Tuesday, July 06, 2021

the delusion of the self-made man

Self-proclaimed self-made men, it seems are a dime a dozen, if we were to accept what they say about themselves. The idea of the self-made man is well-rooted in the American concept of self... the rugged individualist we cherish in the press, history books and American mythology. 

Frederick Douglass, former slave, famous author and orator, whose writings should be featured in every high school course in American history held another view which he described in his lecture, "Self-Made Men."  https://monadnock.net/douglass/self-made-men.html 

In it he wrote:

"Our best and most valued acquisitions have been obtained either from our contemporaries or from those who have preceded us in the field of thought and discovery. We have all either begged, borrowed or stolen. We have reaped where others have sown, and that which others have strown, we have gathered. It must in truth be said, though it may not accord well with self-conscious individuality and self-conceit, that no possible native force of character, and no depth of wealth and originality, can lift a man into absolute independence of his fellowmen, and no generation of men can be independent of the preceding generation. The brotherhood and inter-dependence of mankind are guarded and defended at all points. I believe in individuality, but individuals are, to the mass, like waves to the ocean. The highest order of genius is as dependent as is the lowest. It, like the loftiest waves of the sea, derives its power and greatness from the grandeur and vastness of the ocean of which it forms a part. We differ as the waves, but are one as the sea. To do something well does not necessarily imply the ability to do everything else equally well. If you can do in one direction that which I cannot do, I may in another direction, be able to do that which you cannot do. Thus the balance of power is kept comparatively even, and a self-acting brotherhood and inter-dependence is maintained."

To feel one's own connections and to feel indebted to those connections offer strength and humility. These days, (as always) we need both. 

Make, fix and create...

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