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An Essay Inventor & Other Creative Minds Who Were Gamblers by Peter LaBerge

BY BORIS DZHINGAROV

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Note: This is a sponsored post.

Gamblers are often subjugated to stereotype.

You have probably heard that many creative and ingenious people are prone to various addictions. If minds of those astonishing and worship-worthy humans work in a way that they see more dimensions, shapes, colors of everything that surrounds them in a daily life, then it’s not a surprise that they may have certain disturbing habits as well. There are writers whose drinking habits prompted the weirdest legends to be composed about them.

It’s believed that Ernest Hemingway was never sober while writing. However, his biographers debunked this myth. He was, in fact, a fan of certain spirits. Sobriety during work was crucial to the writer.

Honoré de Balzac was known to be a coffee fanatic. He used to drink up to 50 cups a day! This was his way to energize and catch an inspiration wave.

So a little (or even an excessive) gambling habit doesn’t seem that bad after all, right? At least, it doesn’t do serious harm to physical health. So thought many famous authors and artists of all times.

So, who was that mysterious genius who invented an essay?

Come on, it was Michel de Montaigne! Little did he know that his creation would cause so much trouble to all students! Nowadays, we can get some affordable writing help; students from de Montaigne’s times (the 16th century, by the way) had to write it all by themselves.

Fyodor Dostoevsky

This man was a genius. He wrote his name into the history of literature forever. So we can forgive him for having a slightly disturbing gambling habit, right?

Well, not “slightly,” to be honest. You know you have a problem when you write a novella titled “Gambler” to pay off casino debts. What irony! Roulette was Dostoevsky’s absolute favorite, and he spent many hours playing this game of chance and losing continuously.

If you’ve ever read any of the Russian author’s works, they definitely left you with some food for thought, whether you liked them or not. He was and still is an incredibly popular writer, and his talent helped him to get out of a debt pit. Dostoevsky was writing novels, getting good money for them, and was blowing it all. On the other hand, his life was far from boring and, perhaps, it was more exciting than office work.

Claude Monet

This man is one of the most talented artists in the history of France. His work was the epitome of impressionism and inspired many young painters to pursue their careers in this genre.

However, a talent doesn’t provide you with an addiction-prevention medicine, and it just so happened that Monet turned into a very passionate gambler. In his case though, the hobby helped him to become a famous artist and helped the whole world to find out about Claude Monet.

This creative French mind was experiencing serious financial struggles when he started his career as a painter. In fact, it was more like a hobby rather than a career, because supplies were incredibly expensive and the little money that he earned selling his work didn’t cover expenses.

Once, Monsieur Claude won an impressive sum playing a lottery. Back in the 19th century. $13,000. Today, his winnings would be equal to a quarter of million bucks. That sum helped him to get back on his feet and continue painting. Basically, if it hadn’t been for gambling, we wouldn’t have a chance to enjoy the mesmerizing beauty of his most famous “Water Lilies” or “Impression, Sunrise.”  

Charles Bukowski

This genius has quite a reputation. Charles Bukowski was an image of a man who made bold, spontaneous decisions in life: he had no regrets, practiced all kinds of deviant behavior, and engaged in drinking and gambling. Some people may think that this lifestyle is not acceptable, and others will be incredibly jealous of him.

Mr. Bukowski has certain similarities with Fyodor Dostoevsky in terms of gambling. However, his was not a huge debt. It was, for him, about pouring his passion about games of chance on a paper.

Charles Bukowski wrote a poem about Las Vegas, and he mentioned gambling and its many attributes in much of his writing. The German-American poet developed a very interesting philosophy concerning this issue. He was sure that if you don’t play, you don’t win. There is literally no way you can find this statement to be illogical. In fact, Bukowski thought that a real life and gambling had a lot in common. Both can be called games of chance.

René Descartes

You’ve been to at least one philosophy class, right? Then you must be aware that every piece of knowledge that we have about modern psychology was born thanks to the one and only René Descartes. He is a French philosopher who had a big share of academic success in the most intriguing and thought-provoking field of study. But he didn’t want any of it at all. In fact, he had no idea he would ever become a philosopher.

He went to law school but then decided that a job of a professional gambler was much more appealing. Yes, this is an official profession, even now. Professional gamblers are characterized as self-employed and they have to pay taxes just like everybody else.

René Descartes is known for his quote, “The greatest minds are capable of the greatest vices as well as the greatest virtues.” You might think that the French philosopher said that about gambling. But nope, not really. His life path held an unexpected, scientific turn for many reasons, including his gambling failures. However, Descartes never gave up on his enthusiasm for games of chance and continued playing for the rest of his life, but not as actively or excessively as he used to when his passion bore into his soul.

Michel de Montaigne

We’re not done with famous and glorious French thinkers yet, so stay put! Don’t you think that there is some kind of a pattern here? I wonder how many philosophers we’d find if we wandered into one of Parisian casinos? Well, if we had lived in the 16th century, we definitely would have found de Montaigne playing one of his favorite games of chance.

His essays are considered to be the best works of the genre, especially taking into consideration that he invented the genre itself. His works are so successful and appealing because of, you guessed it, gambling! Thanks to this activity, he learned a lot about life, its ups and downs, as well as others’ attitude towards it.

He developed a philosophy that was wrapped around an idea that humans can’t control anything that’s going on in their lives. We can only have an impact on certain processes, and we can shift certain situations to different directions.

He’s famous for his quote, “Not being able to govern events, I govern myself.” And these ideas have a direct bearing on the gambling sphere. You need to learn to control yourself when the world fails to follow the plan you’ve set out for yourself.

Summer Opportunities for Young Writers: A Conversation with Alia Walston of the Chicago High School for the Arts' ChiArts Summer Program by Peter LaBerge

  ChiArts.

ChiArts.

Note: This is a sponsored post.

The ChiArts Summer Program is a three-week summer camp designed for students in grades K-5 and 6-8 to explore the artistic disciplines of Dance, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts in a joyful and nurturing environment, led by artists from the Chicago High School for the Arts. Campers will receive pre-professional training in the arts and create original pieces for performance and showcase.

We were fortunate enough to sit down with Alia Walston, one of the folks behind the program, to learn more about its mission and operation. Read on to learn more! 

Let’s start simple: We’d love to hear what led to the creation of the Chicago High School for the Arts’s summer programs for elementary and middle school artists. Is there a story there?

ChiArts is a relatively new school, we have only been open since 2009, and we came to be as an institution came to be as a way to fill the gaps in public arts education in Chicago. Before ChiArts’ opened, there were no public arts high schools in the city. By extension, our summer camps were started as a way to support the artistic growth of young people and to get our name out to our communities in Chicago.

 

If you could describe the ChiArts summer programs for young writers and artists in three words, what would they be, and why?

Intensive, joyful, and nurturing.

 

What, in your mind, is the biggest benefit of attending a summer program at ChiArts rather than, say, at another institution with writing opportunities for young writers? 

ChiArts is home to such an amazing team of diverse students, teachers, and alumni. We prioritize compassion, responsibility, and meeting our students where they are at artistically, academically, and personally. We pride ourselves on our social-emotional supports and all of this work absolutely extends to our summer camps. Our camps are led by current ChiArts instructors and alumni, which means that the folks who are working with us are truly dedicated to our mission and supporting the whole child.

 

Switching gears a bit, I often hear from young writers who are hesitant to call themselves poets, writers, or artists. This has always struck me as strange—in my mind, if you produce writing, you’re a writer—no matter your age, stage, or level of development. Then, of course, it becomes about developing your voice, and figuring out what you have to say. Do you agree with the notion that all writers are “writers”? If so, how do you think educators can better facilitate the claiming of this identity?

I love this question because it’s something that I think a lot about in my own practice. For the most part, I find that labels can be really limiting and ultimately do a disservice to people, especially young folks. Young people often believe they have to follow a regimented or strict plan in order to find success in their artistic careers. And if there’s anything I know from my own career, there is no one set road to success and curiosity rules everything. One thing we do at ChiArts is we encourage our scholar-artists to expand their vision of what is possible in their practices, whether they decide to pursue a career in the arts or if they choose to follow another path. Own your talents. Embrace your uniqueness. Celebrate your accomplishments. Those are the most important things, way more than any labels!

 

  ChiArts.

ChiArts.

Here’s a left-field two-part question: what was your biggest fear as a young writer or artist, and what’s your biggest fear as an educator?

As a young writer, I was terrified of not being understood. I really wanted to reach folks on an emotional level, but it took a lot of work to get to the point where I could feel safe in exploring vulnerability, which I think is a really key part of being an artist.

As an educator, I pride myself on being accessible, radically honest, and compassionate. If I am not doing any of those things, I am failing my students. So my biggest fears are wrapped up in making sure that I am present and available enough to always act with integrity and consistency.

 

I know back when I was a teen writer and I had the privilege of attending a summer writing program like the ones you host at ChiArts, I wish I’d known some things before I dove headfirst into writing for three straight weeks. What are the best words of wisdom you have for students debating whether or not to take that leap and seriously pursue an artistic discipline for the first time?

Three weeks is a long time and also no time at all. This program and what you produce in it do not reflect your worth as a person. You are inherently valuable. Think of our program as an invitation for you to play, stretch, and learn more about yourself. When you see camp ( or any other program you pursue) as an opportunity for expression and presence, and not just a task to check off on a “success to-do list”, all kinds of flow and creativity is possible.

 

Could you tell us what your favorite part of the summer programs is, and why?

It is so awesome to see our building filled with smiling young faces of all ages. It is such a joy to be present with our students in a low-pressure environment and while the sun is shining!

 

To close, do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice  by an artist or writer that’d you’d like to share?

Audre Lord once said, “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” Being a creative is a perpetual lesson in vulnerability. It takes strength, care, and vision to bring forth things from your intuition. Believe in yourselves!

 

To learn more about the ChiArts Summer Program, you can click here!