Les Miserables: Looking at Men

“Sire, you are looking at a plain man and I am looking at a great man. Each of us may benefit.”

p. 20

There are, with exceptions of course, reasons, good reasons, that the great are great. Education, diligence, wisdom, a desirable skill. And indeed the plain man may benefit from a long look. And there are qualities, with exceptions of course, that the plain man may possess which the great man would do well to emulate: contentment, humility, diligence, wisdom, a desirable skill. 

It may be that any man looking at any man may benefit. For in any man, rich or poor, great or plain, famous or obscure, may lie the qualities that another needs. Observation, careful observation, may unlock a chest of riches by which one may obtain, not necessarily wealth, but character. 

Yet the flip side is also true. We may by careful observation see in another, great or plain, that which we must by all means avoid: sloth, greed, arrogance, a lack of self-control—and the consequences. And by putting two and two together we may benefit there as well. 

But the “may” remains. We must observe. We must be willing to think. We must learn the lesson. And we must apply it to ourselves. 

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