This month’s issue of The Atlantic magazine includes a poll of several well-known personalities — including writers, scientists, business leaders, politicians, moviestars, and people from other fields. Each was asked a simple question.
Of the countless number of fictional characters created throughout history, who was the greatest?
In today’s essay, I’ll offer my opinion on this. Perhaps you too, will join the debate and tell me who I left out and why my choices are right or wrong.
First, let’s define what we mean by “greatest.” I think this means the most influential. In other words, which fictional character impacted more people’s lives than any other? For the sake of discussion, let’s consider only fictional characters which are known primarily in the English language.
Somewhere along the way during civility’s decline in everyday debate and discussion, we’ve lost something far more precious than common courtesy.
That is — the right to be wrong.
No matter where it occurs — with talking heads on television, at online forums and discussion groups, even in public places from classrooms to bars — debate and discussion have morphed into a vicious blood sport rather than a freewheeling exchange of interesting ideas and possibilities. It’s open season everywhere. Truth isn’t necessarily the pursuit, but the target.
Indeed, the objective has become winning at all costs. How one plays the game no longer matters. Achieving a greater understanding about an important issue or gaining enlightenment about something new is a low priority, if it matters at all. Rather, the goal of typical debate nowadays is conquering and ultimately destroying the opposition.
A small town in Belgium, October 2013
“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”
― E.L. Doctorow
Today marks my 500th blog post.
What began 16 months ago as a half-crazed idea to blast off a few impromptu thoughts every now and then and vent like a motherfucker, has become a daily routine. A philosophical playground.
When I began writing this blog, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would anyone care? Might I get fired? Who out there in a world full of so many distractions would care about the political and religious views of an extremist? Who would be interested in reading the restaurant opinions of a lunatic? Stream of conscious thoughts don’t suit everyone.
If you’ve been around for a while, you already know the shtick. There have been reviews and rants. Essays and commentaries. Photos and videos. Last summer, I even organized a boycott (never mind how it went). A few expletives were thrown in to spice things up, every now and then. As for regrets, I’ve had more than a few. But then again — too few to mention.
Christopher Hitchens died two years ago today.
His life spanned 62 immensely productive years. One presumes his words and ideas shall endure considerably longer.
Even after death, Hitchens remains a force of intellect worth re-visiting from time to time, and not just by those who share(d) his views.
Indeed, as prolific Hichens was, both as a writer and lecturer, his most valuable gift was not in telling us what we should think. Rather, it seemed his real purpose was inspiring us to think, and more important — to grow.
I think far too many people adopt a certain philosophy which seems satisfying and then blindly stick with it. We insulate themselves from dissenting viewpoints by surrounding ourselves with people who might as well be clones. We read the same newspapers and visit the same websites. We watch one cable news channel, or the other. In short, many of us fail to challenge the assumptions of what we know and believe. But philosophy isn’t an end game. It’s a perpetual pursuit.
Imagine a Guy Ritchie movie, only for real.
That’s the life story of Andrew “Giddy” Perendes — a professional poker player, jewel thief, and silver-tongued charmer who has witnessed the gritty dark side of London’s underground gambling scene up close and personal for nearly 50 years. His tale is one of survival as much as adventure. Imagine following an alley cat around, and that’s pretty much the picture.