The Courage to Be Yourself: E.E. Cummings on Art, Life, and Being Unafraid to Feel – Brain Pickings

via The Courage to Be Yourself: E.E. Cummings on Art, Life, and Being Unafraid to Feel – Brain Pickings

“To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.”

“No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life,”wrote the thirty-year-old Nietzsche. “The true and durable path into and through experience,” Nobel-winning poet Seamus Heaney counseled the young more than a century later in his magnificent commencement address“involves being true … to your own solitude, true to your own secret knowledge.”

Every generation believes that it must battle unprecedented pressures of conformity; that it must fight harder than any previous generation to protect that secret knowledge from which our integrity of selfhood springs. Some of this belief stems from the habitual conceit of a culture blinded by its own presentism bias, ignorant of the past’s contextual analogues. But much of it in the century and a half since Nietzsche, and especially in the years since Heaney, is an accurate reflection of the conditions we have created and continually reinforce in our present informational ecosystem — a Pavlovian system of constant feedback, in which the easiest and commonest opinions are most readily rewarded, and dissenting voices are most readily punished by the unthinking mob.

E.E. Cummings by Edward Weston (Photograph courtesy of the Center for Creative Photography)
E.E. Cummings by Edward Weston (Photograph courtesy of the Center for Creative Photography)

Few people in the two centuries since Emerson issued his exhortation to “trust thyself” have countered this culturally condoned blunting of individuality more courageously and consistently than E.E. Cummings (October 14, 1894–September 3, 1962) — an artist who never cowered from being his unconventional self because, in the words of his most incisive and competent biographer, he “despised fear, and his life was lived in defiance of all who ruled by it.”

A fortnight after the poet’s fifty-ninth birthday, a small Michigan newspaper published a short, enormous piece by Cummings under the title “A Poet’s Advice to Students,” radiating expansive wisdom on art, life, and the courage of being yourself. It went on to inspire Buckminster Fuller and was later included in E.E. Cummings: A Miscellany Revised (public library) — that wonderful out-of-print collection which the poet himself described as “a cluster of epigrams, forty-nine essays on various subjects, a poem dispraising dogmata, and several selections from unfinished plays,” and which gave us Cummings on what it really means to be an artist.

Illustration from Enormous Smallness by Matthew Burgess, an illustrated tribute to E.E. Cummings

Addressing those who aspire to be poets — no doubt in that broadest Baldwinian sense of wakeful artists in any medium and courageous seers of human truth — Cummings echoes the poet Laura Riding’s exquisite letters to an eight-year-old girl about being oneself and writes:

A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words.

This may sound easy. It isn’t.

A lot of people think or believe or know they feel — but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling — not knowing or believing or thinking.

Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.

To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

Page from Enormous Smallness by Matthew Burgess

Cummings should know — just four years earlier, he had fought that hardest battle himself: When he was awarded the prestigious Academy of American Poets annual fellowship — the MacArthur of poetry — Cummings had to withstand harsh criticism from traditionalists who besieged him with hate for the bravery of breaking with tradition and being nobody-but-himself in his art. With an eye to that unassailable creative integrity buoyed by relentless work ethic, he adds:

As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in words, that means working just a little harder than anybody who isn’t a poet can possibly imagine. Why? Because nothing is quite as easy as using words like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time — and whenever we do it, we’re not poets.

If, at the end of your first ten or fifteen years of fighting and working and feeling, you find you’ve written one line of one poem, you’ll be very lucky indeed.

And so my advice to all young people who wish to become poets is: do something easy, like learning how to blow up the world — unless you’re not only willing, but glad, to feel and work and fight till you die.

Does that sound dismal? It isn’t.

It’s the most wonderful life on earth.

Or so I feel.

Complement the thoroughly invigorating E.E. Cummings: A Miscellany Revised with a lovely illustrated celebration of Cummings’s creative bravery, then revisit Pulitzer-winning poet Robert Penn Warren on what it really means to find yourself and Janis Joplin on the courage of being what you find.

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This 10-minute routine will increase confidence and self-esteem | Ladders

According to Dr. Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychological Association, there are several differences between optimists and pessimists.

Pessimists

Pessimists explain negative events as a permanent fixture of their identity (something they can’t change). They view themselves (or life in general) as the problem, and there is nothing that can really be done.
Optimists

Optimists explain negative events as situation and short-lived. When something goes wrong, they focus on situational factors that can be altered and improved.

via This 10-minute routine will increase confidence and self-esteem | Ladders

Meher baba on Indian Independence

Shireen Davenport

Meher Baba on Independence on 4 September 1931,

“Baba remarked, “If Gandhi comes to meet me, it would be very good for him and good for all concerned.”

About the Round Table Conference, Baba explained to Chanji and Rustom:

Even Gandhi will have no influence there, in spite of his presence. He should have gone at first with other representatives who, in a wavering mood, left for Multan; but at that time, Gandhi hesitated on account of certain grievances. Then he suddenly agreed to participate in the conference, though most of their grievances were not redressed.

The point is that once Gandhi refused to join in the conference on certain grounds, he ought to have refused to the end. He should not have suddenly consented to take part in it unless and until all his grievances were redressed and removed, and he should have stayed in India. But being inconsistent, he consented to attend the conference at the eleventh hour. He has lost his prestige and now he won’t succeed there. At the Round Table Conference, differences of opinion will prevail among the parties and no one will agree, and Gandhi’s influence will not make a difference. His influence will be ineffectual.

“Why?” asked Chanji.

In reply, Baba spelled out:

Gandhi’s influence has already waned. He wants to keep every party pleased and there[in] lies his weakness. How could he keep everybody pleased when they all are opposed to one another and have conflicting views, extremely opposite to each other?

In India, the many political parties and creeds all have one common aim: to attain independence. But there is not a single party among them who can come to terms with another party about details. Even the [Indian National] Congress, the party considered strongest, is affected by the foul odor of religious differences.

Its influence on others is gradually failing. With the weakening of its influence, the influence of Gandhi is also waning. Not only are the two greatest and largest parties and communities, the Muslims and the Untouchables, out of the influence of the Congress, but they also oppose and fight tooth and nail against Gandhi and the Congress.

Even among his own followers, or those who at least agree with him on the question of independence, their objectives differ. Observe how Sarojini Naidu and Pandit Malaviya act. Gandhi preaches the use of khadi [handspun cotton cloth] to all and sundry, yet Mrs. Naidu wears silks, though she is a colleague in his fight for independence. Gandhi preaches and advocates the abolition of caste and religion, particularly in abolishing Untouchability, and his lieutenant in the Congress Party, Malaviya, does not adhere to it. Malaviya takes his cook to England with him, thinking that eating meals prepared by foreigners is irreligious. There are thousands in the Congress who do not accept this dictum of Gandhi’s at all, and that is why the party is not strong; the result of which will bode ill for the future.

Gandhi also advocates celibacy, though he himself is married and has children, and recently he arranged his son’s marriage. There are so many things like these which he recommends, but does not put into practice himself. Why preach such things which he himself can’t or won’t do?

It is this trait in his character, combined with two other great defects — vanity and inconsistency — which causes Gandhi to lose his influence gradually, and leads those who once admired him to oppose him today. Shaukat Ali was once Gandhi’s closest companion and he is now his staunchest opponent. Why? Because of that great dividing factor: the religious animosity and enmity between the Hindus and Muslims. The religious fanatics on both sides have nurtured and fostered this hatred to the extent that even in Congress there are the orthodox who color every political activity and action with their religious bigotry, and it is all authorized, approved and practiced by and with Gandhi. This leads to great antagonism which is now weakening the Congress party.

What can I say about [Gandhi’s] vanity? Too much of a thing always spoils a man. To raise one to the seventh heaven and to cry out “Mahatma Gandhi ki jai” has made him vain and brought him down.

Shaukat Ali has caustically remarked, “These things have gone to his head and made him [Gandhi] mad!”

Besides, his immediate attendants put up a great show and fuss in every activity, which shows that Gandhi has a taste for it. But it is the natural outcome of too much praise and adulation. This daily exhibition in all functions, public and private, has reached the limit. It is too prominent to conceal from a shrewd observer or a sincere soul, who never likes or desires such a show. Hence, there is the dislike of him by many who, in spite of their admiration for him at one point, have left and are leaving him in [droves].

The Perfect Master of Spirituality can do anything and everything. He can preach about things which he himself does not practice, and for his spiritual purposes he can do things according to the prevailing conditions and circumstances, because he is eternally free of all things and can undo their effects. This is something an imperfect person can never do, much less one who has no “wind” [breeze] even of spirituality [such as a political leader, like Gandhi].

The reactionary effects of all these preachings, fuss, sham, show and vanity are disastrous, causing a gradual erosion of any influence Gandhi has among his admirers and followers, however great. If Gandhi’s influence goes, the rise of youth will take place, which in its activity will resemble Russian communalism. The signs are already there, as we find them assassinating people in high places and assaulting them in broad daylight.

Although Jawaharlal [Nehru] sides with Gandhi in his objective for independence, his views, creed and activities are quite different from Gandhi’s.

On the 5th, regarding Britain, Baba said:

The British government will not grant anything more than what was settled on in the last Round Table Conference. There is a change of government and, except for [Prime Minister] MacDonald, no one has any sympathy for our cause. Gandhi, too, will not gain anything more by his presence than what has already been decided to be given. His personality and influence will have no effect at all. And if Gandhi tries to give in again to avoid a conflict, the Congress will not accept it.

Baba predicted a civil war erupting in India between Hindus and Muslims. “There will be a terrible massacre and slaughter of one another,” he stated. “It will also have its reflection on Europeans.

There will be an equally strong civil war between the Indians and foreigners, particularly the Europeans and more particularly the British.”

On the 7th, Baba said:

The common cause of nationalism and the objective of achieving independence are sacrificed for want of unity between the Hindus and the Mohammedans, and they are harming their own cause by bringing religion into the matter. No one understands religion, and all this strife and squabble is born of irreligiousness.

Gandhi, who goes to England as the chosen leader of the Congress and the spokesman for India, this time will have no influence, unfortunately, owing to various reasons of conflicting ideals and party politics. Not only will his influence fail with the British people, but his influence will fall considerably even with his own people, the Indians, to the extent of failure. And with Gandhiji’s influence gone, and “communalism” coming in, civil war will follow.

This is all very sad for poor India and for Britain, too. But sadder times are still to come before the sun of the New Era of peace and prosperity dawns on the world, for such is ordained.”

Revised Lord Meher, pp. 1237-1240, copyright AMBPPCT
photo: Meher Baba, 1931
copyright Meher Nazar Publications or MSI Collection

Random Acts of Kindness – Choose one. I have.

  1. Remember to turn the lights off when you leave a room!
  2. Make your voice count – sign a petition for a good cause
  3. Support a small, local business as a customer
  4. It’s hard to stay connected – reach out to an elderly person you know
  5. Visit a friend who’s sick
  6. Hug your parents
  7. Compliment someone today!
  8. Start the day right – make breakfast for everyone
  9. Send a thank you card to someone who has made a difference in your life (a friend, family member, teacher etc.)
  10. Leave a kind message anywhere (in a library book, on a computer etc.)

RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS. Keep at it!

  1. Help someone carry their pushchair up/down the stairs
  2. Volunteer your time for a good cause
  3. Make a hot beverage for a friend/family
  4. We all need help sometimes; offer someone a helping hand
  5. Surprise your parents with flowers
  6. Oooh wait! There’s somebody behind you; hold the door open!
  7. Someone looking lost? Help them with directions
  8. Bake something for your family/friends
  9. Read a good book recently? Pass it on to someone else
  10. Who will be making dinner for your family today? Tag, you’re it!

From Longitude a newsletter I subscribe

  • July 26, 2018

Looking at the Aging Workforce through a New Lens

When hiring managers mobilize older workers, it’s a win-win.

Many businesses are facing a critical shortage of experienced professionals, with industries such as accounting citing lack of skilled personnel as the No. 1 challenge for three quarters in a row. Much of the conversation is centered on the skills gap, high retirement rates for so-called boomers and the inability to find the skills employers are looking for in the younger workforce.

Pullquote share icon.ShareBy 2020, more than 50 percent of the workforce will be over the age of 55.

What employers must realize is that even though boomers are retiring from the office, they aren’t leaving the workforce.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 40 percent of people ages 55 and older were working or actively looking for work in 2014. That number, known as a labor force participation rate, is expected to increase fastest for the oldest segments of the population – most notably, people ages 65 to 74 and 75 and older – through 2024.

In contrast, participation rates for most other age groups in the labor force aren’t projected to change much over the 2014 to 2024 decade. Another study from Prudential found that one-third of independent contractors are boomers – a subset of the economy gearing up to be a mighty and powerful force.

For hiring managers to attract top talent, they must view the aging workforce through a new lens. Today, we consider those 65-plus to be “older” and less skilled or capable. But we must shift our perspective on age.

The average life expectancy for a man is 80 years old, and for a woman, the average is 85 years. A 50 year old, therefore, is no longer a “senior.”

A shift in perspective

By 2020, more than 50 percent of the workforce will be over the age of 55. We have CEOs and politicians in their 70s and still at the top of their game.

In fact, recent research on the aging brain found that past the age of 50, our brains get better at problem-solving and decision making, skills that will be crucial as AI becomes more prevalent.

Pullquote share icon.ShareVintage employeeshave a high level of job commitment, employer loyalty and diverse knowledge.

In 2017, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 18,376 claims of age discrimination and found that 65 percent of older workers say age is a barrier to getting a job.

Employers that recognize this challenge, and the opportunity that comes with hiring “vintage” employees, are finding new talent with a high level of job commitment, employer loyalty, openness to mentor a younger generation of professionals and a diverse knowledge base that can be applied to a variety of business challenges.

Let skills speak for themselves

The process of hiring a vintage employee is not the same as any other job candidate, but organizations like Work at Home Vintage Experts (WAHVE) are dedicated to carefully matching older, qualified professionals to the talent needs of companies. They help employers overcome the preconceived notion of an older workforce, using blind hiring practices to let competencies and skills speak for themselves.

When hiring managers mobilize the older workforce, it’s a win-win. Companies get highly skilled workers with the talent they need, and retiring workers get to continue their career.

This article originally appeared on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation blog and was republished with permission.

Sharon Emek is founder, CEO and President of Work At Home Vintage Experts (WAHVE).Click the RSS icon to subscribe to future articles by this author. RSS Feed

I’m Out! – A Didactic Cinquain by Jay

I’m Out! – A Didactic Cinquain

by Jay

I’m Out!
Spiffing, weirdo
Snapping, walloping shock, humungous banging
Such feelings of pain
Out Cold