On Friday I was at Houston’s Menil Museum watching the construction of a sand Mandala by Tibetan monks who live in exile in India. It was a Compassion Madala, and the idea of compassion had been in some of my conversations in the week before. Afterward I went to the museum’s book store and discovered various writings by noted religious figures, one of which was attributed to Mother Theresa, though the original is by Dr. Keith Kent. It immediately struck me as written about groups of people very similar to some I’ve encountered in academia. I certainly thought, given my experience, that it was way too depressing to hang on any wall I’d see very often. I am also truncating it; the last two lines says that the struggle on earth is not between you and these people; rather, it is for you and God.
More recently, I’ve been thinking about whether it is very good advice. It might be just too out of touch with the way human beings do work, maybe especially in a groups. And it may neglect how in fact we do react. Perhaps if one is somewhat mystical and feels one’s most intense relationship is with God, the effects might be different. But the advice seems to be to remain engaged with your society. However, having people continually destroy things you’ve built (lines 9-10) might have a very bad effect.
What do you think?
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;
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
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 world the best you’ve got anyway.
Another things one might consider is whether it is very good advice for anyone caught, as too many women in philosophy are, in the following sort of situation:
Bias thrives in unstructured environments, where objective excuses for hostility are available, and where stakes tend towards doling out in-group rewards rather than punishing out-group exclusion. When professional rewards are discretionary, distinction between in- and out-group membership is heightened, the perceived flaws or weaknesses of out-group members are exaggerated, members are blamed more harshly, weaknesses are attributed to the person (“she’s not very smart,” “she’s crazy,”…) not the circumstances, excuses are less available, and punishment is swifter and more severe. Withholding professional respect, excluding women from philosophical conversations, refusal to acknowledge their contributions or minimizing their significance in favor of those of male colleagues, are all examples of discretionary rewards that even the best-intentioned philosophers are prone to deny women in informal settings. The presence of a male philosopher displaying overt hostility or aggression towards a female philosopher licenses further in-group hostility towards her, and where an objective rationalization is available for explaining this behavior (he has an objection to her argument, say, or she behaved somewhat inappropriately, etc.), it is often taken to justify this response. Women philosophers thus also suffer judgments that are harsher than their male colleagues’, more hostile, quicker and crueler dismissals of their views, and these judgments are multiply-reinforced by even their well-intentioned peers (my stress).
How does one go on in such situations? Be like Mother Theresa?