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Commonplace: "You Always Admire What You Really Don't Understand"
There are a great many things that arouse admiration in this world of ours. Some of these things such as a creation of nature, a work of breathtaking art, scientific breakthroughs that benefit human kind, and acts of bravery are, without doubt, worthy of the admiration and the sentiment that they inspire. Unfortunately, however, human beings also fruitlessly admire a great many more things that are illusory in nature and, therefore, not really worthy of respect. Take, for instance, the human desire to be good looking, rich, successful and powerful. These qualities seem desirable purely because people who possess these attributes appear to be better off in life. But, are they really? Or, do these qualities give rise to admiration only because we don't really understand what being beautiful, wealthy, successful or powerful entails?
Perhaps, it is precisely the recognition that we admire what we really don't understand that led Alexander Pope to say, "Yet, let not each gay turn thy rapture move; for fools admire, but men of sense approve." (Part II, 190) In fact, Pope's words begin to assume real meaning if one considers that works of fiction as well as non-fiction abound with stories of the unhappiness and even tragedy that often results from the foolish admiration of beauty without substance. Consider, for example, the wars and conspiracies that were provoked by the beauty of Cleopatra and Helen of Troy. Consider also the fact that people who enter relationships blinded by a person's beauty usually end up feeling unhappy and unfulfilled, once the realization dawns that beauty can be just skin deep.
The possession of beauty, wealth and power can also prove to be an immense burden. Indeed, this fact is highly evident in the biographies of several rich, powerful and beautiful people, which testify to the unwanted, often insincere attention that these qualities attract. Thus, it is a paradox that such people actually, at times, wish away the very qualities for which they are admired, thereby lending credence to the saying that the grass is always greener on the other side.
Similarly, the confident and assured poise of wealthy, successful and powerful people can be highly deceptive since it is often just a mask that is worn to live up to a real or perceived self-image. Remove the mask and what will be revealed are probably layers and layers of insecurity and cynicism, wrought by years of living with being sought after for all the external trappings of beauty, wealth or success. It is, therefore, ironic that the people we admire for being beautiful, successful or powerful are sometimes very lonely people who are afraid to trust in the fact that they can be liked or loved for the person they really are.
Of course, admiration by itself need not necessarily always be a bad thing, for it can spur an individual to greater levels of achievement: "It is not because the touch of genius has roused genius to production, but because the admiration of genius has made talent ambitious, that the harvest is still abundant." (Fuller) However, if admiration is aroused in the absence of knowledge, it usually leads to disillusionment and even contempt, once the true worth of the admired subject becomes known. Thus, there is a great deal of wisdom in the commonplace saying, "You always admire what you really don't understand."
Fuller, M. "The Modern Drama." The Left Bank Review and Echo Magazine. Accessed Oct. 27, 2004: http://www.leftbankreview.com/profiles/MargaretFuller.html
Pope, A. "An Essay on Criticism." Poet's Corner. Accessed Oct. 27, 2004:
Praise or Blame: In Praise of Martin Luther King's Position on Racial Issues
Martin Luther King is renowned world over for his leadership of a mass struggle for racial equality that doomed segregation and changed America forever. However, while King's success in this struggle was no mean achievement, the fact is that focusing on this alone may actually be a far too restrictive assessment of his achievements (White, 1998). For, King deserves as much praise, if not more, for his position on racial issues, which was distinguished by its emphasis on basic human rights, justice, human unity, and the philosophy of non-violence: "Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood." (King, 1968)
King's achievements are best understood when placed in the context of the American society that existed in the mid-twentieth century. Today, America may rightfully be seen as the leader of the free world, but the fact is that the America of King's times would probably have never earned that position (White, 1998). For, it must be remembered that the world, which King faced was one where racial segregation was pretty much the norm in schools, public transport systems, hotels and restaurants, and even housing. In fact, blacks were routinely cheated out of or even blatantly denied their right to vote, serve on juries, or get a fair trial in the case of offenders.
King could have well chosen to lead or encourage a violent protest against the rampant racial discrimination and injustice, especially in the South. Instead, it is admirable that he opted for non-violent resistance as the answer to achieving justice for his people. Indeed, King deserves even more adulation for the fact that he stood firm in his belief in nonviolence in spite of the opposition and resistance that he faced from black militancy groups or young black power enthusiasts.
Perhaps, King was canny enough to understand that violent protest would only succeed in widening the gulf between the whites and the blacks. Or, perhaps, King was simply a humanitarian who believed that non-violent protest was a more civilized way for the black people to make their point. It could also be that King may have had more than one reason for the path he chose, including the wisdom that the white reaction to black non-violent protest would shame all decent Americans into supporting the civil rights movement. Be that as it may, it is still highly noteworthy that King managed to mobilize the blacks as well as white liberals into using non-violent methods to secure basic civil rights for all American citizens.
King's passion for human unity, civil rights, and justice is also evident in the manner in which he turned his attention to issues such as poverty and unemployment after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Unfortunately, it will never be known if King would have succeed in bringing down more barriers to achieving true human equality and social justice since his life was brought to a premature end by the malicious bullet of an assassin.
King did, however, leave behind an exemplary example for a world, which is increasingly facing the problem of terrorism: "We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force." (King, 1968)
King, Martin Luther, Jr. "The Peaceful Warrior." NY: Pocket Books, 1968. National
Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, Tennessee. Accessed Oct. 27, 2004: http://www.mecca.org/~crights/dream.html
White, J.E. "Leaders & Revolutionaries: Martin Luther King." The Time 100. Accessed
Oct. 27, 2004: http://www.time.com/time/time100/leaders/profile/king.html
Comparison: Writing and Speaking
The human race has an innate need for self-expression. This need has, over the years of human existence, led to the development of many communication channels such as speaking, writing, painting, music, architecture, sculpture and film. Of these, the most popular and commonplace of communication methods are speaking and writing, primarily because the development of both these skills are considered to be important by society. However, while society may stress equally on speaking and writing skills, most people usually express a preference for speaking. This preference is rather puzzling since there are several aspects to writing that lead to better expression and communication of intended messages.
In some ways, the common preference for speaking is understandable. A child, for instance, learns to speak before going on to read and write, and, that too, with little or no effort. Therefore, it can be argued that the human senses are more geared to the use of sound as a means of expression. Writing, on the other hand, is more difficult to learn, requiring formal schooling and practice. Secondly, speaking, especially in informal conversations, does not call for as much attention to aspects such as grammar, spelling, or even sentence structure. In writing, however, observation and adherence to such formal rules is not only expected but also usually enforced, especially by educational and business institutions.
The third advantage that speaking is perceived to have over writing is that it can be done on the spot, allowing for spontaneous reaction, expression and interaction. In contrast, writing calls for more…[continue]
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