8.5.20

A Lesson in Opposing Viewpoints: On Appearances and First Impressions

Don't trust too much in appearances.
Quintillian, Ancient Roman Teacher and Writer (c. 35 - c. 100 C.E.) 
Clothes make the man.
Recorded by Erasmus, Counter-Reformation Writer, and Scholar (1466 - 1536 C.E.) 
N.B. The phrase is found in Multiple Babylonian, Greek, and Latin Sources. Even Polonius in William Shakespeare's Hamlet says it: "The apparel doth oft proclaim the man."

Clothes on a line

Two Ideas About How One Ought To Present Oneself
     Here is a set of dueling philosophies — one based on suspicion of outward appearance — and the other, an appraisal of appearance's worth in civilized society. Which one rings more true?
     I want to trust in the idea that appearances do not tell the entire story of a person. However, I read once that the average person takes X seconds to make a judgment about a person they just met. Do I think you should dress appropriately for a job interview? Yes. But getting the job, keeping it, excelling at it, and growing as a person — will take more than appearances. So maybe the lesson is that you show the world what they want to see and hope they can see who you really are once you get your foot in the door. However, I am tickled by this notion that if we did not judge by appearances — as much — wouldn't the world be a better place. I am thinking of internalized racism — the idea that society is infused with systematic racist beliefs that undermine everyday people's ability to be successful. I had a boss that said, "Dress for success" and "Fake it till you make it," but I think she also told us in a work meeting that she says those things because we live in a world that does judge by appearances. One has to rise up to the occasion — but what about when we meet oppression and resistance to our goals because of our appearance?
The Moral Dilemma of the Two Television News Anchors  
     I think of a dilemma I once read: two television news anchors apply for a competitive job at a cable news station. The job requires facetime on-air every day during primetime television. The first candidate has a degree in media broadcasting, but they have a missing front tooth. The second candidate has a degree in English, but they score well on visual appeal (according to an internal poll). Is there a moral problem in hiring the second candidate based on visual appearance, only? This dilemma bothers me because most people I present this problem to will say, "Hire the candidate with the most experience and the best background for the job" — but I see on social media how people will degrade media personalities for the way they look. There is cognitive dissonance in our society.
Can We Have Our Cake and Eat It Too?
     On the one hand, we want to celebrate ability and prop up a meritorious system based on skill and aptitude — but we are held back by our biases and what we deem "normal." How do we break the cycle? Let me know in the comments. 
Sources: 
  • Erasmus, Desiderius, and Barker, William Watson. The Adages of Erasmus. Canada, University of Toronto Press, 2001.
  • Stone, Jon R. The Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations: The Illiterati's Guide to Latin Maxims, Mottoes, Proverbs, and Sayings. The United Kingdom, Routledge, 2005.

7.5.20

Quotation: On the Hoped-for-Hopelessness of Fame (and its Many Counterparts)

Si post fata venit gloria no propero.
*
If fame comes after death I am in no hurry for it.
— Martial (40-102 C.E.), Roman epigrammatist
Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

On Death and Fame from Ancient Rome
In Ancient Rome, Twitter hadn't been invented. But — they sure did have epigrams — a short string of text that delivered a potent, salient message. In this post, I supply you with an epigram on death and fame from the ancient Roman writer Martial. It is a pithy quote — and remarkably accurate for our fame-obsessed American culture and society. 
Martial's Quote is a One, Two Punch in the Gut
The quote has a double pang to it — first, it is a quick jab to fame itself. It alludes to the nature of celebrity as elusive — in the same way, we see TikTokers and YouTubers all vying for a piece of the fame-pie on social media. Second, it is a reminder that one ought to be careful about how one chooses to live out their life. The temporal finitude of life. And — really, who will remember me — ten, twenty, one hundred years from now? 
But, Even When Considering Finitude . . .
On a more positive note — perhaps it is not beneficial to think of remembrance in such grand, macro terms. People remember me now. And perhaps, I won't end up like Emily in Faulkner's short story — a rose will be placed on my grave. I am also thinking about Nietzsche's demon in a paragraph from his book The Joyful Wisdom  commit yourself to this life even if it is final and limited. Now don't get too upset. Like people do — it's not morbid to talk about death — if it is a call to action to live one's life.

Source: Roberts, Kate Louise. Hoyt's New Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations. United Kingdom, Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1922.

6.5.20

Quotation: On Considering Heteronormativity in Society (Thank you, Jane Austen)

It's a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. 
Mrs. Bennet — from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Nineteenth-Century British Novelist
A lion roars.
Photo by Adam King on Unsplash
Source: Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. United Kingdom, RD Bentley, 1853.

29.4.20

Proverbial Quotation On Doing Something Too Little Too Late

Proverbs are meant to be short, pithy practical statements. Perhaps the most famous collection of proverbs come from the Hebrew Bible. But here, I have for you a proverb from a different source —

It's a wretched business to be digging a well just as thirst is coming over you.
— Plautus, Ancient Roman playwright (c. 250 - 184 B.C.E.)
Sources: Pickering, David, et al. The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. United States, Facts On File, 2007. / Nixon, Paul, and Melo, Wolfgang David Cirilo de. Amphitryon. United Kingdom, Harvard University Press, 2011.
image credit: Photo by Vivek Doshi on Unsplash

28.4.20

Quotation: On the Experience of Falling in Love

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
— Elizabeth Barret Browning, British Poet, and Writer
"Night Passing the Earth to Day" (Detail)
Frank Jirouch's 1928 bronze sculpture, "Night Passing the Earth to Day" (Detail)
I Love Him. I Love Him Not.
There is a child's game. Perhaps you know it. You take a petaled flower or clover, and you recite an age-old ditty. "I love him," then you pluck a petal. "I love him not." Whichever you said when you pluck the last petal is fate. You love him. Or you don't. 
Elizabeth Barret Browning's "How do I love thee" reminds me of this child's game. While the ditty is one of sealed fate, a simplistic toy to determine love — all agency is lost in the finality of whatever is said at the last petal. And could you cheat and count the petals beforehand — but perhaps that defeats the purpose of reciting the words, anyway. One plucks the petals because one is in a state of indecision. 
Which way to go? Who to love? 
But Barret Browning's poem is of a different quality. It has the cadence of a ditty, but it suggests something more  — call it agency — or call it freedom. In her poem, she "counts the ways," and she is not about allowing fate to decide the outcome. She loves. And she has an infinite number of reasons, of ways, of patterns, and qualities on a display of that love.

25.4.20

A Few Notable Quotations on Stupidity and Lack of Thinking

Stupid is as stupid does.
— Tom Hanks in Forest Gump (1995)

Forest Gump (1995)\
. . . most people would die sooner than think—in fact, they do so.
— Bertrand Russell


sources: Roth, Eric, Wendy Finerman, Steve Tisch, Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis, and Winston Groom. Forest Gump. Hollywood, Calif: Paramount Pictures, 1995. / Russell, Bertrand. The ABC of Relativity. United Kingdom, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1927.