For the Man and Children She Left Behind

Ghost Man and Children

For the Man and the Children She Left Behind

By Theresa Jodray for Bruce Campbell Walters by Theresa Jodray

She walks through the world just passing time
A spirit longing for the man and children she left behind
Watching over all the people she knew
Sometimes she’s been sad and sometimes blue
Sharing in their walk throughout this life
Watching all their trials with strife
She whispers softly in their ears trying to help them
She hopes they will hear
Watching her own children grow big and tall
When they left her body they were so small
Just a ghost of a woman from a different time
With a heart full of love for those left behind
She watches them closely as they sleep
Wondering will they know her when again they meet
She’s seen their mistakes, if they only knew
She’s always been with them when her life was through
So she walks through the world just passing time
A spirit longing for the man and children she left behind.

Advertisements

For the man and the children Charlotte left behind

THERESA
Theresa F. Jodray

 

For the Man and the Children Charlotte Left Behind

By Theresa F. Jodray

 

She walks through the world just passing time
A spirit longing for the man and children she left behind
Watching over all the people she knew
Sometimes she’s been sad and sometimes blue
Sharing in their walk throughout this life
Watching all their trials with strife
She whispers softly in their ears trying to help them
She hopes they will hear
Watching her own children grow big and tall
When they left her body they were so small
Just a ghost of a woman from a different time
With a heart full of love for those left behind
She watches them closely as they sleep
Wondering will they know her when again they meet
She’s seen their mistakes, if they only knew
She’s always been with them when her life was through
So she walks through the world just passing time
A spirit longing for the man and children she left behind.

 

Theresa F. Koch (formerly Theresa F. Jodray) is the psychic who found Charlotte’s unmarked grave in the cemetery, the cross having been removed due to new maintenance policy. The grave is still unmarked, and efforts are being made to raise funds for an appropriate marker.

To My Beloved Charlotte

 

CHARLOTTE

To My Beloved Charlotte

by Bruce Campbell Walters

 

Fifty years have passed, and three years more,
And post-war Phoenix where we lived
Has fashioned from its crucible the desert sand
Marvels greater than Babylon.
Of every person we then knew,
Only I continue in this world
To mark the anniversary each year
Of your too sudden death.
Shall Nostalgia therefore forbid,
As I’m in transit through some morning half-awake
Between a night bereft of you
And day also cursed,
My hand in love to lightly stroke
The reach of bed
Where in the former times You were?
Shall God demur if in the lonely hour
My thoughts regress to Phoenix lost
And how your presence graced it?

 

Madame Pokes Hole in Timely Theory

Diamond Thunderbolt

MADAME MELINA POKES HOLE IN THEORY OF TIME

From Groundhog Days – Intercourse on Time

By Melina Costello & David Arthur Walters

September 17, 2004

Madame,

Greetings!

Sir Groundhog,

I have been carefully considering your last letter, and have concluded that the Eternal Recurrence Theory is fraught with problems. If my memory serves me correctly, there is no mention of parallel realities, which would have to be a part of the equation if we are to satisfy logic.

For instance, Ouspensky postulates that when one dies, he is reborn into the life he just lived, ad nauseum, until he “gets it,” which may then lessen, if not obliterate, his go-rounds on the wheel of karma: death and rebirth. It might also offer offer him “choices” he might not have made in previous go-rounds, which would alter the “predetermined” course of his fate.

Okay, let’s say my father, who was born in 1925, dies in 1992. He is once again born in the Midwest to Italian immigrants in the same house, on the same street, with the same siblings, and so on. At some point along the time line, he meets my mom and I am conceived, which would then posit another Me in the world of form whilst the “me” who is writing this message yet lives.

Now there are two Me’s living in flesh and blood bodies in a three dimensional quantum of space – NOT – unless, of course, we’re talking about parallel realities. Again, there’s no contingency in the argument for this apparent conundrum.

Additionally, let’s consider the following: “It might also offer him ‘choices’ he might not have made in previous go-rounds, which would alter the ‘predetermined’ course of his fate.”

Well that’s an awfully powerful factor, however untenable, in the equation, wouldn’t you say? Let’s test it: Say my father is born in 1925 and in 1945, at age 20, he has an epiphany – he “gets it.” This profound alteration of his habitual mode of consciousness causes him to consecrate himself to, say, the Catholic priesthood. Thereon he remains celibate and, in fact, does not proffer his seed to womankind; therefore I am not conceived, at least not through his ancestral line.

One need not be a rocket scientist to figure out that the *slightest* alteration of one’s choices in the given scenario has far-reaching consequences to so many lives, ala It’s A Wonderful Life. My present mother would not be my mother (to say nothing of the fact that her entire life experiences from the age of 19 onward would not have occurred), nor would she have given birth to 12 children who are presently my siblings (sans one who drowned) – and what of their fates, let alone their conceptions?

Eternal Recurrence seems to be mounted on the concept that each person is a separate unit operating in some hermetically sealed universe upon which others’ lives have no impact, no meaningful interface.

Unless, of course, there ARE parallel realities. Either Ouspensky closed the book before penning the last chapter, or I need to go back and read A New Model For The Universe – perish the thought.

Madame Melina

Brain Wracking Time!

 Me SUPERBLURRY

 

BRAIN WRACKING TIME!

From Groundhog Days – Intercourse on Time

By Melina Costello and David Arthur Walters

July 29, 2004

Madame,

Greetings!

My Dear Madame Melina,

I am glad that you asked me to be fair to Professor McTaggart, to supply more information about his views on the nature of time, the past-present-future, in order to ascertain whether or not he was duped by linguistic machinations, “whether he failed to see through the transparency so obvious to you and me,” as you said. Although discussions of time may be a waste of time, I have some time on my hands today, and I feel obliged to respond as follows.

Time is hard to think about because we are not used to considering it as separate from the contents we call events. And therein is a clue to understanding what in tarnation McTaggart is talking about when he says, on the one hand, that the series, past, present, future, is essential to time, and, on the other hand, that time is unreal.

McTaggart’s The Unreality of Time is indeed obtuse to those of us who are unfamiliar with the philosophy of time. We wish he would have written the paper for us in the form of an extended brief setting forth his Proposition up front; giving us a History of the Question so that we may see what others have contributed to the subject; letting us know what the Occasion for the Question is and why we should even be interested; listing important Issues to consider; providing us with a clear and cogent Argument supporting the Proposition; and summing it all up with a short Conclusion. But the professor ploughs right into the subject as if he believes we are familiar with it. Perhaps not, so we must either wrack our brains over it, or turn to other professors for an explanation, or drop what some philosophers say is the most important subject of all time! Let’s wrack our brains.

McTaggart proposes that time is unreal. Time as we think of it requires change. There could be no change without this series: past, present, future. The terms of that trinity must be incompatible with one another if there is to be change, but the terms are also compatible and that is self-contradictory. Therefore time is unreal.

As requested, here are some choice statements from McTaggart.

“Having, as it seems to me, succeeded in proving that there can be no time without an A series (past, present, future), it remains to prove that an A series cannot exist, and therefore time cannot exist. This would involve that time is not real at all, since it is admitted that the only way in which time can be real is by existing….

“Two events are exactly in the same places in the time-series, relatively to one another, a million years before they take place, while each one of them is taking place, and when they are a million years in the past. The same is true of the relation of the moments to each other. Again, if the moments of time are to be distinguished as separate realities from the events that happen in them, the relation between an event and a moment is unvarying. Each moment is the same moment in the future, in the present, and in the past….

“Past, present and future are incompatible determinations. every event must be one or the other, but no event can be more than one. This is essential to the meaning of the terms….

“For time, as we have seen, involves change, and the only change we can get is from future to present, and from present to past….

“The characteristics, therefore, are incompatible. But every event has them all. If M is past, it has been present and future. If it is present, it has been future and will be past. Thus all the three incompatible terms are predicable of each event, which is obviously inconsistent with their being incompatible, and inconsistent with their producing change….”

To be continued in the Name of the Past, the Present, and the Future, as Time.

Your Favorite Groundhog

The Great Man Theory

VICTOR COUSIN
Victor Cousin

 

VICTOR COUSIN’S GREAT MAN THEORY

BY DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

Do Great Men and Women determine the course of history?

“We thought that under his shadow we would live among the nations. (Lamentations 4:20)

It is our nature to imitate other people and to emulate the personal authorities given to us in order to survive. We are not always born under the best of parental examples, which we normally want to equal or to exceed, but we are given a wider variety of models to choose from as we mature and become, at least to some extent, the independent authors of our fates.

Every child wants most of all to be a grown up, a big person, and by extension a great adult. As children many of us dream of being great men and great women in terms of social status. We soon realize that the world needs few United States presidents, for example, therefore we learn to aspire to other positions, and sometimes we must vie for any position we can get. But we do not give up our dreams of social greatness; we enjoy greatness vicariously as we continue to admire the examples before us as well as those presented by historians. Of course we do not always admire great men and women, we despise them too, and we might not even know who they are; but whether we praise or blame them, or are ignorant of their existence, we generally recognize that our lives have been influenced by the conduct of great men and women.

Nonetheless, strange as it might seem, some historians believe the most important people in the history books were not very important after all, at least not in the general context of human progress. The Great Man Theory of history formulated by thinkers of an aristocratic bent of mind has been greatly discounted by socialist intellectuals who believe far too much credit has been given to great men for the course of history, a course historians have historically portrayed as a history of war and conquest from which all good things under civilization’s cover have ensued. Socialist thinkers would rather not attribute progress to the crimes against humanity led by politicians, heroes, and generals, but would instead emphasize the part ordinary or common people play in the development of humane society.

The term ‘elite’ originally denoted a few powerful men who deserved praise and therefore had a right to be proud, but when that right was contested and subverted by popular demand because the right no longer seemed merited, especially when inherited, the term ‘elite’ took on a pejorative hue connoting the corrupt minority at the top who on average did not deserve their superior status. Of course the overthrow of the old regimes in favor of republican and democratic forms of government were led by great men who were often aristocratic defectors or who were sometimes great men arising from the ranks below. Therefore, if history supports enduring truths, it appears that the aristocratic intellectual’s preference for the Great Man Theory is justified by reality. No matter how conservative or progressive it might be, society is always led by great men and women. In fact, modern studies of obedience and authority support the view that the majority of people, as if they love to be ruled, will support and follow current authority no matter what its character might be.

The intellectual process in itself raises the man above the brute, wherefore men strive to make the most of reason; those who succeed are often feared and resented by so-called ‘anti-intellectuals’ who use their own intellects to defame the intellect – an eloquent argument against the prime virtue of reason is certainly ironic. Thus in matters of mind the will to emulate, to equal and to overpower, exerts itself just as it does elsewhere, and the result is everywhere a ‘pecking order’, a hierarchy of ideas and a social stratification of people – not that the best ideas rise to the top.

Now the best socialist thinkers are the greatest men and women in their field; they are not champions of the Great Man Theory but of The People ‘democratically’ organized. Nonetheless everyone, no matter how humble they might be, would be a great man or woman in one way or another. Socialist equality needs great men to effect it; the arrogant elite are overthrown and another cult of personality is developed around the socialist leader. The communist party is democratically organized according to the self-contradictory tenets of ‘anarchistic communism’ or ‘democratic socialism’; provisions are made for elections; a bureaucracy arises that survives those elections; eventually only one candidate is on the ballot; and, despite the constitutional separation of party and state, the party apparatus controls. Obviously, people will not give up their objective models of greatness regardless of what the current political hypothesis happens to be, and when they sincerely try to give them up, great men are shoved down their collective throat by a ruthless elite.

Therefore, since great men and women are here to stay, and since we all may be great in our own little ways nowadays, it behooves us to revisit the Great Man Theory no matter how unpopular it may be with the intellectual elite who would be lords of public opinion. To that end I have chosen to review the concept as presented by the French philosopher, Victor Cousin, for he was an eclectic philosopher or borrower of opinions who lived when kings and aristocrats were still falling with the rapid rise of modern nations, yet he still believed in great men and presented us with an abstract portrait of the Great Man who is no longer a master of a people but a servant of his nation. We should keep in mind that he borrowed heavily from his friend, Hegel, so much so that Hegel said Cousin had taken some of his fish and much of his sauce.

According to Cousin, people who best represent the spirit of a nation belong to an aristocracy of great men generated by that nation. The great man is not merely a particular individual who, standing alone, would be small, helpless, and miserable. Rather, he embodies the universal nature which endows him with a general power superior to his individuality. In actuality, he is just the right organic balance of universal and particular, an exemplary person, an ideally socialized individual. Of course the great man is also beautiful because we find in him the criterion of true beauty, the harmony of the universal – which is infinite, ideal and sublime – and of the particular – which is finite, real and pretty. He is a concrete universal; he is a living unity in diversity, not a handsome, immobile statue chiseled from stone or modeled in cement; he is a spiritual embodiment endowed with the highest qualities. In terms of social psychology, he is the most powerful interaction of individuality and situation.

The great man is a national representative but he is not necessarily its political representative. He may be a great legislator, warrior, artist, philosopher, pontiff, and so on. In any case, he represents a spirit common to all citizens; that is to say, a national spirit:

“A nation is veritably a nation on the condition of expressing an idea, which, entering into all the elements which compose the interior life of this nation, into its language, it religion, its manners, its arts, its laws, its philosophy, gives it a distinct physiognomy…. The spirit of a nation, the spirit common to all citizens, is what constitutes the country,” Cousin lectured his audience.

Cousin identified three types of individuals:

Ordinary Individuals: “There are individuals who have, so to speak, a general character only, that of their age and of their country, mere echoes of the voices of their times; they form the crowd, and are, thus to call them, the anonymous beings of the human species…. ordinary men, a numerous class, honest, useful… excellent soldiers of the spirit of the people; the form the army of every great cause that finds sufficient captains; it is with them, and them only, that one can perform great things: they know how to obey.”

Original Individuals: “At the other extreme are the friends of individuality… who seize for a moment upon their poor individuality… cling to it… proudly insurgent against all authority. The mania of individuality is to cut the knot which binds the individual to common sense by authority. There are the originals of the human species: they form a class apart: the give themselves out as the heroes of independence, and are, in general men without energy and without character; they are agitated for a moment without doing anything, and pass away without leaving any trace in history… (They are) unsusceptible of discipline, unworthy to command, incapable of obeying, their great aim upon this vast scene of the world is to represent, what? themselves, and nothing more.”

Great Individuals: “A great man is equally removed from the original and the ordinary man. He is the nation, and he is himself too; he is the harmony of generality and individuality… the spirit of his nation and of his times is the stuff of which the great man is made… it is from the height of the spirit, common to all, that he is great and commands all.”

Warriors are the first and most popular rank of great men, followed by Cousin’s own class, the philosophers – Cousin was famous in his time and received a standing ovation for the lecture we are quoting here.

“It is upon the field of battle that energetic and faith representatives are necessary, and there they are never wanting. Glory is an unexceptional witness of the importance of the true greatness of men. Now, what are the greatest glories? In fact, they are those of warriors…. Nowhere do the masses identify themselves more visibly with the great man than on the field of battle; but if this identification is more brilliant in the great captain, it is more intimate and more profound in the great philosopher.

“…it must be observed that nowhere are there more great men than in philosophy. The highest degree of individuality is reflection, which separates us from all that is not ourselves, and puts us face to face with ourselves; at the same time the object of philosophical reflection is what is most general in thought. Reflection has generality for its foundation, and individuality for its form. It is precisely the highest alliance of these two elements which constitutes the great man.”

Great political leaders and heroes govern and defend their respective nations and find glory in getting deeds done or in doing them. Although reputation is a paltry and petty thing, glory is glorious:

“…whatever is human is made so by humanity; to curse power… is to blaspheme humanity; to accuse glory, is simply to accuse humanity that decrees it. What is glory? The judgment of humanity upon one of its members, and humanity is always right…. There are a thousand ways to acquire a reputation; it is an enterprise just like any other, it does not even suppose a great ambition. What distinguishes reputation from glory is, that reputation is the judgment of the few, while glory is the judgment of a great number… With the masses, deeds are everything…. (Humanity) wishes great results…. Great results cannot be contested, and glory, which is their expression, can none the more be contested.”

We sense in Cousin the ancient militant feeling that might is right, or, at least might is required to make right. Force must be exerted to accomplish anything at all; in order to perform his work, the great man must move ahead and take all – he must win, and no matter what happens we should be on the side of the winners, not the losers:

“…the strife of nations is sorrowful, if the vanquished excites our pity, our greatest sympathy must be reserved for the vanquisher, since very victory infallibly draws after it a progress of humanity… we must be on the side of the victor, for that is always the side of civilization, the side of the present and the future, while the side of the conquered is always that of the past. The great man conquered is a great man out of place in his times; and his defeat must be applauded, since it was just and useful, since with his great qualities, his virtue and his genius, he marched contrary to humanity and the times.”

When we evaluate great men, we should ignore their sordid individuality and ask, What did they do for the nation?

“The fundamental rule of philosophy in regard to great men is to do as humanity does… to neglect the description of weaknesses inherent in their individuality and which have perished with it… to fasten itself upon the great things which they have done, which have served humanity, and which still endure in the memories of men… to search out what has given them power and glory, namely, the idea they represent, and their intimate relation with the spirit of their times and their nation….”

Furthermore, great men are called by the times and do not come into being unless there is something for them to do, their work – Cousin notes that many of them are fatalists, superstitious, hesitant and inactive until definitely called.

“It is the fortune of a great man to represent better than any other man of his times the ideas of those times, their interests, their wants. All the individuals composing a nation have the same general ideas, the same interests, the same wants, but without the energy necessary to realize and to satisfy them; they represent their times and their nation, but in a powerless, unfaithful, obscure manner. But as soon as the true representative shows himself, all recognize him distinctly what they have confusedly seized upon in themselves; they recognize the spirit of their times, the spirit even which is in themselves; they consider the great man as their true image, as their idea; and under this title they adore and follow him who is their idol and their chief….”

As for the great philosophers Cousin mentions after great heroes, they usually withdraw from immediate action to reflect at length, hence they become masters of symbolic activity. A king might be a frustrated philosopher or vice versa, but it is unwise for a philosopher interested in his immortal fame to associate too closely with the government of a nation or even the nation itself. It might be healthier for the dedicated philosopher to spit (my words) on national grounds from time to time. In any case, nations and civilizations rise and fall in due course of time, thus it behooves the philosopher to be a citizen of the cosmos no matter how powerful Athens and Rome might be at present. No doubt modern historians will associate a philosopher’s philosophy with his historical period, and declare his thinking passe today, but the citizen of the cosmos is something more than the victim of his circumstances, and we may enjoy and be enlightened by the leftovers from his fire.

Cousin the philosopher did not take his own philosophical advice, to remain aloof from politics, to heart. How could he, if a great man represents his nation? Cousin associated with the current powers that be, and, although he was the most famous French philosopher of his day, his sway over the Cosmos was tainted by ephemeral politics; his shooting star soon fell from grace. Cousin was a liberal agitator before 1830; thereafter, he was a moderate ‘doctrinaire’, sharing with the Doctrinaires their ‘chartist’ enthusiasm for a ‘constitutional monarchy’ form of government, an English model with a French twist. Cousin rode the July Monarchy to its fall. By 1851, he was completely out of favor, demonstrating that he was correct to assume philosophers are ill-advised to meddle in politics. His nickname was ‘Plato’, after his famous translation of Plato, whose utopian ‘Republic’ was governed by a philosopher king; perhaps Cousin, against his better judgment, was unduly influenced by the Plato’s political ideology, or maybe reading the German romantic philosophers made him rash.

In any case, a particular political theology is a dangerous enterprise for a searcher of truth to embark upon. Yet great men do take risks. Was Victor Cousin a great man? the type he identified as a ‘Great Individual’, in contrast to the Individual and Original types? He was obviously no ordinary individual; at one time he had virtual dictatorial control over the education of the French nation. And he was not an original, ‘flash in the pan’ sort of man either. Despite the world acclaim he enjoyed during his time, and his influence, for example, on the New England Transcendentalists and on the formation of the educational system of the United States, Cousin is often regarded as a ‘mediocre’ philosopher who lacked ‘originality.’ After all, his writing is an easy read and thus easy to criticize: a mere novice can understand what he is talking about. His philosophical platitudes are obvious. And, say his critics, Cousin’s eclectic or ‘borrowing’ approach to the world’s truths wants a criterion or method for deciding what to keep and what to throw away.

As a matter of fact, philosophical eclecticism is nothing new, and Cousin said he had no desire to be original. We have already seen what he thought about the original type of man. Then again, the great man may be original by not being original, but rather by incorporating the spirit of his people. Perhaps wisdom is moderation and obscure philosophies are mystical nonsense about common sense, or sophisticated variations on platitudes. The publicly ‘great’ man, then, would be unusual in his expression of the common spirit, and we would raise him up as ‘original’ because he either said what we already knew, thus confirming us in the truth. Walters Brewer puts it this way:

“Cousin insisted that if he were to be accused of having introduced foreign doctrines incompatible with traditional French systems of thought and practice, then he would have to be credited with a certain originality; the originality of his philosophy, he said, however, lay precisely in fact that it sought not to be original at all. Eclecticism was simply a way of looking at the various philosophies already propounded, an historical method that was in no sense a balance between the systems but that chose from among them… If the eclectic approach was to be assigned to a rubric, he added, then it would best come under spiritualism, that same doctrine at which Plato and Socrates began…” (Brewer, Walter Vance, Victor Cousin as a comparative educator, New York: Teachers College Press, 1971)

Now Cousin said that great men represent national spirits. He was an excellent expositor of the spirit of his nation. His writing speaks to us both passionately and formally, romantically and classically. Although a pragmatic logician or logical positivist might scoff at his presentation, Cousin gives us lyrical lines that make spiritual sense; after all, he held forth the simple proposition that the spirit of history advances our freedom in the world. He educates us to the spirit of his time. It is a mistake to call him a ‘mediocre’ philosopher for synthesizing and clearly expressing some of the ideas of Thomas Reid, Maine de Biran, Kant, Schelling and Hegel. Cousin was one of the best of his kind. Indeed, his supposed faults are occasionally attributed to the French at large; witness Hippolyte Taine’s disdain for the French genius, a Latin genius which, step by step, reconciles the dirty details of the English genius and the lofty speculations of the German genius, presenting the spiritual synthesis in beautiful, romantic speeches; something which the Frenchman Taine was a master at himself despite himself: he said he fought against it! the very quality that makes his conservative history of the French Revolution a pleasing read even for liberals.

A legitimate ‘theory’ is supposed to be good for something; the Great Man Theory may sound good but what is it good for? Isn’t it just rhetoric? Yes, if well plead, it is persuasive rhetoric, but even if it be badly presented, there is some motivating truth to it that, once recognized, causes one who wants to be great to be more enthusiastic about his ability to exceed himself, to become greater than he is. Victor Cousin and his contemporaries were enthusiastic about the spiritual development of national identities represented by great men, enthusiastic men who aspired to lead their nations to greatness. Given the tragic effects of excessive national zeal, we are much less sanguine in respect to national spirits today. All too often the love of country, patriotism, or father-ism, is hate-based love. Given the advancement of technology, the violent conflict of national spirits makes a universal hell out of Earth.

The philosophical developments leading up to and following the French Revolution, especially those woven by the German philosophers who influenced Cousin, had an enormous political impact, eventually dividing the world into totalitarian extremes of ‘left’ and ‘right.’ Gods and princes were thrown down from the high places and stoned to death; states were raised thereupon and sacrificed as the highest form of humanity. A French ‘race’, an English ‘race’, a German ‘race’, or a ‘race of saints and so forth, represented by great men, did not satisfy the defrosted beast. Cousin’s Great Man was replaced by the Super Man of a mythical ‘Fire and Ice’ Super Race, and the unfrozen beast ran amok.

Victor Cousin certainly had his blinding prejudices, some inherited from German philosophers. For instance, he found truth all over the globe but he did not find any great men in the Orient, not “between the mountains of Persia and the sea-shore of China.” Today every European school kid should know of many great men in Oriental history; one of my favorites is Asoka, the amazing emperor of an Indian empire – Asoka is well known to Buddhists as ‘Buddhism’s Constantine.’ In fact, China and India were admired by Europeans: China for its imperial state and moralism, and India for its spiritualism. India’s Hinduism particularly inspired the transcendentally inclined German philosophers – Cousin described his own philosophy not only as ‘electicism’ but also as ‘Spiritualism.’

Human spirits are personal and representative – the ‘person’ is the social ‘interface’ of the willful individual. Abstract states and gods may be enlightening, but they do not give us the personal examples we need. Moral beings that we are, we tend to look for the best example; there are always a few persons who rise to the occasional although not to the perfect ideal we might desire. Now Cousin criticized India, saying its national spirit had been dissipated and its individual spirits throttled by the worship of impersonal infinity. As we know, Hindus do have a wide variety of personal forms available for worship although the Supreme Being of some schools is impersonal infinity – the Supreme Being can hypothetically take personal forms for particular purposes. We are well aware of the dangers of worshiping any definite person whether divine or, heaven forbid, human, therefore we look to the infinite possibilities beyond the imperfections that lead us astray. That is, we reach for the greatest beyond which no greater can be thought. Nevertheless, great men and women are indispensable for the advance of each and every person.

We might wonder whether or not the greatest leaders are the greatest followers and where each of us fits in to the scheme, but to doubt the existence and influence of great men and women would be fatal for the human race.

“When man does not regard himself seriously,” Victor Cousin lectured, “and has no importance in his eyes, he takes no note of what he does… Man, not believing himself worthy of memory, abandons the world to the action of the forces of nature, and history to the gods.”

XYX 

Quoted Source:

Cousin, Victor 1792-1867, Course of the history of modern philosophy, New York: D. Appleton & company, 1857.

Contrary Notes:

The view that great men are the products of history rather than its masters can be found, for instance, in Leo Tolstoy’s WAR AND PEACE. His theoretical digressions on war and his philosophy of history is interspersed in Books Three and Four of that great work. Here are a few excerpts from Louise and Aylmer Maude’s translation:

“On the 12th of June 1812 the forces of Western Europe crossed the Russian frontier and war began, that is, an event took place opposed to human reason and to human nature. Millions of men perpetrated against one another such innumerable crimes, frauds, treacheries, thefts, forgeries, issues of false money, burglaries, incendiarisms, and murders, as in whole centuries are not recorded in all the law courts of the world, but which those who committed them did not regard at the time as crimes.”

“Without each of these (foregoing) causes nothing could have happened. So all these causes – myriads of causes – coincided to bring it about. And so there was no one cause for that occurence, but it had to occur because it had to. Millions of men, renouncing their human feelings and reason, had to go from west to east to slay their fellows, just as some centuries previously hordes of men had to come from the east to west slaying their fellows.”

“We are forced to fall back on fatalism as an explanation of irrational events…. The more we try to explain such events in history reasonably, the more unreasonable and incomprehensible do they become.”

“Man lives consciously for himself, but is an unconscious instrument in the attainment of the historic, unversal, aims of humanity. A deed done is irrevocable, and its result coinciding in time with the actions of millions of other men assumes an historic significance. The higher a man stands on the social ladder, the more people he is connected with and the more power he has over others, the more evidence is the predestination and inevitability of his every action.”

“A king is history’s slave.”

“In historic events the so-called great men are labels giving names to events, and like labels they have but the smallest connexion with the event itself. Each act of theirs, which appears to them an act of their own will, is in an historical sense involuntary, and is related to the whole course of history and predestined from eternity.”

“The actors of 1812 have long since left the stage, their personal interests have vanished leaving no trace, and nothing remains of that time but its historic results. Providence compelled all these men, striving to attain personal aims, to further the accomplishment of a stupendous result no one of them at all expected – neither Napolean, nor Alexander, and still less any of those who did the actual fighting.”

Florence Nightingale’s True Calling

Florence Nightingale
Her forte was administration not nursing

 

 

FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE’S CALLING

BY DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

She denied she kicked every prick to get things done.

Florence Nightingale would be a saint today if she had been a Catholic, and she might have been a Catholic if she had followed her inclination to be one in 1852. As far back as 1844 she had admired the Catholic sisters of charity; she asked Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe if it would be “unsuitable and unbecoming” to take up charity as the sisters had done. He replied in the affirmative, but said she should “go forward” if called to the vocation. When Protestants in Scutari accused her of being a Catholic, an Irish clergyman remarked that she was a member of the Good Samaritan Sect. Some of the Protestants in turn were accused by other Protestants of adhering to the Socinian heresy. Such were the absurdities impeding good works.

Sainted woman, indeed. Given the formidable obstacles the Angel of Crimea faced, her success was in fact nothing short of miraculous. Whether she be sainted or not, the fame of The Lady With A Lamp is well warranted. Only Our Lady of Sorrows outshines her works. Although she believed not in the existence of germs, the fearless Lady-in-Chief certainly believed in loving kindness, soap and water, good clean air, and the better administration of everything – the death rate of patients at Scutari dropped from 60% to 1% in a few months. Wherefore Florence Nightingale changed the world forever and much for the better – there is not a nurse in the world who does not follow in her footsteps.

I am tempted to recount her deeds and give all due credit to her Band of Angels and to her supporters and admirers, from the Queen on down to the humble citizens who kissed her shadow when she passed them by on the street. Much credit would be due to the Radical paper, The Times, the first newspaper to cover a war with embedded reporters, for exposing the horrid conditions of the great blunder called the Crimean War and for raising funds from the appalled public to supply necessaries to the sick and wounded and dying patriots, who were called “scum” by their arrogant and incompetent officers. But I must refrain from the formidable task of retelling the tale. I do not have enough time on my hands to add another biography based on the many excellent biographies already written even though I would have a chance at fame and fortune: best-selling histories of histories have received the Pulitzer Prize. In any case, what Florence Nightingale did is already well known on the whole, for almost everyone knows a little bit of her story if not all. What I did not know and wondered much about – until I read Cecil Woodham-Smith’s Florence Nightingale – is what induced such a fine Englishwoman to kick against the pricks set up against progress in her field. She denied she had kicked every prick to get things done, but we can understand why people got that impression given her persistence when confronted by Red Tape.

Saul rebelled against his Lord as if he were an ox kicking against the pricks goading him to obey, thus driving them deeper and deeper into his tormented flesh. Florence, on the other hand, responded dutifully to the higher calling once she knew what it was. But almost everywhere she turned for the sake of charity, pricks were set up against her by wicked forces for fear that someone’s oxcart might be overturned and the goods therein spilled out into places more deserving. Do we not have such sayings as, No good deed will be left unpunished? Someone will invariably try to thwart the doing of good deeds if they receive advance notice that an attempt will be made. Flo encountered formidable impediments when she put her right foot on the high road. We are reminded of something Plutarch wrote to the effect that Pompey got along famously until he tried to save his country. Florence like Plutarch had the habit of writing. Besides writing letters for her dying ‘children” into the wee hours of the morning at Scutari, she produced long administrative reports of material transactions incidental to her work as well as accounts of her struggles with human resources. For example, she described her travails in a March 6, 1856 letter to Samuel Smith from Scutari:

Dear Uncle Sam:

I am very anxious to correct a false impression, which seems to exist in your mind, that I have had a steady & consistent support from the War Office – that, such as being the case, I kick against every prick – & am unduly impatient of opposition, inevitable in my or any situation, to my work.

The facts are exactly the reverse. I have never chosen to trouble the W.O. with my difficulties, because it has given me so feeble & treacherous a support that I have always expected to hear it say, ‘Could we not shelve Miss. N.? We dare say she does a great deal of good. But she quarrels with the authorities & we can’t have that.’

I have therefore fought my own battle – not only as I can truly say, unsupported by any official out here, with the exception of Gen’l Storks, so that I was amazed the other day at getting the loan of the little Gov’t tug for carrying good s – but exposed to every petty persecution, opposition & trickery that you can mention.

I have never had time to keep any records whatever except in the way of accounts. But I should have liked to have left some record of the way in which officials can torment & hinder a work. And, as they now see, torment, not only unmolested but rewarded, as every man who has been in any way instrumental in our great calamity, has received promotion or honors.

I will give you the slightest, pettiest instance of the hindrance which the pettiest official can make out here, if so minded.

When I came out, an order to furnish me with money was, of course, forwarded from the W.O. to the Purveyors here. I have never availed myself of this to the amount of one farthing. On the contrary, they have been frequently in my debt to the amount of lbs 1,500. But the Senior Purveyor at Balaclava refuses to cash my Cheques, for no other reason discoverable than the love of petty arrogance & the hope of injuring my credit, in the minds of ignorant servants.

As I think it is a pity that he should have then pleasure of doing this, I now send up CASH to the Crimea or take it.

Otherwise I could, of course, if I chose to complain, get an order to compel him not to refuse my Cheque.

This is the little Fitzgerald, who, after a course of successful villainy, has like id genus omne, been promoted to be Dep’y Purveyor in Chief, with back pay & all his little soul desires. This is Dr. Hall’s doing. But his is only one specimen of the promotions.

I do not like to use hard words. But I have no time to give the facts which would support them. But even to Sir J. MacNeill’s Report I could add a few facts which, if they were told (I being now one of the oldest inhabitants in Scutari & the Crimea) would make us feel that the times of the Scribes & Pharisees were nothing to these.

This little Fitzgerald has starved every Hospital when his store was full – & not, as it appears, from ignorance, like some of the honorable men who have been our murderers, but from malice prepense.

I know that you think the Credit of a wild imagination belongs to me. But I cannot but fancy that the W.O. is afraid of the Irish Brigade – and know that Card. Wiseman, who is supposed, right or wrong, to have some influence over Hawes, has been busy in this matter.

A ‘sot’ in the hands of ‘habiles mechans’ can do as much, as I know to my cost. And perhaps you do not know that Card. Wiseman has publicly, in his Insults, noticed with praise Mrs. Bridgeman’s Insurrection. Now Mrs. Bridgeman & Fitzgerald are one.

Fitzgerald topped up, with his ‘Confidential’ Report against me – for which he is rewarded, while a poor little Ass’t Surgeon, for a true & public letter in the ‘Times’, is dismissed the service.

I assure you that our utter disgust at these latter promotions would tempt us, (the few honest men as I hope,) to preach a Crusade against the Horse Gds & War Dep’t, feeling as we do now that not one step has been gained by our two years’ fiery trial & that more Aireys, Cardigans, Halls & Fitzgeralds will be propagated for the next war.

Believe me faithfully yours,

Florence Nightingale

[“Cardigans” appertains to Lord Cardigan, James Thomas Brudenel (1797-1868), notorious for his hot temper and for leading the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade].

Miss Nightingale’s letter merely describes a small portion of the hindrances; yet she persisted until the war was over; and even then she would not leave her nursing post until the soldiers had gone home. A battleship would have returned her to the mother country for a hero’s welcome, but she would have nothing to do with glory: she found her own, discreet way back to England. And then she continued to work overtime for reform; no doubt she would have reformed the entire British bureaucracy if she had obtained leave to do so from the men in power – only men could have such power at the time. Miss Nightingale, by the way, was not a ruthless cutter of the monstrous Red Tape; to get her way, she saw to it that men followed their own rules right away.

Whatever possessed Florence Nightingale, a woman born into high station, to do so much for her people when so many people were dead set against it? Today we expect wealthy and noble women to occupy themselves with charitable work; for God’s sake, what else have they to do? A Victorian woman was expected to marry and attend to her family; if she was charitably inclined, she certainly would not take up nursing, which at the time was more or less the occupation of vulgar drunken women and whores who slept with their patients. Florence Nightingale landed in her vocation because, much to her dismay in the form of guilt feelings, she was possessed or called by her god to do something good for society; she did not quite know what.

Flo’s father inherited considerable property from his uncle. Her mother’s father was rich man; a member of Commons for 46 years – he tended to fight for lost causes. Florence, so named for the city made famous during the Renaissance, wanted for nothing material as a child. For Flo her parents wanted a liberal education appropriate to her high station and a marriage to a suitable husband. She was her father’s daughter more than her mother’s, wherefore she was self-righteous, and her elder sister Parthe resented her and was perpetually cross.

Flo sorely craved companionship in her teens, She later wished she had not wasted so much time on corresponding with others; the writing habit she developed certainly came in handy during her administrative career, and we would not know her and her work so well today without it. We cannot blame her family for Flo’s loneliness. She like all children brought her own peculiar disposition to the dinner table. She was situated better than most children of the realm, yet she was an unhappy girl. In fact she imagined she was a monster. Fearing that strangers would discover that she was an alien, she starred as the heroine of her dreams. Perchance she dreamed too much for her own good. She suffered collapses and was bid-ridden from time to time. Likewise in her adulthood did she spurn celebrity and wind up sick in bed, where she still did the administrative work of ten men. Her psychological state in her youth would require expensive therapy in our drug-ridden age – the nosology of her malease (obsolete English word) would be too complex for our consideration here. Her mind was clear and quick, and she perceived matters realistically, yet she was abnormally sensitive and given to emotional exaggeration. Suffice it to say that the neurosis common to her own age was Romanticism of the French sort, the somewhat hysterical and perverse symptoms which would not do for Englishwomen despite Byron’s despairing contribution to ennui and malaise; hence symptoms had to be confined to fainting over the failure of someone to write a letter, rather than over the failure of a lover to show up for an adulterous tryst. Lady Lovelace, Byron’s daughter, by the way, loved Flo and wrote verses about her.

Despite her inner struggles with her god and the fact that parties made her feel guilty, Florence developed into a gracious, charming and witty young lady, a debutante seen at the best balls. At age seventeen (1837) she came out in France, where she share Joan of Arc’s experience with a divine but objective voice: “God spoke to me and called me to His service.” And on to Florence, Italy, where Florence was absolutely mad about the opera and the Italian freedom movement. And on to Geneva, where she became the disciple of the great Sismondi. Back in Paris to escape an impending war, she met and became good friends with Mary Clark, the influential salon hostess who, unlike her sponsor Madame Racamier, was not beautiful or well off but who managed to revive the salon life so important for the progress of modern European civilization. Back in London in 1839, her conscience bothered her about greatly for not answering God’s call, preferring, instead, parties and balls. She wanted to overcome “the desire to shine in society.” Her parents knew nothing of her quiet desperation, the agony and despair under the smiling face. There was some disagreement over her desire to take up mathematics: her mom was against it because math, she thought, was of no use to a married lady of high station; her father also disapproved, favoring history and philosophy. Flo wound up with a compromise – eight math lessons. As we know from her later life, she remained fond of mathematics and often resorted to the budding science of statistics to support her professional calling.

So at age 22 Florence was a young society lady, a vivacious intellectual figure who cut quite a figure on the dance floor. “All I do is done to win admiration.” And she was a girl who was enslaved by the habit of dreaming, and she was ashamed of herself for not responding to her god’s calls – many years later, in 1874, she wrote of four calls to a definite but unclear course. Mystical union with her god would not suffice: she must do his works.

As for marriage, there was indeed a suitor in the form of a poet and philanthropist: Richard Monkcton Milnes. She saw him often and was most interested in his philanthropic work. During the 40s she had scenes with her family over her fancy for nursing, which they considered a contemptible calling indeed, one that would put to waste all the Latin, Greek, poetry, and music lessons afforded their daughter. She proceeded to occupy herself with the study of hospital reports and Blue Books on public health. She enjoyed housekeeping; putting the house in order, making lists, and so on. Otherwise she was miserable: she collapsed; bed rest was prescribed as usual. Recreation was called for. Onwards, to Rome in 1847, and dancing. Back to London in 1849 for more misery, dreaming, self-hating suicidal thoughts. Flo fantasized of marrying her suitor and doing heroic deeds with him; but she eventually rejected his proposal and decided that her intellectual, moral and active nature, together with her dreaming and fainting spells, disqualified her for worldly marriage. To Egypt in 1849. More dreaming spells. Her diary is filled with references to God’s calls. Berlin in 1850.

In 1851 Flo writes from England, “My present life is suicide…. I have no desire but to die…. In my thirty-first years I see nothing desirable but death.” She went to work at Kaiserwerth that year – hospital, orphanage, prison, school – and worked with children and patients; she said she learned nothing of nursing there since there was none practiced. She visited her parents in Cologne; they treated her like a criminal. In 1852 she wants to go to work in a Catholic infirmary; her big sister Parthe accuses Flo of wanting to kill her and has delusions and a nervous breakdown. In 1853 Flo takes an unpaid administrative position for the reorganization and relocation of the Institution for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen in Distressed Circumstances. She did a lot of practical nursing there, but she soon realized nursing was useless without proper administration. She learned to do many useful things: procuring a stove, furnishings, call bells and so on; managing coal deliveries, keeping accounts, supplying the kitchen, administering drugs so patients were not poisoned.

Miss Nightingale was finally happy. No more parties and balls. She was in her natural element, i.e. her Calling. In 1854 her apprenticeship was over and war was had with Russia. The Times broke the story about the outrageous conditions in Crimea: the pathetic state of sick and wounded soldiers who were dying more from neglect than from war. Her friend Sidney Herbert, Secretary of War, knew whom to call to service. He did not have to make the call, for she was already on her way.