For those young and old, many times the end of the year can be a time of reflection. My advice for the younger, or older, if you wish, is to, at the end of each year, just write down your thoughts and maybe some events of your life that year. Perhaps you lost a loved one. Maybe you gained something in life. Perhaps something that you wished for and obtained was nowhere near your expectations. Maybe your hard work came to nothing; no recognition, no acknowledgement, all of your sweat and toil yielded nothing. As Hyman G. Rickover, “Father of the Nuclear Navy” once said: “Success teaches us nothing. Only failure teaches.”
Upon reflection, there are many things that I did that probably weren’t the best of decisions. There were also people I trusted as telling me the truth, when, in fact, they weren’t being as honest with me as I was being honest with them. The honesty thing is obviously my problem. In the future, expectations are to be documented. Promises are great, but contracts hold people to promises. Broken promises are why contracts came about, as I understand it.
There is thing called “class” that I like to see in people. The definition of class is: “classy, decent, gracious, respectable, noble.” Class isn’t something you buy. The Rolex, the Armani suit, do not equate class. The same can be said for character. I always like the things that build character, like, maybe, hard work. I usually say I don’t need any more character. The folks that told me hard work built character didn’t have any class; they weren’t decent, noble, or gracious. They were greedy, selfish, and inconsiderate.
I recall in my youth, people with whom I played sports. What sports were supposed to teach us was character. You could lose graciously, or win without rubbing it in the other team’s face. There were, however, teams who didn’t play by the rules, who didn’t have class or character. I recall not too long ago, watching a little league team, where if one of the players did something unsportsmanlike, the coaches immediately forced them to apologize to the offended player. Those were great coaches, I thought. Who knows, maybe they were teaching class and character. Lord knows we could use more of it in this society.
This essay is not documentation of my character or class. I certainly have my share of transgressions. I have, as well, adopted certain street attitudes. One of which is that if they are willing to pick on you, they’ve probably picked on others. I tend not to show mercy on these types anymore, be they public officials or private citizens. Character and class would grant them the benefit of the doubt, but experience has taught me that number one, they would not grant me the same, and number two, this is probably not the first time they have done this, so they more than likely deserve the pounding they get because of all the others they cheated that could not fight back.
All too often, of late, my kindness is perceived as weakness. What I used to call class and character seems to not be recognized as such, but rather just weakness. Perhaps it is just my environment, but those around me seem to be controlled more by fear than by respect. They are the players who only respect being defeated, who challenge by cheating and dare you to call them out on it.
Then there is the real world and the academic world. Many of the niceties and fair practices taught in academia are dispensed with as soon as business begins on Monday morning. These notions of character and fairness don’t seem to go far in the real world. I understand the pragmatism of getting things done; what I do not comprehend are the rationalizations and determinations made in ways that would make most of the educators cringe. Not to mention the ignoring of correspondence and “blowing off” people instead of being straight-up honest.
I close this last essay of 2017 with part of the speech by John Roberts, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, a speech he made at the Cardigan Mountain School on June 3 of this year: “From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.”