What do we value?

My theme this month is “working toward a better future.” That probably is a pretty common and predictable topic at the turn of the year, when it seems as if we have a new chance to “get things right.” 

NOTE: every day actually is a new chance. Every hour. But many of us do tend to think about it more around New Year’s.

How “right” we can get things depends in part on the cards in our hand, however. Last year at this point, for instance, certain decisions already had been made. Votes had been cast, and irrevocable changes set in motion. We dodged a few bullets in 2017, but some dies already had been cast by this time last year. In this context, I’ve been thinking about a pair of “takes”  on current events, by two commentators whom I respect.

4-27-08 Al DIAZ / MIAMI HERALD STAFF — Leonard Pitts Jr. Miami Herald Staff.

The first is a recent column by the ever-perceptive Leonard Pitts, Jr., a columnist based at the Miami Herald. He wrote that “our sense of what is allowable and acceptable on the public stage, have been eroding for years, but 2017 saw the process accelerate like Usain Bolt. It was the year things that are not supposed to happen happened all day, every day.”

He goes on to lay out the argument that we’ve come to a place in the public discourse where “anger, coarseness, political destabilization, and a trickle-down nastiness [is] visible both in anecdotes and in hate-crime statistics.”

But he doesn’t leave it there. He’s one of my favorite columnists because he always takes it to the next step. He ended his column, not with a groan of despair but with a call to action: “civil society is not something you take for granted. It’s a choice you make, a thing you have to fight for. Which will be a fitting mission for 2018 and beyond.”

Resisting the tide of discord and “trickle-down nastiness” is an honorable goal, and it is our daily choice. I’d like to echo Pitts’s challenge as well as respond to it in my own life. We also were treated in the last few days to another ringing call fo a better future, when Oprah Winfrey was awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2018 Golden Globes. In case you haven’t heard her speech, or even if you have, but want to hear it again, I’ve embedded a YouTube video of it here.

Even if some things look bleak as we move into 2018 and beyond, let us “maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights.” Let us all affirm together we “know that a new day is on the horizon,” because we are working to make it so.

Let us never lose hope, and never allow our weariness to keep us from continuing to fight for “the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again,” and we live in a civil society where  the dignity and value of all persons are respected, basic human rights are demanded for all, and where we cherish the well-being of this fragile globe that we call home. It’s only too late if we give up on the values we hold most dear.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Jeremy Graham, Sr. on Ingrum, for the “Working towards a better future” image, and to Al Diaz and the Miami Herald for Leonard Pitts’s photo, via his profile on Speakerpedia. Many thanks to CNN for the transcript of Oprah Winfrey’s speech, and to NBC via YouTube for the video of Oprah’s acceptance speech.

Lessons creatively applied

The Artdog Quote of the Week

My normal theme for January’s quotes is “improving the future”–and this year I found so many I like, I’ve teamed some of them up! Today I’d like to share a pair of thoughts about lessons learned and creative challenges accepted.

IMAGES: Both of these come from a great list on QuotesHunter, “20 Inspiring Quotes about the Future.”Many thanks!

A daring, creative choice

The Artdog Image of Interest 

The new year has begun, and if you’re like me you’ve begun to think about the year to come. What new initiatives will you take on? What changes will you make? What new insights will you bring from the year just past?

I’d like to challenge you to look at things afresh, to rethink some of the areas where you may have settled into unconscious habits. To dare to make divergent, creative choices.

Can’t imagine a cooler way to say it–or a more badass attitude to carry into the year to come. Be creatively bold!

IMAGE: Many thanks to Aga’s Pinterest Board, via NanouBlue’s Drole Pinterest Board, for this image!

Pongo faces

Last year I had occasion to look more closely than I ever had before, at orangutans (Why? Long story). I’m not generally much focused on ape species–there’s a touch of the uncanny valley in my initial response. I’m more of a “dog person,” in general. But on closer examination I found fascinating beauty and diversity.

Baby and mother, of the newly-identified species, Pongo tapanuliensis.

More recently, I read about the discovery of an entirely new orangutan species, Pongo tapanuliensisIt was announced in the online journal Current Biology last November. If you want a more in-depth dive into how they decided it’s a separate species, here’s a video abstract that lays it out well.

Pongo tapanuliensis looks to a clouded future–it is one of the most endangered ape species in the world. We’ve only just realized we have it–and we’re already about to lose it.

But reading about Pongo tapanuliensis reminded me of my earlier research. I hope you’ll enjoy this little gallery of Pongo faces, in all their marvelous variations.

With only about 800 individuals known to exist, this Pongo tapanuliensis baby has an unfortunately fraught future.

Pongo tapanuliensis may be new to us, but the other two species also deserve our regard and protection. All are endangered. All are amazing creatures.

A Sumatran Pongo abelii mother and baby find something of interest to look at, over there.
This Pongo abelii male looks to me as if he’s about to say something profound. If only he could talk!
Another P. abelii male, but clearly not the same guy as the one pictured just above. I wonder what he’s thinking about (probably wondering, “Who is this crazy human, and what is that contraption he’s waving at me?”).
A Bornean male, of the species Pongo pygmaeus, seems to have a lot on his mind.
Noisy zoo visitors prompted this reaction from a Pongo pygmaeus in an Indonesian zoo. Haven’t we all felt this way at times?
Meet Mari, a Pongo pygmaeus (Bornean orangutan), with her baby. They live in a zoo in Singapore.

If you still haven’t had enough wonderful orangutan faces, there’s a nice collection of them on this video from The Orangutan Project, based in Australia (be aware: there’s a fundraising plug at the end).

I wasn’t able to find The Orangutan Project among Charity Navigator’s listings, but another orangutan-devoted organization rated very high on their evaluation scale for financial integrity, accountability and transparency. It’s Orangutan Foundation International, based in Los Angeles, CA. If you’re inclined to donate, here’s your chance.

IMAGES: Many thanks for all the wonderful Pongo faces, to: Zee News, Stuff, and The Atlanticfor first glimpses of P. tapanuliensis; to photographer Thomas Marent on Fine Art America, for the Sumatran P. abelii mother and baby; to iNaturalist and Roni Bintang’s Flickr Photostream for the male P. abelii faces; and to Jason Hon of WCS and World View, for the askance-looking male P. pygmaeus, to Robertus Pudyanto, photographer, via Metro (UK), for the P. pygmaeus reacting to noisy zoo visitors, and to photographer Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty and Slate (nice article on animal personalities), for the photo of Mari and her baby. Thanks also to The Orangutan Project (AU)  via YouTube, for the video. 

Faith to take that step

New Year’s Day: The seventh day of Kwanzaa

We greet this New Year with Kwanzaa’s call for Imani–faith. Faith in ourselves. Faith in a higher purpose. In the eternal, immutable intrinsic worth of each human being, and the ultimate triumph of those who persist in pursing their vision. The Kwanzaa journey is a path of renewal, rededication, and forward-looking toward a better tomorrow. May it be so for all of us!

 

 

IMAGES: Many thanks to Jeffrey St. Clair via LinkedIn’s SlideShare, for the nicely designed symbol image and “seven principles” slide, to Develop Good Habits, via Pinterest, for the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote, and to Oprah, Quote of the Day via Pinterest, for the Maya Angelou quote.

Creative healing

The sixth day of Kwanzaa

This one is especially near to my heart: the principle of Kuumba, creativity! The only way to build a vibrant community is through the creative devotion of the people within it.

Just as the arts can help revive a dying neighborhood, so can the application of creative energy build positive bridges of hope, where before there were only walls of separation. Our whole country desperately needs this kind of creative healing.

What better, more hopeful task can we set ourselves upon than that, this New Year’s Eve?

 

 

 

IMAGES: Many thanks to Jeffrey St. Clair via LinkedIn’s SlideShare, for the nicely designed symbol image and “seven principles” slide, to the Pinterest board of Students at the Center Hub for the Mae C. Jemison quote, and to SororitySugar’s Tumblr (tagged Gamma-Sigma-Sigma) via Pinterest, for the Mitch Albom quote.

Empowerment

The fifth day of Kwanzaa

Here in the United States today, we continue to re-fight battles that should long ago have been won, while a hundred small and large disadvantages assail African-Americans at every encounter, continually.

All Americans stand to gain, if only we can keep working together for the goal of realizing the dream of true equality. It is only when all of us are empowered to reach our full potential that we will truly reach greatness.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Jeffrey St. Clair via LinkedIn’s SlideShare, for the nicely designed symbol image and “seven principles” slide, to Kathryn Drumright Sr’s Pinterest board for the Harriet Tubman quote, and to Goalcast, for the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote.