Why Bother to Reflect on the Principles of Famous Men?

Why Bother To Reflect on the Principles of Famous Men?

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It is a day set aside for our nation to remember and reflect on someone who lived and died for the ideal belief, “that all men are created equal.” But I can’t help thinking of another man as well, Abraham Lincoln, who like Dr. King also lived and died for the same ideal belief—that all people have equal value. 

Standing for Truth

Though Abraham Lincoln and Dr. King wore contrasting colors of skin and lived in different eras; they both wrestled with the same societal problem. If all men are created equal, as our country’s founding fathers declared in the U.S. Constitution, then why were people of  different skin color seen as having lesser value and treated unequally from the rest of society? 

The truth that Lincoln held as an absolute standard for our country resulted in the Civil War, the penning of the Emancipation Proclamation and his assassination. This same ideal truth which Dr. King proclaimed effected our country in similar ways. Though Dr. King fought his battle for equality for all men without violence, sometimes it turned bloody. He led several marches and protests, gave inspiring speeches and led a civil rights movement. He was also assassinated. 

As leaders, both Lincoln and King possessed a keen discernment of right and wrong, drew wisdom and strength from God, and were trailblazers with their courageous ideas. They believed that a person’s character to be more telling than the color of their skin. 

They were not flawless, but they were worth following. Both men understood the danger of neglecting their beliefs and the peril of allowing themselves to be seduced into thinking like other men. They were cognizant of the dangers of soft mindedness and compliance. They knew that if they did not stand up, speak up and take action for what was right, then the strong force of evil could win. Agreeing with a majority because of fear and timidity would result in a greater slavery than the one they worked so hard to abolish. 

Reflecting on these men and the principles they lived and died for warns me to be less gullible, more discerning and to think more critically. Though we live in a different era than either of these leaders, we are still fighting to maintain the ideal that all men have equal value and are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”

Why bother to reflect on the principles of famous men? It is worth it to reflect on these notable men and their ideals because when we do, then we will consider whether or not our truth is worth living and dying for.

Why Bother Talking “To” Instead of “At”?

Why Bother Talking “To” Instead of “At”?

Recently, I attended a town hall meeting in my community. Though meetings such as these can sometimes feel pointless, the topic was important enough to me that I showed up with an optimistic attitude. I’d hoped that maybe opinions would be heard, understood, and even a creative solution discussed. But, within the first five minutes of the gathering, I could tell that the man in charge would be talking “at” us, instead of “to” us. And after forty minutes, people like me, began to get up and leave.  

    Placating

Communicators who speak “at” someone do not possess humility. Instead, they elevate themselves to an exclusive plane and shut out those who think differently.  As a result, concepts from others can be expressed, but are not considered valid. No ideas are truly exchanged or built upon to create a new viewpoint. Instead, words simply pile up into futile utterances that are discarded. 

Those who talk “at” their audience like to think they are connected to them in some way, but really, they are not. The chasm is sometimes quite wide and most of the time stark enough for everyone to see. Admitting to the incongruity between people is a better strategy. At least it lays down a foundation of truthfulness.  

Those who talk “at” someone are not curious or open to possibilities. On the contrary, their mind is already set. They may listen to what others are saying, but it is not heard. When someone has already made up their mind, no other possibilities exist for them. 

Those who communicate “at” people take a defensive stance. They feel they need to be right and do not want to make any compromises. If they do, it will mean they’ve lost the contest. 

 In a way, I feel sorry for those who communicate in this way. I am embarrassed for them. I hear the fear in their voice. Communicating is not easy. Not everyone will like what we say, but communicating “at” someone creates more foes than friends, more divisions than unity. 

On the other hand, learning to talk “to” people creates more friends than foes. Being on the same plane with someone in order to exchange ideas and construct solutions is a lot more fun and productive for everyone. Letting go of a defensive stance and being open and curious builds bridges of empathy. Talking “to” someone creates a more welcoming atmosphere and discharges the stress that builds up in an atmosphere where though things are discussed. 

Why bother talking “to” people instead of “at” them? It is worth learning to communicate in this way because speaking “at” people produces small if any results, makes others feel devalued and annoyed and you do not want to be left talking only to yourself.  

Why Bother Talking With Strangers?

Why Bother Talking With Strangers?

Recently, while taking a walk in the park with my camera trying to capture the beauty of the fall colors, I noticed an artist and stopped to admire his work. He was also trying to catch the beauty, but with a paintbrush and canvas instead of a camera. I stood under the canopy of red and orange leaves and looked at the outline of a tree on his canvas. Wishing I had his talent, I struck up a conversation with him. 

A Fresh Perspective

He told me he’d grown up as a native and graduated from the local high school. It had been about ten years since he’d done much drawing or painting. I told him I worked as an elementary school teacher and had lived in the neighborhood for about thirty years. He smiled to himself and then related to me what kind of a student he’d been while in school. “I was like a vegetarian wolf,” he told me. “I did not fit in.”

I’d never heard the term, “vegetarian wolf,” but the words gave me an instant and vivid picture. I visualized a lone wolf chewing grass on a hillside, while the rest of the pack chowed down on freshly killed meat. But I also wondered how a vegetarian wolf would be treated by the rest of the pack? What would they think of him? Would they still let a vegetarian wolf live with them? 

I told the artist I had a few vegetarian wolves in my classroom and then thought about how those kids might feel. I know as a teacher, they force me to stretch and grow. Since they are unlike the rest of the class, I have to come up with different strategies to teach them. They take a bit more of my energy, but I appreciate them just as much if not more than the “carnivore wolves.” And somehow, we all have to learn to get along with each other.  

The next day, I returned to the park to capture some more of the beauty of the fall season and again I saw the artist. The tree outline on his canvas had taken on more detail, but still no leaves had appeared on his tree. I worried the weather might turn cold and wet before he got the colors onto his canvas. He told me one of his downfalls was control. He wanted to get the tree trunk and branches just right before he added the color. But he said, at some point he had to let go of his commanding desire for perfection, and just let the art happen. I had to admit his words hit home with me. I often try to control and when I do, I have to remind myself to allow things to unfold in their time and in their way. I don’t know if I will ever see this stranger again, but in talking with him, I was given a fresh perspective on some old ideas.  

Why bother talking with strangers? Striking up a conversation with people we do not know may show us a fresh way of looking at the old.