Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Pieces of Man
Peeps just love to spout all intellectual about the state of man. How do they (sigh – OK Shakespeare’s Hamlet, damnit) put it?
What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet,to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me—nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.
And, Rosencrantz responds, “My lord, there was no such stuff in my thoughts.”
What is man? Or, more to the point, what is the highest expression of man? What do we most admire? What do we most readily emulate? What is the virtue of man?
Is it his heart? His capacity for love, compassion, empathy?
Is it his creativity? Music, letters, art, innovation?
Is it vision? Science, art, mathematics, philosophy?
Is it intellect? Logic, judgment, something as uncommon as sense?
Or, character, humor, nurturing, community organization, pride, sanity, salesmanship?
What single characteristic best defines man? What is preeminent? How do we choose? Must we choose? How do you pick the favorite child without looking like an idiot or a lunatic? How do you say that the artist is more important than the scientist? That the thinker is more vital than the chef? That the mother is greater than the philosopher? The lawyer more eminent than the salesman?
Perhaps it is my environment, that egalitarian American perspective. But, I judge all these attributes, or vocations, or paths – whatever you wish to call them – so very important, in concert. None of us is homogeneous. We are all pieces of the dream, a brew swirling with all our particles, potentials and possibilities, congealing into who we are as individuals, what we care about, what is important. And, as goes the individual, goes the planet (yeah, we’re an egotistical species, no doubt).
So, when someone elevates one slice of the human soul as all ga-ga, I have to wonder why, and I have to complain. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Go on with your intellectual self. Or your funky artistic self. Or your religious dogma self. Or your skeptical scientific self. Shake hands with your hillbilly self, or your snobby micro-brewery self. Or your literary contentious self. Or your disease ridden self married to your spousal political, emerging musically therapeutic self.
Separate yourself. Hone yourself into a brilliant diamondm sharp with that one great thing. Distinguish Yourself. Embrace your chosen bit, that lonely manifestation of man you champion, if you will. But when you finally realize that you are missing a piece – or a whole cardboard puzzle box o’ bits – of yourself …