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Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit


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John Adams: Peace-Maker

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

John Adams (1)

Everyone wants  ‘Peace on Earth’. Is it really possible? President John Adams was a genuine peace-maker, even to his own detriment.

One of my most popular Deep Cove Crier articles, with almost 17,000 online readers, has been my article on John Adams’ good friend Benjamin Franklin. Both were founding fathers of our neighbour to the south.  My American relatives have told me that Adams is the greater man.

Adams’ greatest strength and weakness was that he was a passionate peace-maker, even at the cost of sabotaging his own re-election as the second American President.  Napoleon in 1797 captured 300 American ships, six percent of the American fleet. (1)  The ‘hawks’ in Adams’ own Federalist party desperately wanted to go to war with France, but Adams negotiated a peace treaty that allowed him to disband Alexander Hamilton’s unnecessary and costly army.  Hamilton, the commander of this army, took this as a personal insult, and dedicated himself to splitting Adams’ own Federalist Party.  John Adams wrote his wife Abigail saying that he knew “Hamilton to be a proud-spirited, conceited, aspiring mortal, always pretending to morality…as great a hypocrite as any in the US…” (2)

thomasjeffersonWith two Federalist presidential candidates, the Republican presidential candidate, Thomas Jefferson, won the election on the 36th ballot after a deadlocked Congressional tie vote. (3) Jefferson, who had foolishly endorsed the blood-thirsty French Revolution, was wisely mentored by Adams.  At his final State of Union address, President Adams stated: “Here and throughout our country, may simple measures, pure morals, and true religion, flourish forever!” (4)  His final prayer as he left the House was: “I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof.” (5) Despite strong political differences, Adams and Jefferson ended as good pen pal friends, both dying in 1826 on the significant American July 4th holiday. (6)   Jefferson acknowledged Adams as ‘the colossus of independence.’ (7)

John Adams was both passionate about liberty and yet cautious about our human tendency to selfishness.  James Grant commended Adams for “his unqualified love of liberty, and his unsentimental perception of the human condition.” (8)  As such, Adams produced constitutional boundaries that guarded people’s essential freedoms of life and liberty of speech, assembly, and religion.  The US Congress praised Adams for his “patriotism, perseverance, integrity and diligence.” (9)   Adams insightfully commented: “our Constitution was made only for a moral & religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” (10) The root of equality, said Adams, was the Golden Rule – Love your neighbour as yourself.  (11)

John Adams 2Adams has been described as one of North America’s greatest bibliophiles.  He loved to learn, reading voraciously in wide-ranging areas of interest, including the Bible.  Equality for Adams was grounded in equal access to education for all: “knowledge monopolized, or in the Possession of a few, is a Curse to Mankind. We should dispense it among all Ranks.  We should educate our children.  Equality should be preserved in knowledge.” (12)  His prayer for his children was: ““Let them revere nothing but religion, morality, and liberty.”  (13)

One of Adams’ strengths was that he was deeply honest, even to his own political detriment. Unlike the worldly-wise Benjamin Franklin, he would say exactly what was on his mind. Adams urged Franklin to get more exercise, saying that “the sixth Commandment forbids a man to kill himself as it does to kill his neighbour. A sedentary life is tantamount to suicide.” (14)  James Grant commented that “like the mythical George Washington, he seemed incapable of telling a lie; he was naturally and organically honest.” (15)  Adams once commented: “The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount contain my religion.”(16)  Adams was indeed an unusual politician. He found the endless political bickering to be painful and pointless, commenting that “a resolution that two plus two makes five would require fully two days of debate.” (17)  Adams was known as a foul-weather politician, only drawn to serve his country because of the intense crisis.  He would have much rather been anywhere else: “The longer I live and the more I see of public men, the more I wish to be a private one.” (18)  Adams was a latecomer to American Independence, preferring to work for reconciliation with the British.  While Benjamin Franklin had favour and therefore initial funding from France , John Adams eventually obtained key loans to the United States from the cautious Dutch.  Because of his endless negotiations in France, Holland and England, Adams only saw his dear wife Abigail for a grand total of three months over six years. (19)   He wrote to Josiah Quincy: “Happy is the man who has nothing to do with politics and strife.” (20)

 king-george-iiiOne of Adams’ first assignments in Congress was to draft a resolution  appointing a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer throughout the thirteen colonies: “that we may, with united hearts and voices, unfeignedly confess and deplore our many sins, and offer up our joint supplications to the all-wise Omnipotent, and merciful Disposer of all events; humbling beseeching him to forgive our iniquities, to remove our present calamities, to avert those desolating judgments with which we are threatened, and to bless our rightful sovereign, King George the third.” (21)   Sadly King George dismissed Adams and his colleagues as ‘wicked and desperate persons.’ (22)

King George’s thirty-three thousand British troops resulted in thirty-five thousand American deaths by sword, sickness, or captivity. (23) Adams knew that without heart-forgiveness, American independence would quickly become as barbaric as the French Revolution:  “In a time of war, one may see the necessity and utility of the divine prohibitions of revenge and the Injunctions of forgiveness of Injuries and love of Enemies, which we find in Christian Religion. Unrestrained, in some degree by these benevolent Laws, Men would be Devils, at such a Time as such.”  (24)

John Adams3In 1815 he wrote his own gravestone epitaph: “Here lies John Adams, who took upon himself the responsibility of the peace with France in the year 1800.” (25)  My prayer is that we too may be passionate peace-makers like President John Adams.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

 -an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

Footnotes

(1) James Grant, John Adams: Party of One , (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, NY, 2005), p. 392.

(2) Gore Vidal, Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, (Yale University Press, New Haven, 2003), p. 133.

(3)  David McCullough, John Adams , (Simon and Schuster, New York, NY, 2001), p. 572.

(4)  John Adams, State Of The Union Address 11/11/1800,

  http://readbookonline.net/readOnLine/50063/

(5) McCullough, John Adams, p. 560, picture 57.

(6) McCullough, p. 646.

(7) http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Colossus+of+Independence.-a079789133

(8) Grant, p. 61.

(9)  Grant, p. 336.

(10) http://www.john-adams-heritage.com/quotes/

(11) McCullough, p. 543.

(12) Fragmentary Notes for ‘A Dissertation on the Canon and the Feudal Law’,  http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-01-02-0052-0002

(13) Grant, p. 165.

(14) Grant, p. 287.

(15) Grant, p. 100.

(16) Grant, p. 442.

(17) Grant, p. 142.

(18) Grant, p. 146; McCullough, p. 207.

(19) McCullough, p. 271 “At last, on June 11th 1782, Adams negotiated with a syndicate of three Amsterdam banking houses — Willink, Van Staphorst, and De la Lande & Fynje — a loan of five million guilders, or two million dollars at five percent interest.  It was not the ten million dollars Congress had expected…”;  Grant, p. 196.

(20) Grant, p. 157.

(21) Grant, p. 153.

(22) Grant, p. 152.

(23) Grant, p. 256.

(24) Grant, p. 184.

(25) Grant, p. 383.


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Search for the historical Victor Hugo

 Victor Hugo1By the Rev. Dr.  Ed Hird

With the success of the movie Les Miserables, people have been looking again at the author Victor Hugo.  What is it about Hugo that enabled him to write what Leo Tolstoy called the greatest of all novels? Who was the real historical Victor Hugo?

Every day around 3,000 words are published about Victor Hugo.  It has been said that to read the complete works of Hugo would take no less than ten years.  Every important poet, novelist and dramatist of his age was shaped by Hugo’s prolific endeavours.   Some call him the greatest of French poets.  He was the dominant figure in 19th century French literature.  By the time he left France in 1851, Hugo was seen as the most famous living writer in the world.  Upon his return to France, thousands of people in Paris chanted ‘Vive Victor Hugo’, reciting his poetry, and throwing flowers on him.  On his eightieth birthday, six hundred thousand Parisians marched past his house in his honor.  At his death, a day of national mourning was declared.

By the time Hugo died in 1883, he had become a symbol of France with all its struggles and challenges.  Hugo lived through bloody uprising after uprising.  Almost a million Frenchmen had died during this revolutionary period, half of them under the age of twenty-eight.  Les Miserables with its passionate message about the barricades reflect this deep trauma of chaos upon unending chaos.

When Hugo was born, his parents were horrified by his appearance.  His own mother could not bear to look at him. His own doctor indicated that without a miracle, Victor would not last out the month.  With an enormous head and a tiny body, his father said that Victor looked like the gargoyles of Notre Dame.  Such an insensitive comment led to his second most favorite novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Ironically after the success of his Hunchback novel, all the nouveau riche wanted their homes to be ornamented with gargoyles.

Sophie HugoVictor adored his mother Sophie but she cared little for her children.  During his childhood, Victor deeply resented his father Leopold who was always away at war.  As an adult, Victor became his father’s closest companion.  His own parents had divided loyalties between the royalists and the republicans.  Hugo’s parents met in Brittany while his Napoleonic father was stamping out a local royalist rebellion.  Both of his parents were unfaithful to their marriage vows, something that repeated itself in Victor’s own marriage.

While only fifteen, Victor applied for the French Academy’s annual poetry contest.  His poetry was so advanced that the Academy refused to accept him until his mother produced his birth certificate. Victor loved to write, commenting that ‘every thought that has ever crossed my mind sooner or later finds it onto paper. …Ideas are my sinews and substance.’

His father Leopold saw Victor’s involvement in literature as being like ‘pouring good wine down an open sewer’.  So he refused to help fund his literary education: “If you were to elect a career as a lawyer or physician, I would gladly make sacrifices to see through university.”  Victor often went without food in his early literary years, saying ‘I shall prove to my father that a poet can make sums far larger than the wages of an Imperial General.’  With great talent and a strong work ethic, Victor became one of a very small band who could earn their living with their pens.  One of Victor’s closest friends was Alexandre Dumas, the famous author of the Count of Monte Cristo and the Three Musketeers.

Adele HugoOne of Victor’s greatest sorrows was that his wife Adele was indifferent to his writings.  Even his passionate love poems for his wife, she ignored.  Adele warned Victor that ‘it is the fault of passionate men to set the women they love upon a pedestal. To be placed so high produces dizziness, and dizziness leads to a fall.’  Adele’s affair with her husband’s best friend Saint-Beauve crushed Victor, leading him into his own ongoing infidelity. There was great tragedy in Hugo’s life with his own brother Eugene having a mental breakdown at Victor’s wedding and his youngest daughter suffering the same fate after being abandoned by her lover Pinson.  One of the deepest wounds was the drowning of Victor’s daughter Leopoldine shortly after her marriage.   Out of this great sorrow came great dramatic writing, especially in his novel Les Miserables.  Andre Maurois commented that Hugo possessed and would retain all his life long, one precious gift: the power to give to the events of everyday life a dramatic intensity.

Ground-zero in Les Miserables was the gracious Bishop Bienvenue who transformed Jean Valjean by his generous act of forgiveness.  Victor Hugo’s son Charles was upset by his father’s choosing of Bishop Bienvenue.  Charles suggested instead that his father should have made Bienvenue to be a medical doctor instead of a clergyman.  Victor replied to his son: ‘Man needs religion. Man needs God. I say it out loud, I pray every night…”  Victor held that humanity is an ‘unspeakable miracle.’   Of all the French Romantics, Hugo made the most explicit usage of the Bible.

I thank God for the life and work of Victor Hugo who had such a passion for life, freedom and forgiveness, especially as seen in his novel Les Miserables.

 

(Click to watch)

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


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Rembrandt: The Prodigal Painter Returns

By The Rev. Dr. Ed HirdRembrandt1

How do you feel about the world-famous Mr. Van Rijn’s paintings?

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn is one of the few men or women in history recognizable from just his first name.  Others are Napoleon, Michaelangelo, and Cleopatra.  Today Rembrandt is known to hundreds of millions of people in all parts of the world.  Many art experts see him as the greatest of all Dutch painters, indeed as one of the greatest artists who ever lived.

By his subtle contrasts of light and dark, Rembrandt caused the people he painted to seem alive.  Theatre people often call Rembrandt the Shakespeare of painting –for his capacity to probe personality, his compassion for each person he depicts, and his feeling for grasping the dramatic moment and displaying it with moving effect.

On July 15, 1606, Rembrandt was born as the rembrandt-sea-galileeninth child of a well-to-do couple in Leiden, Holland.  While in his early 20’s, he developed an overnight celebrity status somewhat akin to the rise of the Beatles.  This brief time of prosperity and  popularity,however, was  followed by much sorrow and  rejection.  Championed as the Netherlands alternative to Peter Paul Ruben in Belgium, Rembrandt became very wealthy and over-extended.  Taking out an enormous mortgage on a beautiful house, he was accused of wasting his inheritance and living an indulgent lifestyle.

Rembrandt responded by painting himself with his wife Saskia, as a Prodigal Son/wealthy playboy with his latest female conquest.  As a young person, Rembrandt had all the attributes of the Prodigal Son: brash, overconfident, spendthrift, hedonistic, and very arrogant.  Money dominated and crippled much of his life.  He earned a lot; he consumed a lot; he wasted a lot.  Sadly, much of his energy and talent was depleted in protracted court cases about financial disputes and bankruptcy affairs.

Rembrandt’s best-known painting, the so-rembrandt_nightwatchcalled Night Watch, was both his greatest success artistically  and his worst failure relationally.  While painting the Night Watch, he made many people angry who would no longer buy his paintings.  The soldiers, who paid to be in the picture, all wanted to be front and centre. Instead of painting a typical group portrait, Rembrandt created a masterpiece where some soldiers were prominent and others were hardly visible.

Around that time, his wealthy heiress wife Saskia, whom he deeply loved and admired, died, leaving Rembrandt to care for his nine-month-old son, Titus.  Rembrandt had already lost his son Rumbartus in 1635, his first daughter Cornelia in 1638, and his second daughter Cornelia in 1640. Ten days before Saskia died, she changed her will so that Rembrandt would never be able to remarry without being disinherited.

After Saskia’s death, things worsened.  Rembrandt became involved in a very unhappy relationship with his housekeeper, Geertje Dircx.  When he refused to marry her, she took Rembrandt to court and won a settlement. In response, Rembrandt and Geertje’s own brother had Geertje confined to an insane asylum for the next five years.

Unable to marry, he then became involved in rembrandt03aanother scandal with his new housekeeper, Hendrickje Stoffels, whose pregnancy scared off even more of his Dutch customers.  His financial problems became so severe that in 1656 Rembrandt was declared insolvent.  All of Rembrandt’s possessions, his large collection of artwork, and his house in Amsterdam were sold in three auctions during 1657 and 1658.  In 1663, Hendrickje, who has been described as ‘one of the noblest souls to serve a troubled genius’, died.  Five years later, Rembrandt’s hopes were again raised and then dashed when he celebrated his son Titus’ wedding, only to see him buried that same year.  Only his daughter Cornelia, his daughter-in-law Magdalene van Loo, and his granddaughter Titia survived him.

Rembrandt became more and more fascinated with painting ‘old age’, as he felt that it often revealed the most about human nature.  Bludgeoned by tragedies that might have crushed a weaker man, Rembrandt achieved a new depth to his art.  Rembrandt was close to his death when he painted his Prodigal Son, seen by many as the last will and testament of a turbulent and troubled life.

In his Prodigal Son painting*, the essence of rembrandt06love was concentrated in the hands.  When the famous author Henri Nouwen saw the Prodigal Son painting in the St Petersburg Hermitage, he was struck  by the sight of  “a man in a great red cloak tenderly touching the shoulders of a disheveled boy kneeling before him.  I could not take my eyes away.  I felt drawn by the intimacy between the two figures, the warm red of the man’s cloak, the golden yellow of the boy’s tunic, and the mysterious light engulfing them both.  But, most of all, it was the hands –the old man’s hands–as they touched the boy’s shoulders that reached me in a place where I had never been reached before.  …”  Nouwen realized that Rembrandt must have shed many tears and died many deaths before he could have so exquisitely painted the father’s heart for his lost son.  Rembrandt  had once again painted himself as the Prodigal Son, but this time coming back home to his Father.

Instead of the rich apparel with which the youthful Rembrandt painted himself in younger days, he now wore only a tattered undertunic covering his wasted body.  The Prodigal Son, like Rembrandt, returned to the Father with nothing: his money, his health, his honour, his self-respect, his reputation…everything had been squandered (Luke 15).  Yet the good news of Rembrandt’s painting was that the Father still loved him and welcomed him home unconditionally.

Rembrandt indeed saw himself as the rembrandt_1661Prodigal Painter coming home to the true Father.  Rembrandt knew that he had wandered a long way, but that it was never too late to return home.  My prayer is that many of us may have the courage, like Rembrandt, to turn our hearts towards Home, where love and forgiveness are waiting.

*The Prodigal Son Painting: http://www.artchive.com/rembrandt/prodigal.html

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-author of the award-winning Battle for the Soul of Canada

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca