My Heritage: Creative Work

Ancestry – Kin Folk

I am blessed to know my family history, a long line of souls who existed through a labor ethic commanded by God, so they could surpass the menial material ambitions of man. Thus is my inherited bounty of rich knowledge and culture rooted in divine will. Cursed is us who forget it in favor of luxury. Such is our downfall if we sit on a cushioned gilded chair, instead of kneeling before the generous heavenly Throne. I cannot fain ignorance of creative generations which overcame the evils of the human heart. Some, as potent examples of warning, submitted to prideful decadent spirits.

My father’s side can be traced back to the early 1800s, my mother’s beginning the following century. The former were of black slaves, freedmen, and white citizens, likely of Irish heritage, possibly also German, since ‘Fulmer’ is an Anglicized form of Germanic surnames. It did not take very long for my ancestors to thrive independently after Emancipation. This may be due to the seemingly diverse skills of those beforehand. The number of colored portraits, which were also made as late as my great-great grandfather, denote a like variation of social status among the non-white members. Passing on trained hands and minds for at least sixty years, the great-great generation continued this self-education, me reaping a crop cultivated for hundreds of years.

 My mother’s side was composed of rancheros and builders. Generally of a balanced Spanish and Meso-American background, the bloodline maintained a common way of life. Not as academically astute as my father’s side, although they possess a focused ethic. A communal outlook quickly forms connections with family and peers. Like my father’s side, the generations have practiced self-education, tending to prioritize a single field. Having adopted this ethic, the paternal jack of skills is reinforced by the maternal fine tuned specialty, even if it is basic manual labor. The best of two worlds have been bestowed to me.

Above all, I inherited a spiritual heritage. The paternity was Protestant of a predominantly Methodist tradition. The maternity is of an extended Catholic line. Regardless of relatives’ personal practices, it was made evident since early childhood how these different forms of Christianity permeated familial ways. It has been of piercing insight to witness what happens when Godly wisdom is embraced or ignored in the relations of kin folk, not to mention their individual well-being. Thus, I find a foundational guidance in direct faith in Christ, desiring to live a natural spirituality indirectly in the public sphere. It can be challenging to be intentional at moments. This intentionality would be unnecessary if one devotedly grew in the God called the Way, Truth, and Life.

Grandparents

Pop Pop & Mom Mom were the elders of dynamic existence. To see them express joy and sorrow, stoicism and frolic, depth and simplicity, was an underlying impact of my youth. Life was of pain and merriment. You can neither walk in excess nor absence or either. When death seems to haunt your home, preying on all you love, mourn then be glad for God being mindful of us mortal creatures. Mom Mom outlasted her husband by a notable number of years. Through it all she prayed. Eventually no longer able to physically care for her loved ones, she poured out a soul of steadfast heart. I fondly remember lasting words she told me in high school: “Those educated and skilled are to help raise others out of the dark.” And “Equality comes from how God created us, different but of the same worth.” Her final prayers were for our prosperity, to continue loving amid suffering. She obeyed the Lord’s command to pour out the last of her heart, so He could personally refill it. “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Grandpa & Grandma (Abuelo & Abuelita) remain as teachers of their successors. That is whomever takes to heart what they say, along with what has been valued. Far past their prime, they still exhibit a strength that very surely only comes with decades of fortitude in heart. Regardless of imperfections in religious faith, the recognition of God as sovereign has been a constant. The family and neighborly ties hinged on the holy, not wavering human passions. Their legacy is one that has seeded golden fidelity, dearly cared for by their children/grandchildren. Creative work builds not just excellent experience; the heart is nurtured to withstand trial in familial unities. As we are blessed with their presence, may the younger generation not assert our contemporary ignorance superior to their time tested knowledge/wisdom.

Parents

In summation, I find myself ever more grateful to the Lord for the father and mother who raised me. The homemaker devoted me in the moonlight to the will of her God. The head of the house desired me, as well as my sister, to be educated on the foundation of His Word. They have both lamented their mistakes, in regret of what may have harmed my upbringing. Who knows what I may have accomplished without the poor decisions? What an irrelevant thing to ponder about. Together we learned, fell, and got back on our feet. All this because they pointed me to the Holy One who faithfully guides our steps. Amid all the knowledge and wisdom imparted to me, a gift several generations in the making, they lovingly made sure I was introduced to Goodness, Beauty, and Truth – in human language He is called Jesus Christ. Indeed, I am a free man within a world of souls in bondage. It is not due to my identity. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

“Let not your heart emulate sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the Lord always; For you will surely have a future, and your hope will not be cut off. Hear, my son, and be wise, and guide your heart in the right way. Consort not with winebibbers, not with those who eat meat to excess; for the drunkard and the glutton come to poverty, and torpor clothes a man in rags. Listen to your father who begot you, and despise not your mother when she is old. Get the truth, and sell it not – wisdom, instruction and understanding. The father of a just man will exult with glee; he who begets a wise son will have joy in him. Let your father and mother have joy; let her who bore you exult.”

Proverbs 23:17-25

Experience of Creative Work

When it comes to labor, it is primarily valued as a means of economic gain. Sadly, the social and political possibilities are shadowed by the drive to material comfort. Lacking foundation based on higher spiritual things, the worker chooses a mental complacency. Instead of mimicking God in universal creativity, we can be resigned to passivity in someone else’s created world. Then the ironic mindset follows of feeling trapped with little to no sense of worth or freedom in our lives.

Experience is a key source of knowledge. Labor is one having the opportunity to create. Now, I can imagine people arguing that most workers do not have such opportunity, that only those with wealth have this liberty. Well, we have a choice. Exercise our God given abilities to create in spite of circumstance. Perhaps, we should just surrender to the preferences of others. To do the first requires the individual to form community, as they learn to be creative beyond their comfort zone. The second is to be personally or collectively content with whatever others make, though be disatisfied by the shared mediocrity.

An educated worker is a creative person with growing skills and social circles. Their knowledge surpasses the task at hand, connecting with others to create more for whatever common cause. This could be individual and/or group opportunity, whether it be acquiring resources and/or enriching the relations of a community. People tend to foregt that those of economic wealth possess their own social circles, far more often than not persist in developing their own creativity. I do not make this as a promotion for how to become materially rich. Modest or lavish, a person is divinely created to live in dignified freedom.

Book learning is of no inferior value, unless it does not coincide with labor, manual/mental, which is putting creativity into practice. Following the emancipation of Negro slaves in the United States, even as second-class citizens, black folk had unprecedented chance to actively cultivate their present. Many individuals took their labor skills outside their localities, relocating to acquire knowledge in communities that would receive them. Others managed or had to stay put, combining resources to improve their homes. Yes, the handicap of slavery smothers souls from existing outside of subsistence. On the other side in freedom, it must be of a people’s culture to labor for basic needs, along with creative endeavors. Risk and responsibility are no light weights to bear. In fact, a free educated worker grows to carry more, especially in good company.

In chapter 10 of Booker T. Washington’s “Up from Slavery,” the majority of the fledgling Tuskegee Institute’s students were of the impoverished plantations. Trained in innovative domestic, agricultural, and industrial skill, “the students themselves would be taught to see not only utility in labour, but beauty and dignity . . . how to lift labour up from mere drudgery and toil, and would learn to love work for its own sake.” Trial and failure ensued. Suriving the risks taken for building the institution’s infrastructure, including a brick kiln, the locale as well as many parts of the South likewise grew from the creative excellence across studies/industries rendered by the student body. Social/cultural relations between white and black became more cordial, due to the multiplying intertwining interests.

In chapter three’s conclusion of “The Souls of Black Folk” by W.E.B. Dubois, Washington was criticized for seemingly discouraging academically capable blacks from wanting to pursue the position of political office, considering civil injustice being a violent reality for Negro citizens. The educational methods of Tuskegee were rooted in Washington’s realism. Formal political power could be taken from any man; it would not be a crippling blow to an experienced knowledgable people. How many souls possess a university education only to be pathetically ignorant, becoming dependents and perhaps lower tyrants in their social-political circles?

“Our greatest danger is that in the great leap from slavery to freedom we may overlook the fact that the masses of us are to live by the productions of our hands, and fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper in proportion as we learn to dignify and glorify common labour and put brains and skill into the common occupations of life; shall prosper in proportion as we learn to draw the line between the superficial and the substantial, . . . Nor should we permit our grievances to overshadow our opportunities.” [He proceeds follows with a direct push for white Southerners to cast in their lot with the formerly enslaved population, whom have been demonstrably loyal and productive].

from: The Atlanta Exposition Address – Booker T. Washington (1895)

Black denizens in the United States were as a whole believers of some form of Christianity. While they had earthly masters, there was a supreme Master. God had also made them for educated labor. The majority, even unsure of how or where, desired creative community life not restricted to menial regimentation. Skilled workers were no less anxious to set their trades beyond personal wage, for freedom would be more realized when efforts were joined with others to create in the world something distinct from what their masters/employers owned. A non-believer, Dubois still had this to say at the turn of the century:

“In the Black World, the Preacher and Teacher embodies once the ideals of this people, – the strife for another and juster world, the vague dream of righteousness, the mystery of knowing; but to-day the danger is that these ideals, with their simple beauty and weird inspiration, will suddenly sink to a question of cash and a lust for gold. . . . What if the Negro people be wooed from a strife for righteousness, from a love of knowing, to regard dollars as the be-all and end-all of life?”

from: chapter 5 of The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

The concern “Mammonism” would take precedence over spiritual values is indeed something to address. Washington, unlike Dubois, did prize the faith. In chapter 8 of his book, he makes it clear, “The school is strictly undenominational, but it is thoroughly Christian, and the spiritual training of the students is not neglected.” I lean towards vocational education as a preferable means for the majority over higher education. Meanwhile, I am made vigilant by Dubois’ warning. Indeed, it is of a contrasting perspective, though it is still one to be mindful. If we labor for man or Mammon, are we not menial slaves if not pretend masters seeking dominance? Not all men can be supreme. Mammon makes food out of men. Freedom and dignity can become perilously precarious things in mortal hands.

“Man, as we have seen, lives by communion with God through the Divine creative act, and is perfected or completed only through the Incarnation, in Christ, the Word made flesh. True, he communes with God through his kind, and through external nature, society in which he is born and reared, and property for through which he derives sustenance for his body; but these are only media of his communion with God, the source of life – not either the beginning or the end of his communion.”

from: chapter 15 of The American Republic – Orestes Brownson (1865)

“The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the Garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it. The Lord God gave man this order: “You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die.” The Lord God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” . . . The Lord God then built up into a woman the rib he had taken from the man. When he had brought her to the man, the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.””

Genesis 2:15-18, 22-23

What is knowledge?

Defined

Oxford Dictionary – “facts, information, and skill acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject

It is key to notice that what is acquired is not simply repeated or memorized. Neither is quantity taken into account. The effort cultivates a capacity to apply mentally and/or physically. Thereby knowledge will affect the individual, no less the world around them. After all, a person only practices what they understand. In the long run, is one’s understanding rooted in what is evil or holy?

History

Historia in the Greek means “inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation” according to The Handbook of Historical Linguistics. Investigation of the past ensues through material that is an artifact, document, or commentary (layman or academic) of the period in question. The knowledge gained quite depends on the perspectives taken.

Historical understanding should be more judged by the present virtue in spite of its errors. A rigorous human view of the past can be so shrouded in self will it manifests malicious behavior, an unrestrained arbiter of fact and fiction. In contrast, a mere legend based on scant knowledge can inspire a pursuit for truth, goodness, and beauty in those whom share in it. If anything, history bears strong witness that the amount of knowledge itself is not an accurate indicator of one’s heart.

Surely, there is criticism about this seemingly naïve validation of stories as equal to high profile historical study. The latter can be unequivocally superior in facts, information, and demonstration of skill. The former can be far more morally influential. How many academic works of history are sadly out of touch with heartstrings, unable to stir even curiosity? A timeless tale may be a stepping stone if not bridge in a lifelong journey to understand things seen as well as unseen.

Science

The word itself means “knowledge”. Yes, of the natural world. Like history, one delves into things unwitnessed, not directly accessible to the five senses. The term became common in the late nineteenth century. Prior, ‘natural philosophy’ was the prevalent idea. There was a recognition that one needed to act on presuppositions in order to begin a consistent method. Aristotle, popular ancient Greek philosopher, had this to say in part one of book one for his work – “Physics” –

“Now what is to us plain and obvious at first is rather confused masses, the elements and principles of which become known to us later by analysis. Thus we must advance from generalities to particulars; for it is a whole that is best known to sense-perception, and a generality is a kind of whole . . . Similarly a child begins by calling all men ‘father’ and all women ‘mother’ but later on distinguishes each of them.”

Because what we know (or think we know) about the natural world may not be as accurate as we might believe, it is important to tolerate a degree of error. If one explores the efforts of any notable scientist/inventor, you will discover an extreme ratio of failure over success in experiments. A minority yet significant percentage of discoveries have been unintended. French chemist of the nineteenth century, Louise Pasteur, had this to say, “In the fields of observation, chance favors only the prepared minds”. It is not how much you know but how and an underlying why, which orders your perception. 

Materialism/naturalism is a prevalent mindset among modern scientists. Still, the scientific world at large wonders about things our five senses cannot comprehend. This fascination with the unseen is recognized across generations to be sought after, to be understood. What reenergizes an arguable reverence for the universal why is when those of the white lab coat understand there level of knowledge is still not even scratching the surface of reality. 

Leading physicist/string theorist Brian Greene states within the first page of his book “The Elegant Universe” that the top theories of physics – Einstein’s Relativity & quantum mechanics – “are mutually incompatible.” Both are recognized as insufficient for the increasingly mysterious nature of the cosmos. For the last century, an awkward hybrid of the two has been utilized for any gains in knowledge. What is to be a persistent matter of reflection is how our understanding of scientific knowledge impacts humankind, then the rest of Creation, a topic to be later explored.

Conclusion

Knowledge is an organized understanding of the acquired facts, information, and skills – consequential action will follow. It relies on learning material and immaterial substance. Book learning or labor are sources from human activity. With plenty of precedent, knowledge that turns out to be lacking in facts can still possess the quality to influence greater acquisition, which includes virtue. Is the pursuit of knowledge done with virtuous means for like ends? Does this pursuit and practice mar people, the image of God? Is it in effect deemed holy, separated from Creation as a supreme judge for what is good or evil?

“Feelings, purpose, values, make up our consciousness as much as sense impressions. We follow up the sense impressions and find that they lead into an external world discussed by science; we follow up the other elements of our being and find that they lead – not into a world of space and time, but surely somewhere.”

From chapter 15 of The Nature of the Physical World by Sir Arthur Eddington

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love. If these are yours and increase in abundance, they will keep you from being idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Peter 1:5-8

Finally Publishing Online

This blog has been long in the making, conceived near the end of undergraduate school. Apparently, I needed a number of years to grow in general knowledge, as well as mature in what is holy. I find myself ready to share with the public edifying thoughts on history & science. Current events, every so often, will also be engaged. Indeed, it is time to venture forward, adding a voice seeking what is true, good, and beautiful among a world abundant in foolishness and sin.

Now, I confess that the humanities are my primary field, the sciences being of secondary ability. Why then dare throw my hat into this ring? Well, what we know and believe about the natural world is essential to how we view ourselves as human beings. I may not be a scientist in the formal sense, though I possess a fair level of competence to reflect on its nature. To be more transparent, at the very least I am sure of this. Besides, the scientific world has always been wrought with error and unholy endeavors.

As you have already made an educated guess, yes, I am a religious man. More specifically, yet still vaguely, I am an orthodox reformed Christian. Thus, this blog is an extension of my individual ministry for the Lord Jesus Christ. May each post be proceeded by much contemplation and prayer, not to mention the necessary periods of research.

There will be the occasional piece of opinion/critique, yet I find there are plenty critical words of opposition on the internet. Instead, this will more be an inquiry into humanity and nature. Together shall we be blessed by knowledge and give thanks to holy God, who graciously bestows it to His image. May I persist in study and not fear the will of man.