Cultured

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Sunday, August 3, 2014


ANTON Chekov, a famous Russian writer once wrote to his older brother Nikolai who was an artist. In that letter, he mentions traits that a cultured person must have. I shall share those 8 traits and share some comments of my own.

1) “They respect human personality, and therefore they are always kind.”- Indeed they do. Cultured people have finesse and grace and they know how to act properly. They know that people are different and they are understanding because they see and accept the differences that people have. They do not impose their will or their personalities or perceptions on anyone. Cultured people are kind.

2) “They have sympathy not for beggars and cats alone.” – Hindi sila matapobre. They do not judge a person for what he or she has but appreciates the person for what he or she is. They are kind to all creatures and they see beyond appearances and actuations. They are sensitive and aware.

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3) “They respect the property of others, and therefore pay their debts.” – They do not claim what is not theirs. They do not live in land that isn’t theirs. They do not use things that are not theirs. They pay their debts and not blame others for their not paying. They are honest people who know what their debts are. They own up to whatever they own and not make excuses or stories.

4) “They are sincere, and dread lying like fire. They don’t lie even in small things. They do not pose, they behave in the street as they do at home, they do not show off before their humbler comrades. They are not given to babbling and forcing their uninvited confidences on others.” – In short, they are not hypocrites. They do not have two or three faces. They only have one face and that is their true face. They do not pretend, do not act and they do not feign. They are simply themselves with or without people.

5) “They do not disparage themselves to rouse compassion.” – Some people I know will go to the extent of propping themselves at the expense of others. They will say indirectly of course “ mabaitakokasiginawakoyanparasakanya.” Or “ kawawanamanako.” Or worse they destroy the honor and the reputation of others by making themselves look good. In the words of Chekov, “because all this is striving after cheap effect, is vulgar, stale, false…” Yes indeed. It is cheap, vulgar, stale and false. No culture at all. They do not cry to ask for sympathy or tell sob stories to make you feel with them.

6) “They have no shallow vanity. They do not care for such false diamonds as knowing celebrities. If they do a pennyworth they do not strut about as though they had done a hundred roubles’ worth, and do not brag of having the entry where others are not admitted…. The truly talented always keep in obscurity among the crowd, as far as possible from advertisement….” – In short they do not seek attention because they do not want or need it. Only those who are insecure demand attention or recognition. They do not ask why they were not accorded importance which by the way is crude and laughable. To demand that you be seated in a place of importance only shows pedestrian values. The simple truth is, if you are important, you are important and people will put you in your proper place. That simple.

7) “If they have a talent they respect it.” – They are hard to please as they are critical of what they know. Another writer said it best, “ only the shallow know themselves.” But in their respecting of their talent they are humble enough to know their limitations. Uncultured people think they are the saviors of the world and without them, the whole universe will crumble.

8) “They develop the aesthetic feeling in themselves. They seek as far as possible to restrain and ennoble the sexual instinct…. What they want in a woman is not a bed-fellow … They do not ask for the cleverness which shows itself in continual lying. They want especially, if they are artists, freshness, elegance, humanity, the capacity for motherhood…. They do not swill vodka at all hours of the day and night, do not sniff at cupboards, for they are not pigs and know they are not. They drink only when they are free, on occasion….” – They are not haughty. They are not proud. They are not arrogant. They are true to themselves.

Let me leave you with the parting words of Chekov. “And so on. This is what cultured people are like. In order to be cultured and not to stand below the level of your surroundings it is not enough to have read “The Pickwick Papers” and learnt a monologue from “Faust. What is needed is constant work, day and night, constant reading, study, will…. Every hour is precious for it…. Come to us, smash the vodka bottle, lie down and read….”

When was the last time you read?

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 04, 2014.

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