Posts

Showing posts from August, 2015

“Be Yourself!” Is This Really Good Advice?

Image
I’m not sure telling people to be themselves is good advice, but my saying so never seemed to have much purchase with undergraduates in my Intro to Lit course.   The sadist, the homicidal maniac, the pedophile--aren’t they “being themselves” when they commit their crimes?  Shouldn’t we tell people, and ourselves, to “be better”?

The context of the discussion was H.G. Well’s short story, “The Country of the Blind.”  Nunez, a mountain climber in the Andes, tumbles in an avalanche into the Country of the Blind--a society cut off from the world for over 14 generations which has adapted to the fact that everyone living there is blind.  The concept and all memory of sight have disappeared.  Nunez struggles and fails to explain to the people that he is a superior being because he can see.  They perceive him as inferior, unformed, a missing link in the evolutionary chain stricken with occasional delusions and bouts of violent madness. Nonetheless this world is prepared to offer him an idyllic …