JFK on Poetry, Power, and the Artist’s Role in Society: His Eulogy for Robert Frost, One of the Greatest Speeches of All Time

“If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.”

Source: BrainPickings.com
Maria Popova

In January of 1961, as John F. Kennedy’s inauguration approached, his would-be Secretary of the Interior suggested that the poet Robert Frost participate in the ceremony as the first inaugural poet. Eighty-six-year-old Frost telegrammed Kennedy with his signature elegance of wit: “If you can bear at your age the honor of being made president of the United States, I ought to be able at my age to bear the honor of taking some part in your inauguration.” He proceeded to deliver a beautiful ode to the dream of including the arts in government, which touched Kennedy deeply.

Frost died exactly two years later, in January of 1963. That fall, Amherst College invited the President to speak at an event honoring the beloved poet. On October 26, Kennedy took the podium at Amherst and delivered a spectacular speech mirroring back to Frost that deep dedication to the arts and celebrating the role of the artist in society. Perhaps more than any other public address, it affirmed JFK as that rare species of politician who is equally a poet and prophet of the human spirit.

The speech was eventually included in the altogether superb Farewell, Godspeed: The Greatest Eulogies of Our Time (public library) — a compendium of breathtaking adieus to cultural icons like Amelia Earhart, Martin Luther King, Jr., Emily Dickinson, Keith Haring, Eleanor Roosevelt, Charles Schulz, and Virginia Woolf, delivered by those who knew them best.

This original recording of the speech, while short in length, is endlessly ennobling in substance. Highlights below — please enjoy:

Strength takes many forms, and the most obvious forms are not always the most significant. The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the Nation’s greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us.

[…]

Robert Frost coupled poetry and power, for he saw poetry as the means of saving power from itself. When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.

The artist, however faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state… In pursuing his perceptions of reality, he must often sail against the currents of his time. This is not a popular role…

If sometimes our great artist have been the most critical of our society, it is because their sensitivity and their concern for justice, which must motivate any true artist, makes him aware that our Nation falls short of its highest potential. I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist.

If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth… In free society art is not a weapon and it does not belong to the spheres of polemic and ideology. Artists are not engineers of the soul. It may be different elsewhere. But democratic society — in it, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may. In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation. And the nation which disdains the mission of art invites the fate of Robert Frost’s hired man, the fate of having “nothing to look backward to with pride, and nothing to look forward to with hope.”

Typed draft of the speech, edited in Kennedy’s own hand (Courtesy of John F. Kennedy Library)

But as notable as the speech itself — for reasons both poetical and political — are the parts Kennedy edited out in his own hand, including this heartbreaking-in-hindsight passage from the second page:

We take great comfort in our nuclear stockpiles, our gross national product, our scientific and technological achievement, our industrial might — and, up to a point, we are right to do so. But physical power by itself solves no problems and secures no victories. What counts is the way power is used — whether with swagger and contempt, or with prudence, discipline and magnanimity. What counts is the purpose for which power is used — whether for aggrandizement or for liberation. “It is excellent,” Shakespeare said, “to have a giant’s strength; but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant.”

Three weeks later, one of history’s ugliest and most arrogant misuses of brute power took place as JFK was assassinated, prompting Leonard Bernstein to pen his timelessly moving address on the only true antidote to violence. But the message at the heart of Kennedy’s speech continued to resonate even as his voice was silenced by brutality. Less than two years later, President Lyndon Johnson signed the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act, creating the National Endowment for the Arts — the very dream that Frost had dreamt up at JFK’s inauguration.

Complement with two more titans of poetry on the role of the artist in culture: E.E. Cummings on the agony and salvation of the artist and James Baldwin on the artist’s responsibility to society.

The JFK speech appears as the opening track on composer Mohammed Fairouz’s spectacular album Follow Poet — titled after a line from W.H. Auden’s beautiful elegy for W.B. Yeats — and can be heard in Fairoz’s wholly fantastic On Being conversation with Krista Tippett:

Read more At: BrainPickings.com

#Monday Motivation | #Quotes | #Dream | #CarpeDiem | #CarpeNoctum

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from safe harbor.  Catch the trade wins in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.”
– Mark Twain

MotivationTwain

When The Muse Arrives…

TheMuse2
TheBreakaway | BreakawayConciousness
Zy Marquiez
May 11, 2017

It matters not whether it is morning, afternoon, evening, midnight, or the tail-end of a 48-hour session, when the muse arrives, she must be served on the spot. 

It just so happens than my Muse, my oh so dearly beloved, insists on knocking on the door at the most unexpected of times – when I need sleep!  We have a long history of this, and I’ve gotten used to it, but still.  I mean, really, who loves to lie in bed spellbounded by insomnia as The Muse casts her spell?

Those that know their muses, and know them rather well, know that when the modern descendents of daughters of Zeus arrive in all their profound, stylistic and amazing glory, you better get to work!  Thou shalt not anger the Goddesses.

It just so happens that when my muse arrives, she means business.  The woman knows her stuff, and knows it well.  Some days she blows by the door barkinig orders of many types (some in languages I don’t even know or have ever heard of, but I don’t tell her that) while other days she’s a bit more laid back having been aptly served.  Tonight, it was just my luck that the last idiot that talked to her said he was “Too tired“ to work at the moment. SERIOUSLY!?  The poor soul undoubtedly now shares a chamber in Hell in the Idiot’s Inn next.  Of course, given how quickly muses dispose of unworthy souls, my Muse still had a lot of anger to displace.  Gee, lucky me.

I learned very early, and very quickly, that no matter what, you better be serious if you dare summon her or she will call upon her lovely long lost uncle, Hades himself, for wasting her time.

Given all that, when The Muse does show up, there’s always a lot of work to be had – all creative types know this.  Some muses require the occasional sacrifice, you know, a sheet of paper, a candle, a few pencils.  Mine, however, takes her job seriously and merely to walk through the door requires a metric ton of graphite, you know, for those things lovingly called pencils, a veritable forest for the endless stream paper to sacrifice to the Fire Gods, as well as crates of candles of all types – ALL TYPES!  And all these things better be natural, she doesn’t do fake ANYTHING.  This wicked wondrous woman even likes, especially, wait for it…ESSENTIAL OILS!  SERIOUSLY!?  [note: remind me to erase the word wicked from the final draft, as she caught me writing it…it’s just too early to get into a fight.  Plus, my soul is worth a lot more than one word, you know.]

I’m just a regular guy – I can do pencils, paper, a computer, heck even some music – BUT FRIGGING ESSENTIAL OILS!  Next thing you know she’s going to want her own symphony!  (Thankfully Symphonies in MP4 format and such are much simpler to find than a veritable orchestra – I feel sorry for the Greeks!)

Don’t tell her I said that last part, or I will be cleaning the catacombs of hell from here henceforth with bones and blood (don’t look at me like that, It’s called HELL for a reason!).  She loves her varying delights to be unknown and for others to figure it out for themselves, which is why she loves the self-sufficient creative types.  Muses are private individuals you know, which is why we don’t see them often.

In any case, after sauntering through the door minutes ago, and waiting – with her hands on her hip, head tilted slightly and one eyebrow raised – for my sorry ass to get to work, she realized I was still groggy as all hell.  SHE WASN’T HAVING IT!  She dared cross her arms gave me the look, in my house!  MY HOUSE!  And don’t you dare ask me what the look is – YOU ALL KNOW WHAT THE LOOK IMPLIES!  It’s the Muses’ version of the Death Stare that instantly levels worlds like wrecking balls level buildings.

That meant it was double-time for me!  After promptly rolling my eyes – making suure she didn’t see that – I intimated Greaaaat!  (You don’t mouth off to the Muse, or you’re in the slammer, sometimes for life!  Such as been the unfortunate end of many the fool who messed with the Goddess’ power.  Poor, ignorant souls who dared venture on such a wicked and death-ridden road.  Such has been the journey of many one-hit wonders, as we have come to learn.)

Here goes, my first piece, in a night, a long long time, which will soon follow with sacrificial offerings of myriad types.  If you think essential oils are weird, you DON’T EVEN KNOW what she requires of other individuals who mouth of to her!  May the Gods have mercy on their souls skills.

I, uh, gotta go.  The point of her heel just started tapping rhythmically by my side, as she stands slanted looking at me wondering why it’s taking me so long to compose this piece.  Speaking of piece, PEACE!

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This article is free and open source. You are encouraged to share this content and have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Zy Marquiez and TheBreakaway.wordpress.com.
___________________________________________________________
About The Author:

Zy Marquiez is an avid book reviewer, researcher, an open-minded skeptic, yogi, humanitarian, and freelance writer who studies and mirrors regularly subjects like Consciousness, Education, Creativity, The Individual, Ancient History & Ancient Civilizations, Forbidden Archaeology, Big Pharma, Alternative Health, Space, Geoengineering, Social Engineering, Propaganda, and much more.

His other blog, BreakawayConsciousnessBlog.wordpress.com features mainly his personal work, while TheBreakaway.wordpress.com serves as a media portal which mirrors vital information nigh always ignored by mainstream press, but still highly crucial to our individual understanding of various facets of the world.

Book Review: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand | #SmartReads

TheFountainhead
TheBreakaway | BreakawayConciousness
Zy Marquiez
May 7, 2017

There are writers.  And then there’s Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand was a very unique individual; an individual that isn’t afraid to stand by her convictions, no matter what anyone said.  That’s what made her so beloved and hated.  Even more so, that’s why people were so bifurcated about her books.

Knowing that, then it isn’t shocking to realize that The Fountainhead was written with her very own ideals embedded within every page, within every character, within every thought.  In that sense, she is rather unique because not only did she create an amazing story, as many authors have, but she went a step beyond and used the book with the essence of her philosophy, which was, and will always be, a  truly daring endeavor for any writer.

The Fountainhead has been described in many ways, but at its core it is about The Individual vs. The Collective; about Freedom vs. Conformity.

With characters that are gripping, settings that are par excellence, and dialogue that displays incredible depth, the book is a well rounded synthesis about the nature of individualism and what it means to be human.

The leading characters all flow through their roles seamlessly, and whether you love them or hate them, you can feel the realism in them, even if at times they are the epitome of Rand’s ideal.

Anyone who values individuality will value this book.  Those that seek to conform will undoubtedly hate it.  That’s the nature of the beast, and always will be.  What Rand did though, perhaps better than anyone else, is show both sides of the coin – Individualism vs. Conformity – in a manner that nobody else had brought about through fiction.  This is why the book is so engaging, because you hate the villains as much as you love the characters you gravitate towards.  It is rare when a book has you personally invested in nigh every character failing or succeeding, but this book accomplishes that in spades.

Ayn Ran went to war for the Individual against The Collective in a torrential manner in a way almost nobody does.  Through her characters, Rand did a salient job of showing the wide range of latitudes within human nature.   All of this was, of course, was to highlight the importance of Individualism.

As Rand herself elucidates in the following passages, the last of the three which is in her own words, the prior two through her characters:

“Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their vision.  Their goals differed, but they all had this in common: that the step was first, the road new, their vision unborrowed, and the response they received – hatred.  The great creators – the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors – stood alone against the men of their time.  Every great new thought was opposed.  Every great ne invention was denounced.  The first motor was considered foolish.  The airplane was considered impossible.  The power loom was considered vicious.  Anesthesia was considered sinful.  But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered and they paid.  But they won.”[1]

“From this simplest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and everything we have comes from a single attribute of man – the function of his reasoning mind.”[2]

“And for the benefit of those who consider relevance to one’s own time as of crucial importance, I will add, in regard to our age, that never has there been a time when men have so desperately needed a projection of things as they ought to be.”[3]

Rand stated those words decades ago, and they apply even more so now.  Given that humanity keeps snowballing down a hill in a world where morality, common sense and virtues keep getting swept under the rug, such statements and their ramifications should be pondered at length.

Whether you love the book or you hate it, it will give you much to ponder about, especially if you value Freedom and Individuality in any way shape or form.

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Sources:

[1] Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead, p. 710.
[2] Ibid., p. 711.
[3] Ibid., p. vii.  Written in the Author’s Introduction to the 1968 Edition.

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This article is free and open source. You are encouraged to share this content and have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Zy Marquiez and TheBreakaway.wordpress.com.
___________________________________________________________
About The Author:

Zy Marquiez is an avid book reviewer, researcher, an open-minded skeptic, yogi, humanitarian, and freelance writer who studies and mirrors regularly subjects like Consciousness, Education, Creativity, The Individual, Ancient History & Ancient Civilizations, Forbidden Archaeology, Big Pharma, Alternative Health, Space, Geoengineering, Social Engineering, Propaganda, and much more.

His other blog, BreakawayConsciousnessBlog.wordpress.com features mainly his personal work, while TheBreakaway.wordpress.com serves as a media portal which mirrors vital information nigh always ignored by mainstream press, but still highly crucial to our individual understanding of various facets of the world.

The Individual: The Foundation Of Society

Individual2
TheBreakaway | BreakawayConciousness
Zy Marquiez
April 26, 2017

“They [conformists] think society wiser than their soul, and know not that one soul, and their soul, is wiser than the whole world…Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members….Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist…. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The collective is often promulgated as the vanguard of society – the gears that keep society moving forward.  Truth be told, nothing could be further from the truth.  This is because any collective, or any group, is nothing without the individual – it doesn’t even exist.  It can’t even exist.

At society’s core, the individual is the main gear that makes the world go round.  Like imagination is the foundation of creativity, the individual is the foundation of society.

It’s crucial to comprehend this concept of Collectivism Vs. Individualism, because it’s not something pondered deeply in society nowadays.  Individuals are often given a bad rap, as if wanting to be your own being is a bad thing.  The term ‘lone wolf’ is often bandied about in negative light regarding individuals.  But individuality is not about living life alone, but about maintaining your identity – your individuality, what makes you distinct from everyone else.

No matter what societal structure, job, or group the individual is in, the individual that maintains their identity will be one step ahead of the curve because they will hold the ability to think like an individual, rather than forgo their mental faculties for the group.  This is vital, because many times the mental faculties of individuals wither within groups, which is rather deleterious.

For instance, we all have heard of group brainstorming, the epitome of collectivism.  Group brainstorming is one form of collectivist structure that seeks creation ‘by the group’ at the expense of the individual.  However, this tool is fraught with issues.

Focusing on why brainstorming often fails, author and psychology researcher Susan Cain explains in her milestone book, Quiet – The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking:

“Psychologists usually offer three explanations for the failure of group brainstorming.  The first is social loafing: in a group, some individuals tend to sit back and let others do the work.  The second is production blocking: only one person can talk or produce an idea at once, while the other group members are forced to sit passively.  And the third is evaluation apprehension, meaning the fear of looking stupid in front of one’s peers.”[1][Bold Emphasis added, Italics Emphasis In Original]

How many individuals suffer from such a system?  It’s certainly not optimal, although the illusion of it is always pushed as such.  Furthermore, due to all those reasons, the imagination and creativity individuals could employ otherwise remain stagnant, rarely if ever used except in rare circumstances.

Moreover, the larger the group becomes, the less efficient it is.  This, of course, makes individuals mere cogs in a machine when they could be harnessing their own endless creative potential.

Regarding large group inefficiency, Cain further notes:

“…some forty years of research has researched the same startling conclusion.  Studies have shown that performance gets worse as group size increases: groups of nine generate fewer and poorer ideas compared to groups of six, which do worse than groups of four.   The “evidence from science suggests that business must be insane to use brainstorming groups,” writes the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham.  “If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity and efficiency is the highest priority.”[2][Emphasis added]

Furnham’s words boil down this particular issue to the individual.  It’s at that level that individuals shine the brightest.

Hearkening back to issues regarding individuals taking part in groups, Malcom Gladwell, author of the book The Tipping Point, states:

“…when people are asked to consider evidence or make decisions in a group, they come to very different conclusions than when they are asked the same questions by themselves.  Once we’re part of a group, we’re susceptible to peer pressure and social norms and any other number of other kinds of influence…”[3][Bold Emphasis Added]

As we can gather, the collective is not where an individual’s maximum potential lies.

When the individual becomes part of the collective, creativity suffers, and thus, his imagination.

That is why it’s up to the individual to make sure they retain their identity if they are ever forced to work in a group, such as in school or work.

Ultimately, what choices an individual makes are dictated by what they see available.  When the availability of choices is forcefully narrowed down, the path the individual walks on is limited rather than boundless, and the individual’s choices are less than optimal to say the least. 

There is a great saying: “Knowledge is power. Lack of knowledge is lack of power.” A corollary to this would be: Individual potential is based on choices; lack of choices create lack of power.  The most significant ways an individual will lack power is when they merge with a group, as the example above detail.  As we have learned, brainstorming sessions in large groups are not terribly efficient.

Furthermore, as the individual identifies with the group, they tend to merge with the group mind and rarely ever voice their opinion, for various reasons. This is also highly inefficient because the whole point of group work is to cultivate idea and possibilities.

The ironic part is that group brainstorming, on paper, is about imagination, and yet group brainstorming is antithetical to it since it doesn’t maximize on the potential imagination of every individual and only employs a fraction of it.  On the opposite side of that spectrum stands the individual and their maximum potential, every single time.

Individuals which use imagination are self-sufficient in many ways.  The Individual that uses imagination not only seeks solutions, but creates them.  They don’t take anything at face value.  They check, recheck – they research.  Why?  Because individuals realize they control their own path and are responsible for it.  They live a better life, a healthier life, because they imagine better possibilities and put them into action.

These individuals don’t allow themselves to be stopped because they’re incapable of being stopped.  That’s not within their DNA.  It’s not part of their reality structure

Curiously, the proclivity to create is so ubiquitous in creative individuals that not creating seems rather foreign.  They always seek create beyond the lines, outside ‘the box’ – always in action, always creating.  This is why ultimately the individual is the foundation of society.

The canvas of endless possibilities is there for everyone.  It requires the desire to create to the nth degree coupled with conscious action for the canvas to become something more than a mere possibility.

What would happen if we all realized our canvas is reality itself?

As the philosopher Sun Tzu once intimated:

“Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?”

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Footnotes:

[1] Susan Cain, Quiet – The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, pg. 89.
[2] Ibid., pg. 88-89.
[3] Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point, pg. 171.

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This article is free and open source. You are encouraged to share this content and have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Zy Marquiez and TheBreakaway.wordpress.com.
___________________________________________________________
About The Author:

Zy Marquiez is an avid book reviewer, researcher, an open-minded skeptic, yogi, humanitarian, and freelance writer who studies and mirrors regularly subjects like Consciousness, Education, Creativity, The Individual, Ancient History & Ancient Civilizations, Forbidden Archaeology, Big Pharma, Alternative Health, Space, Geoengineering, Social Engineering, Propaganda, and much more.

His own personal blog is BreakawayConsciousnessBlog.wordpress.com where his personal work is shared, while TheBreakaway.wordpress.com serves as a media portal which mirrors vital information usually ignored by mainstream press, but still highly crucial to our individual understanding of various facets of the world.