principles found in an oddly shaped black hat

Great ambition is the passion of a great character.
Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts.
All depends on the principles which direct th
em.
Napoleon Bonaparte


(one of only a handful of Napoleon’s hats that remains / Le Proccope Restrauant /
Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

Well, after a week of here and there babysitting, I’ve finally, however painfully
and reluctantly, returned The Mayor back home to Atlanta.
She was returned home in one piece albeit with her nagging cold still intact.

And so slowly I am now literally picking up the pieces while working on regaining
my thinking brain.

So on Saturday our local news offered the latest breaking state news that has me more
than simply thinking…

But before I get to that story, let me offer up a tiny precursor…
a tiny tale that reminds me of this particular current news situation of ours.

The hat in the image above is but one of a handful of the remaining famous bicorne hats
worn by France’s most famous leader, Napoleon Bonaparte (Marie Antoinette aside).
The last known hat of only 19 that remain, went to auction earlier this year.
It was a hat that was supposedly recovered from the battlefield at Waterloo and
fetched a whopping $325,000 at auction.

History offers us the small tidbit that, whereas most military leaders of the day
wore their hats with points facing forward and back, Napoleon,
on the other hand, preferred wearing his hats sideways.
This allowed Napoleon to be readily identified when on the battlefield.
A rather bold stance given the fact that many military leaders preferred blending in so
as not to be easily “picked off” by the enemy…
because what’s an army without its leader?

But given Napoleon’s ego, it is no surprise that he would prefer to be noticed
rather than not.

And I must confess, I have always had an affinity for France’s most famous,
or perhaps more accurately, infamous little general…
And so since I’ve previously written about that attraction before it should come as no
surprise of the level of excitement I experienced when recently given the opportunity
of seeing one of his earliest bicorne hats up close and personal.

On our recent visit to Paris, we opted to enjoy an evening’s meal at Le Procope, Paris’
oldest consecutively operating restaurant.
Le Procope has been serving discerning pallets since 1686.
They also boast having one of the most synonymous items associated with one of Paris’
most well-known individuals.
One of Napoleon’s earliest bicorne hats.

The story goes that Napoleon would often frequent Le Procope.
But so did Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Rousseau, Robespierre, Marat,
and George Sand to name just a few
But the story goes that as a young soldier, Napoleon would come to eat and in typical
fashion, brood night after night…running up quite the tab.

As payment for his escalating bill, Napoleon paid with what he had…that being his hat.
He informed the proprietors that one day his hat would be world famous because he would,
in turn, become famous.
And obviously, the proprietor took him at his word and accepted the hat.

And so now the oldest restaurant in Paris boasts owning one of the earliest hats
worn by what many consider to be France’s greatest and most brilliant tacticians and
military leaders.

Well, that is how they feel now as we all know that France has had an up and down,
love-hate relationship with her dearest yet height challenged leader.

I say all of this because as an up and coming soldier, Napoleon was like any young
soldier, woefully strapped for cash.
Acknowledging that he needed to pay his debt, he did so by giving what he had, his hat…
coupled with the guarantee that the hat would indeed suffice as payment as it would
certainly, cover his expenses given that his future was on track for fame…

And so this not so modest offering has indeed become quite rare and somewhat priceless
while in the end, Napoleon’s guarantee had come to fruition and then some.

A few weeks back I wrote a post about life in ‘the middle’—
as in our nation’s recent proclivity for being pretty much split down the middle given
our voting persuasions.

There are no clear-cut winners anymore because it’s now a matter of an almost equal tug of war
with an opponent’s toe barely crossing the line when suddenly the other opponent, who’s still
pulling, is proclaimed the victor…

So with more near miss victors than ever before…
a wealth of those having won by only a toe’s length or the proverbial skin of the teeth,
the losing side has taken to the ugliness of temper tantrums.

The problem in all of this is the growing numbers of near-miss victors and their equally
determined tug of war partners unwilling to surrender—despite their toe having crossed
the line.

It just seems there are simply no real clear cut winners any more—no full out right bodies
that come flying over the line after being jerked over by the formidable foe—
rather it’s come down to a constant stream of photo finishes.

Take for instance the recent race for Governor here in Georgia.

The numbers told us that the Republican Brian Kemp won.
The numbers were simply not there for his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams.
Although the numbers were indeed close.

Brian Kemp is a what many consider to be a typical good ol’ boy, Southern politician
while Abrams is a single black woman who was poised to be the first black woman
to hold such a prestigious office here in the deep south…
putting her on the edge for making monumental history.

Lots of unspoken thoughts and opinions are now floating and flying around about both of
these tug of war opponents and their collective sides.

So in typical ‘in the middle’ mindset of this nation…Abrams whose toe was pulled slightly
over the line…obviously over the line…refused to let go of the rope despite
the arms raised of the victor Kemp.

Two weeks have now passed despite Kemp claiming the victory in the wee hours of the vote counting,
as Abrams has now dug in and refused to give up her end of the rope.

Mathematically it has been clear that it would be impossible for her to call for a re-count
let alone a runoff.

So finally yesterday, two weeks after the fact, Abrams emerges to make a statement.
She announces that Kemp will be governer but that she will not concede…
in fact, she will file a lawsuit over Georgia’s voting irregularities…
Irregularities for a state that proudly boasts that its voting practices have been on point
for the past oh so many years.

On the one hand, we have someone admitting their opponent has won the prize while they in turn
refuse to admit that they have lost.
A refusal to concede while skirting around the obvious.
A win and a loss…no tie.

No longer do we as a public witness any level of magnanimity between opponents.
There is no graciousness between opponents let alone between one party to another.
No sense of decorum.
No extending of the hand from the vanquished to the victor noting a race well run…

Rather there is refusal.
There is denial.
There are claims of foul play.
There is the stomping of the tantrum’s foot.

No more is there a “may the best man, or woman, win” mentality.

No longer are there lessons of fair play or the lessons of how to win or lose graciously
being offered for our youth.
No examples of taking the high road.
No living with the numbers…
Rather its a matter of refusing to acknowledge defeat.
No more selflessly throwing one’s support behind the victor in order to work together
for the betterment of “the people”…for the sake of both sides of voters.

This current sort of mentality and poor sportsmanship leaves me, a voter, resentful of the
tantrum makers.
It makes me angry.
I am discovering very quickly that I have no tolerance for obstructionists.
Those who are the stalematers, the momentum breakers, the saboteurs of our own successes.
Those who wish to stop the good of the entire nation for the good of themselves.

And so I think of Napoleon.

But not so much for reasons one would assume.

Yes, he was a man who was small in stature but huge in ego.
A man who even I admit hated the notion of losing.
His was a life of battle and conquest with the ultimate goal being his own rising to the top.

Not the most magnanimous of mindsets.

Humility was not a word ever used to describe Napoleon.
No self-deprecating in his corner of the world.

The question of his true motives and his real concern being either for France and her people or
simply for himself…well…only history can help us pick that apart…

And yet here in this tale of an obscure little black and oddly shaped hat,
we learn of a would be great man acknowledging his being in a bit of a tight spot.

We hear the acknowledgment that even those
with great expectations of self can still recognize and even own up to stumbling
while being, in the end, at somewhat of a loss.

In this case, the loss of enough cash to pay one’s bill.
Living fast, loose and large and not being able to afford to do so.
Just like so many in our society today.

And yet we know Napoleon did not run out on his debt…something he easily could have done.
Yet there was the matter of honor and of principles.
Honor and principles that many of us lack today while preferring to live loose and large…
We assume that someone else, such as the government, should come to the rescue
and excuse or even pay for such wanton living.

But here, an otherwise self-centered egotist owns up to owing…
and pays his bill with the only thing he really owns at the time, he pays with a hat.
A hat along with a promise…
All while a gracious proprietor, who at the time, probably rolled
his eyes as he’d heard his fair share of grandiose dreams from one dreamer too many,
in turn, graciously accepted this pitiful payment none the less.

A simple act of give and take.

As we learn that a truthful acknowledgment, albeit hard truths, actually give way to a glimpse
of humility.
And there must always remain humility if there is to be any sense of hope in our society.

So when even just a hair of that toe crosses the line, admitting we’ve been defeated is not only
the right thing to do, it is the only thing.

Fair and square losses…
losses with no amount of whining, fussing and cussing, challenging, foot stomping
or threats of lawsuits can turn a loss into a win…
and if it could, in the end, would the win by hook and crook be worth the cost of our
humanity?

I worry that our society has lost all hope for the glimmer of her principles, those being
foremost graciousness and humility.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but
each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 2:3-4

early and above average

A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.
Dwight D. Eisenhower


(the forsythia is blooming / Julie Cook / 2018)

“No one denies what everyone knows, for nature herself teaches it:
that God is the Creator of the universe, and that it is good,
and that it belongs to humanity by the free gift of its Creator.
But there is a vast difference between the corrupted state and the state of primal purity,
just as there is a vast difference between Creator and the corruptor. …
We ourselves, though we’re guilty of every sin, are not just a work of God: we’re image.
Yet we have cut ourselves off from our Creator in both soul and body.
Did we get eyes to serve lust, the tongue to speak evil, ears to hear evil,
a throat for gluttony, a stomach to be gluttony’s ally, hands to do violence,
genitals for unchaste excesses, feet for an erring life?
Was the soul put in the body to think up traps, fraud, and injustice?
I don’t think so.”

Tertullian, p. 11

Since, then, you have been raised with ,
set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears,
then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4

history of responsibility

“Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”
George Washington

DSCN6295
Statue of George Washington and small friend / Boston Public Gardens / Julie Cook / 2014

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of Liberty is as follows:
1 : the quality or state of being free:
a : the power to do as one pleases
b : freedom from physical restraint
c : freedom from arbitrary or despotic control
d : the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges
e : the power of choice

Dictionary.com defines Tyranny as:
1. arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority.
Synonyms: despotism, absolutism, dictatorship.
2. the government or rule of a tyrant or absolute ruler.
3. a state ruled by a tyrant or absolute ruler.
4. oppressive or unjustly severe government on the part of any ruler.
5. undue severity or harshness.
6. a cruel or harsh act or proceeding; an arbitrary, oppressive, or tyrannical action.

Our founding fathers believed, with all their hearts, that it was necessary to fight with sword and blood for the establishment of a Nation grounded and anchored by a state of existence known as Liberty.
The sacrifice was great.
Many lives were to be lost.
Days turned to weeks as weeks turned into years.
Hardships, suffering, hunger became common place.
Misery was rife.
But the will and perseverance of this group of men, prepped to birth a Nation, was rooted in the knowledge of what life under Liberty could and would mean.

These guiding Fathers next fought and wrestled with the grievous weight of words and what those words were to look like when lived by the citizens of a free Nation–a Nation free of Tyranny and oppressive rule by a king or despot.

It was a time of deep soul searching, heated debates and arguments, flaring tempers–but in the end, they all possessed the same desired result—that being for the people of the united colonies to live as one Nation under the blanket of shared Liberty.

Have we, all these many years later, forgotten the sacrifices made?
Are we so smug that such ideals now seem trite and of ancient history?
Have we grown, as Benjamin Franklin would admonish, fat and lazy, drunk with complacency?
Are we so apathetic that we are no longer concerned with the safeguards which must be honed and fine tuned in order to continue growing in the original direction set forth?

Do we argue with the rhetoric of “that was then, this is now—- things have changed, all of that which was, is no longer relevant to our modern technological savvy ways?”
Have we lulled ourselves into such a state that we don’t want to rock the proverbial boat—we’ll just let the Government take care of us–isn’t that what everyone really wants, a Government which acts more like a benevolent parent rather than a Government which needs and requires it’s people to work to maintain its very functions.

Woe be unto those who’s watchman is caught sleeping, the enemy will take advantage of the unguarded post. It is the responsibility of the Nation’s people who must work to maintain that which was fought and fraught with angst, blood and lives. The question begs, what is the responsibility of you and I to those who birthed this Nation as well as to the Nation itself which was birthed so long ago?

When one is given a fine gift, if that gift is not cared for, polished, cleaned, tended to with regular maintenance but rather is left to simply run itself and “do it’s thing”, unguarded, unobserved, unattended, allowed to morph and grow into something else, then the original gift is simply no longer. . .

May we remember we must care for and maintain this most humble yet fragile gift.

Principles and Direction

“Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.”
Napoleon Bonaparte

DSCN1451

It is good to have ambition and drive. Goals, aspirations, hopes, dreams, etc. are all good and even essential components to one’s life but it’s what directs these goals, hopes, aspirations, etc– what motivates these dreams and ambitions—that is the truly important key behind the impetus to and eventually success of one’s life’s quests.

We can look at someone like Napoleon, whose quote is the basis of today’s post, as an example of someone who possessed great ambition. There is no denying that he was a great general and leader—that is, up to a certain point. His is the story we in America love—the small-town boy who comes from obscurity, the difficult, somewhat dysfunctional upbringing–a young boy who comes from very humble, and what many at the time considered very poor beginnings, certainly no silver spoon in his mouth. He is laughed at and scorned for his rough around the edges roots, even his accent is ridiculed….and yet he achieves a momentous level of greatness–all because he is driven to do so by an intense desire to succeed.

He does possess one very important attribute which proves to be a decisive factor in his life’s journey, the key to whether he rises to the top in life or remains a part of his very humble surroundings—and that attribute is ambition sprinkled with a strong dose of determination. The only caveat is that the principles and drive behind this ambition, this determination is a tad skewed. Napoleon wants so desperately to rise up and be someone of great importance, not so much as to lead people in the right direction, but rather to prove to others that he is capable of greatness—it is a very selfish and self-centered drive to the top—a sort of “I’ll show them mentality.”

When one’s goals are based solely in the “I’ll show them” category, the rise to greatness may be fast and glorious but the impending fall is blindingly disastrous.

It is my hope that you do have dreams and goals—that we all do. It is also my hope that those dreams and goals are backed by humility, purity, honesty—a desire to not necessarily prove anything to anyone, no aims to “show them” but rather a wish and a hope to make the world a better place. Sincerity of heart is easily recognized—or not. You must decide what is your driving force in life—if it is of a selfish nature, it will never come to positive fruition—history teaches us that.

Take time today to examine your own goals and desires of life looking closely at the driving forces behind them—are they pure and genuine, built upon sharing, kindness, being steeped in the betterment of others or are they laced with self-centeredness, revenge, selfishness, or even subject to the rationalized eventual harming of others? If they are of the former, they are bound for success, but if they are of the latter, then failure is inevitable–and most likely at a terrific cost

Take time today to examine the question “what are your principles and what directs them?” Doing so can make all the difference in not only your world, but in the world of those you inhabit.