“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“No society can surely be flourishing and happy of which by far the greater part of the numbers are poor and miserable.”
Adam Smith, born 1723 in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, was destined to write the book that would be considered the first fundamental work of classical economics and one of the most influential books ever written. I confess that I had a vague idea of who he was but paid little attention until I decided to take an economics course. Adam Smith was the name that came up on the first day of class.
Adam Smith’s ideas were as revolutionary as the age in which he lived. It was the time of the Scottish Enlightenment when the Scots were among the most literate citizens in Europe boasting an estimated 75% level of literacy. Over a nine year period, he worked tirelessly on his book, “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (usually shortened to The Wealth of Nations), which was published in 1776, the year the United States adopted the Declaration of Independence.
Adam Smith is best known for his one phrase – “the invisible hand,” which signifies that self-interest guides the most efficient and effective use of resources in any economy. He argued that each of us tries to gain wealth, but we must exchange what we own or produced with others who sufficiently value what we have to offer. Hence, by division of labour and a free market, the public interests are rewarded.
Adam Smith has been given the well deserved title “Father of Economics.” He once said that “Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality.” His understanding of economy was framed by his profound belief in the value of individual effort.
“… the typical worker who through the whole of his life…pursues the idea of a certain artificial and elegant repose which he may never arrive at, for which he sacrifices a real tranquility…It is this deception which rouses and keeps in continual motion the industry of mankind.”
There is no evil that does not promise inducements. Avarice promises money, luxury, a varied assortment of pleasures, ambition, a purple robe and applause. Vices tempt you by the rewards they offer.”
Our ancestors shared our love for colour and would sacrifice great amounts of wealth to obtain the plants and substances that could be made into dyes. You had to be exceedingly rich to afford Tyrian purple, named after Tyre, the city that manufactured this exclusive dye. Prized above silver or gold, its colour would never fade; only grow vividly brighter under the nurturing warmth of the sun. Purple, from the beginning, assumed the symbol for royalty, pomp, power, wealthy and majesty.
The ancients believed that Tryian purple was discovered by Heracles, or rather his dog, which had a fondness for dining on the tender snails he found along the coastline of the Levant. It was only a matter of time before Heracles put two and two together to establish the cause of the purple stain around the mouth of his dog. It was truly a gift from the sea, for there was only one source for this brilliant colour – the secretions of a specific gland of the unfortunate sea snail called the Murex brandaris. Whether the discovery was Hercules’s dog or the Minoans as archaeological evidence suggests, it was an immediate success with the power elite of emperors, kings, and clergy. And if the Minoan theory is correct, Tryian purple has been around for at least 3500 years. Purple has never gone out of style, gracing the toga wear of the Roman Republic, the mosaics of the Emperor Justinian in Ravenna, and the haute contour designs on the runways of Paris.
Purple includes a range of hues that occur between red and blue. We experience purple through our senses – the heady juice of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, the pleasantly bitter taste of eggplants, and the sweetness of ripe plums. We admire the delicate majesty of amethyst and linger over gardens filled with fuchsia and azaleas. Nature, with her infinite generosity, continues to bring colour to our world. As John Keats, once wrote, “The poetry of the earth is never dead.”
“If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, Rainer Maria Rilke’s the Book of Hours: A New Translation with Commentary
“I found I could say things with colour and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.”
A Vancouver spring is all about colour and rain. Everywhere I go my camera comes with me because timing is everything. The first to awake are the crocuses, then daffodils, tulips and now azaleas and rhododendrons. Just the other day, I was so excited about taking a photo that I literally fell into the garden as I was bending over to capture a subtle yellow flower.
Our lives are surrounded by colour. As children, we see blue for the sky and sea, green for grass and trees, browns for the warmth of Earth, yellow for the brightness of the Sun. We intuitively seek colour in our gardens, paintings, photographs, home designs and clothing. Our moods and attitudes are profoundly influenced by the colours around us. From the very beginning, we have linked colour to seasons, planets, the elements of wind, earth, sky and fire. In Greco-Roman mythology, the rainbow was considered to be a path between Earth and Heaven; in Norse mythology a rainbow connects the realms of Ásgard, home of the gods, and Midgard, home of the humans,
This week I want to focus on our creative relationship with a colourful world. Edouard Manet once said, “There are no lines in nature, only areas of colour, one against another.” Paul Cezanne agreed, “Pure drawing is an abstraction. Drawing and colour are not distinct, everything in nature is coloured.”
In the end, we are all the children of nature, always searching for the colours of life.
“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky.”
Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds
“Those who educate children well are more to be honoured than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.”
A relay relies on a team to run the race. A time will come to hand the baton to another; our work complete, we will watch as the runner diminishes into a far horizon. Far from being sorrowful, we should be elated. We have run our distance.
The ancients left a legacy that remained vibrant and strong throughout the centuries. Socrates once said, “I am not an Athenian nor a Greek, but a citizen of the world.” He was a citizen of history, as are all who walk this earth. Whether we are remembered one hundred years from now is of no consequence. What we do today, in the time and space that has been given is what counts. Our legacy will be held in the hearts of those who love us, in the stories that will be shared when they recall our memory. As the Stoic philosopher Epictetus once wrote, “Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.”
Run the distance. Enjoy the moment, for this is our time. As Plato said, “Love is the pursuit of the whole.”
“Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.”
“Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.”
[Address at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, Johannesburg, South Africa, 23 November 2004]”
Most of us dislike conflict and will do anything to avoid the unnecessary unpleasantness of raised voices and difficult conversations. There are those among us, however, who would welcome the opportunity to engage in an animated discussion. The late Christopher Hitchens wrote in Letters to a Young Contrarian, “Time spent arguing is, oddly enough, almost never wasted.” The Ancients would be in complete agreement.
Xeonophanes was a contemporary and outspoken critic of Pythagoras. Heraclitus was quick to scorn Homer; even Pythagoras and Xenophanes did not escape his ridicule. Leontion’s audacious criticism of the celebrated and unassailable philosopher, Theophrastus, was still talked about centuries after her passing. Plato recorded the iconic debate on love in the famed Symposium. The fundamental standard within all of these historical scuffles was the subject matter. The debate was about ideas, not about personal vendettas or trivial disagreements.
Great thinkers engage in debate, not conflict. As Joseph Joubert, French moralist and essayist, once said, “It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.” Our world is in need of thinkers who look for solutions when they put forward their ideas in a way that welcomes an open dialogue. Argue the merits of the position, rather than stooping to pettiness and vain posturing. Recall Aristotle’s words, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
“In all debates, let truth be thy aim, not victory, or an unjust interest.”