A reason to be allowed to excel is distinct from a reason to be allowed to live. Many are allowed to live, and only some are allowed to excel. You may be allowed to live, even if you are symbolically dead. To be allowed to excel, you need the traits to make your excelling worth it, not to this or that partisan group, but to the world. You are bound to find resistance, nevertheless, from those who would like to place their partisan icon in your stead. But in the only world I care to live, credit belongs where credit is due, so that is a presumption of the permission I seek to justify.
- Exposure to the world and its cultures, enough to erode my American Biases.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.” – Mark Twain
The internet brings a wealth of information on foreign cultures, but there is no substitute for understanding how a culture operates than living in it. That as it is, you cannot live in every culture, even for a time, but you nevertheless gain an appreciation for your own bias even with a few extended stays (provided you are not pretending to travel by staying at a resort!). And frankly, understanding how ‘The Old World’ operates is crucial to understanding America and its goals, when it is on its proper course.
2. Intelligence and Exposure enough to mitigate History and it’s Ideas
It is only by having these properties that one can be allowed to contribute to the course of history and its ideas. We often construe the internet as a free information share. It is not entirely this. There are subjects that remain protected to the point of never making it onto the web and others which, when leaked, get buried like needles under so much hay. Add to this a certain religious commitment to ‘Empiricism’ as a safeguard against public opinions along an unapproved course, and you find yourself a solver of puzzles in order to both preserve the truth and save yourself from fatal misstep in making your own contributions. This course of development in any independent person is long and treacherous. Achieving it is no small feat.
3. Training in Conceptual Disciplines allowing for Understanding of New Ideas.
One cannot appreciate complex ideas – or the evidence for simple and elegant ones – without a grounding in logical, computational, and mathematical subjects. The development of these skills is also a long course, and it is rarely made explicit for the student. More frequently, they need to piece together the core of important ideas from the exposure they are given and their nose for what is important. Often I find myself both fortunate for the exposure and proud of the work I have put in to consolidate what is important to retain.
Having concluded by reason your own fundamentals, one can use them in a generative capacity, which when coupled with creativity, can result in great things. I have a ‘creative streak’, I am well aware. I cannot take full credit for that, but I can take credit for the fact that it has not resulted in my ruin and it has resulted in good works of art and letters within the bounds of ethics. One needs to be able to loosen the reins and play along the edges, or progress will not be made.
5. Exposure to and appreciation of the Natural World.
The most significant factor in the development of my intuition regarding what is important was the great humility I have felt in the face of the Natural World. People think of themselves and other people as more important than they are. If people are ‘special’, it is for their capacity as caretakers of the natural world. Exposure to nature’s grandeur puts in perspective one’s own existence. It is less about you and us and them than many are in a position to appreciate. To appreciate it, one needs to have exposure to the natural world and face it; face it without running for the cover of our petty comfortable battles on the internet and in our neighborhoods; face it without fear.
6. My sense of humor: A healthy irreverence without indignation.
Exposure to nature and its grandeur gives one a certain license for irreverence when confronted with the people’s squabbles. You can believe me when I say ‘First World Problems’ are not all petty. ‘First World Problems’ often are the very worst social problems in the world. But what often is viewed as a problem faced by the people, in any culture, has drastically diminishing significance when put in relief – say – to the size, fertility, and diversity of our uninhabited oceans. Taking a simple trip to the desert or hiking into the mountains, if one faces what they find without fear, one might just think the people’s problems are less significant than they really tend to believe… It gives one a certain license to gently cut people down to size, and if one has a humor and wit, it is liberating.
7. My capacity as a representative citizen against notable odds.
The way I was raised was to not see people as of this or that ethnicity, this or that religion, this or that race. I was raised to see them simply as individuals, capable of representing themselves. It would be much later when I would come to see people play on these divisions to win favor with ‘their own’ and power over ‘others’. It is in this way, however, that I am still a Catholic; in that I still have faith in this ethic, with which I was raised. Some see this lack of ‘street smarts’ as fatal, this ‘naivete’ as something to destroy rather than protect, and for my own good. I know enough now to understand it hasn’t always worked to my advantage, but I also understand that a certain blindness has protected me from being baited into any misconduct which could later be used against me. In this reduced form, it really is an American ethic too.
8. Proven willingness to Stand Up for what is right.
I have spoken of standing up to the Medical Community and the risks involved in doing so. I could have done nothing at all, but I did what was right, both for myself and others. I am confident that people did not forget that moment, and it was important seven years later. I won’t be afraid to do it again if it needs to be done.
Somehow I have no quit. I know how to battle attrition with discretion, but I have never grown so weary or miserable as to actually commit political suicide (as opposed to faking it to buy time). “Don’t Ever, Ever Give Up” applies to this German American, just as it did with the British, despite the attempts to divide with Trump.
10. An understanding of what is important, as rooted in fundamentals.
I have noted that the ability to recognize what is and is not important as a condition supporting citizenship. An understanding of what is important as rooted in fundamentals, moreover, allows for movement through the world on course to achieving important things, not simply as a reaction to what is and what is not important, but as a guiding influence. Politically this stake is claimed with my book atheoryof.us. In other areas of intellectual inquiry my education and work ethic have allowed me foundations from which to grow toward the good as well.
I hope I have in the course of my life done enough in the face of odds to warrant an opportunity.