The measure of man

Sloane McCray

Throughout human history, the acquisition of knowledge was a tedious and most painful objective. It required a devotion and fastidiousness to an abstract truth. Many a scholar was a poor pauper or monk, turning down what little comfort cruel reality proffered.

How easy it is for us in the modern era to disregard their sacrifice with our curious technologies and free libraries! We are now glutted with information our predecessors could not have imagined. And yet, what do we, the next generation, do with this knowledge? We disregard it in favor of idle pastimes. We disregard it in our pursuits, be they political or artistic, and return to a base and unfulfilling level of diplomacy and artistry.

Just a breath away from the most exquisite writings, paintings and philosophies in the history of mankind, we ignore them to occupy ourselves with petty dramas or conspiracy theories. Instead, we appreciate art that isn’t art, and literature that lacks the enticing bite of wit and tragedy. We forgo the warnings weaved into the works from other men and women to make the same mistakes ourselves.

The works of our predecessors – Plato, Aristotle, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lincoln – have impacted us in ways unimaginable over the course of centuries, yet we have insisted on ignoring or belittling them. And they have no defense, for dead men tell no tales.

As such, it is our duty to preserve and appreciate their legacies by reading and examining what they gifted us before their departure. We might learn the secrets of the human condition in the tales of Chaucer or plays of Shakespeare, we will see the destruction political discord can wreak on society, but perhaps, too, we will learn to recognize human excellency when it is in action, and perfect ourselves in the process. After all, man is the measure of all things. To know what we are capable of is the greatest gift of all.

Sloane McCray, 17, is a junior at Hazen High School, where she is involved with drama, choir, Acalympics, track, basketball and Science Olympiad. She enjoys reading and writing and is the daughter of Loren McCray and Kimberly and Kevin Kraft, who are members of the Roughrider Electric Cooperative.