She was one of those people who enjoy poor health and she was always threatening to die, though in fact she lived onto her nineties. With time on her hand, she could nurse her neurosis, build resentments of slights and imagined slights, brood on our growing estrangement, and make it worse with arbitrary assertions of her authority.“A Personal Odyssey” by Thomas Sowell
This happened when the author was 16 and got into Stuyvesant High School, one of the most competitive high schools in New York City. His mom didn’t understand how hard Sowell had to study in such a high school and resented the growing gap between them. It became so bad that Sowell had to quit Stuyvesant, move out, and work as a messenger for Western Union in Manhattan and other odd jobs, until he was drafted by the military for the Korean War. If it were not for his military service and the subsequent government support to pay for his tuition, Sowell would never have the chance for college and graduate school.
To a lesser degree, this happens in many families where the aspirations of the children couldn’t be understood by their parents. The alienation is almost inevitable, although not to the degree that the kid being kicked out. The feeling of disconnect and misunderstanding and resentment would grow if neither side is reaching out to reconcile.
An equation is true only under certain conditions. … Many people do not understand that what they are saying may be true just because the way they use words. And those people may be deceived into believing that they are saying something true about the real world. Many political beliefs depend on such circular reasoning. … I came to understand why it is so important to avoid having your own definition trap you in beliefs that will not stand up under scrutiny.“A Personal Odyssey” by Thomas Sowell
If one ever lives in a different culture and observes how other people behave, one would understand that what is held essential and indispensable in one culture is utterly irrelevant in another culture. This is because life is re-framed with different definitions in another culture. I have many examples, but here I will just give one. One of my friends delivered her baby through c-section in Philadelphia and she stayed in hospital for several days. Every day the nurse would come in to put ice on the wound. Her mom came every day and threw the ice away. Since in several Asian cultures, anything cold is archenemy to pregnant women during the pregnancy and after giving birth–women should not even touch cold tap water for a month after the delivery.
I am just wondering how many habitual thoughts like this are living with us which we take for granted without scrutinizing its validity. There must be a lot. Without the interaction with other cultures or without the change in our life, be it technical advancement or social progress, we would never bother to examine whether they are truth or myth or whim.
Can’t Finish the Book
I finally came to the last two hours of this book and alas I was disappointed when he talked about his encounter with Reagan and Clarence Thomas. Later on he assisted Reagan’s presidential campaign, even though he objected to more than one things within Reagan’s speeches. I couldn’t go on. Not only that, I started to doubt his opinions and arguments in previous chapters. Actually I don’t know what to think and how to evaluate his conservatism. What does he think of Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court judge, who rarely gives an opinion, despite holding a very important position?
One thing is for sure that there are many layers of conservatism in existence, which I have never been aware of before. Should I consider Thomas Sowell as one of those Asians who voted Republican despite all those negative rhetoric on minority?
I like the first half of the book in which the author described how he grew up in South Carolina and then in New York City–the grittiness of his existence, the constant lack of money, and the feeling of not being able to afford the next month’s rent. He writes really well and I just can’t resist the charm of his writing. He has no deliberate embellishment in his description, no attempt at humor, and no interest to invoke an emotional response. Despite not using any of the writing technique, he writes interesting passages that I want to read. Not only that, I want to read his other books too–I am a little obsessed with his books right now.