Saturday, January 15, 2011
© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
Earlier today, while twittering around in Twitter, we saw a tweet from a rather attractive woman who asked:
“Who intimidates a man more, a beautiful woman, or an intelligent woman?”
Depending on one’s definition of “man,” one could arguably respond, “Neither.”
Additionally, the question as posed suggests an either / or proposition. For the purposes of this post, our legal staff instructed us to inform you that the official position of the Institute is that ALL women are both beautiful AND intelligent, and patients experiencing an erection lasting more than 4 hours should immediately consult a physician.
One of the Laughingman’s favorite Mark Twain quotes goes something along the line of, “The heart goes where it wants to.” The Logistician frequently uses this as a justification for falling in love with ugly women.
With this in mind, we answered that, assuming one could somehow find a woman who is not both beautiful and intelligent, and considering the time limitations on an ordinary man, the beautiful woman was more problematic.
Our participation in this exercise made us think further about the role of pre-conceived ideas in dealing with others. A pre-conceived idea often takes on a passionate, heart felt patina.
People often ask us how we come up with the subject matter for our articles. Over each weekend, we watch the various new outlets, Tom and Jerry cartoons, C-Span, Turner Classic Movies, and The Andy Griffith Show, and give extra weight to Tom and Jerry.
We come across enough material to generate several articles per week; but we really look for recurrent themes in the shows we watch. Today, it was pre-conceived ideas.
That notion really hit home, courtesy of Ted Turner, through a little known William “Wild Bill” Wellman film, which was a box office flop in 1956, but which has since developed a cult following, Good-bye, My Lady. It is the story of 13 year old Skeeter, an orphan being raised in the back swamps of Georgia by his poor and toothless Uncle Jesse, played by Walter Brennan, of The Real McCoys fame.
The story is one of coming of age for the teenager, who learns a few things about life and responsibility through his brief relationship with a lost dog, which he and his uncle named My Lady. Throughout the film, there are frequent negative references to “Yankees.”
It turns out that the dog has been lost by its owner, and that it is a very rare and valuable dog. The owner posts an ad offering $50 for the return of the dog. Several people in the area know Skeeter has found the dog, but feel that the relationship is too intense to separate the two.
Skeeter ultimately, upon finding out about the ad, does the responsible thing and contacts the owner and returns My Lady. In a very touching closing scene, the owner and Skeeter face one another with stilted formality, and draw out the exchange.
It is clear that the owner appreciates the emotional bond established between the boy and his temporary charge. To cut the cord cleanly, he steps up the pace of the transaction, shakes off the emotion, and hands Skeeter $100.
As the Yankee owner drives off with My Lady in its cage, Skeeter, his Uncle, and the local store owner discuss how surprised they are at the courteous and understanding manner in which the Yankee handled the whole matter. They learned that Yankees are people too, and have hearts.
We all have prejudices. They are built into our being, even into our DNA. They serve a very pragmatic function.
But problems develop when those prejudices get in the way of engaging others, be they Republicans, Democrats, homosexuals, Mexicans, or Yankees, because of our prejudices, and we do not permit them an opportunity to share their humanity.
Let’s hope that more of us use our heads in assessing the values and motives of others with whom we disagree, or who we dislike. We may not fall in love, but we’re far more likely to respect one another. Then at some point thereafter, the heart might have a chance to come into play.
In a letter from Twain to Alvert Sonnichsen in 1901, he wrote, “Civilizations proceed from the heart rather from the head.”
It’s the commonality of interests which draws up together ultimately.
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