There must be a photographic corollary to the saying, Great minds think alike. Something akin to, All photographers recognize the changing season. I say this because fellow photoblogger Steve, at Stephen Gingold Nature Photography Blog, has also recognized that winter is coming to an end. Especially here in the north east where we have been experiencing mild and wet conditions. Surely, there will be a few cold nights and perhaps more snow, but I believe I can report with confidence that significant, and photogenic, ice won’t be seen again until next year. Having said that, the image presented here will, perhaps, be the last of its kind until next winter.

Before sitting down to write this morning I did not know that there was more to the saying I quoted above. The full verse goes Great minds think alike, small minds rarely differ. To my mind, the genuine meaning of the full phrase may be found hidden in the small spaces between the letters of the words themselves. The critical word is think. It requires no small amount of fortitude to think, for yourself. It requires no small amount of fortitude to think and to do so independently of the, oftentimes, conflicting opinion of others. To be a freethinker requires work, far more than is required to simply accept what has already been ingested, digested, and egested by others. Perhaps the recent circus which has been our national political scene has made me pause to think about what it means to have a mind of one’s own. My kids used to have shirts which proclaimed It’s OK to be Different and, I have always agreed. I wonder how many of us live by these words?

Having been thinking along these lines recently I was quite pleased, when we visited the offices of our local Town Clerk to register to vote. As it turns out, part of the process in our little town includes recitation of an oath. Did you know that Vermont is the only state in the country with a Voter’s Oath? It was originally required in the 1777 Vermont Constitution. It was known then as the Freeman’s Oath until the Inclusive Language Revision Amendment of 1994, when it became the Voter’s Oath. In November 2002, the Vermont General Assembly amended the language of the oath to reflect the inclusion of women. It currently reads as follows:

Every person of the full age of eighteen years who is a citizen of the United States, having resided in this State for the period established by the General Assembly and who is of a quiet and peaceable behavior, and will take the following oath or affirmation, shall be entitled to all the privileges of a voter of this state: You solemnly swear (or affirm) that whenever you give your vote or suffrage, touching any matter that concerns the State of Vermont, you will do it so as in your conscience you shall judge will most conduce to the best good of the same, as established by the Constitution, without fear or favor of any person. [Emphases are mine.]

Note that the oath requires folks to think. The oath asks that folks swear (or affirm) to vote their conscience. It directs them to do so without fear. Vermont has told it citizens, in plain words of few syllables, that It’s OK to be Different … I like that … I like that, very, very much indeed.


41 thoughts on “Freethinking

  1. Once upon a time, I was walking across Telegraph Avenue, in Berkeley. It was, as I recall, 1979, which should give you enough context. I was coming from a meeting at a hospital, and was dressed in a business suit, pearls, and high heels. In the middle of the street, I met a fellow coming from the other direction. He was dressed in denim, half an American flag, a tie-dye bandana, a knitted beanie with a propeller on top. As we met in the middle of the street, he looked at me, and spat out the word: “Freak!”

    I have no idea why I remembered that just now. 🙂

  2. Ah, yes, voting. Last time around in Canada, out of the three dominant parties, two presented good, decent well thought out rationales and with little of the foolish bs we often associate with elections. Whether one voted Liberal or NDP one was assured of a nice welcome change and a return to values and ways most of us here appreciate. As I look as the situation south of the border, right now it seems so much more murky right now. But then, we are allowed to be different

    • ‘ … so much more murky … ‘ Was that Maurice? Was that the Maurice I know who has never been afraid to take on the toughest of subjects. Political and otherwise. ‘ … so much more murky … ‘ I will quote Miss Marianne Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility) … ‘Use those insipid words again and I shall leave the room this instant.’ I cannot begin to explain what is going on here. I was hoping you would.

      • What’s really going is something else entirely. Two things, in fact. One is that I was using a mobile to read the blog and my typing skills on the thing are a little less than ideal; to say the least. The second was that I was reading your blog waiting for the BBQ to warm up – a challenge given that the temp was -2C and the winds were gusting to 70Km/h (fortunately I have a fairly shaded spot between the shed and the house). I only had a few minutes and, so, threw all effort at depth out in that wind 🙂

      • Well, this time around, not really knowing your political leanings I really did not want to offend. But since you asked for it, here it is: it disturbs me greatly that the would-be presidents tend to over-simplify very complex issues. Yes, it’s probably so that they can relate to more voters, people who tend not to even engage in public life, but still. The half-truths from the Democratic front-runners and the blatant hate-filled theatre from the flamboyant Republican can only leave us Nordic folk rather disturbed.

        • My hope is that T will garner enough delegates to win his party nomination. That sounds counter intuitive, I know. I would guess, however, that if he did … not only would he lose by a huge margin in the general election but the democrats would also make big gains elsewhere and otherwise.

  3. Our ice days are long done, too (both outside and in our water tank). There were only a few days where it snowed at all. I love your ice image, as usual :-), and of course I cannot agree more with your message. Yes, it is OK and desirable to be different, but not easy.

    • Thank you once again Elke. I have to report this morning that you are going to be disappointed in me … for we have decided to go with an air-source heat pump in the new construction (rather than either ground or water). The folks we’ve talked to say it’s far simpler and more economical to do so in our area. We’ll hope that a high-efficiency home will not need much back-up heat when outside temperatures drop below -20!

      • No problem 🙂 I think it is warmer in your place (lower latitude – Austria is at the same latitude as the US-CA border) and above all, electrical energy is much cheaper in the US (Germany: About € 0,25 per kWh, Austria: € 0,19). So the payback period for the investment in any other source than air, so any source that requires ‘building’ is much longer as the benefit of the higher performance factor for ground or water sources in terms of operating costs is low…. and it is the longer the less energy you need per year.

        But one question, for curiosity: How does natural gas and oil heating compare to air heat pumps in your place? Had those been an option for you? Over here, all kinds of heat pumps currently have a hard time in competing with any fossil fuel heating as gas and oil prices are so low, but electrical energy is rather expensive, also because a big part of electricity costs are taxes for funding government’s investments in renewable energy (Oh that irony…) . Natural gas is the typical thing heat pumps are compared to as it offers the same level of convenience and you don’t need any storage room. One kWh gas costs about 1/4 – 1/5 of 1 kWh electrical power – so a heat pump system with a high performance factor can just compensate for that. With a ground or water source heat pump (factor 4-5) operating costs would be the same, but air heat pumps (PF < 4) would not be able able to compete on operating costs. As investment costs are also very low for gas boilers, now – sadly – many fossil heaters due for replacement are replaced by a new gas or oil heater. Sales of wood heating systems suffers even more from the low oil price here.

        • Gas and oil prices have been relatively low for quite a while now Elke and folks we’ve spoken to think that it will remain that way for another year or more. We did have a hard time going with a home entirely dependent upon electricity. It makes a little more sense if I tell you that our long-term goal is to get off the grid entirely and install a PV system! Our second choice would have been gas which is cheap at the moment and readily available. So, the choice to go electric was based on very-long-term goals.

          • Usage of a heat pump with a photovoltaic generator is something I will continue writing about as I get many questions about this by home owners.

            Usually I don’t add links to my posts in other blogs’ comments but I hope this time it is OK as it is such a coincidence: In December (when you were ‘away’) I had for the first time published data on how much energy the heat pump needs per month and per day, compared to the other energy needed in the house, compared to how much energy could be generated by PV / used directly / was fed into the grid, plus an assessment of our house’s electrical power base load:

            I plan to publish a ‘one year with PV’ update post in May – any questions on which data would be interesting are appreciated!
            Of course I am also interested in your future experiences with your heating system! I suppose your PV energy harvest should be higher due to your lower latitude.

  4. Always happy to see some ice images. Better then seeing the real thing on my driveway and on the sidewalks! Love the movement in this one. Regarding the free-thinking/ok to be different idea … I’ve been a proponent of this for a long time. Gotta stand up for what you believe whether it’s politically correct or not! Looks like Vermont’s way of welcoming you into the fold!

    • No, I haven’t. Though I wonder if your Mr. Marsh is related to a Mr. Marsh of whom I have some knowledge … do you know of Othniel Charles Marsh … the American paleontologist (1831-1899) who played his important role in scientific discussions of the day and who, it happens, is distantly related to a good friend of mine!

  5. Our country was founded on the freedom to be different. Unfortunately, that seems to be falling out of favor, if indeed it is not already looked at with disfavor by the powers that be. How nice that Vermont encourages it.

    Yes, ice-making days are behind us and flower-sprouting approaches. I still have a few icy images held in abeyance … if I remember them on a day that needs a post.

  6. It is definitely OK to be different. I see difference every day at work, where I support autistic kids and help them get through the minefield that is our educational curriculum. They have taught me so much. Difference is to be celebrated.

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