In my previous post, American Addictions, I presented my addiction model for viewing the history of the United States. At the end of that piece the question, “Could understanding and embracing these national virtues – the glory striding alongside the shame – be the keys to a more sober nation?” was posed. Now we will take some time to reflect on those ideals. In 2010 I included a chapter in my book The Comic Book Curriculum where Captain America was utilized to highlight a vision of American Virtues. The chapter only presents Captain America from the comics as the character would not appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe until 2011. I am posting this chapter here to highlight those virtues that we can all aspire to, for by pursuing high ideal we can’t up but elevate all those around us.
Chapter 17: Captain America
Steve Rogers, the man who becomes Captain America, is a man with a sense of mission. The roots of his story reach back to a dark time in American and World History. During World War II the great evil of Nazism threatened to spread across the globe. This is not merely a plot line, but the actual history of the character’s development. Captain America’s first appearance was in March 1941, before America was actively engaged in World War II. The comic routinely depicted Captain America battling the Nazi menace. The first cover of Captain America Comics pictures Captain America, in full red, white and blue uniform, punching Adolf Hitler in the face. Captain America was created to be the defender of America and American values. He would become a symbol of these values as well.
Steve Rogers’ transformation into Captain America was a conscious decision. Physically frail, Rogers failed an army physical and was not allowed to enlist. His physical weakness belied an exceptionally strong will. Rogers volunteered to participate in a top-secret government project called Operation Rebirth. Seeking an advantage in the war, American scientists invented the super soldier serum. This liquid would, once injected and consumed, imbue the drinker with enhanced strength, dexterity, constitution and endurance. The goal was to generate an army of super-soldiers who would easily overwhelm the enemy and end the war with far less bloodshed and suffering. The experiment proved to be a success as Steve Rogers almost instantly became the personification of physical perfection. The hope for generating an army of super soldiers was quickly crushed, however, because a Nazi spy killed the inventor of the serum and destroyed all his notes. Steve Rogers became the only man to take the potion, making him America’s greatest soldier, coined Captain America by the government.
Super Teams and Astounding Individuals
Rogers fought the Nazi’s and the Japanese throughout World War II, before the war claimed him as well. During a mission in the North Atlantic, a plane crash seemingly claimed the life of America’s greatest soldier. He survived though, encased in a block of ice. Eventually he is awakened from his suspended animation and rejoins the world, a man of the present with the ideals of the past. Is he a walking relic or a walking reminder of all that is good and hopeful about America? Do his values hold sway in the modern world? Perhaps some ideas need to pass away for they have no purpose in the modern world. Such problems plague Captain America, who is physically young and in his prime, but his mind is from a different era. Most of Steve Rogers’ friends are deceased or senior citizens while he is in his early thirties and in prime condition. Such a paradox causes Steve Rogers some confusion, but Captain America is his stabilizing force.
In comics, as evidenced by the X-Men and the Justice League, sometimes superhero groups are formed. These groups are formed for a variety of reasons and the ties that bind them are equally diverse. The Avengers was one such group and they are credited with finding Captain America, but he quickly puts his stamps on the team and, although he does not always lead them, they often follow his example. Such is the strength of his character, even if he, at times, seems displaced in time and the least powerful member of the team. The Avengers line-up has included some of the most powerful heroes in comics, including the technological wonder called Iron Man, Thor the Norse god of thunder, Zeus’ son, Hercules and the Scarlet Witch – whose reality bending powers may make her the most powerful of them all.
All of these incredibly powerful heroes listen to and follow orders from Captain America, not because of his power but who he is. It is most definitely not the starred and stripped uniform and indestructible shield alone that makes Steve Rogers the respected hero Captain America. Many could wear the suit, few could be the man and fewer still could lead the Avengers so effectively. This truth raised the good Captain up and, at times, threatens to wear him down.
Since it is not his powers so much as who he is that makes Captain America special, it is important to understand how he viewed his mission and how successfully he pursued it. Captain America’s own words can be used to begin this process. In a startling chain of events Captain America is killed in March 2007. The Avenger Thor was not on Earth during this episode, but upon his return seeks to say goodbye to his friend and comrade in arms.
Using his mystic hammer, Mjolnir, Thor recalls Captain America’s soul from the afterlife. During the brief conversation, Captain America declares, “All my life, I fought to become a symbol. A symbol of all the things that were right about this country. All the things I loved.” An important question that this raises is what are America’s greatest virtues? We also need to evaluate if Captain America successfully symbolized these virtues. Any number of lists could be generated, but for this chapter the list of American virtues presented by Jacob Needleman in the book American Soul will be used (1).
Needleman discusses not only American virtues, but also the accompanying shadow. Needleman’s list begins with the very American ideal of liberty.
Political liberty means first and foremost the social conditions
necessary to allow this search for one’s own moral or spiritual
light. But this ideal and right has been taken to mean merely the
right to satisfy one’s own subjective desires, whatever they may
be, without any reference to the existence of the moral law within (2).
This definition of liberty speaks to the heart of Captain America’s original mission. The Nazi’s could be seen to symbolize the worst possible scenario of a country dedicated to satisfying one group’s subjective desires. While not all personal desires are as destructive, America has seen its share of the elevation of personal wishes above the existence of any moral law. Liberty debased to a “do what you want when you want” slogan lacks the power to inspire people to stand up for others for a prolonged period of time. Reducing liberty to such a simple base, in fact, saps the momentum out of any civil rights movement or desire for self-improvement. A segregationist in 1962 or an alcoholic in 2009 could both claim to be merely “doing what they want, when they want.” Meanwhile, the black families in the south or the family members impacted by the drinking suffer. When the liberty embraced by an individual or group causes or intensifies the suffering of another then liberty is being threatened, not celebrated.
True liberty demands not only that we act on our individual desires, but develop the compassion to see others have the same rights as well. The defense of liberty demands that stands be taken, some struggles being more obvious than others. In one storyline Captain America attempts to thwart the schemes of the evil Dr. Faustus. Faustus, an arrogant and well-educated man, invents a unique gas. Whoever inhales the toxin becomes a thrall to the whims of Faustus. At one point, Captain America becomes intoxicated but is freed by the intervention of the superhero, Daredevil, who helps awaken his core values.
It is worthwhile to note that Captain America does not free himself from the brainwashing concoction by mere force of will. As Faustus’ pawn, Captain America’s starred and stripped shield was painted over with a blazing swastika. While battling Daredevil oil spills on the shield, causing the swastika to erode. The stars and stripes now visible, Daredevil exhorts Captain America to look at his shield. The narration box informs the reader that, “The light from above glistens across the starred and stripped surface seemingly boring deep through the layers of his befogged mind and into his innermost being!” The symbolic meaning of his true shield awakened within Captain America his “moral or spiritual light.” The symbols that inspire sometimes are far more liberating than mere human will. Captain America’s shield, a symbol of liberty, liberated his mind. As the story continues we see that true liberty as a liberating force is a theme of the story arc and Captain America’s life.
Faustus walks along a catwalk in his zeppelin, gloating to a captured foe that he will soon begin the process of releasing his gas in New York City, placing the entire population under his control. From that point he will patiently allow his influence to spread until he controls the country. Naturally, Captain America arrives and stops the release of the gas. In the struggle between Captain America and Faustus’ mind controlled goons the aircraft crashes into New York Harbor (near the Statue of Liberty). Captain America emerges from the crash, dragging Dr. Faustus behind him. Faustus cries out, “Why…didn’t you let me drown? Faustus…cannot be saved…by you!”
On one level Faustus’ dismay at being saved by Captain America is merely the disgrace of being saved by an archenemy. On another level, however, Captain America is now taking the place of his shield as a symbol of the liberating power of liberty. Faustus represents the lowest form of liberty, seeking his own gratification at the expense of the populace of New York City. His refusal to be saved by Captain America can be seen as quite odd as he is in the process of being saved, at least physically, by the star spangled hero. What he won’t be, what he refuses to let Captain America do for him, is raise him up from his level of thinking. He will not be saved; Captain America and his symbols will not alter his worldview. Faustus’ will and the power to lord over others give him meaning and he refuses to see meaning, or salvation, beyond those desires. This short sightedness mirrors the lack of vision exhibited by the title character in Christopher Marlowe’s play The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus.
Dr. Faustus’ refusal to be saved by Captain America does not come as a great shock. It also does not disturb Captain America very much that Faustus remains true to his malevolent inclinations. There are times, however, that the refusal of others to pursue the highest virtues of liberty causes Steve Rogers such distress he questions the value of being Captain America.
Doubts of a Hero
An example of this distress is found in the aftermath of Operation Galactic Storm, a storyline that brings Captain America and the Avengers into an intergalactic war. In Galactic Storm two extraterrestrial empires (The Kree and Shi’ar) fight a bitter war, a war that could consume the earth. The Avengers act on Earth’s behalf, hoping to intervene as diplomats and negotiate the wars end or, at least, prevent the use of stargates that could threaten the Earth. Their negotiations are unsuccessful and various teams of Avengers find themselves in small skirmishes and battles. The war continues until the Shi’ar ultimate weapon, the Nega-Bomb, is detonated. This action is taken by the Skrulls, a third alien empire with a long history of hostility with the Kree. The Avengers had once intervened in a Kree-Skrull war years before. The Skrull, a race with shape-shifting abilities, had infiltrated the Sh’iar court with the intent of escalating the war. Their use of the Nega-Bomb kills billions of Kree. This devastating explosion ends the war. Sh’iar Empress Lilandra, though not authorizing the bombs use, takes advantage of the chaos. She declares that the remnants of the Kree Empire will be annexed by the Sh’iar.
Adding to the dreadful conclusion of the war is the discovery of the machinations of the Kree Supreme Intelligence. The Supreme Intelligence is an organic computer life form over a million years old. The being is an amalgamation of the greatest mind since the history of the Kree. Upon the death of any exemplary Kree thinker (scientist, philosopher, general, etc.) the brain patterns are assimilated into a computer and added to the consciousness of the Supreme Intelligence. The Supreme Intelligence orchestrated most of the events of the war, including the use of the Nega-Bomb, because he believed that the Kree had reached an evolutionary dead end. The radioactivity caused by the bob’s fallout would enable the Kree to evolve further. Therefore, the Supreme Intelligence sacrifices the Kree’s present (including the billions of lives lost in the explosion and their independence) for the hopes for a better future.
The Avengers, outraged by this thought, seek to kill the Supreme Intelligence for the crime of genocide. Captain America points out that the Avengers are not executioners. The Supreme Intelligence should be brought before a war crimes commission not hunted down and executed by a super powered mob proclaiming to be pursuing justice. Iron Man disregards Captain America’s orders and heads a group of Avengers to execute the Supreme Intelligence. This action leads to Captain American questioning his capacity to inspire, lead, or even fit in with the Avengers.
His sense of alienation begins with his orders being ignored and a group of Avengers seeking vengeance on the Supreme Intelligence. It deepens when, in the aftermath of the war, the Avengers vote not to have disciplinary action taken against the members who killed the Supreme Intelligence. Captain America’s dejection reaches a nadir when only three superheroes show for a seminar he is giving on superhuman ethics. He apologizes to the three attendees and leaves the dais.
Later that night, Clint Barton (a member of the Avengers who goes by the moniker Hawkeye) invites Steve Rogers out for a drink, hoping to cheer up the living legend. Tony Stark, (Ironman) discovers where the two heroes are and meets them at the bar. Tony, who led the rebellion against Steve’s authority, declares he and Steve need to talk alone. Clint leaves to play pool and the two estranged heroes exchange words.
As the conversation progresses Tony confesses that there was a point during Galactic Storm when he believed Steve was dead. In that moment Tony realized that he would miss Steve Rogers greatly if he died. He confesses, “You’re an inspiration to me, Steve. To a lot of us. We may not think like you or act like you—but we still respect you and appreciate what you do and the way you do it.” With these words, Tony Stark expresses an unfortunate truth, the best role models often can seem daunting because they do things in a way we cannot. While Faustus refused to be saved by Captain America, Tony Stark’s awe expresses not a refusal by a sense of inadequacy that prevents him from being as good as Captain America. He even asks Steve for forgiveness. Steve quickly points out his own shortcomings and compliments Tony on his courage (Tony is a recovering alcoholic and still entered a bar to meet with Steve). This scene is a great reminder that one never knows for certain how their presence inspires another. Steve is comforted by Tony’s words, just as Tony is inspired by Steve’s capacity to live his ideals even in situations that are far from perfect.
Fittingly it is the American virtue of independence that caused the relationship between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers to weaken. The highest manifestation of independence is the ability to move beyond the conditioned self and the conditioned response to events. This conditioning comes from society, our culture, family, and friends. The conditioned self becomes subject to evaluation and, possibly, fidelity to these exterior factors becomes subject to a growing interior conscious self. At the basest level, independence is nothing more than fidelity to one’s own ideological position and “egoistic idiosyncrasy” (3). An authentic sense of independence balances the desires of the individual with the needs of the community and the independent person can freely choose loyalty to the common good, the country, and a cause. Independence does not mean isolation and dismissal of moral law.
Perhaps the best example of Steve Rogers exemplifying the ideal of independence was when he tendered his resignation as Captain America. The President formed a commission that includes, among other U.S. Government officials, the head of the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. This commission discovered a document Steve signed in 1941 when he agreed to participate in Operation Rebirth. By the terms of the document Captain America works exclusively for the U.S. government.
Captain America points out that, since his revival from suspended animation, he has been serving the country as a member of the Avengers and as an independent agent. The commission dismisses this argument and states its position that Captain America must have all his activities and assignments cleared by their office. Steve takes twenty-four hours to consider the commission’s demands.
Alone in his apartment he muses that, “…going back to my wartime role as a glorified agent of America’s official policies, I’d be compromising my effectiveness as a symbol that transcends mere politics.” This thought makes it clear what Steve Rogers is going to choose. He returns the next day, dressed in civilian clothes not his Captain America uniform. He acknowledges that Captain America was originally a soldier, bound by a strict chain of command. In the years following his return, Steve Rogers made Captain America much more than that. To become a government agent would force situations where Rogers would have to compromise his ideals for orders. This is a completely unacceptable situation. Therefore, he turns in his uniform and shield. The American ideal of independence, and his effort to live those ideals, prove more important than even the persona he adopted and molded to best inspire others to recognize and live the true American dream.
It is important to note that Steve Rogers does not bear his country malice for the government’s role in his resignation. Taking the title “The Captain,” Steve Rogers resumes being a superhero and works with the Avengers. Thor, returning from a mission in space, visits the Avengers and is surprised to see the changes in Steve Roger’s costume. Upon hearing what has happened, an enraged Thor declares “madman” run the U.S. government and that he will go to Washington to overthrow them. Steve calms Thor down, emphasizing he still believes and respects in the American system of Democracy. His issues with a single administration do not negate his love for country just as his love of country does not dictate the need to be a pawn.
The next American virtue is practicality. Practicality can also be viewed as a form of honesty, an honest forged in experiential reality. Needlman sees American practicality as rooted in ancient Athens and Socrates. This practicality also exists in Christianity and, though it had no influence on the founding of America, Buddhism. One’s inner search to achieve a level of honesty (which would only strengthen one’s liberty and independence) “must be experienced, and not only believed in as dogma or inferred on logical or conceptual grounds” (4). This form of honesty, openly seeking and evaluating the truths of life, has, in Needleman’s estimation; greatly degenerated and American “honesty” is most commonly expressed as a form of cynicism.
Captain America faces this cynicism on a regular basis. Many people, be they government agents or uniformed policemen, view him as a glory-seeking individual. This is an unfortunate aspect of cynicism; the projection of the onlookers motives into the actions of others. If someone cannot conceive of him or herself acting without self-aggrandizement as a primary motivator then they fail to see, or dismiss as delusional, that trait in others. If the cynic decides altruism is misplaced selfishness this enables them to belittle the helpful individual and enables the capacity to comfortably do nothing.
Captain America portrays the higher aspect of this virtue, the experiential reality that expands the scope of one’s vision, in subtle ways. An example of this can be found in the quiet aftermath following a battle. Captain America, the government agency S.H.I.E.L.D. (Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division), and the Hulk dismantled a vicious organization called the Corporation. One of the villains, a woman who goes by the code name Vamp, was rendered mentally incapacitated by the battle. A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, perhaps angered by all he had to endure to achieve victory, is seen verbally abusing the woman. He calls her tramp and threatens to hit her with the butt of his gun if she does not follow the other captives being led away.
Captain America snatches the agent’s gun and breaks it. He proclaims the woman deserves pity, not abuse. The agent can only see a helpless enemy, one easy to demean and push around. Captain America sees a defeated person. Captain America, who witnessed the cruelty people can heap on the helpless when he freed Jews from concentration camps, does not tolerate the abuse of others, even defeated enemies. With the battle over, he feels malice for none. The agent attempts to hit Captain America, calling him self-righteous as his hand nearly breaks on the hero’s shield. Other agents look to intervene, but are stopped by a stern warning from Captain America, who proceeds to take Vamp into custody.
The Rule of Law
The action of taking a criminal into custody is an apt introduction for the next American virtue – the rule of law. In Needleman’s analysis, as in the life of Captain America, the rule of law is meant to enhance people’s liberty and independence. The laws created by the government are often punitive, designed to punish those who harm the common good. This punitive function of the rule of law is also protective. Government laws protect society. This is done to help create an environment that allows society to orient itself towards the greater dictates of the conscience.
Ralph Waldo Emerson also noted the existence of these two forms of the law, stressing that the laws of man are subservient to a deeper, eternal law. When Emerson wrote, “Be it known unto you that henceforward I obey no law less than the eternal law,” he was not dismissing the laws of man, but merely voicing the desire to see them reflect a greater purpose. This is why he would continue to aid his parents, support his family, and be a good husband, but do so in “a new and unprecedented way” (5). He would not be a slavish follower to the laws of man, but joyfully surrendered himself, after putting forth the serious effort demanded by the highest dictates of liberty and independence, to the moral law of conscience.
The opposite of this position is to allow laws and statutes to replace the conscience. This position demands the acceptance of what is legal as being the equivalent of what is good. In such a system people surrender the highest form of liberty and independence because there is no system above the works of human beings. The founders of America, who routinely broke the laws of England during the years leading up to the American War for Independence, surely were not endorsing such thinking. It is a thin line that separates the rule of law from the tyranny of the law. It is also not Captain America’s understanding of the law, as he stated when he resigned, “My commitment to the ideals of this country is greater than my commitment to a 40 year old document.”
The Rule of Law and the Butcher of Diebenwald
Captain America exhibits his respect for both forms of the law in the field as well as when standing before a government commission. In a dramatic story with a simple beginning, Steve Rogers moves into an apartment building. One of the tenants, Anna Kapplebaum, always invites new arrivals to dinner. Steve, who does have a strong respect for traditions, accepts the invitation. He and Josh, a resident who extended the invitation for Anna, have dinner with her that evening.
When Steve meets Anna he sees numbers on her wrist, a souvenir from World War II. In a flashback Anna explains that her family had been sent to Diebenwald, a concentration camp invented for the story. They were taken captive after Kristallnacht. Her mother and father died in the camp when she was twelve. She stayed in the camp throughout the war, but her death seemed imminent as the war neared its conclusion. The commandant of Diebenwald ordered all records in the camp to be destroyed and all remaining prisoners to be executed. Anna was poised to share her parents fate, but Captain America arrived and saved her. She never realizes that she is sharing a meal with Captain America in his civilian clothes. Nor does she or Steve realize she will soon meet Captain America again.
Leaving a butcher shop a short time later, Anna bumps into a man she recognizes. Not only recognizes, but is terrified to see again. She faints and Josh rushes her to a hospital. The man she encountered was Dr. Mendelhaus, a man known as the Butcher of Diebenwald.
In the hospital Aaron Heller, a Nazi hunter, and his daughter, Marie, visit Anna. He shows Anna a cane that has notches carved in it, one for every Nazi he has visited justice on. Aaron, who also bears a concentration camp brand, is in poor health. He wishes to bring Dr. Mendelhaus to justice before he dies. Anna agrees to help punish the man directly responsible for her parent’s death. A neo-Nazi working in the hospital as a janitor sees Aaron leave Anna’s room and quickly organizes for her to be kidnapped.
Anna is brought to an abandoned church, where she sees Dr. Mendelhaus kneeling before a picture of Adolf Hitler. He tries to explain that he has been forced to the church and is as much a prisoner as Anna. His past, and his inability to remember Anna, earns him no sympathy. As the Nazis prepare to take their two prisoners to a boat Captain America makes a dramatic entrance. He is once again battling to free Anna from Nazi’s.
As Captain America routs his foes, one Nazi leads Anna and Dr. Mendelhaus to the boat in an attempt to escape. Aaron and Marie Heller intercept him, but Aaron suffers a heart attack and he drops his gun. The lone Nazi gunman takes aim at Aaron, only to be disarmed by Dr. Mendelhaus. The doctor proclaims that there has been enough killing; that it has to end. Anna picks up the gun and prepares to shoot Mendelhaus, even as Captain America arrives and objects to the execution. Much as he did during the Galactic Storm storyline, Captain America seeks to bring the villain, in this case Mendelhaus to the courts. Good people, like Anna, shouldn’t need to kill to feel safe. Captain America’s understanding of the rule of law as a protector of citizens is on full display in this scene, though the reader may wish to see Anna pull the trigger. In the end, Captain America’s words cause Anna to hesitate.
Marie Heller, cradling her dying father’s head, does not hold back. She shoots and kills Mendelhaus. His last word is “Anna.” Marie then tells her father, “The Butcher of Diebenwald is dead… it’s finally over.” Captain America does not echo this victorious sentiment. Justice that is not balanced by mercy cannot bring about release from the vicious cycle of violence. The story does not reveal, though readers can certainly discuss, what action Captain America takes in regards to Marie. Would he arrest her for the murder of Dr. Mendelhaus or let her go free with a caustic warning?
The Freedom of Speech
The final virtue of America to be covered is the freedom of speech. Needleman stresses that freedom of speech is necessary to allow people to discuss, evaluate, and build a community’s conscience. Freedom of speech is also dependent on freedom of thought. Thoughts churned and reflected upon in solitude can be brought to the community, allowing our inner and outer worlds to coalesce with those of others. This process is not without tension, but can increase the sense of partnership as truths are sought amongst societal and familial norms.
Needleman’s assessment of the current state of freedom of speech is a scathing indictment. Freedom of speech has descended to a level that caused him to write;
How much of what we prize as the right to free speech is based on
a loneliness that makes us yearn for others to pay more attention to
us? How to understand the decay of this ideal into the sanctification
of superficial opinion, on the one hand, or commercial communication
on the other? How to understand that we are losing the knowledge
function of the community, that the hard work of thinking together is
being eclipsed by the addiction to information…and by our society’s
attachment to applications of knowledge that bring only egoistic and
often illusionary gain? (6)
The phrase “sanctification of superficial opinion” speaks directly to the level of discourse that can be found in the society. It also recognizes the existence of expertise, something that speaks to the reality that some “opinions” are more valuable than others. The sanctification of any opinion, however, enables expertise to be sneered at and experts to be dismissed as elitists. It also enables individuals to hold their own opinion as sacrosanct and not engage in open or honest dialogue. Why would someone need the input of others when possession of the truth is already in their hands?
Captain America rarely addressed this issue in life, though we do see him support freedom of speech as a matter of course. From beyond the grave, however, he echoed Needleman’s sentiment. As the evaluation of Captain America as a standard to evaluate America virtues started at his grave, so there shall it end. Thor, much as he was when Steve Rogers resigned, is outraged. Thor proclaims murder to be unforgivable. He states with unshakeable conviction, “…if you would have me take action against those responsible for your death—-you will be avenged in full.” What it means to a Viking god to avenge a fallen friend in full is left to the reader’s imagination.
The Gift of Silence
Captain America, as he had done before, turns down Thor’s offer. He expresses one regret, that his life is now being used to advocate whatever is most convenient or to serve a political agenda. He bemoans the fact that he can hear the media talking nonstop about something they don’t understand. Captain America was always about the best virtues of America, not a particular political stance of the advancement of one’s career and notoriety. The media “can’t hear that truth above their own voices.”
Thor honors his friend’s wish to not seek revenge and says goodbye, allowing Captain America to return to the afterlife. He does offer a gift, however. Flying into the upper atmosphere he summons an intense electrical storm that interrupts all newscasts, radio stations, satellite and cable broadcasts. He does this at the precise moment that Captain America had died the year before. His anniversary gift to his comrade is a true moment of silence, freeing him from the numbing effects of freedom of speech manifested as the sanctification of superficial opinion. The moment of silence lasts a minute before Thor allows communication to continue. This action may speak to an important aspect of freedom of speech, which is the necessity of silence to ponder the value of what we say. Perhaps even to learn to enjoy saying nothing as we allow our thoughts to age slowly and become something worth sharing.
(1) Jacob Needleman, The American Soul: Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders, (New York, Penguin Group Inc., 2002), p. 19-25.
(2) Ibid, 20.
(3) Ibid., 21. An egoistic idiosyncrasy is any trait that is any trait a person has that they deem essential to their character, even if its removal does not truly change the person’s inner world. The argument that dress codes violate a person’s ability to express themselves falls into this category. A creative person cannot just find, but is comfortable with, expressing their creativity in a variety of manners regardless of the clothes they wear. The attachment to a particular clothing style as an essential form of expression is, therefore, an example of egocentric idiosyncrasy.
(4) Ibid., 21.
(5) Larzer Ziff (Editor) Ralph Waldo Emerson: Selected Essays, ( New York, Penguin Books, 1982), p. 192.
(6) Jacob Needleman, The American Soul: Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders, (New York, Penguin Group Inc., 2002), p. 25.