Monday, December 01, 2014

A Modest Declaration of Independence

It was on the first day of December in 1918 that a small gathering of dignitaries and citizens assembled in front of Stjórnarráðhúsið (Government House) in Reykjavík to observe Iceland's formal declaration of sovereignty as a nation — an event known since then as Fullveldisdagurinn (Sovereignty Day or Independence Day). It was a pretty modest affair for the rebirth of a self-governing nation.

While 1944 is generally recognized as the year of Iceland's independence, and while June 17th is appropriately recognized as the country's National Day, that latter year and day marked the beginning of the Republic of Iceland — it was already an independent country. The achievement of Icelandic independence was a 99-year process that began with the reestablishment of the Alþing (Althing) in 1845 and culminated in the declaration of the Republic in 1944, but there were several other milestones along the way: the granting of a Constitution in 1874, Home Rule in 1904, and the recognition of Iceland's sovereignty in 1918.

In 1918, identical bills were introduced in the Danish Folketing and the Icelandic Alþing, the two countries' respective parliaments, which opened with the words: "Denmark and Iceland are free and autonomous nations, united under the same King." After both legislative bodies passed the bill, it was confirmed by a referendum of the Icelandic people on October 19, 1918. The ceremony declaring Iceland a sovereign and independent country on December 1st was a modest affair, owing to the impact of three natural calamities that year — the economic consequences of an unusually harsh winter the year before, the 24-day eruption of Mount Katla beginning on October 12, and the deadly influenza pandemic commonly known as the Spanish Flu. However modest it may have been, this day is a momentous one in the history of Iceland.

Fullveldisdagurinn 1918 – A solemn gathering in front of Stjórnarráðhúsið (Government House) on December 1, 1918, when Iceland's sovereignty as a nation was formally declared.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Your Life Symphony — 6th Movement

On the sixth and last day of my lecture series at Eliot Institute, "Your Life Symphony," I drew together the varied strands of the week's theme.  Here were the day's offerings of music and readings …

Your Life As a Symphony

"Thanksgiving Eve" by Garnet Rogers ...

"Our lives can full of despair, failure and disappointment; living life as a symphony demands that we understand life’s individual movements as not having the final word, but that we take our lives as a whole — it involves transcending life’s disappointments to live for whatever it is that is our personal testament." — Stefan Jonasson

"My Life" by Iris DeMent ...

"Coming Home" by Sjonni's Friends ...

Beethoven's "Ode To Joy" by Som Sabadell (Orquestra Simfònica Del Vallès, Cor Lieder Càmera, Coral Belles Arts, and Cor Amics De L'Òpera) ...

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Your Life Symphony — 5th Movement

On the fifth day of my lecture series at Eliot Institute, "Your Life Symphony," I addressed the theme "Cheerful Courage: Living With Confidence."  Here were the day's offerings of music and readings …

Cheerful Courage: Living With Confidence

"Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba

From The Well-Ordered Life by C.R. Skinner
Philosophers and religious teachers have believed that underneath the surface storms of life it is possible to find “the deeper life of unshaken composure.”  As the fiercest hurricane cannot reach to the ocean depths, so the most violent disturbances do not necessarily reach the area of calm and poise which is at the center of a strong personality.  A quiet dignity is native to the soul. …  If we let misfortune rob us of an ordered life, it is largely our own fault, due to our attitude toward the misfortune.  It is possible to face shattering experiences without being shattered, and it is possible to go to pieces because of the most trivial experience.
There are men [and women] who have known a full measure of human suffering and yet remained unswerved and unsurrendered.  There are others who crumble under the slightest blow; because of an unhappy experience they let their lives disintegrate.  The difference between being broken and living a spiritually well ordered life cannot be explained in terms of what happens to us.  Things and events do not break us.  We go to pieces because we bring to life a breakable philosophy.  If we bring to crises an habitual attitude of quiet thinking and unfrightened adequacy, we can meet the most devastating experiences and still maintain our integrity.

"The way we live and your schools are much different now, so many changes have made living and learning easier. But the real things haven't changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong." — Laura Ingalls Wilder
"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand.  It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what." — Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960

"Happy" From Tehran ...

"Cheerfulness, it would appear, is a matter which depends fully as much on the state of things within, as on the state of things without and around us." — Charlotte Brontë

"The Cape" by Guy Clark ...

"Where's Your Sacred Place?" by Stefan M. Jonasson:
Many years ago now, I led a workshop for the leadership of one our historic flagship congregations where, for a social icebreaker, I asked participants to share four things about themselves: their name, their fantasy dinner companion, some gift or talent they possessed that others might not be aware of and, finally, what for them was their “sacred place.”  We came around to one man, a distinguished professor at an ivy league college, who said that his sacred place was his car.  Now, to hear a man describe his car as his “sacred place” will hardly come as a surprise.  What was surprising was his explanation.  He said, “After a long day at the school, with lectures and departmental meetings, mentoring students and grading papers, overseeing research projects and preparing articles for publication, I actually like getting stuck in rush hour traffic on the commute home.  There’s nothing I can do about it, so I turn up the volume on the jazz radio station I like to listen to and turn my thoughts to those things beyond my profession that interest me.  It’s amidst the congestion of freeway traffic, sitting in the comfortable and familiar surroundings of my car, that I’ve come to know myself.  I daresay I’ve had some of my most spiritual moments behind the wheel of my car.”

From Is Life Worth Living? by William James:
It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all.  And often enough our faith beforehand in an uncertified result is the only thing that makes the result come true.  Suppose, for instance, that you are climbing a mountain, and have worked yourself into a position from which the only escape is a terrible leap.  Have faith that you can successfully make it, and your feet are nerved to its accomplishment.  But mistrust yourself, and you will hesitate so long that, at last, all unstrung and trembling, and launching yourself in a moment of despair, you roll in the abyss.  In such a case … the part of wisdom as well as of courage is to believe what is in the line of your needs, for only by such belief is the need fulfilled.  Refuse to believe, and you shall indeed be right, for you shall irretrievably perish.  But believe, and again you shall be right, for you shall save yourself. …
These then are my last words to you: Be not afraid of life.  Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.

"Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkel ...

Your Life Symphony — 4th Movement

On the fourth day of my lecture series at Eliot Institute, "Your Life Symphony," I addressed the theme "Open-Heart Listening: The Power of Presence."  Here were the day's offerings of music and readings …

Open-Heart Listening: The Power of Presence

"The Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel

"Tonight You Belong To Me" — Benjamin J. Ames and His 4 Year Old

"Misunderstood" — A Holiday Season Parable

"Life is full of oracles, sources of delight and instruction which can lift it with a fine inspiration.  But in order to profit by the oracles we must listen to them, and not to the noise of the streets." — Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910)
“We listen too much to the telephone and we listen too little to nature. The wind is one of my sounds. A lonely sound, perhaps, but soothing. Everybody should have his personal sounds to listen for — sounds that will make him exhilarated and alive, or quiet and calm. ... As a matter of fact, one of the greatest sounds of them all — and to me it is a sound — is utter, complete silence.” — Andre Kostelanetz (1901-1980), Conductor
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means a waste of time.” — Lord Avebury (1834-1913)

"The Wind" by Yusuf Islam (a.k.a. Cat Stevens)

"Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand." — Karl Menninger (1893-1990)
 “Love and trust, in the space between what’s said and what’s heard in our life, can make all the difference in this world.” — Fred Rogers (1928-2003)

"The Rainbow Connection" — Muppets