The Bigger Picture is In the Details

The following gallery is dedicated to these books:                         Studs Terkel's Working                                                                                         Lucretius' On The Nature of Things                                            Herodotus' Histories                                                                   Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of The Rights of Women                          Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morals                                   Marx's Communist Manifesto                                                     Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt's Freakonomics 

Working is all about giving voices to the otherwise voiceless. People usually do not care about the lives of janitors or secretaries. We much rather watch an interview with a famous person talking about their famous life. However, there is an unveiled beauty to each of the oral histories in working. They all connect. I am not necessarily talking about Terkle's obvious themes in the book, rather, I am referring to the little details revealed by each and every interview. Each person in Working has dreams and struggles, which he must manage within a great big system. Everyone wants to have a purpose and feeling like their work matters. And in the end, what is evident through all of the stories inside the text, is that people give each other propose. Each "professional" in the book plays some type of role in the life of another person. As a result, a prostitute is shown to be no different than an office secretary, or even a football coach. They are all part of an intricately interconnected web that create a society. Even more interesting, is connecting the each story to see the greater picture, and comparing it to the greater picture of today's society.
Reading On The Nature of Things really makes me wonder what Lucretius was doing before he wrote the book. If I wasn't given any background on him while reading the book, I would have thought that all he did everyday was lay down underneath a tree and simply stare at the sky and the fields. He seems like the kind of person who enjoyed sitting down and taking in his surroundings. Then there would have been one day where Lucretius would have thought to himself "how and why do these things that I see before me exist". I imagine he would observed how flowers have sprouted, and how the kids playing in the field have grown, and would have realized how similar we are to nature. It is then that he would have developed his theory about how the world has evolved. He would have realized that the earth hosts organisms that change over time, and continuously develop. I have no idea how he came up with he theories about the atoms, but he was onto a clever point. Lucretius appears to have looked closely at the universe, and discovered that if we zoom in close enough into the universe , we would see that everything is essentially the same. This is a very calming principle. All the sudden, once the idea evolves in our brain, the stress of our everyday lives vanishes. We become free to pursue our true state of happiness.
Herodotus is another big picture thinker. He is not like Lucretius, as he seems to believe the universe was just made rather than developed. However, he strongly believes that there is an order to things. He is one of the first people in the world to recognize that events do not just happen out of nowhere. They are built up, and have a greater purpose. Such reasoning has prompted Herodotus to look on the details of events different events and see how they connect. If someone gets killed, it is because they did something, or past generations have done something for that person to deserve it. Similarly, Herodotus rationalizes the existence of things in the universe the same way. There are many of the weak and few of the strong so there would be a balance of powers in the universe. Everything is perfectly and carefully divided. His logic was even seen in the maps of the world. He believed that Greece and Athens were small for a reason, and that Persia was big so it could fall. Herodotus understood that in order to look at the greater picture, he needed to understand the intricacies of the details he was recording, what he was living, and what is to happen.
Wollstonecraft appears to be an extremist. The tone and vigor in her writing is asking for immediate change, and insults everything that stands in its path. However, I do not think she is an extremist at all. In fact, I believe that she has only been able to be successful because her views were not that extreme. Her true message could be lost in the passions of her words. She did not ask for complete equality to all women. She never even said that women and men were one in the same. However, she understood that a stance must be taken for progress to evolve. That is why I believe her pleas were logically presented. Wollstonecraft understood that simply yelling out loud for equality would bring no progress. I would like to think that she looked at the situation of women very carefully. She looked closely as to why women cannot gain equality, and what is truly holding the female sex down. It is through such careful examination that she made her main point, Women need education. She realized that education has been the pressure point which men pushed to convey their dominance. If one was to make the root of the argument of female inferiority go away, than all would be solved. With that in mind, I would like to think that Wollstonecraft is a tactical genius. She masked her cards with passion to pull out an ace from her hand.
On the Genealogy of Morals is Nietzsche's explanation for how we have come to judge the rights and wrongs of our society. He tells a great tale of a time where there was no such thing ethical or unethical, just good and bad. He explains the our current moral beliefs are masked by our jealousy for the elite. What we believe as right or wrong is simply a blurred image. That is not to say our views our false. Rather, they are just an obscurity of their origins. The reason I like Nietzsche's point is because it can applied to anything. Take a look at the way we conduct classes now in college. We have huge lecture halls where 100 students are cramped into 1 room to hear a professor speak. Why do we do this? Is it because it is the most efficient way to learn? Nope. That is simply how the Greeks did. In ancient Greece, only the teacher had a book and all of the information. As a result, huge lecture developed to allow everyone to hear the materials of the book. Today, such isn't the case. However, the way we learn continues to be an obscurity of the origins of the first classrooms.
The Communist Manifesto is an especially interesting book to read because of the profound impact it has had on the world. In it, Karl Marx expresses a future where everyone can finally be happy, and does so in a very convincing way. However, what I enjoyed most about his teachings is his idea about the thesis and anti thesis of humanity. Marx shows that society essentially progresses in a spiral. There is someone gathering a lot of wealth, there huge groups of populations who get oppressed, and then there is a revolution. After the revolution, the spiral continuous in the same order. What is unusual is the Marx eventually hypothesizes an ending to the spiraling of society. He predicts a complete change in consciousness by people, along with a final revolution against the bourgeoisie. People would cease caring about profits and transactions, and use the industrial world to make everyone happy. I find such an idea remarkable, because his philosophy is very close to what Lucretius preaches. Both Marx and Lucretius believe in the constant progression of people. However, Marx has more faith in humanity than Lucretius. Rather than worrying about themselves, Marx truly believes that there will come a time where everyone will work as one organism to make a better future.
Freakconomics is all about separating common sense from the truth, because the two do not always go hand in hand. The book has taught to constantly analyze the purpose of anything, as things are not always what they appear to be. For example, the book showed that many people were wrong about why crime rates have dropped dramatically in the 90's. Most believed it was because of more police recruitments or stricter standards when I came to obeying the law. However, data has revealed that the cause was neither. Instead, the reason crime rates have dropped was because of the legalization of abortions. Simply put, the crime rate went down because mothers who were unable to support their children never had them. The book inspires people to look at the data before making conclusions, and that doing so could change the world. The reason the van Gogh picture as the cover is because observing its details can tell a lot about the artist. You can see his quick brush strokes all over the painting, as they seamlessly transition from the grass to the trees to the sky. It is evident from his work that van Gogh was mentally ill. His art expresses rage within his brain. And although this isn't exactly what is seen in freakonomics, the essence of the analysis is very much the same.
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