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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Martin Luther King


One of the great inspirations of my life was Martin Luther King, Jr. He was one of the first biographies I studied as an adult. I had just returned to church after a sixteen year hiatus and I was very much a pacifist. He taught me that being non-violent can be powerful.

I was surprised to learn that he was only fifteen when he graduated from high school. I don’t think this is ever mentioned when his legacy is discussed. M.L. King was gifted. He was gifted intellectually, but also spiritually. Most educators will not consider spirituality because it is hard to measure, but we all know the spiritual gifts when we see them. Spirituality is such an individual experience people often don’t want to talk about it. Certainly serving others, feeding and caring for the poor, standing up for those who have no power, loving others, and having a rich intrapersonal life are spiritual. King had all of those. 

A young black man from the South, he became a Baptist minister after completing his education. Slavery had ended generations ago, but black people were still held in contempt by much of the society and were expected to be tolerant of mistreatment. Even in the North, blacks were shut out of good housing and good jobs. King believed in non-violent protest as a means to change society for the better. He and his colleagues on the board of NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) began to support the smaller movements in the South, led by the black citizens of the community.

This led to a greater recognition of the need for change. Inspired by Jesus Christ, Gandhi, and Thoreau, King believed that the only way to defeat violence was through peaceful protest. He was a leader in the Montgomery bus boycott and went on to lead the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, speaking throughout the country.

The politicians who advocated white supremacy were very threatened by the thought that black people would have equal rights. They might be voted out of office. They might have to submit to a black policeman, or their children might have a black teacher. The only way they knew to crush the blacks that tried to speak up was through violence. However, King so inspired young people of all colors,  they chose to travel to the South from all over the country, and risk their lives in order to support him. Busloads of protesters of all colors arrived until the jails were overflowing. Some even gave their lives to fight for the rights of Negroes in the South. A church bombing led to the deaths of three little girls. This brought attention to the movement and fueled a march on Washington. Schools and restaurants were integrated. The Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, followed by fair housing laws. These continue to protect people from unfair treatment, when the laws are enforced. King received the Nobel Prize on October 14, 1964.

King was not perfect. He struggled with depression and had a weakness for women. His ideals, however, are guiding lights for us to follow. King was murdered, but his words live on in his writings. My favorite quote is “With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Theme For 2019: Inspiration


Inspiration


Inspiration is the spark that shows us another way, a better way. According to dictionary.com, it is:
  1. an inspiring or animating action or influence:
    I cannot write poetry without inspiration.
  2. something inspired, as an idea.
  3. a result of inspired activity. 
  4. a thing or person that inspires.
  5. Theology .
    1. a divine influence directly and immediately exerted upon the mind or soul.
    2. the divine quality of the writings or words of a person so influenced.
  1. the drawing of air into the lungs; inhalation.
  2. the act of inspiring; quality or state of being inspired.(1)
Its origins are :  
"1300-50;  Middle English inspiren < Latin inspīrāre to breathe upon or into, 
equivalent to in- in-2 + spīrāre to breathe" (1)

Just as its origins suggest, we need inspiration to live. Classical musicians and composers capture emotions and imagination with increasing complexity. Slaves picking cotton in inhumane conditions used spirituals to survive the work. Spiritual leaders in all world religions encourage us all to forgive, love, and take care of each other. Political leaders, including a new generation of student activists, solve social problems to overcome war, disease and famine. Medical personnel dedicate their lives to the healing of our bodies, even as new diseases and new strains evolve. Artists create paintings and sculptures to portray the world as they see it, in all its beauty and cruelty. Scientists continue to dissolve barriers in space, physics, biology, ecology and chemistry. Educators improve learning by studying psychology, computers, and observation. In every human endeavor, there are those who are so unique, so dedicated, and so committed to their field, that we continue to make steady progress, not always forward, but ultimately forward. 

During one year in my life, I raised three children in poverty. To keep myself going, I decided to read youth biographies of famous people. I didn’t have time to read the adult version. I was amazed at how hard some of their lives had been. I hope to spend some time this year reminding myself of their stories and creating a few of my own. I hope you will find inspiration in these posts.

Usually, we think of inspiration as a lofty quote or a famous person, and there are those who inspire us by the way they lived. But it is possible to inspire others with simple actions. I wrote about the effect our actions can have on others in my poem "The Soul Quilt" which will be published in the Blue Heron Review in winter of 2019. We never know when we will do something that will help others.

(1) https://www.dictionary.com/browse/inspiration, accessed 1/9/19

Friday, November 16, 2018

Ramblings about Creativity


Creativity and intelligence are friends. It is one of the characteristics of gifted children that they have active imaginations. I joined a Facebook page for parents of gifted children and was recently amazed at the themes children have chosen for birthday parties. One parent was having trouble thinking of activities for an “Eyeball” birthday party. Another child wanted Yellowstone geysers and hot springs. Volcano, King Tut, and even “the toilet” themes have been given for children of these parents. 

While intelligence and creativity are related, views vary widely as to their relationship. On creativesomething.net, Tanner Christensen says an average person only needs the following: “they have more experiences, they think on their experiences more often, and when they start pursuing potential outcomes to problems or projects they simply work more with the ideas they come up with (whereas everyone else gives up after evaluating just one or two possible ideas, or by letting their inner critic prevent them from exploring more).” (4) On the other hand, a study done by Emanel Jauk, Mathias Benedek, Beate Dunst, and Alioscha Neubauer found that a threshold of a 100 IQ was needed for simple creative ideas, but 120 for more complex ideas and tasks. (5)

There are theories on how to make your environment more creative.  The Writing Cooperative lists “20 Ways to Become More Creative With Your Writing,”  (1) and one of my favorite posters for decades was a list of ten ways to squelch creativity. I can’t remember them all, but a few of them were “that’s not our policy,” “what if it doesn’t work,” “that’s not how you do it,” and, my personal favorite, “I guess that’s okay.” My moderately gifted father was prevented from doing a lot of things because he couldn’t do them well enough for his mom. As an adult, he didn’t venture into unknown territory, preferring to do the things he could do well, which were fishing, listening to the radio and TV, and reading newspapers and magazines. (2) In The Creative Spirit, Teresa Amabile lists surveillance, evaluation, rewards, competition, over-control, restricting choice, and pressure as “Creativity Killers.” (3)

Creativity is a skill that can be learned. A short visit with Google will produce hundreds of links and images that will lead you to books or articles on how to enhance creativity. In my own experience, encouragement was a huge factor. The most important factor for me, however, is an element of play. If you have a few minutes, check out a video of two guys hitting jello with a tennis racket.  (6)




  1. Michaud, Simone, How to Become More Creative With Your Writing, https://writingcooperative.com/20-ways-to-become-more-creative-with-your-writing-acabeacb571b, accessed 11/11.
  2. If only he had accepted help from his professional aunts and uncles.Nevertheless, he knew the importance of education and made sure that all three of his children graduated from college.
  3. Goleman, Daniel, Kaufman, Paul and Ray, Michael, The Creative Spirit, copyright 1992. Alan Perlmutter. pgs.61-62.
  4. Christensen, Tanner,  https://creativesomething.net/post/41103661291/the-relationship-between-creativity-and, accessed 11/16/18.
  5. Jauk, Emanuel, Benedek, Mathias, Dunst, Beate, and Neubauer, Aljoscha C., National Institutes of Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3682183/, accessed 11/16/18.
  6. Thanks to my daily email from CNN.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Be Open to Everything, But Limit Yourself






While cleaning out my files today, I ran across this: Mathematical Art Galleries. One of those galleries can be accessed HERE. I always cringe when I hear people say they are not good at math. I get it. I don’t really want to learn about cars or circuitry, but that doesn’t mean I have to reject it at the very mention of the subject. I can still enjoy a good discussion about car repair or learn what I need to learn to teach children how to make clothing with electronics that light up. 

To me, creativity is being open to all things. Not at the same time, of course. And that’s what I am working on next month. Clearing out unnecessary books and quilting materials. Here it is, on record. I am making a commitment to clean out books I will never read, fabric I will never use. I want to make room for the new.

Quilter’s often go through this. It takes so long to make a quilt that I frequently get sick of it long before it is made. I have put three quilts away (partially completed) because I have learned that I will like them when I’ve had a break.

I am a hoarder, and I’m not sure what the causes are. Yes, there is a family tendency towards this, but I have made so many changes in my life. Why do I still think I can read another book when I add it to the pile on the floor next to the shelves that are full - two sets of shelves? Why do I think I can make hundreds of quilts in my lifetime when I know they take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years each? 

As changes in my life have occurred, I have been able to change, so I know I will be able to do this, too. By limiting myself, I will free up time to do a few selected things. I will still work on several things at once, to stave off boredom, but I will let go of the ones I started and didn’t like all that much. I’ll be reporting back on my progress next month and let you know.