energized.
The Earth is constant motion around the sun.
Without neglecting the fact of the underlying brutality of this wicked society— everyday and every place has great value.
Wanting A Quiet Place To Think, I Went To The Houston Astros Game—The Right Mix Of Factors To Get Some Thinking Done In A Public Place
Wanting a quiet place to think where I could have some space, I attended the Houston Astros game this past Monday evening.
Above you see a picture I took in the second inning.
With the roof open on a warm spring evening, the game was a nice and relaxing spot for contemplation.
There was just the right mix of people around to look at and ponder, while at the same time enough room to have your distance from others. The game and the stadium offered all sorts of things to look at while not breaking your train of thought.
The Astros have in 2012 already had the smallest crowd ever recorded at Minute Maid Park for a game. With this being just April, there is plenty of time for that record to be broken again.
It is great to have a public place where you can think.
When I lived in Cincinnati, I enjoyed going to the River Downs horse track with my father. There were always some people around, but the track was built for the larger crowds that attended horse racing years ago.
You’d sit off by yourself and look at the people. Across the way there were some hills. This was just as how you can see tall Downtown Houston buildings with the roof open at Minute Maid.
At the race track you would sit there and be peaceful, and every so often some horses would run past.
Below you see a picture I took at River Downs in 2011. There was no racing that day. You could go to clubhouse and place bets on races at other tracks.
That was a fine quiet snowy day.
What I look for in a public place where I want to get some thinking done is the right combination of action, apathy, things to see such as trees or buildings or horses or a baseball game, and personal space.
I don’t want to be a hermit, but there is only a certain extent to which I want others around.
One to be fully engaged in the world is to make sure that you have some space.
I was out and about in Houston today.
The picture above was taken today and conveys the fact that it was quite sunny.
I was thinking as I walked and drove around about the need to take everybody as individual, while at the same time not forgetting that everyone is connected.
These two imperatives can draw upon different internal resources, and can highlight competing strains of thought about how to view the world.
Also, it was so bright and sunny as I traveled around the big city today. Individual things stand in such clear relief when so clearly lit.
Still–I was not swayed from my thoughts. Being under the light of the sun was a unifying aspect of the things I saw.
In the year ahead please consider finding the internal resources and flexibility of mind to accept the people you encounter as individuals and without preconceived notions, while at the same time grasping that what happens to one person happens to all people.
Last night, from about 10:30 PM until maybe 1:30 AM, I drove back to Houston from Austin. My wife is out-of-town visiting family and I had Thanksgiving dinner in Austin with a friend. I took Highway 290 to get to Austin and back.
I enjoyed my ride home.
Here is why I enjoyed this ride—
1. I had three hours alone to think.
2. It was mostly cloudy. I liked looking at the light of towns and cities in the distance reflected by the clouds. I’m not saying people are always best in the abstract, but it is good to have a mix of actual human contact and a more remote consideration of the human condition.
3. I was glad not to be robbed or to stumble upon a robbery-in-progress when I stopped at an all-night gas station at midnight to get something to drink.
4. I was able to contemplate the road I was driving on as agent of communication between people. The road is an extension of our natural desire to go other places and to see other people.
5. Consistent with the point above , I thought about how the road was built by people, yet how it also bended to the topography. Terms like “natural” and “artificial” don’t really have clear meanings in many ways.
6. I liked the intermittent flashing lights on the electrical towers, radio transmission towers, and cell phone towers. Though these towers often stand isolated in remote places, they are in fact necessary to facilitate all sorts of communication between people.
7. I felt active and alert while driving and thinking, yet I felt removed from the world out in the night at a late hour. I found this to be a good state of mind.
It is helpful to have breaks from the routine of life. Such breaks can allow for reflection, for new thoughts, for the updating of long-standing ideas, and for renewed commitment to ideas that are of personal importance or that are of personal interest.
In This Video I Stand In Front Of Fishing Pier Smashed By Hurricane Ike And Ask You To Be Flexible Of Mind
Here is a video in which I ask you to be flexible of mind, and to see many meanings at once in whatever it is you may be looking at in life.
At the same time, I ask you to see no conflict between something having many meanings and one specific meaning all at the same time.
This video will take but 48 seconds of your time.
Behind me is a smashed fishing pier from Hurricane Ike. I am in Galveston, Texas in this video. I am standing in front of the wave-swept pier and in front of the Gulf of Mexico.
The book I reference in the Penguin Dictionary of Symbols.
Marjorie Grene, a philosopher of biology, has died at age 98. Dr. Grene is pictured above.
I had not heard of Dr. Grene before reading her obituary in the New York Times earlier this week.
Life is rough in that you can accomplish a lot, but the first thing you do noteworthy enough for many to take note of you is die.
There was much of note in Dr. Grene’s life’s story. But the excerpt from her obituary that most caught my attention was this–
“She rejected Descartes’ belief that self-awareness defined the understanding of existence, arguing that meaning comes from interaction with the environment.”
This is excellent. The idea that an understanding of existence is based on interactions with the world around you, instead of on the narrow basis of simply being aware that you exist, is just the thing.
Folks—We’ve got to get out there and mingle in the world of people, places, and ideas. Just being aware of yourself is not enough.
From the Times obituary—
Marjorie Glicksman was born in Milwaukee on Dec. 13, 1910, and graduated from Wellesley College in 1931 as a zoology major. She then studied with Heidegger and Jaspers in Germany before earning her doctorate at Radcliffe. She taught at the University of Chocago where she met and married David Grene, a lauded classicist known for his translations of Greek tragedies….In 1944, she followed her husband’s dream and moved to an Illinois farm. As a farmer’s wife and the mother of two children, she got up early to study and write philosophy before beginning farm work. In 1952, the family moved to a farm in Ireland, where the routine continued….The farm life taught her a lesson, she wrote in “A Philosophical Testament” (1995): “Agricultural duties and critical philosophies didn’t mix.”… In Chicago, she had met Michael Polanyi, a distinguished physical chemist turned philosopher; she ended up helping him research and develop his important book “Personal Knowledge” (1958). The book proposed a far more nuanced, personal idea of knowledge, and directly addressed approaches to science
It would be great to be paid to think as was Dr. Grene. Though it is also good that we all have the ability to think about our lives and world around us to a greater extent than we often realize. Maybe some of the ideas discussed on one of the links above will be a springboard to new thoughts of our own.
People are smarter than they grasp.
The following is from Graham Greene’s The End Of The Affair. The starting point is a meeting between a private detective and a novelist. The Mr. Savage in this excerpt is the detective—
” ‘And if there’s anything more you could tell me that would be relevant?’ I remember Mr. Savage had said—a detective must find it as important as a novelist to amass his trivial materials before picking out the right clue. But how difficult that picking out is–the release of the real subject. The enormous pressure of the real world weighs down on us like a peine forte et dure…..How can I disinter the human character from the heavy scene—the daily newspaper, the daily meal, the traffic grinding toward Battersea, the gulls coming up from the Thames looking for bread, and the early summer of 1939 glinting on the park where the children sailed their boats—one of those bright condemned pre-war summers?” ( Please see the bottom of the post for what peine forte et dure means and where Battersea is located.)
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have the time to sit and think— or maybe take a walk and think— and to be able to sift out what’s important from what’s not important or not as important?
I recall the Japanese Tea Garden (picture below) in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco as a place where I felt I could think. But I’ve only been there once and may never go again.
The time and effort to think things through, must, when all is said and done, be summoned as act of personal discipline and good use of time.
( I’ve looked up what peine forte et dure means–It was a form of punishment for a defendant who refused to plead one way or another to a crime. Heavier and heavier stones would be placed on his chest until he either made a plea or died. Battersea is a section of London running along the River Thames—I had to look that up as well.)
I’m someone who often needs time alone so I can think and so I can manage my personality. If I don’t get time alone I feel like I’m drowning intellectually and, also, I get grouchy.
I’m lucky I have a wife with an almost intuitive understanding of when I need to be alone. I’m lucky my marriage is strong enough that the wife doesn’t take it personally when I want to take a walk or a ride by myself.
Sometimes the desire to withdraw from the company of others is strong. I feel if I could just go a week without talking to anybody, I would then make deep and profound blog posts and make great progress on the book I’m working on. (Though with a week alone, I might just go an hour down the road to Galveston and watch the tides and the ships.)
As my life is structured now, a week alone is not in the cards.
It’s jarring to go from time alone back to being in contact with others. I feel that my thoughts will be lost. Though, fortunately, that’s not really the case.
My greatest difficulty is in finding the balance between time alone and meaningful interactions with others. How does one successfully possess both temperaments required to make the best of such disparate demands on the intellect and personality?
As far as I can tell, this attribute comes from the same source that good blog posts and progress on a book comes from—Strong mental discipline. It also come from, to a degree,the good luck to have discretionary time and to not have to spend all your effort in life just getting by economically.
I think I have at least some of the discipline needed to communicate things of value. I will say though that it is a lifelong challenge to reach my personal goals in this regard and to use my time in the best ways possible.
It is specific to each individual as to the steps needed to express what is best about their intellect and personality. It is worth the hard work necessary to figure out what those needed steps are.