Barbara Bush and Ima Hogg: Two Texas Matriarchs, One Common Vision

 

Miss Barbara Bush = Miss Ima Hogg = Two Texas matriarchs and kindred spirits with one common goal, purpose and vision.

Miss Ima was a very influential Texas philanthropist and was, among many other things, an arts magnate, one of its fiercest advocates and most prolific patrons of the 20th century. She was an early champion of racial equality and believed that one of the ways it could be achieved was through equal access to and immersion in the arts, and was the architect of programs for children of color to achieve that very end, programs that would serve as a model for others like it for years to come.

She was also a passionate voice for mental health, especially in children, and as you may have guessed, was an architect for programs and institutions to bring about its end. As it happens, she was the founder of Mental Health America, one of the oldest and largest mental health advocacy organizations in the country, and certainly in the state and my city (Houston). It is the first mental health advocacy organization I have partnered with, and the one with which I remain the most intimately connected.

As most of us perhaps already know, Miss Barbara was a perennial champion of literacy, especially child literacy. Perhaps her most salient and tangible legacy is her literacy foundation, with chapters all over the country, and the “flagship” chapter in Houston. Like Miss Irma, she was a firm adherent of the philosophy that literacy and equal access to books and other forms of reading material was the key to fomenting positive social/economic change, leading to the achievement of true and lasting social equality.

Both women are true American heroines, shining embodiments of a lifetime dedication to serving humanity, whose respective life’s purposes were informed very early on by an unbridled appreciation for reading, writing and the arts, the very human elements indispensable to the construction, management and furthering of any civilized and progressive society, and I am personally thankful and deeply indebted to them for their universe-altering and universe-expanding quest for profound social change, the microcosmic counterparts of which having demonstrated their precious fruits and gifts in my own life many times over, enriching it beyond all expectation. God bless them both, and while I am reasonably certain that they have crossed paths in life in some capacity or context, I am positive they are back together, leading the collective collaboration to continue advancing some of the noblest aspects and aptitudes of the human spirit, wherever they are.

 

For Barbara: Martin Luther King reflecting on my favorite poem, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (No Man is an Island). by John Donne

For Ima: “Heroic” Polonaise befitting her consummate heroism from my favorite composer, F Chopin, and played by my favorite pianist, Evgeny Kissin

 

A Tale of Two Geniuses: A Personal Reflection on the Nature of Genius and the Human Condition

Nathan Rockwell Haselbauer

Professor Stephen Hawking

 

Hi friends,

Seems that Synchronicity has stricken once again. Several days ago I had been planning to write a post about genius. And, voila! One of the world’s foremost geniuses in history has just ascended into the celestial realm.

Regarding the concept itself, though, I wanted to explore the essential nature of genius and the way in which it tends to find manifestation in the realm of externality. My working interpretation has always been that genius is not so much a fixed capacity to absorb and reproduce a seemingly inexhaustible array of facts as it is an organic process of synthesis of various realms of knowledge in order to create or reveal new realms. In fact, I made this very observation in a Facebook post a couple years ago, about two weeks to the day (the date of the posting was 3/28/2016). On that post, I followed up with the caution that if one ever happened to run into a genius, to be patient with them, as you would a person of limited intellectual capacity. You may get bombarded with numerous strands of seemingly disconnected thought, which is simply evidence of the fact that some geniuses are simply better at synthesizing than others.

Initially I had been planning to more or less limit my exploration of genius to this working interpretation, which of course is essentially entailed in most conventional definitions of genius. But I was actually moved to delve more deeply into the human component of genius not only in light of Professor Hawking’s ascension, but also upon recently learning of the tragic suicide of Nathan Haselbauer at 40 years old in March 2015.

Nathan was pretty much by all accounts a genius. His IQ was tested to be around 162, and his keen intellect helped propel him into a very lucrative career as a Wall Street speculator at the tender age of 18. He would go on to develop a variety of logic puzzles, IQ tests and brain games, and had even established an international high IQ organization on par with Mensa.

I first took notice of him when he appeared as a guest on a BBC Horizon documentary episode called “Battle of the Brains” in 2007. The documentary was basically an investigation into the nature of intelligence and an exploration of some of the current theories about what intelligence is, including Howard Gardner’s famous theory of multiple intelligences, the concept of emotional intelligence, and the nature of creativity. Nathan was one of several guests who were by all accounts very intelligent and highly successful in their respective fields.

There was a child musical prodigy, who at 14 was already composing his own symphonies and other works. There was a supersonic jet pilot, a career which needless to say requires not only an extreme amount of intelligence, but also a highly-advanced problem-solving capacity, keen attention to detail and a transcendent level of focus. There was also a very talented self-taught artist who never finished high school, but who routinely sold her paintings to art collectors and galleries for thousands. There was a dramatist/playwright/literary critic, who began writing plays as a young girl. Aside from plays, she has also written several novels, musicals, radio plays, films, TV shows, even an opera. There was also an internationally-accomplished chess grandmaster, who had been called the “female Bobby Fischer.” And last, a quantum physicist who is currently a distinguished professor at MIT.

The guests went through a battery of tests in a competition-like setting in order to determine which brilliant mind would emerge as the most quintessentially intelligent, who most accurately represented the concept of intelligence in human form. The tests were really fun to watch, and included a variety of exercises designed to gauge each person’s aptitude for creative expression, creative thought, spatial awareness, IQ testing ability, and so on. Nathan, the quantum physicist, and the dramatist/playwright/critic all emerged as the “winners” at the end, indicating that, at least within the scope and purview of the show’s testing structure, they each most closely represented the “true” definition of intelligence (I was particularly proud of the literary arts being represented, being a poet and all. Lord knows we’re generally not the first thing people think of when they are asked to picture a ‘genius,’ hahaha, Shakespeare of course being an uncommon exception 🤣🤔🤓).

Back to Nathan’s story. I took a liking to him almost right away. Aside from being incredibly smart he also had an air of gentleness about him. You could say he was even soft-spoken. I never once picked up an attitude of grandiosity or narcissism, despite being the guest with the highest IQ and the wealthiest to boot. I learned that he was living in a small Colorado town at the time of his demise. He generally kept to himself, and it was learned some time after his death that he simply dreaded the thought of living a lonely life. He suffered from depression and was given to extreme isolation, and finally decided to end it all shortly after his 40th birthday.

Nathan’s story moved me deeply, because I just as easily could have been him. I am 3 years away from 40, and have been assessed by at least one clinical psychologist in the past who, let’s just say, was astounded and very encouraged by cognitive/intellectual ability, specifically as it relates to language. That’s as far as I’ll go with that, because I don’t believe in talking about IQ and I am certainly loath to self-aggrandizement, aka “tooting my own horn.” (If anyone is interested in hearing more about my experience with the clinical psychologist, message me).

Anyway, I also suffered as Nathan suffered. I have battled clinical depression and feelings of loneliness for a very long time, and just last year when I was at my life’s lowest point, I, too, dreaded the thought of going through my 40’s and 50’s with little prospect of meaningful social interaction. I guess you could say that I was tricked, as I am almost certain poor Nathan was, into thinking that the only thing I needed to live a purposeful, fulfilling and self-actualized existence was my intellectual capacity. I romanticized the hermit, the recluse, the lone wolf who retreated into the hidden depths of a forest to dedicate his entire life to the constant acquisition of knowledge for its own sake.

And boy was I wrong! In fact, that thinking had caused me so much emotional anguish and despair that it nearly took my own life. So what have I learned? Simple, that we as human beings are BY DESIGN to be involved in humanity, and we thrive the most when we dedicate our lives not to isolated study, but to the advancement of civilization towards greater and greater enlightenment. The more we fight this design, the more we suffer.

Professor Hawking accepted this design; nay, embraced it fully, dedicating his entire life to advancing humanity through a ceaseless and unconditional commitment to curiosity. I admired him very much, and was especially inspired by his perseverance through tremendous physical adversity. ALS is a devastating degenerative condition, and the fact that he managed to survive nearly 50 years with the condition is nothing short of remarkable. But it is also a testament to the fact that once you decide to open the precious intellectual gifts in your mind to the world, you are pretty much destined to thrive, in spite of whatever adversity life tries to throw at you. It is not lost on me that Hawking lived to be about the same age as Einstein, and that the date of his ascension, 3/14, has brought many things in life, well, full circle, or at least much closer to it.

Be well everyone. And dare to be brilliant. And compassionate. And loved.

“The intellect is good but until it has become the servant of the heart, it is of little avail.”

― Abdu’l-Bahá

 

 

As the Seedling Goes…

As the seedling goes,
So goes the wellspring of
Bounteous hopes;
Once a scant thought encapsulated
By the shell of uninterrupted possibilities,
A stalk solidifies and sheds its skin,
And images awaken from repose.
Tomorrow a garden bears her sundry fruits,
Hearkening to a season that flows through the lips
And to the center of every expectant heart.