Creativity and More: The Value of a Liberal Arts Education

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Albert Einstein said, “The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.”

My undergraduate education is a liberal arts education. My major was history and my minors were English and military science. My Master of Arts degree is in Christian education. My broad-based liberal arts education did more than prepare me for a job. It provided the foundation that allows me to compete in the marketplace of ideas. I also completed the core curriculum for a computer science degree.

It has been 43 years since I heard the University of Texas at Arlington President Dr. Nedderman say I had met the requirements for my bachelor’s degree. Within minutes of his pronouncement, I raised my right hand and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the US Army through Army ROTC.

I did not make the military a career. Three years later I headed to graduate school. I was amazed at how prepared I was. I knew how to read, write, study, do research and write research papers, and most importantly how to think.

My UT Arlington liberal arts education taught me how to think independently and make sound judgments. I learned how to expand my horizons, discover new perspectives, and acquire the tools to defend my point of view. My education helped me learn to reflect on life, have a moral and historic compass where I can distinguish good from evil, justice from injustice, and what is noble and beautiful from what is useful.

I have been employed over the years as an officer in the US Army, a minister, educator, corporate trainer, Internet Coordinator, IT Support Analyst, IT Systems Administrator IT Application Engineer, and writer. These have been my day jobs that have supported my 38 plus years of freelance writing. When working in IT it is interesting to see how many persons have undergraduate degrees in the liberal art disciplines. These are the people that know how to think outside the box. These are the people with excellent critical thinking skills. These are the persons that embrace change and know how to successfully deal with it.

What have I done with my history degree? All the above plus I have published hundreds of magazine and trade journal articles. I have published poetry. I have written book reviews. I have a website “Kepler’s Military History Book Reviews.” The site was named a 100 best websites for history buffs. I read and review military history books published under more than a dozen different imprints.

I get asked often by younger adults how I know so much about so much. They say I am a modern renaissance man. My answer: I received a liberal arts education at the University of Texas at Arlington.

How committed am I to a liberal arts education? I have three grown children – all three were liberal arts degrees.


Photo Source: Image created and shared by Jerri Kemble, assistant superintendent at Lawrence (KS) Public Schools, after reading Scott Hartley’s “The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World.”

Bob Dylan Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature

bob_dylan_-_azkena_rock_festival_2010_2The singer and songwriter Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature on today for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” in the words of the Swedish Academy. He is the first American to win since the novelist Toni Morrison, in 1993.

In a 2013 Op-Ed Essay in the New York Times Bill Wyman wrote, “Mr. Dylan’s work remains utterly lacking in conventionality, moral sleight of hand, pop pabulum or sops to his audience. His lyricism is exquisite; his concerns and subjects are demonstrably timeless, and few poets of any era have seen their work bear more influence.”

Below is my poem, “Gone Electric.” It is a poetic tribute to Bob Dylan. It includes one line “And played the greatest poet – lyricist ever seen.” Today’s award kind of validates my point of view. The poem is my most viewed poem and second most viewed post on my blog with over 2,000 views a day.

If Dylan were sitting with me I could help but ask, “How does it feel?” to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Gone Electric

Our music choice back then was known as folk
the surgeon general told us not to smoke
Acoustic was our favorite sound
In Washington, D.C. The Beatles played in the round

We cried when JFK was assassinated that November day
and why the Vietnam War we asked LBJ
The Newport Folk Festival was going strong
And Bob Dylan wrote our favorite song

On television we all got Lost in Space
And Ryan O’Neil made hearts throb on Payton Place
Back in ’65 three girls sang with a sound which was Supreme
And played the greatest poet – lyricist ever seen

And the times were a changing because of him
Playboy Playmate Sara Lownds was his wife, young and trim
She gave him three sons and a beautiful little girl
Some before, some after the tour that rocked the world

His acoustic half-set sounded the same
the electric-half critics called a shame
and his music still changed the world
Even as shouts of Judas started to swirl

They hated him at the Royal Albert Hall
and were glad when he took that horrible fall
some thought after his motorcycle accident
That his life and career were totally spent.

Eight years before he toured the world again,
He wouldn’t let the critics boss him with their poison pen
And his music never really would change
Though his voice now shows age’s strain

To the arenas, stadiums, and theaters we still all come
and he sings putting the sunshine:  in our lives glum
Just Like a Woman, Mr. Tambourine Man and Desolation Row
Then with Like a Rolling Stone he closes the show.

Jimmie Aaron Kepler
© 2011

Originally published in:
WORDS..RHYMES..POETRY & PROSE! as  Electric Dylan
“Gone Electric” is the title poem in “Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection” available on Amazon.

Photo Credit: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Description: Bob Dylan, onstage in Victoria-Gasteiz, at the Azkena Rock Festival.
Date 26 June 2010, 21:14
Source Bob Dylan
Author Alberto Cabello from Vitoria Gasteiz.


Jimmie Aaron Kepler’s work has appeared in six different Lifeway Christian publications as well as The Baptist Program, The Baptist Standard (ghostwriter), Thinking About Suicide.com, Poetry & Prose Magazine, vox poetica, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine, WORDS..RHYMES..POETRY & PROSE, and more. His novels The Rebuilder and Miss Sarah’s Secret as well as Charlie’s Bells: A Short Story Anthology and the award-winning short story The Cup, and the short stories Invasion of the Prairie Dogs, Miracle at the Gibson Farm: A Christmas Story, The Paintings and poetry collection Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection are available on Amazon.com.


Available on Amazon

Wash Perk in Denver, Colorado

The photo is of Wash Perk located in Denver, Colorado. It is a bicycle-friendly coffee house/cafe that serves up tasty snacks in an idiosyncratic atmosphere. It’s cozy. Its location near Washington Park has made it a favorite stop for locals. I asked for a specialty drink of theirs. They recommended their honey-cinnamon latte. It is a treat you won’ t soon forget. Thank you to my friend Karen Garrison (known as Nancy Karen Vandiver to my high school friends) for the recommendation. I find it a fantastic place to rest, relax, read, and write whenever I am in Denver, Colorado. I am a repeat patron of Wash Perk. It is one of my all time favorite coffee houses.
washperk

 


Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffeehouse, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. Kepler has a Bachelor of Arts in history with minors in English and military science. He also earned a Master of Religious Education, Master of Arts and Doctor of Education degrees. You can also visit him at Kepler’s Book Reviews.

Dallas Area Writing and Poetry Websites

Writing

http://www.utdallas.edu/ah/reunion

http://www.obscurajournal.com

http://www.americanliteraryreview.com

http://www.thefirstline.com

http://www.theboilerjournal.com

http://carvezine.com/

https://smu.edu/southwestreview/

http://dappledthings.org/

http://www.redriverreview.com/

http://www.tamuc.edu/academics/colleges/humanitiesSocialSciencesArts/departments/literatureLanguages/publications/mayoReview.aspx

http://lingerpost.org/

http://www.writersgarret.org/

Oral Fixation Frontpage

Welcome to Wordspace

http://dfwwritersworkshop.wordpress.com/

http://dfwcon.org

http://dallaspoetscom.org/

http://www.dallaspoetryslam.com/

http://www.creativeartscenter.org/

http://writersguildoftexas.org/

The Muse and Me

Have you ever had a muse, or a muse-like experience where you felt so passionate, or “taken over” by a creative spirit or compulsion to express and create? This is more than just “in the zone” … it’s almost as if someone or something takes over and writes for you.

Four examples of a muse in my life are shared below.

Example One – I was taking a senior level English course with the ominous title “Transformational Grammar and Advanced Creative Writing”. The program was exactly as the title … a writing course that made sure you dissected the grammar. Remember diagraming sentences? This was far more interesting as it dismembered each sentence to parts of speech, syllables, suffixes/prefixes and even lower in the structure. You could get credit for the course as a senior level English or Linguistics class. The professor was my first muse. She believed in and encouraged my writing. She was , the first to point out the value of reading regularly, journaling, and submitting what you wrote. She helped get me published the first time in a university publication and then a historical study in a military magazine. She told me I should embrace a bohemian lifestyle and write full-time. She turned me on to Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac.

Example Two – I was motivated to the point of being driven, to have a laser-focus. Me driven, can you believe? Anyway, I wanted to get into a doctoral program and needed to start getting published in my then chosen discipline – religious education. I went to the best conferences, met the right people, and paid the price. This wasn’t a once and done thing. It was getting one then two then three then four then five then six a year published. Sheer vanity … I wrote some very good articles like “What I Learned when a Church Member Died”, an article about preaching my first funeral and the shortcomings of the religious education curriculum to prepare the associate minister in this critical area is an example.

Example Three – Nancy Karen Vandiver Garrison … I know her from high school. We also went to the same university. We did prose interpretation and literary criticism together in University Interscholastic League competition way back 45 years ago. Thanks to social media and email we talk nearly every day for years and still do, as recently as in the last few seconds. She holds me accountable to keep on writing and never give up. More than anything, she encourages me to ignore the rejections. She also says what’s next when I get an acceptance. She is a darn good poet and supporter of the arts. Plus, we both love The Monkees!

Example Four – In 1992, I wrote 175 pages in one day for a nonfiction book I was working on. I have had some 50 to 75 page experiences in writing that happen the same way. Sometimes I have poems bounce around in my head and won’t quit talking to me until I relocate them to paper. It can be very surreal. I’ve had several magazine articles that I’ve sold to publications like Children’s Leadership, Preschool Leadership, Poetry & Prose Magazine and Bewildering Stories that just flowed almost perfectly.

I find the muse magically appears when I put my behind in the chair and write.

Background on Muses: The Muses, the personification of knowledge and the arts, especially literature, dance and music, are the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (memory personified). Hesiod’s account and description of the Muses were the one generally followed by the writers of antiquity. It was not until Roman times that the following functions were assigned to them, and even then there was some variation in both their names and their attributes:

  • Calliope -epic poetry;
  • Clio -history;
  • Euterpe -flutes and lyric poetry;
  • Thalia -comedy and pastoral poetry;
  • Melpomene -tragedy;
  • Terpsichore -dance;
  • Erato -love poetry;
  • Polyhymnia -sacred poetry;
  • Urania -astronomy.

Poem: Coffee

Coffee
By Jimmie Kepler

The timer starts the morning pot
brewing where it greets me
at the same time my alarm rings.

The first cup hides my morning breath
as it energizes the blood flowing through my veins
enabling me to stumble to my car
and drive to Starbucks for more.

A sunrise latte gives me the pick-me-up required
to face the tollway and morning rush hour.

A generic cup of Joe at work
gives me something to hold on to
as I begin the first
in a string of meetings.

A mid-morning cup of coffee
provides the jolt to make it to noon
where a fresh cup at my favorite café awaits.

Then a mid-afternoon cup
helps me survive the challenges
before the clock announces it is 5:00
and I can leave.

A drive-by Starbucks
provides the lift
before I sit in traffic
during evening drive time.

A fresh pot greets me
along with my
after-dinner pie and ice cream.

I fill the pot with water,
add fresh grounds
and set the controls before retiring for the evening.

And the timer starts the morning pot
brewing where it greets me
at the same time my alarm wakes me.

“Coffee” by Jimmie A. Kepler originally appeared in the September 23, 2013 issue of vox poetica Magazine.

Comments about Coffee and Jimmie’s poetry:

  • Jean – “Jimmie! Beautifully written and all too true. I like the way you ended as you began. Thank you so much for this engaging poem.”
  • Annmarie – “Jimmie Kepler writes a love poem to a rock star.”
  • Marissa – “I heard Jimmie do a reading of ‘Forever Still’ in Plano, Texas about a year ago. His poetry has the passion of the Beat Poets, the tenderness of the hippie poets, and the intellect of the renaissance man. His southern gentleman manners and charm as well as his soothing, Bill Clinton like voice and pacing makes a girl dream of being in his arms, curled up by the fireplace as he holds and reads his magical words to her. I love his poems “Forever Still” and “While You Were Sleeping”.

My First Trip To The University of Texas McDonald Observatory

McDonald Observatory
McDonald Observatory

In October 1974, I made my first trip to the University of Texas McDonald Observatory. It was 500 miles one-way from the campus of the University of Texas at Arlington to Fort Davis, Texas. The purpose of the trip was to do the required astronomical labs for my physics class in astronomy.

The trip was a caravan from the UT Arlington campus to far west Texas. We departed about 2 PM on Friday, October 4, 1974. We headed from Arlington west on Interstate 20 (yes it was built way back then). We drove to Lake Colorado City State Park about 3 miles south of Interstate 20 just southwest of Colorado City, Texas. I pitched my tent. I shared the tent with 4 young women and one young man that were fellow cadets in the UT Arlington ROTC program. Three of them were prior service (US military veterans).

The next morning we got up early and headed west. We stopped at a Stuckey’s (remember them?) getting two scrambled eggs with toast and bacon or sausage plus coffee for under a dollar. The journey continued to Pecos, Texas. There we left Interstate 20 and headed south on Texas Highway 17. We crossed Interstate 10 at Balmorhea, Texas and head south to Fort Davis. We camped at the Davis Mountains State Park.

That weekend the park also hosted a retreat for the Odessa, Texas Jaycees. Some of them were concerned that we had males and females cohabitating the same tent. I go a strong morals lecture from a Baptist deacon. It mattered not we were all of legal age.

That Saturday, October 5, 1974 a very good top five ranked Texas A & M football team was upset by Kansas University loosing 28 to 10. We listened to the game on the radio as we explored the city of Alpine, Texas and toured the Fort Davis National Historic site. I’ve actually been there more times than any national park or historic site with the exception of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Why? My brother-in-law is a retired Great Smoky Mountain Park Ranger.

We drove to the McDonald’s Observatory in the early afternoon to check-in and get ready for the night’s observations. Returned that night for one of the most memorable evenings of my life.

I’ll use my narrator voice and tell you about the observatory. An astronomical observatory located just northwest of Fort Davis, Texas, on Mount Locke in the Davis Mountains of West Texas is the McDonald Observatory. It has additional facilities on the adjacent Mount Fowlkes. It is the property of the University of Texas at Austin.

The philanthropy of Texas banker William Johnson McDonald (1844–1926) created it. He left his fortune to the University of Texas to endow an astronomical observatory.

It began operation in 1939. At that time,it was the second largest telescope in the world. The University of Chicago operated the observatory until 1960s, when control was transferred to the University of Texas at Austin.

The McDonald Observatory was the first location on earth to bounce a laser off a reflector left on the moon by Apollo astronauts. I learned this as an astronomy student on my 1974 road trip.

The McDonald Observatory is equipped with a wide range of instrumentation for imaging and spectroscopy in the optical and infrared spectra and operates the first lunar laser ranging station. It works closely with the astronomy department of the University of Texas at Austin while maintaining administrative autonomy.

The high and dry peaks of the Davis Mountains make for some of the darkest and clearest night skies in the region and provide excellent conditions for astronomical research. It is one of the darkest places on earth at night.

UT McDonald Observatory

The Otto Struve Telescope, dedicated in 1939, was the first large telescope built at the observatory. It is located on Mt. Locke at an altitude of 6,790 feet. The summit of Mt. Locke, accessed by Spur 78, is the highest point on Texas highways. The Harlan J. Smith Telescope, also on Mt. Locke, was completed in 1968.

The Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET), dedicated in late 1997, is located on the summit of Mt. Fowlkes at 6,660 ft above sea level. It is operated jointly by the University of Texas at Austin, Pennsylvania State University, Stanford University, the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, and the Georg-August University of Göttingen.

As of 2012, the HET is tied with the similar Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) as the fifth largest telescope in the world. However, its cost was about 20% that of other similarly-sized telescopes in use today due to its optimization for spectrography.

Currently, the observatory operates four research telescopes at its West Texas site:

  • 9.2 m (360 in) Hobby-Eberly Telescope on Mt. Fowlkes
  • 2.7 m (110 in) Harlan J. Smith Telescope on Mt. Locke
  • 2.1 m (83 in) Otto Struve Telescope on Mt. Locke
  • 0.8 m (31 in) large format imaging telescope on Mt. Locke

The two peaks also host a number of other instruments:

  • The 1.2 m (47 in) Monitoring Network of Telescopes (MONET) North Telescope on Mt. Locke is a companion to one at the South African Astronomical Observatory in Sutherland, and was built by Halfmann Teleskoptechnik.
  • The McDonald Laser Ranging System (MLRS) operates a 0.76 m (30 in) telescope on Mt. Fowlkes to perform satellite laser ranging and lunar laser ranging.
  • A 0.5 m (20 in) Ritchey-Chretien reflector owned by Boston University on Mt. Locke is used for optical aeronomy.
  • The 0.4 m (16 in) Robotic Optical Transient Search Experiment (ROTSE) reflector on Mt. Fowlkes is used to search for the optical signature of gamma-ray bursts.

McDonald ObservatoryI have been back many times since that first trip in 1974. I took my two sons there on dad-son vacation when they were 13 and 10 years old. Since then they have built an excellent visitor center. The Frank N. Bash Visitors Center, located between Mt. Locke and Mt. Fowlkes, includes a café, gift shop, and interactive exhibit hall. The Visitors Center conducts daily live solar viewings in a large theater and tours of the observatory’s largest telescopes. It also hosts evening star parties, every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday night which allow visitors to look through numerous telescopes of various sizes in the Telescope Park, and enjoy an indoor program.

Special viewing nights, during which visitors can stay on-site (not required for the programs) and view directly through eyepieces on the 0.9 m, Struve (2.1m), or Smith (2.7m) telescopes, are held on a reservation-only basis. Although not available for many years, as of June 2013, the 2.1m has returned to occasional public access.

The trip back to the University of Texas at Arlington was a long one. We drove back on US 67. It was 500 miles on a two lane highway. On the return trip I stopped and visited my parents at their ranch northwest of Brownwood, Texas.

It was on the 1974 trip I decided to ask Benita Breeding to marry me. I proposed the next week and we married on December 28, 1974.

Photo Credits: Jimmie A. Kepler took the photographs in May 2007. The photographs are available for use under the Creative Commons License listed below.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Pioneer Plaza & Texas Longhorns

Texas Longhorns in downtown Dallas, Texas
Texas Longhorns in downtown Dallas, Texas

Pioneer Plaza:

Located just north of the Dallas Convention Center is Pioneer Plaza. It is a large public park in the Convention Center District of downtown Dallas, Texas. The centerpiece of the Pioneer Plaza is large sculptures. It is a heavily visited tourist site. Located next to Pioneer Park Cemetery which features the Confederate War Memorial, the two offer the largest public open space in Dallas’ central business district.

Background of Pioneer Plaza:

The land was once railroad and warehouse property. Built on land cleared as part of the failed Griffin Square development, developer Trammel Crow gets credit for the idea behind the sculptures and plaza. He wanted an iconic “Western” sculpture in the City of Dallas. He assembled a group to give the sculptures. Begun in 1992, the $9 million project started on 4.2 acres of land donated by the City of Dallas. $4.8 million of the cost came from private funds raised from individuals and local businesses.

Sculpture:

The large sculpture celebrates the nineteenth-century cattle drives that took place along the Shawnee Trail. It was the earliest and easternmost route by which Texas longhorn cattle moved to northern railheads. The trail passed through Austin, Waco, and Dallas until the Chisolm Trail siphoned off most of the traffic in 1867.

Artist Robert Summers of Glen Rose, Texas created 70 bronze steers and 3 trail riders sculptures. Each steer is larger-than-life at six feet high. All together the sculpture is the largest bronze monument of its kind in the world. Set along an artificial ridge, man-made limestone cliff the native landscaping with a flowing stream and waterfall creates a dramatic effect.

Maintained by the adjacent Dallas Convention Center, Pioneer Plaza is the second most visited tourist attraction in downtown Dallas.

Source:

Creative Commons License

Pioneer Plaza by Wikipedia and Jimmie A. Kepler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_Plaza.

The photograph was taken in Dallas, Texas USA by Jimmie A. Kepler in December 2008.

Creative Commons License

Texas Longhorns in downtown Dallas, Texas by Jimmie A. Kepler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://www.dropbox.com/s/6u5jvbvtdlc08k8/100_1613.jpg.

I am a Military Brat

Pease Air Force Base at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The picture was taken in the May 1966 from the balcony of the operations building. I was in the 7th grade. There is one KC-135 and six B-52s on the runway.
Pease Air Force Base at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. There is one KC-135 and six B-52s on the runway. The picture was taken in the May 1966 from the balcony of the operations building. I was in the 7th grade. I lived on Pease AFB from February 1966 to May 1967 and was in the 7th and 8th grades while we lived there.

What is a military brat? A military brat is the son or daughter of an airman, marine, sailor, or soldier. These children of career military have common characteristics. They grew up in a community of service. Sacrificing for the greater good is part of their character. They moved on average once every three years to a new state, region, or country.

Academic studies show military brats lack racism.1 They are the only color blind group in the USA. They are the most open-minded of any subgroup in the world. They are more tolerant and embrace diversity with respect for others better than their civilian counterparts to include those raised in liberal homes. They are equally respectful and tolerant of conservative, moderate and liberal points of view.2

They adapt to change and new situations better than any group in the United States. 2

They are socially independent. They do well in personal relationships. They put the needs of the other people ahead of their own needs.

Military brats who grew up as military dependents particularly in the late 1940s to early 1970s are kinder, caring, and more loyal than their raised as civilian children counterparts. They were higher achievers academically and professionally make the best employees due to characteristics like self-discipline, self-starter, flexibility, and their personal fiscal responsibility. 2

Most military brats do not have a real home town.2 Most do not know their cousins, aunts and uncles or grandparents very well. Many, including me, do not trust the governments of North Korea, Russia and China.

The word brat is not derogatory. It stands for:

B – Born

R – Raised

A – And

T – Trained1

I’m a military brat. My father served in the United States Army, United States Army Air Force and the United States Air Force (USAF). He retired from the USAF.

I am also a former United States Army officer. Growing up as a military brat helped prepare me for my service. It was all natural and comfortable to me. I felt it was where I belonged more than anyplace else in my life.

1 http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=military%20brat

2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_brat_(U.S._subculture)

My Writing Room

Jimmie A. Kepler here, greetings from the blast furnace called north Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The temperature reached 109 degrees on my front porch today. That’s hot!

This morning I went to Starbucks for my morning writing. I love the early morning right before the sun comes up. There is a peacefulness found there not found elsewhere. Starbucks is where I do about third of my writing. I do over half of my writing at home. I thought today I would show you   my modest home office. It is a combination bedroom/office. It is the bedroom where I sleep each night.

I’ve created a three-minute and fifty-one second video tour of my home office. I hope you have as much fun seeing the video as I had making it.

My home office, by Jimmie A. Kepler …