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6 January 2009

Our measure?

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

I've been thinking about this quotation and tend to disagree with the great MLK on this matter. Perhaps the most dangerous thing for human character are times of comfort and plenty? Because that is when we become self indulgent and lazy.

During challenging and controversial times external forces ensure that we consider where we stand and that for which we stand. But during times of comfort and plenty it is all too easy to drift along and never to consider weighty matters at all.

In western society we are particularly prey to this dilemma. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries our society has known relative peace and prosperity. Our children have, for the most part, never known want or need.Most of us have merely to think of a something we want and we can get it. Or rather we could get it, using easy credit or one of those interest free deals the retailers loved.

But now we are seeing a tightening of credit. This means that our retail desires will be harder to fulfil.

The interesting question is how we will deal with this change in our circumstances. Perhaps now we will have the opportunity to test the truth of MLK's saying?

Update: To clarify - I think that the measure of a person is what they do in the ordinary, the everyday and in the good times. During challenging times many people rise to achieve amazing things. But what proportion of a human life is that? It is how we live during the long stretches of everyday good times that is the true test of our character.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Actually, it sounds like you do agree with MLK's quote. To my reading you sound like you're agreeing -- or that he agrees with you. :-)

Kate Carruthers said...

Actually I think that the times that really test our character are the good times. And that difficult times are, in some ways, easier.

The interesting thing to consider, given how good times allow us to relax, is how strong our character really is.

After all, it is what we do during good times that forms the character we are able to display in bad times.

So I suppose that I've taken King's argument in a slightly different direction.