I read a quote this morning by William Inge. I had never heard of him before. He was a gifted writer, mostly a playwright, who reached notoriety during the 1950s and 60s. He garnered a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award, and a score of other achievements. Then, during the next decade, he fell into obscurity.
He killed himself in 1973 by Carbon Monoxide poisoning. He must have felt utterly hopeless. I imagine he went to his garage, started the car, and stayed right there.
Beyond all that, was this quote, that he said or wrote at some point during his 60 years on earth. It goes.
“The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values.”
Not only do I believe this is true, I believe this is why our society is in such a big pile of rubbish right now. A lot of children in American Culture, for a long while now, have not been taught values.
Virtue. Honesty. Compassion. Respect. Trust. Accountability. Generosity. Gratitude. Integrity. Kindness.
Treating others as you would like to be treated.
And when I say education, I believe this should start at home, and continue once a child goes to school.
The other day, I saw a kid finish using a napkin, and he pitched it on the floor. On someone’s living room floor. I was completely upended. If I had done that when I was a kid, with that attitude? Well, that is a complete impossibility because it never entered my mind as a child, and to this day, it never would.
We were taught to take care of things. We were taught to clean up after ourselves. We learned to respect others and to regard their property with care. If we ever went against this understanding, we knew we were in the wrong. With all that said, I am far, far, far from perfect. But I was raised in a place where values were practiced and achieved.
Today, our planet is failing. Some people are either too dumb to care, or have no capacity for core values. Our political culture is in complete disarray because some people have no concept of cooperation, of helping one another, of seeing the greater good. Money is the supreme being. Not values. Crime, mass shootings, gun violence are all at peak levels because many people have never learned acceptance, respect, or discovery of diversity. They are surrounded by a sea of fear, trying to protect themselves from anything which differs from themselves.
For some reason, it feels like this is winning out. The headlines are smattered with proof. Fish boiling in Alaska. Fires in the Amazon. Mass shootings in our hometowns. A President who trusts Russia more than our very own FBI. Yes, it feels like it has all finally fallen down that slippery slope. A lot of people are quitting. Our suicide rates have been escalating. Drug use and addiction continues to build.
Yet, with all of this. I wonder if there is a way to regain our footing. To dig back in. I’m hoping there is, because I haven’t quit trying. I have to believe, that somehow, someway, things are going to get better. There isn’t any one person out there, who can save the whole thing with one wave of the wand. But if enough of us, do our little parts, each day — the collective effort will add up to good. Our little care for our values, passed around, from one to the next. In any way we can. Even if it is in caring for a flower, recycling a can, or singing a good song, right out loud.
We have been educated in values. And that is where the true knowledge lies.
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
“Tell me what you pay attention to and I will tell you who you are.”
― José Ortega y Gasset
“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”
― Theodore Roosevelt