Two views on the pursuit of happiness.

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Photo by Thomas Somme on Unsplash

I am proposing that what the Founding Fathers meant when they wrote “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” is totally at odds with what it has come to mean today. To elaborate on how this came about is not my aim here. Instead I wish to compare two ideas about happiness and suggest that somehow we’ve now got it all wrong.

What I’m attempting to express here comes from notes I took in response to a lecture on Aristotle that our philosophy club discussed a number of years ago.

Aristotle, one of the most influential of the Greek philosophers, had been a student and teacher in Plato’s school before starting his own school, the Lyceum. One of Aristotle’s central themes had to do with how to live the right kind of life. …


PROPAGANDA

Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past. — Geo. Orwell, 1984

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Photo by Robinson Recalde on Unsplash

When future historians write about the 20th Century, it would not surprise me to find it had been nicknamed The Century of Spin. Today more than ever we see that the battle for the minds of the people revolves around the manner in which events get interpreted, not necessarily the events themselves.

Social observers have long noted this trafficking in interpretations. Who decides what is good and what is bad? Who decides who the good guys and bad guys are in this battle for control of the narrative?

We live in a mediated world. Before entering World War One, very few Americans knew much about Germany, its history and its aims. But as the drums of war began to sound, there were plenty of messages being piped into our brains through the news media, striving to form a national will to take up arms against Kaiser Bill and those German brutes. …


NOSTALGIA

“My work is a moving thing.” — Bob Dylan

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Author in front of elevator doors, Duluth Holiday Inn, when Dylan won Nobel Prize, 2016.

The Minnesota music scene has produced some sensational talent through the years. Rock, folk, jazz, blues, bluegrass and even gospel music circles have developed exceptional performers and recording artists. One of these was David Curtis Glover, better known as Tony “Little Sun” Glover. A harmonica player with the folk group Koerner, Ray and Glover (inducted into the MN Music Academy Hall of Fame in 1983) he was also a notable rock critic who wrote for many of the best-known music mags including Crawdaddy, Sing Out, Creem and Rolling Stone.


WORK LIFE

“We are not a team because we work together. We are a team because we respect, trust and care for each other.” — Vala Alshar

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Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

For years I have referenced data from the Gallup organization for insights on various topics. What I like about Gallup Polls is that they stake a claim on getting the most diverse viewpoints from the broadest field of data. They have the resources to do this because they do it well and have become trusted for it, unlike many news polls that pretend to do so.

When companies measure ROI, they are measuring results after the fact. …


FREEDOM

“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”

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One of the memorable episodes from the old Monty Python Flying Circus featured several Spanish Inquisition sketches. Each begins innocuously until someone says, “I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition” whereupon three bumbling priests in 15th century garb burst into the room, Michael Palin snarling, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. Our chief weapon is surprise!”

Whereas the skits were hilarious, the actual Inquisition was anything but.

I turned to Wikipedia for a refresher course on this period of history. I learned here that the Spanish Inquisition was established in 1478 and lasted 300 years. What I was unaware of — was it downplayed by historians? — was that Ferdinand II and Isabella I were the ones who commissioned the Inquisition. If those names sound familiar, they should. …


HISTORY

For the present I am not in search of remedies, but am only concerned with diagnosis. — Bertrand Russell

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Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash

On March 24, 1922 Bertrand Russell delivered a speech at South Place Institute on the subject of Free Thought and Official Propaganda. The speech was then put into book form and by August was in its second printing, which is the copy I have here in my possession.

I’ve now read this little volume at least three times in the past year, somewhat amazed by its clarity of thought and powerful relevance nearly a century later. …


MOVIES

“I’ll be back.” — The Terminator

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Photo by Tomasz Frankowski on Unsplash

I just finished watching MIB and MIB II this past week. Afterwards, I tried to figure out why the first was so engaging and entertaining, and why the latter left me flat. Both feature Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith, doing the usual things they do with deadpan wit. Both had innovative aliens and SFX. Both have given our heroes a task to accomplish or else life on earth as we know it will end. In other words, there is something at stake.


HISTORY

Shedding light on the biggest day of mass arrests in U.S. History

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Troops from the 82nd Airborne landing on the National Mall (Washington Star photo/Pete Copeland), royalty-free

Over the past few years I’ve attempted to write about some of the experiences of my youth in an effort to perhaps gain deeper insights into what I saw and felt and thought, and how it may have shaped me. One of these was my experience of hitchhiking to Washington DC to be part of a major antiwar rally. What prompted me to write my story was Ken Burns’ 10-part series on the Vietnam War. I believe it was part seven that covered the events of Mayday 1971. …


TRIVIAL PURSUITS

If I put my phone in airplane mode, will it fly?

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Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

I keep running across things I want to share, few of which I’d consider a blog post on its own without my having to do more work to make it seem important. For this reason I’ve decided to batch them here and call it a Medley.


MOVIES

“When you got nothing you got nothing to lose.”
— Leonardo DiCaprio in his opening scene.

“When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.”
— Bob Dylan, Like a Rolling Stone

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Titanic leaving Belfast. Robert John Welch, official photographer for Harland & Wolff (Public domain)

Last night I watched James Cameron’s Titanic, the 1997 film spectacle starring Leonardo DiCaprio (Jack) and Kate Winslet (Rose). When it was over, an interesting thought emerged regarding this historic event. Yes, it was a story about wealth and privilege in contrast to the common folk in steerage. Yes, it was a love story. Yes, it was a remarkable achievement in special effects and cinematic story telling.

But at the core of it, it was something still bigger. It was a story about competing narratives. Let me explain. …

About

Ed Newman

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon https://tinyurl.com/y3l9sfpj

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