Nature’s bounty. Perhaps the phrase sounds too much like a cliché. But isn’t it true that the natural world that surrounds us, especially here in the bountiful Ocean State, nurtures our souls and connects us to what matters most in life? In As You Like It, Shakespeare says, “And this our life, exempt from public haunt, Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in everything.” And we hear echoes of these sentiments from Mike Fink.
The least among us. There but for the grace of God go I. Certainly you have heard these phrases. Perhaps you have thought about what these words mean, or maybe not. The harsh reality is that too many of the people who take life’s journey with us struggle, sometimes in very big ways. And sometimes these individuals cross our paths and become our most powerful teachers. The Lebanese prophet, Khalil Gibran, once wrote, “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” And this is what we hear from Jessica Mowry.
William Cullen Bryant -- the 19th century American poet and long-time editor of the New York Evening Post -- once said, "remorse is virtue's root; its fair increase are roots of innocence and blessedness." Surely, all of us can recall misdeeds from our youth, those painful memories of our missteps and insensitivities toward others. True maturation, it seems, occurs when we are able to acknowledge our blunders and learn from them. And this is the stuff of Brian Shanley's poignant reflections in this encore essay.
Most of us have faced the decision: Should I or shouldn’t I give money to the man or woman standing at the end of the highway exit or on the neighborhood corner – sometimes in pelting rain or snow – who gestures with a paper cup in hand? Sometimes there’s a sign on a torn remnant from an abandoned box: homeless, veteran, hungry. Some of us give money; some of us don’t. Some of us struggle with the wrenching decision and our conscience; some of us don’t. In this essay we hear the insights shared by a very wise 13-year-old, Alyssa Howard, about her impressive efforts to wrestle with these common challenges in all of our lives.
Hope. It's what keeps us going when storm clouds move into our lives, in those darkest moments when there seems to be no glimmer of light. Hope. The poet Emily Dickinson said "Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all." And as we hear from Samantha Andersen, hope is what she found where she dared to expect it.
Samantha Andersen is an independent education consultant living in Pawtucket. After living in various states across the country, she settled in Rhode Island in 2012, and believes that in the Ocean State she has found her “forever home.”
The renowned seventeenth-century British poet John Milton began to lose his sight in his early 30's. Milton opened his poem entitled On Blindness with these words: "When I consider how my light is spent, Ere half my days in this dark world . . . ." Milton spent considerable time reflecting on his blindness and also wrote these poignant words: "To be blind is not miserable; not to be able to bear blindness, that is miserable." In this encore essay, Nancy Jasper shares her own poetic reflections on this remarkable challenge.
Surely you know the Biblical tale about the Tower of Babel in which, according to tradition, God punishes humankind’s arrogance by scattering them and destroying people’s ability to understand one another’s language. In our modern lives, we certainly struggle to communicate across continents and cultures, knowing full well that the stakes are high. Both international conflict and genuine peace depend heavily on our ability to connect with people whose lives and vocabulary are profoundly different from our own. And as we hear from Shai Afsai, sometimes our well meaning efforts to connect indeed bear, wonderful, wonderful fruit.
Shai Afsai has published articles on Ethiopian, Israeli, Nigerian, and Rhode Island Jews, as well as Jewish-themed short fiction, in Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, The Jerusalem Post, Rhode Island History, The Providence Journal, and Midstream: A Jewish Review. Afsai was the recipient of the Rhode Island Jewish Historical Association’s 2013 Horvitz Award.
What National Public Radio listeners have in common is a keen interest in ideas, intellectual curiosity, and a thirst for knowledge. But where does this need to know come from? What makes us curious? In this encore essay, Mary Baker reflects on the roots of her own insatiable curiosity, which, interestingly, began with a childhood visit to the zoo.
Mary Baker is an anthropology professor at Rhode Island College. She has a special interest in understanding what factors influence patterns of behavior among white-faced capuchin monkeys in Costa Rica and in the conservation of nonhuman primates.
Here we are, right smack in the heart of another New England winter. For some, this stretch of months with early sunsets is filled with dread -- frosty temperatures, snow piles to shovel, and ice patches to dodge. But for others of us, this wintry mix is the stuff of pure delight. As the poet Robert Frost wrote, "You can't get too much winter in the winter." And we hear similar sentiments from Gabriel Warren.
Gabriel Warren is a sculptor living in both South County, Rhode Island and Nova Scotia, Canada. Warren works primarily in sheet metals and is especially interested in juxtaposing elements that refer to the natural world and man-made objects.
Everyone needs at least a hero or two as we travel through life. Whether they're up close or remote, true heroes have the capacity to inspire, and to move us in directions that once may have seemed unimaginable. The nineteenth-century Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle once wrote, "Hero-worship is the deepest root of all; the tap-root, from which in a great degree all the rest were nourished and grown." Dominique Velociter shares her more contemporary insights about the meaning of heroes in our lives.
Dominique Velociter immigrated to the United States from Paris in 1985. She founded the French-American School of Rhode Island in 1994 in her home with her daughters among its first students. In 2012 Velociter was awarded the French Legion of Honor.