Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Crying wolf

Modestly Priced, London, England, September 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/166 sec @ f3.0, ISO 100, no flash, some post-processing color adjustment © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

I love this photo. I remember the store display -- it certainly had me do a double-take. I thought of that the other day when I read a NY Times editorial regarding advertising techniques, and the effect of trickery on our collective psyche. One quote from the editorial:
What happens to us when greed masquerades as need, when cries for help become casting calls for chumps, when our most noble actions make us patsies?
It's an interesting question. I don't know about you, but I can remember as a kid, telling myself to not be so gullible, and to keep myself on-guard for various pranks and tricks. Makes one grow up, I suppose. Prepares us for a rough-and-tumble world. But the loss of innocence is somewhat sad, upon reflection. Of course, just who were the perpetrators -- other children.

So should it be any surprise then if the charade continues later in life? Should we feel any regret if we harden our outer shell to protect us from such continued trickery and manipulation. In fact, we are constantly told to be on guard, to protect ourselve and indeed, our very identities, from those willing to take advantage of us. Lock your doors. Screen your calls. Buy a shredder.

Prudent action I am quite sure. But I worry about the hardening. As the editorial demonstrates, such trickery can cause us to curtail our natural generosity and compassion. Perhaps. But it is our choice how we will respond. Will we become hardened? Or just redouble kindness. Will we turn the proverbial other cheek? That is my choice. And no one can take that choice away from me.

Here's to hoping our random acts of kindness and charity make this world a little kinder, and a little gentler. But either way, I'm happy with my choice. How about you? And if cynicism rears its head, I always take refuge in this classic poem:


People are often unreasonable,
illogical, and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind,
people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful,
you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank,
people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building,
someone could destroy overnight.
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness,
they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
Give the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis
it is between you and God;
it was never between you and them anyway.

Note: this poem is typically attributed to Mother Teresa, probably because it is reported to hang in an orphanage in Calcutta, India. However, it seems to have been originally written by Kent M. Keith, while a 19 year-old student at Harvard University. You can read more here if you are interested. I found this extract from his interview to be noteworthy:
Lynn Green: How can we keep from becoming cynical in this crazy world?

Kent M. Keith: Cynics think the worst of people. It often strikes me that cynics are disappointed believers. They want to believe in people, but then become disappointed. Cynicism is the pose they adopt to cover their disappointment. We won't become cynics if we live our most cherished values, stay close to our families and friends and do our personal best. If we live that way, we will begin to notice others who live that way, and our sense of trust in human nature and people's motives, our own and others', will grow.


Astrea said...

I think you have too many posts on your main page....

So it wasn't written by Mother Theresa? I posted a different version on my blog... =|

Oh well... whoever it was who wrote it, it's one of the best darn ones of its kind.

Steven Crisp said...

Hi Astrea.

Regarding "too many posts", well, that is up to each reader to decide ;-)

Regarding the poem Anyway ... yes, I had seen it many times with Mother Theresa as the author. But then someone questioned that, and I did a little research (isn't the web amazing?) At this point, I'm pretty sure of this attribution. And I'm glad for him that he is getting the recognition.

Imagine writing that at 19. You still have time ;-)

Thanks for the visit.

Astrea said...


Well what I meant was that it's a lot to sort out through on one whole page and it's easy to miss a couple of them. I haven't read everything yet. =P

Hahaha I'm not that good.

You're welcome. It's a good blog, both the pictures and writing.

Steven Crisp said...

Yeah, I'm not such a big fan of the archive structure. I need to think if there is a better way. It's on the list. Somewhere. If I could only find it ;-)