MONDAY, JANUARY 28
WISE PLANTING: A PRAYER
What we are, we have reached because of other people's planting. The thoughts, the values, the ideas and the feelings we possess are articulate because we have been the recipients of knowledge, kindness, love and understanding. And above all, the mystery we call Life, we owe to a Presence yet unknown but still very near to us. For these gifts not our own we give thanks.
And now, O God, may we have the faith in life to do wise planting that the generations to come may reap even more abundantly than we. May we be reminded of the wise ones of old who admonished, “If you plan for one year, plant grain; if you plan for ten years, plant trees; if you plan for the centuries, plant men.” May we be bold in bringing to fruition the golden dreams of human kinship and justice. This we ask that the fields of promise become fields of reality.
— V. Emil Gudmundson (born January 28, 1924)
© 1982: The Estate of V. Emil Gudmundson. Used with permission.
CULTIVO UNA ROSA BLANCA
I cultivate a white rose
In July as in January
For the sincere friend
Who gives me his hand frankly.
And for the cruel person who tears
out the heart with which I live,
I cultivate neither nettles nor thorns:
I cultivate a white rose.
— José Marti (born January 28, 1853)
TUESDAY, JANUARY 29
It is a contradiction in terms and ideas to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication. After this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner, for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him.
— Thomas Paine (born January 29, 1737)
SEEKING GOD IN CREATION
Contemplating the universe, the whole system of creation, in this point of light, we shall discover, that all that which is called natural philosophy is properly a divine study — it is the study of God through his works — it is the best study, by which we can arrive at a knowledge of the existence, and the only one by which we can gain a glimpse of his perfection.
Do we want to contemplate his power? We see it in the immensity of the Creation. Do we want to contemplate his wisdom? We see it in the unchangeable order by which the incomprehensible Whole is governed. Do we want to contemplate his munificence? We see it in the abundance with which he fills the earth. Do we want to contemplate his mercy? We see it in his not withholding that abundance even from the unthankful. In fine, do we want to know what God is? Search not written or printed books, but the Scripture called the Creation.
— Thomas Paine (born January 29, 1737)
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 30
Experience is the inward light, and it will satisfy each soul in its own way. All eyes are not helped in the same way; too much light blinds as certainly as too little; but God puts a taper, a candle, a star, a sun, a heaven of suns into the souls of his
children, just as they need or can bear more orless. The glow-worm's light guides its mate as well as the morning star guides the dawn. Not what your soul, but what my soul needs, not what would satisfy you, but what satisfies me, is the heart's rightful demand; and this is just what religious experience, when it comes, gives to every soul.
If people would only believe in just that little original religious experience which each of them possesses, if they would only trust the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world, how soon they would find it increasing and shedding ever more satisfying illumination on their way.
— Henry W. Bellows (died January 30, 1882)
THE REALIZATION OF A TRANSCENDANT MYSTERY
Not as I will, but as Thou wilt. We may repeat these words upon occasions, in hours of bereavement. But do they suggest anything more to our minds than a silent submission to the inevitable? They have a far, far deeper meaning.
To accept them as expressing the supreme abiding law of life, from a heart overflowing with their full significance, is the greatest act of which the soul of man is capable.
It is not the annihilation of the human will, it is not the mere passive submission of it to a higher Power. It is the realization of a transcendent mystery of our being: the exaltation of the human will to an identity with the Supreme Will.
To realize this mystery in one's self, to be con- scious that one's own will is identically the Divine Will is to be made conscious of the imperishable Life and Love and Power of the Supreme Nature, and consequently, of a profound sense of being in harmony with the whole world of things, of a Peace, the Peace of God, down deep in the heart, that
nothing can reach to destroy.
Would that we all might know this great truth from our own experience! We all shall know it, if not now and here, yet hereafter.
— William H. Furness (died January 30, 1896
THURSDAY, JANUARY 31
With Unicorns we feel the nostalgia of the infinite, the sorcery of dolls, the salt of sex, the vertigo of them that skirt the edge of perilous ravines, or straddle the rim of finer issues. He dwells in equivocal twilights; and he can stare the sun out of countenance. The enchanting Unicorn boasts no favoured zone. He runs around the globe. He is of all ages and climes. He knows that fantastic land of Gautier, which contains all the divine lost landscapes ever painted, and whose inhabitants are the lovely figures created by art in granite, marble, or wood, on walls, canvas, or crystal. Betimes he flashes by the nymph in the brake, and dazzled, she sighs with desire. Mallarmé set him to cryptic harmonies, and placed him in a dim rich forest (though he called him a faun; a faun in retorsion). Like the apocryphal Sadhuzag in Flaubert's cosmical drama of dreams, which bore seventy-four hollow antlers from which issued music of ineffable sweetness, our Unicorn sings ravishing melodies for those who possess the inner ear of mystics and poets. When angered he echoes the Seven Thunders of the Apocalypse, and we hear of desperate rumours of fire, flood, and disaster. And he haunts those ivory gates of sleep whence come ineffable dreams to mortals.
He has always fought with the Lion for the crown, and he is always defeated, but invariably claims the victory. The crown is Art, and the Lion, being a realist born, is only attracted by its glitter, not the symbol. The Unicorn, an idealist, divines the inner meaning of this precious fillet of gold. Art is the modern philosopher's stone, and the most brilliant jewel in this much-contested crown. Eternal is the conflict of the Real and the Ideal; Aristotle and Plato; Alice and the Unicorn; the practical and the poetic; butterflies and geese; and rare roast-beef versus the impossible blue rose. And neither the Lion nor the Unicorn has yet fought the battle decisive. Perhaps the day may come when, weariness invading their very bones, they may realise that they are as different sides of the same coveted shield; matter and spirit, the multitude and the individual. Then unlock the ivory tower, abolish the tyrannies of superannuated superstitions, and give the people vision, without which they perish. The divine rights of humanity, no longer of kingly cabbages.
— James G. Huneker (born January 31, 1857)
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 1
THE MASK OF CHURCH-GOING
We hear much said in recent days about the irreligious tendencies of people as manifested in the multitudes who do not go to any church; and the prospect is in some respects bad. Yet, to my mind, there is a thousand-fold more ground for solicitude concerning the moral and spiritual welfare of society, in the fact that there are so many habitual church-goers who are no more religious in their characters and lives than if they had no contact whatever with religious institutions, and to whom religious habits have only become a convenient cloak, not only to cover the want of real moral and spiritual earnestness, but to conceal decently from the public eye positive moral deformity and rottenness. To such an extent does the insincerity prevail, that it is a wonder the maskers, as they meet in their Sunday pilgrimage to their respective churches, do not peep out from under their masks to laugh at each other's attempt at pious deceit. The deceit, however, has a sort of conventional success. At least the mask answers its purpose of advertising where the wearer is, and in what social circle he may be found. As to character, it cannot be said to vouch for, nor perhaps to impeach that.
— William J. Potter (born February 1, 1829)
Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos; the materials must, in the first place, be afforded: it can give form to dark, shapeless substances, but cannot bring into being the substance itself. In all matters of discovery and invention, even of those that appertain to the imagination, we are continually reminded of the story of Columbus and his egg. Invention consists in the capacity of seizing on the capabilities of a subject, and in the power of moulding and fashioning ideas suggested to it.
— Mary Shelley (died February 1, 1851)
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 2
The sufferings of humankind fall into two groups: those arising from natural causes, such as disease, floods, famine, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions; and those which are the result of human ignorance or wrongdoing, selfishness, greed, cruelty, persecution, warfare. It is only the latter group of ills which can be called evil, in any moral sense, for moral considerations arise only on the level of human personality. A cat tormenting a mouse suffers no qualms of conscience, and there is nothing immoral in the sweep of a devastating hurricane, though it drown scores or hundreds of people in its path. … The ills due to natural causes proceed from conditions inherent in the constitution of the universe, which we cannot change or abolish but to which, with the growth of knowledge or foresight, we can better adapt ourselves. …
Moral evil is of a different order and has been explained in a variety of ways in the Judeo-Christian tradition. It has been attributed to the entrance of evil spirits or devils into the hearts of men and women; to Satan, “the adversary” of the good God in the struggle for control of the world; to the existence of two antagonistic realms of being, the inherently evil realm of matter and the holy realm of the spirit; to the fall of Adam in the garden of Eden. …
The inquiring mind today has a wholly different understanding of the source of both the good and the evil in human nature. … Evil comes from failure to control instinctive reactions so that they may work for the common good, either because willful, self-seeking desires, checked only by fear of retaliation, override all other considerations, or because people have become so committed to some doctrinaire theory of action that they are blind to its consequences and become ruthless in enforcing it.
— Henry Wilder Foote (born February 2, 1875)
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 3
A PRIMEVAL GRANDEUR
The traditions of all nations point to a primeval grandeur of the human race, whose glory shines through the mist of ages; a golden age, when the gods could visit mortals — when wisdom and innocence were one — when there was no discord in our nature, hut freedom was order, to know, to will, to do, were one; when human brotherhood was a present fact — when there was harmony between man and creation, between man and the Creator.
A gleam of this bright vision comes to us through the records of every nation; it shines through the mystic writings of the East, through the poetic fables of the West, through the wild sagas of the North; and the eye of faith gathering up these scattered rays, bends them on the Garden of Eden, where in beautiful radiance we behold the first man, Adam and Eve, Heaven-crowned; and in them we may incarnate our ideal of the Human race; harmoniously blending beauty and strength, lofty intelligence, powerful action, and purity of soul.
Connected with this universal thought, of the lofty origin of Humanity, is the high standard which is cherished by every people of the grand power of our nature — the excellence to which it may attain. The evils of existence, the poverty of daily life, have never dimmed this thought, this aspiration after a loftier expression than is seen in actual performance; there is a deep consciousness in the heart of every people, that at some future time, they shall reach a higher condition than their present one. A spirit of unseen beauty broods over them, and thus we behold the effort of man in every age to express his own ideal — to behold his own faculties raised to their highest power …
Observe how in all ages our ancestors have endeavored to express their ideals by beautiful forms, through which the spirit might freely shine ; they saw more
clearly than we do, that the condition of our present life is the union of body and soul, that we cannot live as disembodied spirits, but must necessarily express ourselves through a material frame — that our aspirations are often limited by the body, and that the condition of our material organization reacts most powerfully upon the soul. They saw that weakness, ugliness, and disease, deaden our power, cripple all our activities, and render our lives discordant — therefore they figured their gods and goddesses and heroes, under forms of surpassing beauty; their bodies were well proportioned, the features regular; every muscle had a living development, every sense a vigorous organ: and all these forms though perfect, were infinitely varied — the beauty of Juno was not the beauty of Diana — the perfection of Jupiter differed from that of Apollo — it was not the beauty of material form as an end, that they aimed to reach, but the grand truth that the loftiest qualities of the soul find their highest expression in corresponding beauty of form.
See how beautifully the harmonic development of one phase of womanhood was expressed in the ancient myth of Athena, the stately deity of Attica. Her mother was the wisest, her father the most powerful of the celestials, and these attributes of wisdom and power were blended in her character with that benignant protecting care which marks the maternal character in woman. She was the protectress of the state and of social institutions, and of all that gives to society its highest prosperity. She was the inventor of the plough, the rake, the bridle; she created the olive tree, instructing men in the cultivation of the land, and the taming of animals. The inventions ascribed to her, were such as required thought and meditation — the science of numbers, the art of navigating, the use of fire, were taught by her, and the elegant works of women. She maintained law and justice, and when judgment was divided in the case of an accused person, she gave a casting vote on the side of mercy. She was the protectress of the defences of the state, the walls, fortresses, harbors, and her warlike character is assumed for the welfare of the people — she is represented as sitting by the side of Jupiter, supporting him by her counsel. The expression of her countenance is thoughtful and earnest, her face oval, with luxuriant hair combed back from the temples, and floating freely down behind; the figure is majestic and strongly built, clothed in the Spartan tunic and cloak.
— Elizabeth Blackwell (born February 3, 1821)
|Barbara J.R. Gudmundson and V. Emil Gudmundson|