by Lawrence Wilson, MD
© April 2013, The Center For Development
For me, to be inspired is most important. This is especially true because institutions that are supposed to inspire us as children and adults such as schools, television, music and newspapers, often do not do so today.
Each person will find different sources of inspiration. In this article, I will mention just a few books and individuals who have inspired me. May they do the same for you, and may you go on to inspire others.
R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER
Born in 1895, “Bucky”, as he was called, was one of the most brilliant visionaries of the twentieth century. He worked as an architect, designer, scientist and artist, in a way. Most important for me, he was a very positive thinker who believed in modern technology and the potential of modern society to satisfy people’s needs.
Fuller had his problems. He was born extremely nearsighted, and became an alcoholic because he was so discouraged with the world he saw around him. At one point, he was ready to commit suicide because of family problems and the death of his daughter. He had a spiritual experience, he said, where he was lifted up and told that rather than be discouraged, that his ideas were correct and he should just start telling everyone about them and keep inventing, making experiments and writing about his ideas.
True environmentalism. He was an ardent environmentalist, but he was not a doom and gloom environmentalist at all. He repeatedly pointed out that we must not stop our technological progress. Instead we need more industry and more inventions. He proved with all sorts of research and charts that good inventions make the world cleaner, better and safer. We must not give up our industry and our way of living, but instead help everyone around the world to live at a higher standard of living so they stop polluting their lands and water. The key, he said, is simply better technology, not endless rules and regulations, and taking people’s rights away to do as they please with their property.
Bucky stands in stark contrast to the doomsayers. What is interesting to me is that he, not them, has been proven correct over and over again. Whether it is about pollution, oil prices, the wars we fight or other issues, he had a positive attitude and his predictions have proven correct. He believed in people and their capacity to overcome all obstacles. He understood that everyone wants the same thing – a better life for themselves and their children.
Buckminster Fuller always wanted to understand the ‘big picture’ in the world, and his vision was totally global and planetary in nature. He will help anyone who is feeling stuck, negative or thinking in a small way.
Bucky spent a week at Harvard University and thought that college was stupid. He spent his entire allowance quickly and was told to get out of Harvard. As a punishment, his parents sent him to work in a factory. He loved it and soon was inventing better machinery at the factory. He was especially interested in the housing industry, transportation and other areas of human needs. Bucky went on to develop a whole series of items from a car that got 100 miles to a gallon of gas (in 1933) with a conventional engine to the geodesic dome.
He began the manufactured and mobile home industry and predicted the computer revolution we have today. He coined the term 'spaceship earth'. He was at least 100 years ahead of his time in his positive attitude and his mode of thinking about all problems as “systems”, not isolated incidents.
He was an admiral in the US Navy, which he said taught him to think big and to think in terms of systems. He was forever grateful for his Navy experience, although he was not a war-mongering person ever, and believed that if people had more truth they would stop wasting their time, money and manpower on warlike activities.
What distinguished him the most for me, however, was his positive view about our world and the incredible benefits of technology and capitalism to lift the world out of poverty and misery. When I first started reading his books, I had a very dim view of science, technology and the military. He helped me understand the truth about these, and much more.
Bucky backed up all his assertions with impeccable and thorough scientific research, something that is so often lacking today. He was a researcher and published volumes of information about the world, its energy situation, its natural resources, and much more. Unfortunately, his books are not that easy to read.
I also love that he valued the power of truth and integrity, the title of one of his books. He always asked what one, not-powerful person could do to change the world. He used the analogy of the tiny rudder on a large ship turning the entire ship around to illustrate how anyone with understanding, could cause change far out of proportion to his or her status or position in the world. He truly valued the “little guy and gal” and showed exactly why these are the people who must come forward and learn the truths of our world.
Buckminster Fuller spoke often of his great aunt, Margaret Fuller. I read about her in a book called The American Transcendentalists. She, too, was a most inspiring lady who lived in the early 1800s on the east coast of America.
One of her most famous writing was an essay entitled Women In The Nineteenth Century. Her writing is beautiful and brilliant. She was also a publisher, and in fact was the first to publish the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, two of the greatest thinkers America has produced. She, in fact, influenced their thinking quite a lot, as she was a brilliant woman indeed.
BOOKER T. WASHINGTON
Booker Washington grew up as a slave at the end of the Civil War. He managed to talk a white lady into teaching him to read. He learned to love reading and became a great inspiration to many throughout the United States and around the world.
He began with nothing but a dream of helping his people, and eventually founded the Tuskeegee Institute in Alabama to educate black people. Not only did it accomplish its purpose, but it pioneered many new educational ideas for the entire United States that have still not been instituted at many colleges.
Booker Washington's story is dramatic and proves that nothing can keep a good person down. Everything this man thought and said is worthwhile listening to. He tells about it in his book, Up From Slavery.
This book should be required reading for everyone, but particularly African-Americans. The perspective and attitude are much healthier than that which most black leaders preach today and so much more inspiring than what is taught in schools today. Booker Washington, a slave, was never a victim. He made up his mind what he wanted to do and overcame the odds in a beautiful and passionate way.
His little book should be required reading for both inspiration and for practical guidance on how to live your life. I recall him saying that “discrimination will always exist. Don’t pay attention to it.” Instead, he said, spend your time and energy becoming very responsible and skilled at what you do. Then you will win the respect of good people everywhere. You will never win the respect of bigots, so don't bother with them.
Many more lessons can be taken from the life of Booker Washington, one of the greatest Americans who ever lived.
GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER
George Carver is another dramatic, amazing man who was also born at the end of the Civil War, but in a border state without slavery - Missouri. He was quickly orphaned after birth when his mother was kidnapped. The kidnappers wanted to sell the Afro-American mother in the deep South as a slave. They did not want the baby, so as a newborn he was literally thrown in into the street from a galloping horse and left to die. A white woman found him, and she and her husband raised him.
From early childhood, George Carver had an unusual ability to make plants grow. Eventually, he grew to become a brilliant soil scientist or agronomist.
He saw how cotton was ruining the soil in the American South and taught farmers to grow legumes (soybeans and peanuts) to regenerate the soil. He single handedly developed the peanut as a crop for Southern farmers, and came up with some 300 foods and dishes made entirely of peanuts.
His story, like that of Booker Washington, is one of incredible success against great odds, and I find it truly inspiring. Reading his biography makes so much better reading than most of “modern literature”. Look for his biography in the library.
Maria Montessori was an Italian medical student at the beginning of the twentieth century. One day she was assigned to care for a group of impoverished and sickly two-year-old orphans.
Though she was asked to help them medically, she did far more than this. She had been told these children would never go to school and could never learn much, anyway. She did not agree. To everyone’s surprise, she soon had them learning at rates much faster than what could be done with regular educational methods.
One of her secrets was to allow the natural rhythms or cycles of attention of the children to remain unbroken. Another was to realize that children at different ages learned differently. Another lesson was that what she (the teacher) considered important often had nothing to do with what the children considered to be 'the lesson'.
Her approach was far more child-centered, natural or holistic than most education. Instead of trying to fill the children’s head with knowledge or even skills, her approach involved vastly more respect for the natural learning patterns of children. This she wrote about in her books.
Eventually, she developed the Montessori method of education, which has yet to be understood by the vast majority of educators. One reason for the failures of 'modern schooling' is precisely the lack of respect for the natural learning methods and styles of children. Instead, knowledge is forced down their throats at the pace and in the style of the teachers.
Even among Montessori schools, her wisdom is often not fully appreciated. Her work is still ahead of its time, but her story is one of great inspiration, once again. Her biography is available at libraries.
Readers of this website know that education is an area that is desperately in need of improvement in most nations, including America. While “Montessori schools” are definitely just a part of the answer, the lessons of Maria Montessori are incredibly inspiring for me and should be for anyone who feels sad or despairing sometimes at the wastefulness, insanity and stupidity of public education, in particular.
Nikola Tesla was a contemporary of Thomas Edison, and one of the most brilliant inventors ever. His story is also extremely inspiring. Before speaking about Tesla, I will devote just one paragraph to his contemporary, Edison.
Thomas Edison never made it past the fourth grade in school. Today we would label him with attention deficit disorder. His mother was told to take him out of school, as he seemed unable to learn much. Yet he went on to become one of the greatest inventors of the twentieth century. His many inventions include the phonograph, moving pictures, the incandescent light bulb, and dozens of others that we take for granted today. In 1890, Edison drove around in an electric car that he invented. We are just catching up to him.
Nikola Tesla was even more incredible in many ways. He was born around 1865 in what is today Croatia or Yugoslavia near Turkey. He went to school for electrical engineering in Europe, but he saw that America was the land of opportunity and invention. He arrived in New York in 1889 with about 15 cents in his pocket.
Dr. Tesla’s many discoveries, as he called them, include alternating current power systems, the alternating current motor, X-rays, radio, radar, television, fluorescent lights, microwaves, remote control and robotics, star wars technology, touch-tone dialing, the ignition coil on a car, and many more amazing inventions. Some of these we still do not have for our use for political and other reasons.
The lives of Edison and Tesla are very inspiring stories of how basically pennyless men changed the world for the better through their own efforts, with no help from governments, and little help from anyone. Several biographies of Tesla and Edison are in print and available in libraries. Edison is fairly well known. Tesla has been ignored and deserves much more attention in the history books.
DR. PAUL C. ECK
The world has been blessed with many medical and nutritional geniuses. I was fortunate to work with one of them, Dr. Paul Eck. Dr. Eck was accepted to medical school, but a need to support the family caused him to decline this opportunity. Instead, he studied body structure and natural healing at the Napropathic College in Chicago.
Dr. Eck became a mineral researcher and accepted several jobs designing medical equipment, researching at pharmaceutical companies and working at Sivad Bioresearch, a prominent supplement company during the mid-twentieth century. In the early 1970s, Dr. Eck heard about a new technique of hair mineral analysis. He began to study it, applying all of his biochemical knowledge to this rather puzzling new method of testing the body.
An avid reader and experimenter, he eventually synthesized thousands of pages of biochemistry, physiology, naturopathy, medicine, toxicology, stress theory, systems theory and more into an integrated approach to healing he called mineral balancing science. It is the work I do today, with few modifications. I was greatly honored and privileged to have spent 14 years learning from him.
His dedication was amazing, and his brilliance was in no small part a product of that dedication. He stuck with his principles and had a grasp on human systems principles that I am still in awe of. He did little writing himself, but I have published by far the most complete book on his work, Nutritional Balancing and Hair Mineral Analysis (2010 or fourth edition).
THOMAS JEFFERSON AND OTHER AMERICAN FOUNDERS
The real story of the founding of America is amazing and a miracle, given the odds against its success. Essentially, a small band of untrained, poorly armed farmers who wanted to live free of colonial domination went up against the most powerful empire the earth had ever seen – and won.
It is a story that unfortunately is often told to school-age children in school without much feeling or understanding. No wonder many Americans do not understand or value their liberty, and the system of free enterprise called capitalism. No wonder some Americans don’t even like concepts such as free speech, freedom of religion as long as that religion offers the same to others, and our system of equal justice for all.
Thomas Jefferson, along with many of the other founders of America such as Ben Franklin, John Adams, James Madison and others, were remarkable men. Their depth of understanding about human behavior and the nature of government power is astounding, by today’s standards.
Their depth of intelligence and knowledge puts all modern statesmen to shame. Jefferson’s story, along with that of Adams, Madison and many of the founders of America, is also dramatic and most inspiring. Their stories are human, yet they had a vision that is rare as can be.
The wisdom of Jefferson, Washington and the others birthed a nation unlike any that had ever been seen before. Those who denigrate the founders because they were slave owners or for any other reason just demonstrate their ignorance of the men they so carelessly talk about.
Jefferson wrote quite a bit, and his writings have been collected by various editors and authors. An in-depth study of Jefferson, in particular, would be well worth the effort of anyone who wishes to understand our world today and why we, as a nation, are loved by billions and hated by those who do not want freedom for their people.
The truth must be told to the young people in school, or America will fail. I am nauseated when I read in books or hear on television that Thomas Jefferson was just a white slave owner who had a negro mistress, and this is all there is to Thomas Jefferson. It is almost criminal. Please read a good biography of Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry and the other American founders. Every child needs to read these men’s story of courage, desperation, at times, intelligence, cunning in the face of a powerful enemy, dignity and grace.
America was and is a unique experiment in liberty and the rights of the individual. Most nations only give lip service to these concepts. Because this is not taught in school, America is losing this little by little.
These are just a few of the great souls who have inspired me. I continue to seek others, of course. However, start with these, I would suggest, and you won’t be led astray.
Beware that some apparently “great men and women” are just great talkers. Their philosophies, when examined carefully, are really empty and destructive. They may say beautiful words, but they agitate for class warfare and other things that are ultimately quite negative. Be careful about this.
I suggest surrounding yourself with inspiring, uplifting books, tapes, and people. Get rid of friends, books and other items that pull you down. This will do a lot for your mental healing, in particular. It has kept me going and working when things get tough, or if I am tempted to feel sorry for myself or just plain depressed at the way people sometimes talk and treat others. Returning to your inspiring books and other material is like a breath of fresh air in such situations.