People are often too poor to pay attention. When I was in the Army, a chaplain friend of mine told me a story of how he checked to see if people were really paying attention. In the Gospel Church tradition, when the preacher would say something and pause, the crowd would recite “amen” in unison. One morning he got going and started with a string of statements, each of which were followed by “amen.” Then his next statement was, “and I’m wearing purple socks.” As you might guess, the response was “amen.”
Aristotle’s Ethics begins with the following,
Every art, and every science reduced to a teachable form, and in like manner every action and moral choice, aims, it is thought, at some good: for which reason a common and by no means a bad description of the Chief Good is, “that which all things aim at.”
My first thought was why is the clause “reduced to a teachable form” even necessary? Every art and science should be reduced to a teachable form. Of what value is art or science if it is not taught? A teacher’s raison d’être is to confer knowledge and understanding. A teacher’s job is never done as long as ignorance and misunderstanding exist. Today’s teachers worry about getting tenure for security. A teacher’s security should be based on how well that teacher eliminates ignorance and corrects misunderstanding.
During a grad school class, I provided a solution to a problem by calling upon technological knowledge from over 30 years ago. After having provided the solution, I said:
Doctors say if I keep forcing myself to remember enough of this esoteric crap that’s deep in long-term storage, I may just avoid getting Alzheimer’s.
The professor’s response was:
Is that what you call it!? And I thought I was full of useless trivia! Thanks for the new term!
As any person that makes regular use of esoteric crap knows, it is distinct from useless trivia. I explained to the professor:
Useless trivia is knowing that the word “crap” does not find its origin in the name of the man who invented many key parts to improve the water closet, Thomas Crapper. That knowledge is useless trivia because it never was and will never be important. Esoteric crap is arcane knowledge that while formerly important, serves no present day purpose other than to add color to the speech of its purveyors and potentially boost their flagging egos. I am full of esoteric crap.
She appreciated the clarification.
Who will watch the watchers?
“Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.”
—Robert A. Heinlein
This Memorial Day, we should consider the words of President Lincoln as he reminded our nation of those that gave their lives during The American Revolution at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the site of the Civil War’s Battle of Gettysburg where 7,863 soldiers died in three days of gruesome fighting.
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.“
President Abraham Lincoln
“I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. … The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom, and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.”
— Ronald Reagan
Without a doubt, my favorite quotation from a movie is David Carradine’s “Superman monologue” that occurs at the end of Kill Bill, vol. 2. Here it is:
“As you know…
…l’m quite keen on comic books.
Especially the ones about superheroes.
I find the whole mythology
surrounding superheroes fascinating.
Take my favorite superhero, Superman.
Not a great comic book.
Not particularly well-drawn.
But the mythology…
The mythology is not only great,
Now, a staple of the superhero
there’s the superhero
and there’s the alter ego.
Batman is actually Bruce Wayne,
Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker.
When that character wakes up
in the morning, he’s Peter Parker.
He has to put on a costume
to become Spider-Man.
And it is in that characteristic
Superman stands alone.
Superman didn’t become Superman.
Superman was born Superman.
When Superman wakes up
in the morning, he’s Superman.
His alter ego is Clark Kent.
His outfit with the big red “S” –
that’s the blanket he was wrapped in
as a baby when the Kents found him.
Those are his clothes.
What Kent wears – the glasses,
the business suit – that’s the costume.
That’s the costume Superman wears
to blend in with us.
Clark Kent is how Superman views us.
And what are the characteristics
of Clark Kent?
…he’s unsure of himself…
…he’s a coward.
Clark Kent is Superman’s critique
on the whole human race.”
“The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be…The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.”
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
–Ecclesiastes 1:9 (New International Version)