Alain de Botton on “The Art of Travel”

The first time I laid eyes upon The Art of TravelI immediately knew that I would adore it. Not only did its giver have an impeccable track record for book gifts, but travel, art, and beauty, all explained through the eyes of a witty English philosopher?* How much better could it get? If we could eat books, this would be my first course.

And now, precisely a year later, I have reopened the pages (to be welcomed by a small shower of Domincan sand) to once again meet the text for use in a short speech assignment. I’ve come to the sad realization that rarely do friends take my fervent book recommendations into serious consideration (God bless them when they do), and so the speech is a fun way to share my favorite portions. The chapters chosen were “On Curiosity,” “On the Country and the City,” and “On the Sublime.” Although my real presentation includes a notes-sheet packed with delicious verses, for simplicity’s sake I’ve included just one per chapter here, along with my Prezi:

I. On Curiosity

“Curiosity might be pictured as being made up of chains of small questions extending outwards, sometimes over huge distances, form a central hub composed of a few blunt, large questions. In childhood we ask, ‘Why is there good and evil?’ ‘How does nature work?’ ‘Why am I me?’ If circumstances and temperament allow, we then build on these questions during adulthood, our curiosity encompassing more and more of the world until at some point we may reach that elusive stage where we are bored by nothing. The blunt large questions become connected to smaller, apparently esoteric ones. We end up wondering about flies on the sides of mountains or about a particular fresco on the wall of a sixteenth-century palace.” (pg. 116)

II. On the Country and the City

“Of what moment is that when compared with what I trust is their destiny, to console the afflicted, to add sunshine to daylight by making the happy happier, to teach the young and the gracious of every age to see, to think and feel, and therefore to become more actively and securely virtuous; this is their office, which I trust they will faithfully perform long after we (that is, all that is mortal of us) are mouldered in our graves” –Wordsworth in a letter to Lady Beaumont after his poetry was initially described as “namby-pamby” and “a piece of babyish absurdity”

III. On the Sublime

“‘Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me’…When divine wisdom eludes human understanding, the righteous, made aware of their limitations by the spectacle of sublime nature, must continue to trust in God’s plans for the universe” (pg. 171)

Surely there is nothing more enthusing than the prospect of traveling, not only to new places but with such playfully enlightened eyes.


 

*If you need any more reason to read the text, consider that there is a portion entitled “The Exoticism of Shitting Donkeys.”

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Walt Whitman on Miracles

Oh God beyond all praising, we worship you today!

As I sleepily sit in a white rental minivan with my dad at the helm, zooming through the streets of Paradise Valley back to the airport, nothing seems short of a miracle. A mere three days of family Easter vacation in this desert oasis have reminded me that first things come first, and a first thing is to grab the person closest to you and give them a hug.

For me, the second thing is to share the wonderful things that strike me in the things that I read. I love poetry because it attunes our minds to the melody of the everyday. It sings from the order of leathery airplane seat rows, juxtaposed to the reckless glory of dawn unable to be held back by a thin airplane pane, the extra squeeze in a brother’s hug before we depart to our respective terminals towards our respective homes, and the unexpectedly cheery grin of the flight attendant as he dispenses breakfast cookies, lemon waters, coffees, and the occasional cocktail (oh what a mystery at 6am.) As Alain de Botton declares in The Art of Travel (a jolly brilliant book on which I frequently bubble over with mirth by quoting passages to my poor traveling companions):

Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than moving planes, ships, or trains. There is an almost quaint correlation between what is before our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times requiring large views, and new thoughts, new places (pg. 54.)

And believe me, with the mind of an economics major, I mean to grasp and share this point in all its practicality. We know we’ve found the truth when it changes something. It begins to make all things new. So what do these mini-miracles mean for the way we go about our everyday lives? It’s pretty simple: our concrete reactions. Life sweeps us up in a new dance each morning (I’m pretty sure this is the reason that music, rhythms, and poems resonate so soundly with us.) A real gem for your Easter morning:
Miracles
By: Walt Whitman

Why, who makes much of a miracle?

As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,

Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,

Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,

Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,

Or stand under trees in the woods,

Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love,

Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,

Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,

Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,

Or animals feeding in the fields,

Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,

Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright,

Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;

These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,

The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

 

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,

Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,

Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,

Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

 

To me the sea is a continual miracle,

The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the ships with men in them,

What stranger miracles are there?

Ronald Reagan on Heroes

Heroes may not be braver than anyone else. They’re just braver 5 minutes longer.
― Ronald Reagan

I’d classify this quote as sheer genius for two reasons. (Well actually three, if you count the fact that I’m a huge fan of Ronald Reagan to begin with). The foremost is that it recognizes that we all have the capacity for heroism. That deep-down ardor for kleos aphthiton, enduring glory, was designed as part of our humanity. I think that our prevailing fear of failure, or even worse, dull complacency, causes us to set our sights much too low, much too often. There is a reason why it is good for us to surround ourselves with extraordinary people, why athletes often prepare for a game by envisioning themselves performing their best, or why we know to encourage young kids to read and draw. Running parallel to its pleasure, the power of the imagination is that it can transform abstract hero-worship in our mind into an understanding in our hearts that we are capable and have the obligation to act heroically. The second point is worthy of daily consideration: heroes are made in the small moments. The five minutes. If you do not adhere faithfully to your principles in the little things, how can you reasonably expect yourself to be faithful in the bigger, more public matters?

Inspired by the above quotation, I’d like to conclude this weekly passage with a tidy essay I recently penned on the two political leads whom I admire the most. Not only do both Walker and Sasse exhibit heroism, but they also inspire heroic action in others.


 

Two political leaders that I hold in high esteem are Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Nebraskan Senator Ben Sasse. Both men fight for the free market and family values that are the bedrock of our great American society, though my particular admiration is sparked by how they do so. Walker is courageous and straightforward, and those virtues were demonstrated as he stood firm about making Wisconsin a right-to-work state and emerging victorious from the recall election by a greater margin than his original win. Second, he has the mind of a principled business leader, as he lowered taxes, reduced regulation, and cut funding to Planned Parenthood. My esteem of Senator Sasse arises because he has the well-rounded attributes of a great historian and communicator. Knowledge of history is necessary for understanding why our founding principles are worthy of conservation, and his scholarliness is evident in his speeches through his easy references to Tocqueville’s notion of voluntary association, Burke’s conservative principles, Madison’s view on limited government, and even Aristotle on friendship. His real wisdom is the way he presents these timeless truths with compassion and humor. An argument may be valid, but it must also be understood to be great. Lastly, exhibiting the difference between meaningful quotes and sound-bytes, Sasse once articulated the meaning of America in the best way I’ve heard:

Limited government is not an end in itself. Limited government is a way to constrain the things that could displace those institutions and those transmission opportunities that define what is fully meaningful in human life.

Piccoli Passi Possibile

Life has been a whirlwind lately. A powerful, exhilarating whirlwind– and better than I deserve to be sure. I’ve been fighting to maintain the delicate balance between my classes, internships, teaching, other positions, and the consistent presence of writing, reading and sheer spontaneity that I am fond of upholding throughout my weeks. Guess which portion has been sadly neglected? Though I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my duties come first, especially those that involve the trust and reliance of others, my brain has been collecting thought-essays which have the stubborn habit of arising to the forefront of my mind, time and time again. Like little children tugging at my skirt begging to be picked-up, they beg to be written down. So, it is the day of rest, I have a free hour, and I submit!

I have picked a little, shining one to unburden first:

Piccoli Passi Possibile

(literally, “small, possible steps”)

I first encountered this phrase in this article about St. Chiara, an Italian mother who recently passed away after choosing her child’s life instead of aborting the unborn babies within her– three times.* The saying really struck a chord with me, since it was similar to a familiar phrase that my dear housemate Lexi often encourages me with, saying: “little victories.” Both revolve around the idea, “give us this day our daily bread.” Our human nature strongly tempts us to fixate on the future, anxiously making sense of the whole picture immediately so as to predict and control it. I have felt myself become paralyzed when I think of all the tasks I must accomplish, even just for the week. Leaving faith aside, there is clearly a sane logic in taking each day for what it’s worth. When you perform each action to the best of your ability, for example, spending the extra minutes to craft concise, clear and cheerful emails, people notice. There is something irresistible about a soul who lives life consciously.

If there is any grace that I have been taught this semester, it is to understand that this rich life is packaged into 24-hour portions for a reason. The genius is that each day brings the perfect amount of happenings that we can handle (though somehow still always flowing over with blessings, when we have the eyes to see.) Although I cannot write an economic research paper in one day, teach my confirmation class all I would love for them to know, or even learn a chapter of finance all at once, I have the daily power to spend an hour or two toward the desired goals. We trust that one day it will all make sense. Until then, piccoli passi possibile along this breathtakingly beautiful path.


And still, the best news is yet to come: at the end of the daily battles, our eyes will be opened to see that our goals were too tame, our sights set too low, and that there were unimaginable miracles in store for each of us all along.

cs-lewis-quote-we-are-far-too-easily-pleased

*Upon finishing the article with brimming eyes, I immediately ordered her biography (fully aware that an imperfect, yet enthusiastic essay-to-be lies in store when I finish it.) Stay tuned!

4 Business Lessons From Papa Jace

Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.

~St. Francis of Assisi

Maybe it’s because I miss playing hooky to walk and talk around the park, or perhaps it’s because I have no one to grill or make pancakes for me on demand here in Kansas City, but I miss my dad (the tiniest bit.) Bad jokes, overprotectiveness, lectures, annoying exuberance and all. How good it was these past two weeks to wake up (more like be jolted awake by all the Jace clan morning chaos) in my own bed! Those precious free weeks prior to my current internship were refreshing and put to good use. For ages now, I had been meaning to effectively summarize and articulate the lessons concerning business that I was taught by my biggest role model, and considering that the internship season of my life is in full bloom, there is no better time than this Thursday summer night. Not to mention that studying investment philosophies can only entertain a young girl for so long.

And something well worth noting: these little nuggets of wisdom were spoken out loud about 1% of the time and simply lived out the other 99%.

  1. Go the extra mile. No doubt that every individual would jot this down under their “good advice” mental note-to-self, but fewer have had the luxury of watching an example of this commendable habit throughout their entire life. In seizing the early hours of the morning to workout and cook breakfast for us kids, in driving hours upon hours for a family weekend at the cabin and still having the grit to mow the lawn and clean the house once we arrive, in red-eye flights to be my date for the Red Dress Gala, in forcing us to go to the art museum when all we want to do is lounge through our Sunday, and in the way you paid close attention to the items needed to make our new house a home, you give 100% to every person and situation. In the business world, we all want to work with true partners: the kind of people who know how to get excited about their work, the kind who will have burst of genius in the line at the grocery store because they didn’t just shut off their brains after a long day of work, the ones who stare life straight in the eyes and engage with each new adventure, situation and person to the best of their God-given ability. You engage. It is that very spirit that spurs you through the extra miles upon miles and inspires me to do likewise, personally as well as professionally.
  1. Grin and bear it. Sometimes, even those ordinary miles will hurt. You always forced me to follow through on my commitments, no matter if they had turned out to be painful mistakes (way too often.) Well kids, you’re learning an important lesson. There will be days, oh so many of them, when the only thing tiding you over is that cup of coffee (did someone say Redbull?) you’re clutching with your weary hands. I think that’s actually a good sign, and I know that I saw you power through many of these times with a big smile still on your face. Hard work is crucial, but it is hardly laudable without cheerfulness. To retain one’s optimism while relentlessly attack the tasks of the day, now that is rare. Somehow, you figured out the real art of laughing and learning from your failures and inspire me to do likewise, personally as well as professionally.
  2. The beauty of art, classical music, and nature is important. Sure these luxuries are nice, but how does this make you a better businessperson? Turns out the whole business side takes care of itself when you simply focus on becoming a better person from the start. Not only is beauty enchanting, but it has the joint power of motivating us to make something more beautiful out of the piece of work we call ourselves. There is an unmistakable challenge, a reawakening of our nursery curiosity, effusing from a work like Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake or a dazzling sunset in Assisi. It may not seem like the most direct way, but learning to appreciate art, music and nature is a skill that will enhance any social circle and remind you to gaze upon the exquisiteness of this world with grateful eyes– even and especially in the office. The way that you and mom sacrificed so much time and effort to expose us to the majesty of man and nature, whether found in our local parks or in France, speaks to the fact that you find value in permitting yourself to be moved and elevated by our surroundings and inspires me to do the same, personally as well as professionally.
  3. Your life is not your own. By extension, neither are your successes, failures, trials and tribulations. And that is a very freeing thing. It is clear that there is a real atmosphere of ownership–of a strong individualistic focus– infused in the American business ecosystem today. To a certain extent, that is it’s biggest strength. Yet when we focus solely on ourselves and forget that, for better or worse, we are heirs to a family, organization, community, and nation larger than ourselves, our perception goes awry. In fact, there is a massive body of research that points to the fact that when we remember that we belong to each other, we are happier. There is this concept of the servant leader that comes to light time and time again in the business world, and I always think of you. You allow yourself to be humbled by the bigger mission and inspire me to do the same, both personally and professionally.
And on that note, happy early Fathers Day from your favorite child!
And on that note, happy early Fathers Day from your favorite child!

2014: A Few of My Favorite Things

Buenos días! I’m currently running on Dominican time, which means that although the working world has properly celebrated and moved on with the New Year, I am taking my sweet time to savor this new beginning. The idea hit me while I was eating toast and drinking juice this morning that it might be nice to compile an orderly summary of impactful, memorable pieces I encountered in 2014. So thus, here we are:

A Few of My Favorite Books:

1. Man’s Search For Meaning By: Viktor Frankl

There is no language strong enough to describe my love for this text. The reader faces a new portion of wisdom with each page, and consequently, the desire to share it with the world. If you do anything at all in the new year, READ THIS LITTLE BOOK.

2. Guns, Germs, and Steel By: Jared Diamond

While this is admittedly a formidable chunk of literature, it contains many answers to historical questions and a solidly thought-out thesis, making it well worth the time investment.

3. Walden By: Henry David Thoreau

Grab this classic piece of American literature to revel in next to a crackling fire and a cup of hot cocoa. Thoreau has some very healthy thoughts; we would do well to spend some time ruminating upon his perspective.

4. How to Win Friends and Influence People By: Dale Carnegie

This is basically an instruction manual for people. Even my 17-yr old bother – oh I mean brother – read it and liked it. Carnegie knew what it’s all about and successfully conveys that wisdom in his book.

5. Defending the Free Market By: Rev. Robert Sirico

I first encountered Fr. Sirico when my Macroeconomics class was lured from our warm beds earlier this year to catch his 8am speech. I was shocked to find myself 110% captivated by his words and even distraught when it was over. Immediately purchasing and reading his book, I’ve been a fan ever since. He succinctly professes common-sense truths that the reader will recognize are familiar to himself.

*Honorable Mention: The Beautiful and the Damned By: F. Scott Fitzgerald

A Few of My Favorite Recipes:

1. Whole Wheat Greek Yogurt Pancakes : Drizzle with honey and cinnamon and you get pure BLISS. And this is coming from a girl who typically doesn’t like pancakes.

2. Pumpkin and Chickpea Hot Pot : Stumbled upon this beauty while researching vegetarian recipes for my Fall service trip. It’s a perfect blend of homey yet exotic flavors.

3. Parker House Rolls Recipe : The credit goes to my little sister for first discovering this one– hands down the best rolls our Thanksgiving table ever saw, and that’s saying a lot.

4. Skinny Spinach and Artichoke Dip : My go-to when I’m expecting to entertain company. While that level of planning usually doesn’t happen in the collegiate lifestyle, it’s still a delicious back-pocket kind of deal.

5. Fairy Bread : There’s just something about it. 🙂

*Honorable Mention: Pandan Rice Cake. Watch the entirety of this video and you will get the daily crying-laughing bout you deserve. Also, will someone please actually make this and get back to me so I can try some.

A Few of My Favorite Articles:

1. 5 Lessons Running Has Taught Me

2014 was the year that I took up running at least 5x a week, and it has been the best decision I’ve made to date.

2. Looking For Home In All The Wrong Places, How Traveling Made The World My Home

“Traveling may not seem like it, but the feeling of pure bliss that I get when I see a place with my own eyes that I have admired for years from pictures and books, is the most consistent feeling I have ever known.”

3. Bakeries Around the World You Should Visit Before You Die

This. Only because I joke (but not really) that my backup plan in life is to move to Assisi, Italy and open a small bakery. Be prepared to massively crave the cutest carbs…

4. Writers and Their Books: Inside Famous Authors’ Personal Libraries

I just can’t wait to have a personal library of my own someday…

5. A Day in the Life of an Economic Officer

Absolutely exhilarating. It feels more than good to be working toward a goal, and this blog has been helpful beyond belief.

*Honorable Mention: Marriage Isn’t For You

A Few of My Favorite Places:

1. Milwaukee Public Market & Flavors

When an old friend makes an appearance in either Milwaukee or Omaha, these are the primary feeding locations that pop into my mind and rightfully so. Not only does each offer top-notch meals, snacks, or drinks, but the atmospheres are simply spot-on. Grab a few friends and do your tongue and tummy a favor.

2. Oriental Theater & Film Streams

My go-to movie locations. The Oriental is positively majestic and guarantees a breathtaking movie experience, while Film Streams is convenient, clean, and excellent at what they do.

3. St. John’s Church at Creighton

Two words: Bell tower.

4. Milwaukee Art Museum & Joslyn Art Museum

The kind of places you can wander through all day without even realizing it, and still leave wanting more.

5. Maxim’s & Fox and Hounds & WheatFields

Is there ANYTHING more heavenly than a properly done brunch?

*Honorable Mention: Fresh Fresh cafe in Cabarete

A Few of My Favorite Quotes:

“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

-William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

“If you want to write, practice writing. Practice it for hours a day, not to come up with a story you can publish, but because you long to learn how to write well, because there is something that you alone can say.”

– Ann Patchett

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love
with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
-Fr. Arrupe

“I’m going to make everything around me beautiful — that will be my life.”

-Elsie de Wolfe

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.”

-Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

6: Greatest Love

I had the decency to read Thoreau’s Walden this summer, while stationed in a canvas hammock under a great white oak and a swamp ash. As you might imagine, the literary experience was narrated by the rush of the bending, breezed pondweed and buzzing dragonflies. God, nature, commerce, technology, time, people, conversation, labor, etc. were all fair game, but I must say that I especially loved his eloquent familiarity with solitude. My busy, tired brain was justly reminded of the enrichment in quiet and isolation. Having been familiar with that, it seems fitting that we study his words on the polar opposite (or is it?), the bond of friends:

Friendship

By: Henry David Thoreau

I think awhile of Love, and while I think,
Love is to me a world,
Sole meat and sweetest drink,
And close connecting link
Tween heaven and earth.

I only know it is, not how or why,
My greatest happiness;
However hard I try,
Not if I were to die,
Can I explain.

I fain would ask my friend how it can be,
But when the time arrives,
Then Love is more lovely
Than anything to me,
And so I’m dumb.

For if the truth were known, Love cannot speak,
But only thinks and does;
Though surely out ’twill leak
Without the help of Greek,
Or any tongue.

A man may love the truth and practise it,
Beauty he may admire,
And goodness not omit,
As much as may befit
To reverence.

But only when these three together meet,
As they always incline,
And make one soul the seat,
And favorite retreat,
Of loveliness;

When under kindred shape, like loves and hates
And a kindred nature,
Proclaim us to be mates,
Exposed to equal fates
Eternally;

And each may other help, and service do,
Drawing Love’s bands more tight,
Service he ne’er shall rue
While one and one make two,
And two are one;

In such case only doth man fully prove
Fully as man can do,
What power there is in Love
His inmost soul to move
Resistlessly.

______

Two sturdy oaks I mean, which side by side,
Withstand the winter’s storm,
And spite of wind and tide,
Grow up the meadow’s pride,
For both are strong

Above they barely touch, but undermined
Down to their deepest source,
Admiring you shall find
Their roots are intertwined
Insep’rably.

I would claim that the only thing more magnificent than nature is man himself. Hopefully you enjoyed that gem of a poem, happy Monday!