By David Anderson
“Nothing tells us more about people than the opinions they hold and their reasons for holding them.”
We were crossing Death Valley and you just simply cannot do that without stopping somewhere along the trail, enticing all your little family to exit the air-conditioned van leaving their water bottles behind and belly-up a sand dune, bare feet dragging uselessly behind, in a desperate search for water – for a photo-op.
This actual undertaking on one of our family excursions was brought to mind by this ancient proverb: ‘The one who would live honorably and speak honestly is a well of life.’
Interestingly, of the 18 translations I checked of “well” as the source of the water, only three refer to the actual hole-in-the-ground-type-well. All the others use “fountain.” The picture then is not primarily a well that may or may not have water way down there somewhere in the dark depths, but rather a gusher and therefore a refresher, reviving to many that are in desperate need for it as they scratch and claw their way through a desert land that most certainly today describes our culture and our country.
The fountain at the Seattle Center comes to mind.
When it’s running.
One researcher declared that the word picture here really should be “‘the vein of our lives,’ an allusion to the great aorta, which conveys the blood from the heart to every part of the body.”
Clamp off that aorta and you’ve got some serious issues.
But that’s exactly what the last half of this ancient proverb has to say. For even more interesting than this overflowing gusher – or life-giving aorta – is the fact that in the very same breath, in stark contrast to the well of water springing up like a fountain or the heart pumping blood throughout the body is what the rest of the proverb pictures: a lid placed over the top or a clamp cutting off circulation:
“but there are those who would conceal harmful intentions.”
The implication then in keeping with whatever is honest and honorable, is to speak truth and, in the process, uncover wrong.
Whether or not there is some who would prefer not to hear it. Maybe especially not.
There was an article this past Feb.22 in “The Desert News,” out of Salt Lake City, concerning the value of being a bit of a contrarian which quality, I maintain, is more often than not required of those who would live honorably and speak honestly.
The authors write that “‘Contrary’ can mean obstinate or disagreeable or difficult, but what it literally means is to go against the prevailing wisdom, to contradict what the majority seems to be thinking or doing. We like the noun form of the word,” the authors write, “‘contrarian,’ because it seems to describe someone who thinks for himself and who is not swayed by trends or popularity or styles or the direction of the crowd.”
The cousin of contrarian is curmudgeon.
I happened to be talking on the phone with one of our State Senators recently and when I read to himthe definition of curmudgeon he replied, “Then I am one too!”
So there are two of us that “wear opprobrium as a badge of honor.”
Given the times in which we live, the desert of immorality, values of decency having deserted us, there’s a need for a greater number in the crowd of contrarians and curmudgeons.
Linda and Richard Eyre, extolling the virtues of a contrarian, observe that “Polls show that most Americans think that, societally and culturally and politically as well as economically, this country is notgoing in the right direction, so it would follow that there is a widespread and growing need for more contrarian views — and for translating the best of them into actions.”
Enter “The Suburban Times.”
“The Suburban Times” serves as a back-fence, social network. Albeit only online, these neighbor-to-neighbor Internet connections are analogous to the heart-beat of a community.
Similarly, one of the more popular idea-exchangers in the country, now even expanding to the Antarctic, are web sites updated by its citizens, these type of platforms providing folks “with one spot where they can collect and capture the spirit of a thriving area, becoming easily involved with their neighbors, (and learning about) programs they didn’t realize existed. At the same time, they increase collaboration and knowledge dissemination.”
Where every bit as important as dialogue is debate.
“Argument with the aims of convincing and of persuading is a healthy force within a community. Whatever the issue, people hold a range of positions, and debate among advocates of these various positions serves to inform the public and draw attention to problems that need solutions” (“The Aims of Argument” by Timothy W. Crusius and Carolyn E. Channell).
If, or rather since, the well-informed exchange of supported positions is analogous to a heart-beat, then dismissively, sarcastically, and summarily rejecting attempts at substantively presented positions is also analogous to clamping off the aorta or capping off the well.
“Nothing tells us more about people than the opinions they hold and their reasons for holding them” (Crusius and Channell).