20th Century, Catholic, Christian, History, Intercession, Jesus, Minnesota, Science

Institute of Science and Letters

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Saint Paul Auditorium ca. 1907 Interior, Original Home of the Institute of Science and Letters. Photo by Scotty Moore

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The St. Paul Institute of Science and Letters is incorporated. The institute sponsors research, and a museum. After reinventing itself several times, it is now known as the Science Museum of Minnesota–home to dinosaur bones, computer and an IMAX theater.*

It is a blessing to learn that my city had a love of science fervent enough to create this institute! Furthermore, its benevolent nature was expressed in making scientific knowledge open to all! The Institute of Science and Letters was,“Originally a provider of public lectures, it was located in the St. Paul Auditorium”. http://www.smm.org/media/historicalfacts

As with any audience, surely in 1907 there were proponents, opponents, and those who remained open. Then, as in the present, most would not argue the data collected from experiments, but may differ drastically on its meaning to their life. Why is this?

One idea may be that we cannot extirpate the framing effects of our memory, our temperament, and our worldview. By “framing effect”, I mean the resistance we have to knowledge outside of our point of reference. A classic example is the story of the blind men describing an elephant.

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“A Jain version of the story says that six blind men were asked to determine what an elephant looked like by feeling different parts of the elephant’s body. The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe.
A king explains to them:
All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all the features you mentioned.” “Elephant and the blind men”. Jain Stories. JainWorld.com. Retrieved 2006-08-29.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_men_and_an_elephant

Lord, will You have mercy on our judgments made regarding science and its meaning to our lives? Will You forgive those in 1907 who used their new found scientific knowledge as a tool of separation from their predominantly Catholic neighbors? Will You forgive any counter judgments of scientists made in Your name or the name of the Roman Catholic church? Will You give us mercy on our neighbor whether they “know” through the channel of logic, association, observation, or relationship?

Your Word is not primarily a book of science, but where it does intersect with the sciences, it is accurate and eloquent in its claims. For example, You begin Your Word with the phrase, ”In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 CEV A scientist, upon first reading, may take it as religious and mythical poetry. However, would this same scientist observe that this simple phrase covered the building blocks of the universe: time, space, and matter?

Jesus, will You forgive the prejudices of the religious towards the secular-minded scientist in St. Paul: past, present, and future? Will You forgive the prejudices of the science community toward people of faith? We measure each other falsely at times Lord! We use the wrong measuring stick because we so often lack empathy much less love towards our sparring partners in debate. Will You heal the words we use to describe the intersection of faith and science? Have mercy on our small frames! Let us ‘see’ the whole elephant together, in Your revealing presence.

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!

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James Frederick Ferrier photo International Association of Scottish Philosophy

**”Every question in philosophy is the mask of another question; and all these masking and masked questions require to be removed and laid aside, until the ultimate but truly first question has been reached. Then, but not till them, it is possible to decipher and resolve the outside mask, and all those below it, which come before us in the first instance.” James Frederick Ferrier
http://www.greatthoughtstreasury.com/author/james-ferrier-fully-james-frederick-ferrier

*** A brief summary of the Scottish philosopher’s life. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Frederick_Ferrier

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19th Century, Art, Culture, History, Intercession, Jesus, Minnesota

Oscar Wilde Speaks in Twin Cities

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“Hear no evil, speak no evil-and you’ll never be invited to a party.” Oscar Wilde

Mar 15, 1882
The quotable Oscar Wilde takes his American lecture tour to the Twin Cites. The young Irish writer’s affected speech and knee breeches fail to impress local newspaper reporters who label him an “Ass-thete.” “Speaking at the Opera House, his subject “”was ‘art,’ consisting of a sort of lament that there was so little ‘art,’ especially in this country…. He was shocked by our buildings, by the mud in the streets, and especially by the rooms and furniture in the hotels…. The lecture was well worded, and at times quite poetical. It was certainly harmless and does not entitle Mr. Wilde to either abuse or ridicule. It was simply the smooth sentences of a languid poet, which strike the ear somewhat melodiously without arousing any overwhelming enthusiasm or creating sufficient excitement in the listener to cause him or her to burst a blood vessel.””
-St. Paul Daily Globe, March 17, 1882″

Lord, thank you for poetry and writing! Thanks for the “music of the spheres” and of the universe of words! Thank You for the talents of Oscar Wilde! How You must enjoy Your audacious children, especially Mr. Wilde?!
We often love our heroes, perhaps even worship them, and then are disappointed when to find out they’re human. Was this the case when Wilde toured here? Lord, will You forgive the artists and writers of Minnesota any judgments of Mr. Wilde? Will You forgive his assessments of our state, art, and writers? In any case, may we grow in forbearance to appreciate the creators of this world, and to see Your light in their talents though they stretch our provincial aesthetics?
Lord, I confess that we as a people love to put artists on a pedestal. We invest lots of time, energy, and treasure in those who move us. I believe You are the first artist, and that those who are talented in that arena move us because they wake our slumbering spirits. Jesus, we have made artistic brothers and sisters into gods. Will You forgive us this offense? Will you bless the artists of this state, their generations, and their creations?

Note: I once was a member of a much-beloved local band called “Romantica”. Check out the link to hear their tribute to Oscar Wilde?
https://romantica.bandcamp.com/track/oscar-wilde

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org , is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!

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19th Century, Culture, History, Intercession, Jesus, Minnesota, Native Americans

“Song of Hiawatha” Published Nov 10, 1855

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow never visited Minnesota, but his epic poem The Song of Hiawatha immortalized the Minnesota forests, prairies, and waters he saw only in his imagination. Longfellow began Hiawatha on June 25, 1854, he completed it on March 29, 1855, and it was published November 10, 1855.

The famous story still attracts tourists from around the country to see, in the words of the poem,
“Where the Falls of Minnehaha
Flash and gleam among the oak-trees,
Laugh and leap into the valley.”*

This poem could be revelatory of the best and worst aspects of pop culture…even if it was popular 160 years ago. A cynical synopsis? A man who never visited Minnesota or lived with the Ojibwe whose language he borrowed, wrote a pop lyric that morphed and mutated their culture with the East Coast Iroquois to the tune of the “Kalevela” of Finland?! Of course it became a smash hit, and the listeners accepted it as the truth!

I’m not a cynic, Jesus. So today I wish to focus on that which gives life in this poem by Longfellow. I want to practice seeing the potential in historical works, rather than judging their limitations according to the standards of the present.

Longfellow sought to learn real Indian languages, and wasn’t afraid to interact with real Indians. He invited Kahge-ga-gah-bowh, an Ojibwe Chief, to his home, and took the time to meet Blackhawk, Sac, and Fox Indians in Boston.

If the poet saw a connection between tribes of the East Coast of North America with those of the Midwest, can we forgive him? Artists are allowed to make connections where others do not see them. We can find fault in their “improper” labeling of a small branch of a larger concept, and stubbornly miss their heart.

As a drummer and percussionist, I seek to learn each new ethnic music from the ground up with great respect for its traditions. However, there is new life in breaking the rules, once one knows them. If one hears a connection between Celtic music and samba, then merging them into a new style is natural.

Perhaps that is the explanation for Longfellow merging the sound and rhythms of Indians with the heartbeat of Finland? Maybe he borrowed an interesting “drumbeat” from Suomi poems to express what he felt about Native Americans? In any case:
“The Song of Hiawatha was written in trochaic tetrameter, the same meter as Kalevala, the Finnish epic compiled by Elias Lönnrot from fragments of folk poetry. Longfellow had learned some of the Finnish language while spending a summer in Sweden in 1835.” Calhoun, Charles C. (2004). Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life. Boston: Beacon Press.

Father, will You bless Longfellow, Kahnge-ga-gah-bowh, and each Indian who shared his story? Will You continue to bless those who reach out to know a culture very different than their own? Will You honor those who see Your unyielding imagination expressed through all the families of nations?

Thank You for Longfellow’s example that we can create beauty beyond the confining aspects of our culture. Show us ways to “include, but not be limited to” the legalism of our traditions. Thank You, First Poet, for drawing the romance from hearts of stone! Thank You for the possibility of fusing peoples together when living under grace! May we never tire of creating, merging, or reaching to describe Your beauty mirrored in the faces of fellow humans! With this heart and mind, will You bless our state?

*Note – PrayThroughHistory uses the timeline located for several years at the Minnesota Historical Society Web site, at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm .

 

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