Rewards And Such

As one who did time in academe — hard time in fact — I have always wondered why those in charge are so reluctant to give out awards and rewards for exceptional work. Those of us who taught, for example, knew who the hard workers and good teachers were. Everybody knew. But those folks were seldom, if ever, acknowledged in any way  — except by the students who tended to turn the whole thing into a popularity contest. I worked very hard, for example, and when I retired I received a framed certificate signed by the governor of Minnesota (or one of his toadies) thanking me for 37 years of loyal service. It was the same certificate that was handed out to all of us who retired at the same time throughout the state system, including one of my colleagues who taught the same courses with the same syllabi for years — only in the mornings, so he could spend the afternoons in his office downtown making real money. Eventually it occurred to me that this is because a reward draws attention to those few who are rewarded and is resented by those who might feel slighted.

That is to say, in fear that someone will take umbrage at the fact that they were passed by, those who deserve to be noticed are ignored. The sentiment here is clear and in some ways admirable: we should do nothing that makes a person feel bad. I suppose this is why so many who teach are reluctant to fail their students — though a friend of mine who taught in our small school in my town once told me he passed poor students along because he didn’t want to have to teach them again! In any event, the outstanding students and teachers who deserve to be noticed are ignored out of a somewhat distorted sense of justice that leads many to the conclusion that it is a form of discrimination.

But let’s give this a moment’s thought. Discrimination in itself is not a bad thing. We discriminate all the time when we choose the red wine over the white, or the steak over the hamburger, the Rembrandt over the Rockwell, Joseph Conrad over the latest pot-boiler. Discrimination used to be a sign of a well-educated, “discriminating” person. That person can choose good books, music, and art and avoid things that might have little or no real value, things that will surely rot his brain. It was supposed to be a good thing. But now, in our postmodern age, we insist that there is no such thing as a “good” book or a “good” paining or composition. There are just things that are written, painted, and played, things people like. It’s all relative. With the absence of standards and the push to greater equality, including the refusal to discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color (or ability), we live in a world awash with confusion about what is and what is not to be selected as worthy of our attention and effort. Anything goes. Words like “great” and “excellent” are no longer allowed in the name of political correctness which insists that it’s all a matter of opinion.

Interestingly enough, this hasn’t happened in athletics. Though there is a push among those connected with youth athletics to avoid keeping score and to give every participant a trophy at the end of the season (!), by and large those few who stand out in sports are recognizes and praised for a job well done. Perhaps this explains the craziness of those in our culture when it comes to collegiate and professional sports. At last, they seem to think, we can point out the outstanding athletes and discuss over a beer (or three) who were the GREAT ones! We don’t have to worry about political correctness, because everyone knows that some athletes are better than others. There are winners and there are losers and in sports we side with the winners and stand by the losers hoping that they will soon become winners — or because they are our sons and daughters.

My point, of course, is that we have a double standard. We are willing to recognize and talk about greatness on sports — and even allow that losing may teach vital lessons — but we refuse to do so in every other walk of life because we might hurt someone’s feelings. It never seems to occur to us that the “hurt” may become a motivator to push the one who fails to be recognized to work harder in order to become recognized sometime later. Losers who hope to become winners, if you will. It applies in sports, and it most assuredly applies in life as well.

Looking Back

I have been blogging for a little over a year now and it strikes me it is about time to take stock. I have to say this blogging thing has been great! I was hesitant at first, but the community of bloggers of which I am a part has been not only supportive but (more importantly) instructive — an extended family of bright and interesting people.  I have learned a great deal and have been able to sort a few of my ideas out and present them to appreciative readers who have made some very insightful comments. Granted, there have been dissenters and nay-sayers and disappointing days. I realize that my blogs do not brighten everyone’s day, and my son keeps catching me up on grammatical mistakes that might be off-putting for some.  But that’s the remarkable thing. In spite of the fact that I tend to see the glass half empty, I have still managed to post nearly 400 blogs in a little over a year and have had more than 9,500 readers — or at least “hits. ” I don’t know whether they have read a word I wrote. But I am delighted they at least stopped to see what was going on. And the truly astonishing thing about blogging is the international dimension of the medium. I have had hits from over 50 nations in the past quarter — even including countries like Slovenia and Bangladesh! And two of my new best blogging friends are from Great Britain and Ecuador if you can imagine.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that one of my readers happened to be the editor of Empirical magazine and he asked me to expand one of my blogs which he was kind enough to include in the December issue of that magazine (and an impressive magazine it is indeed!). Of special importance to me in this regard was the opportunity to send a second essay to Empirical in which I drew heavily on the data provided by a fellow blogger, the “old fart” (who will remain anonymous), whose contribution was vital to the underlying message of that essay dealing with the issue of climate change. That article is scheduled to appear in the January issue of the magazine. Again, the community to which bloggers become conjoined is the best thing about the entire enterprise in my view.

My best day was 126 views when I had the audacity to suggest that Andy Roddick should try to find something more important to do in his retirement from tennis than open another tennis facility. Apparently that blog struck a nerve. Do I draw from that day the conclusion that one needs to strike nerves to get readers? I hope not. In any event, I will keep on trucking along in my own way and relish the thought that a number of fellow-bloggers have sent me a variety of nice blogging awards and even if the daily numbers are not that impressive, they are rock solid. And, more importantly, I enjoy doing what I do, it keeps the mind alive, and I have learned a great deal from some very bright fellow bloggers. Too bad there aren’t more readers “out there” who can discover as I have how much of importance and interest these people have to say. In a world in which there is so much dreck being dispensed as wisdom these people need to be more widely appreciated. Some of them are truly exceptional in so many ways. It has been fun!

The Booker Award

My favorite blogger (MFB) newsofthetimes has awarded a number of her favorite bloggers the “Booker Award” for people who love books and spend much of their time with their noses buried in them. That’s me and I am especially touched by this award because “news” included me on her list. We have a mutual admiration thing going on here. The award requires that I list my five favorite books, mention at least five other bloggers who also deserve the award, and post the award itself.
I shall take these in reverse order:

My favorite blogger has already been mentioned and several others whom I would pass this award to are on the list “news” posted on her blog, including musingsofanoldfart and carrpartyoffive. And I thought immediately of EmilyJ, but “news” had already listed her. But there are a number of other exceptional bloggers and I will pass this award along to them:

1.Circles Under Streetlights. A woman who loves to read and also writes beautifully.

2. Seapunk2. A blogger who is alert and aware of whatever if going on around her in her home in the Pacific Northwest.

3. Salty Political Musings. The title says it all.

4. Jennifer Worrell. A very funny lady and her blogs are always worth reading.

5. Zebra Designs. A creative artist whose pictures along with her words always charm and delight.

6. Mindful Stew. A remarkable teacher who works hard at his craft and shares his insights and successes.

7. jotsfromasmallapartment has stacks of well-deserved awards. But I am sending this one along because she loves books and writes so well.

(I am stopping at 7 because folks in the middle ages regarded that number as lucky.)

The last requirement is the hardest because I have so many favorite books — books that I read again and again because, as I told “news” they reward me every time. But here goes:

1. Middlemarch. by George Eliot — the best book, perhaps, by one of the wisest writers I have ever read.

2. The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky. Freud called it the greatest novel ever written, and he may be right.

3. Heart of Darkness. Joseph Conrad’s amazing novella that cannot be read too many times.

4. Don Quixote. Cervantes knew how to make humor take us closer to the human experience.

5. Age of Innocence. Edith Wharton’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel — for a reason.

So there are my favorites — or many of them. It boggles the mind to try to come up with favorites and you always fear you have left someone or something out. If I were concentrating on American authors I would certainly include Melville and Steinbeck along with Wharton. But the requirements were for the top five.  in any case, I do thank newsofthetimes again for the delightful award.

Awards Aplenty!

My blogpal newsofthetimes has forwarded four awards to me to add to the one she already put me in for. I can do no better than recommend her blog to one and all — she writes beautifully and has a great deal to say. I am supposed to say something about myself, which I choose not to do. And I am also supposed to recommend other bloggers. I have several favorites, and they happen to be hers as well. So check out her list on the link above and know that I greatly appreciate the support of a remarkable group of interesting people who make a valuable contribution to the world we share in common. Thanks, Jennifer!

As you can see, I have no idea what I am doing when it comes to mounting logos! But I do appreciate them and once again recommend the other bloggers who have received these and similar awards, especially newsofthetimes and musingsofanoldfart. These two are especially excellent.