Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sophocles' Antigone

Sometime in the distant past, two brothers face each other in battle for the kingship of the great city of Thebes. Fighting throughout the day, both finally accomplish their goal in an unexpected twist of fate; they slay each other at the same exact time. At the other gates of Thebes the army that the attacking brother brought has been routed and peace has returned to the city, for the most part anyway. The brothers’ uncle Creon is made king. The brother that defended the city has a proper burial while the attacking brother has been left to rot and be eaten by the dogs of the street and the carrion eating birds of the sky. Only one person has any qualms with this, Antigone, sister to both of the fallen brothers and niece to Creon. Drama unfolds as she stands for her brother’s burial rites, while Creon adamantly opposes to see an enemy of the city buried. Sophocles’ Antigone perplexed me with the still-applicable issues that form the plot of the play and yet bored me with the lack of any action whatsoever.

The issues that this book brings up include how much control the government should have, as well as where our civic duties and family duties come into conflict. This book makes me think, “You know, Creon really had no right to deny his nephew a burial.” I do realize that Thebes was an absolute monarchy, but the ancient Greeks believed that should someone not be buried and mourned, they would be condemned to wander restlessly outside the underworld for eternity. So basically, Creon was condemning Polyneices to wander aimlessly for eternity. That is far too much power. The other question this play brings up is what is more important, our civic duties or our family duties. Antigone’s views represent the duties we have toward our families, protecting and making sure they have the best possible circumstances whereas Creon’s symbolize our dutes to our communities, also protecting and looking out for everyone. Really they are both right in a sense, but wrong in another. I suppose that the matter is up to the individual to decide, who is right, and who is wrong?

This play not only brought up some interesting questions, but the play also had a decent storyline. As I have mentioned before, Antigone’s brother dies and is not permitted burial by Creon. Despite the law that he creates, Antigone finds his body and begins burial rites. A guard catches her in the act and brings her before Creon. Her punishment is to be put in a cave and have the entrance sealed so that she will die of starvation. Nobody save Creon wishes to see this happen, and he receives quite a few visitors arguing her case, but in the end does Antigone ever receive help?

I must admit, the play Antigone by Sophocles was not the most action-packed read in the world. However, the book did bring up some questions that need to be asked. Personally, I really would not recommend this book to anyone but people that enjoy thinking about questions. The book just is not that interesting.

On Persuasion

The use of persuasion throughout time has differed depending on the persuader. Some have used the art selfishly to satisfy their own needs and to gain and retain political power whereas others were thinking of the whole population as they spoke fervently of a need that perhaps had a solution that harmed them. Even today, people from politicians to prisoners use persuasion. In fact, I would be hard pressed to find someone alive that has never used persuasion once in their life. I would like to say that I am a decent persuader, but I really have not used the art all that often, or for very important matters anyway. Sure, there have been a few instances that I have argued for hours on end and eventually the other person agreed… or just wanted me to shut up… But other times after the hours a simple verdict was not reached, and both I and my opponent were still just as stalwartly for our views as when we had begun.

When I do choose to argue in order to persuade someone, I typically use logic and facts, a tactic called logos. If I can use pathos, evoking emotions of the audience, I do, but most of the time that cannot be done. I suppose that I use ethos, getting the audience to trust you, and to believe that you have been where they are before, but most of the time ethos is not effective in my arguments because they are with people that know and trust me anyway. These may be the three “official” persuasive tactics, but I have an ace up my sleeve in the sense that I have a special trait that helps me win; I am probably the most stubborn and persistent person I know. I just do not give up, no matter how horribly the deck seems stacked against me. However, this trait does seem to be a double-edged sword in the sense that I sometimes annoy my opponents into submission and they really do not accept what I said as the truth, and that my stubbornness often contributes to my closed-mindedness. Yes, unfortunately, I am quite closed-minded on most, if not all, issues. However, that only applies to issues. On situations such as brainstorming plans and similar occurrences, I am decently open-minded. Either way though, the persuasive weapon of logos merely acts as a boon, whereas my own armor against giving up too easily, stubbornness, often acts as an equally strong bane, keeping me restricted to my own opinions.

To me, persuasion is an art form, one to be used and reused throughout the centuries and millennia to come as a prime, viable method of convincing. Persuasion has many methods and tactics used and seen daily. I mean, how many people have not seen a commercial asking for a donation for starving children in some foreign country? How many people have not seen a scientist avidly speaking about the threat of global warming? How many people have not heard a politician mentioning how he or she knows exactly what we are going through, and have been tempted to believe them? The fact is, people will use persuasion to benefit themselves or the whole group for as long as we humans walk the earth. For such a reason, persuasion remains an important part of society, and my life for sure.

On the Meaning of a "Winner"

To some people, winning means the world to them. To some people, winning is as addictive as heroin, and gives a similar euphoric effect. To some people, winning means that they are simply the best, and they deserve to be treated as such. To these people, losing means misery, the chronic illnesses caused by heroin abuse, and the feeling like they are not good enough and deserve to be treated as such. The meaning of a winner to people such as this has been morphed and twisted beyond recognition. To be a winner, triumph over everyone else is not necessarily required, and moreover, if defeating other competitors is required, a real winner will not desire to be treated any differently, for if they do, they are the real loser in the matter. They also should not become depressed by a mere loss or setback, but take everything in stride, and get ready for their next opportunity. Being a winner involves two characteristics, giving enough effort to the point that the competitor becomes proud of themselves, and being humble in the event that some sort of contest with other competitors is won.

The essence of contest is proving that you are the best to everyone else, or is it? Perhaps the real purpose of competition lies not in the fact that by winning you prove your superiority in skill, but in simply bettering yourself through adversity. That adversity does not necessarily have to be another human being, but the competitor themself. By simply showing that he or she is better than before, the competitor proves that they are improving, which seems to be a need of us as humans. In truth, a tangible reward may be nice, but in the end such a trophy will merely sit on a shelf and gather dust. Rather than compete to prove superiority, we should compete to make ourselves better, for that is the true reason we compete, or rather should compete.

Unfortunately, I find that I can fall into the category of people mentioned at the beginning of this post. However, I do my best to keep my words humble as well as my demeanor. Therefore, I try not to keep track of my past winnings, no matter how great. Trust me, this preventative action is for the best; otherwise I would probably be bragging your ears off (perhaps eyes because you are reading...)

The definition of winning can come in far too many forms to give one specific definition, but a winner stays the same thought them all. He or she is not just the one person that came out on top in the end, but also the one that did not proclaim their victory to the world nor did they obsess over their loss should one come their way. A winner is a type of person, the type that takes life as life comes, and chooses not to foolishly gloat or wallow in their success. Or that is what I choose to believe anyway.

About Olympian Commitment

As pretty much everyone knows, the Winter Olympics have arrived. With their arrival, we spectators have the opportunity to see the apex of skill in all sorts of winter sports, and the culmination of all of the difficult hours of practice that athletes must undergo in order to compete with the best. One might think that such a commitment has no parallel to anything else. Personally, I believe such a statement screams the word, “FALSE!!!” There are plenty of similar commitments, ranging from marriage to a career. I plan on taking both of these commitments one day, but one seems like a more decided path than the other. I plan on being a doctor, a general practitioner to be specific (pun intended), and one day have my own private practice.

Now you may be thinking, “Dude, an Olympic athlete has to do YEARS of INTENSE BACKBREAKING practice. What is so bad about your commitment?” One word everyone, school, and a lot of it. Sure, I may not have to go as long as a specialist, but later I may decide to dabber in a few extra fields, just so that I can better help my patients. Moreover, establishing a private practice, and one that could sustain itself and my family at that, will take years more. And now I have one last point. Olympic athletes usually are in their twenty’s when they compete. Basically, they do not have to continue their rigorous practices and extreme competitions afterward. I do realize that most probably continue to be insanely fit and could probably compete and continue winning if they wished, and that in the 1920’s one Olympic athlete won medals despite the fact that he was 72. However, for most their commitment ends after their twenties. For me, my road is merely beginning. Not only will I have to continue rigorous study into my late twenties, do intern work, and work to make my private practice successful, but I also plan to make this medical practice my career. The whole point of all of this studying and use of time is so that I can effectively treat patients for nearly the rest of my life.

The casual reader may be wondering at this point why I wish to undergo all this. He or she may be thinking, “Maybe he is in it for the money, or perhaps he just likes feeling important, because people come to him when they are ill.” Well, truthfully, the principal reason is that I enjoy helping people and that I believe that I can help more people in that field than in any other. Perhaps I cannot do as much good as a surgeon in evasive surgery, but I also cannot screw up and cut too deeply or sever an artery or otherwise do unintentional damage with my own hand. I do also realize that I can do some serious harm by giving someone the wrong medication for their problem or by misdiagnosing them, but to me at least, that is not the same. Besides, for most cases of this occurring, the person would have enough time to act, whereas should a surgeon may not get a second shot. Either way, I just dislike seeing people in pain, or in some other sort of distress, and love to help them. Those are my motives.

For the record, I am not claiming that my choice holds more gravity than an Olympic athlete’s, for I could not ever do what they do, but I am saying that my commitment holds similar importance. Nor am I saying that my career choice is more difficult than anyone else’s. All I am trying to convey is that I, and everyone else in some way or another, will make a similar commitment to an Olympic athlete’s at one time or another in our lives. And that mine at least, will be more than worth a thousand times the cost.