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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Another Conversation with Teico

Sonnet 66 (Shakespeare)
Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,
As, to behold desert a beggar born….
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And strength by limping sway disabled,
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly, doctorlike, controlling skill,
And simple truth miscalled simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill.
Tired with all these, from these would I be gone….   (emphasis mine)

Let me give you three ways America is—in simple truth—wise.

1) A wise country is not simply right, but is right in significantly helpful ways.  My father once told me of an incident when the United States sent a plane thousands of miles to pick up one person.  “That’s the kind of country we live in,” he said.

2) Another example of our national wisdom is in understanding that creativity is not a characteristic that should be confined to the arts.  Rather it should be pervasive throughout society…..  There is an almost constant drive to do better—in the private sector, in the public sector, in the interfaces and interchanges within all sectors.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of creativity is not increased productivity but the sense of accomplishment, freedom, and generosity creativity brings.  The checks and balances design of American society fuels helpful creativity with discipline.

3) Finally, our nation appreciates that paradox and irony can arise from the heart--from what Yeats called the rag and bone shop of the heart.  A central paradox of human experience is addressed head-on from day one.  "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

I introduced you to my young friend Teico last blog with the bicycle-repair example.  Well, one day a rap song we were listening to stressed equality.  And Teico duly reminded me on hearing the CD: "Equal, Wayne."   Everybody knows somehow that the Declaration is saying something profoundly true.  There is no question that equality under the law (fair due process) is an essential maintenance item.  Effective legal equality rests upon a widespread acceptance of the Golden Rule—the rule of empathy.  A society without the bedrock of human empathy upon which to lay the foundation of legal equality is destined for a nightmare of perils.

But, as important as equality is Teico, I'm glad to say that the Declaration does not stop there.  It also says, "They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."  We first talked of equality.  But is that what we really want?  Is that what we really need?

Yes, of course, before the law and so forth.  But Teico, if you want to be equal with me, why do you spend so much time striving to be different from me?  (And Lord knows, I try to be different from you.)  The truth of the matter is that equality is just kind of like the socks we get for Christmas.  I mean, we do need socks, but we're really looking for something more--something SPECIAL, something JUST for US. And that is what "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness" is all about.

Equality is just the launch pad.  The drive to be SPECIAL is at the very heart of humanity.  The society that can guide, encourage, and celebrate the right kind of creativity will flourish beyond imaginings.  In all disciplines inspiration will come to our aid.  It may not sound very rational—wanting to be equal and special at the same time.  But wisdom is not always rational.

My response to the charge that America lacks wisdom and sophistication can be summed up in a few brief statements.  If this criticism means we are charged with being significantly helpful, charged with being tirelessly creative, charged with being irrational in accepting the equal-special paradox-- then I say, “Guilty as charged!”  You may call it “simple-minded” if you like; I call it “the simple truth."

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