September 23, 2013

Justice Sotomayor says that "a meaningful person" is a person who is: 1. "interesting" and 2. "giving."

The Supreme Court Justice was talking to University of Delaware students:
“What will make you a meaningful person in life is two things,” she said. “That you become an interesting person by learning as many new things as you can every single day you live, ... and that you use that knowledge in a way in which you’re giving to people.”

“It really doesn’t matter what kind of work you do,” she added. “... Do things that interest you and excite you and satisfy whatever skills and intellectual challenges you like puzzling over.... Even number crunchers do great things.”
You can pick apart some of these premises, stated and unstated, but what appeals to me is the importance of being an interesting person.

Usually the stress is on gaining education and then using it to make contributions that will benefit others and make the world a better place. I don't know if Sotomayor really meant to say this, but the words imply that being an "interesting person" is an end in itself. Or is it that others are benefited and the world is a better place if there are "interesting persons" out and about?

Note too that Sotomayor says that the constant pursuit of learning should be driven by "things that interest you and excite you." You need to have interests and then — powered along by interests — become interesting.

That's putting a lot of value on interestingness. I'm quite interested in that, because in blogging, the standard — for me, anyway — is interestingness. What's interesting now? (And now? And now?) Interestingly enough, right now, the interesting thing is interestingness. Isn't that interesting?

ADDED: The opposite of interesting is boring. A less-nice way of making Sotomayor's point is: Don't be boring. And don't be bored. Don't do what bores you, and that should make you not boring. Others are benefited and the world is a better place if you are not boring.

34 comments:

pm317 said...

Too much importance on being interesting which to me is not a good metric, because being interesting (to others presumably) is in the ear/eye of the beholder -- it would be leaving it up to others to characterize you and encourage you to be that. Without feedback, how do you know you are interesting? Or are you like a liberal, that you think if you pursued/talked about x, y, z, you are automatically interesting (and meaningful)? On the other hand, being a curious person would help you in the pursuit of all things interesting. So being curios should trump the quest for being interesting.

traditionalguy said...

That interests me.

She seems to be saying that a person's social skills are measured by how they learn new things and share them with others in a caring way.

That is the standard of the IOW, the intelligent older woman.

Don't leave home without one.

pm317 said...

but what appeals to me is the importance of being an interesting person.


Too much importance on being interesting which to me is not a good metric, because being interesting (to others presumably) is in the ear/eye of the beholder -- it would be leaving it up to others to characterize you and encourage you to be that. Without feedback, how do you know you are interesting? Or are you like a liberal, that you think if you pursued/talked about x, y, z, you are automatically interesting (and meaningful)? On the other hand, being a curious person would help you in the pursuit of all things interesting. So being curious should trump the quest for being interesting.
{I read this comment to my hubby and he said with a straight face "interesting"} and we LOL'ed.

Live your life the way you see fit -- that is what I would say.

Broomhandle said...

Sounds like the usual high-school valedictorian speech. Follow your dream. Live your passion. Not very interesting.

Bob Boyd said...

Accomplishment is interesting.
We are interested in what Justice Sotormayor has to say because of her accomplishments.
For Miley Cyrus, being interesting is the accomplishment.
I think for Ann Althouse, blogger, both of these things are true.

southcentralpa said...

Boring is shockingly underrated in our culture.

mrs. e said...

"Live your life the way you see fit -- that is what I would say."

Agreed. There's a vast difference in being an interesting person or an interested person. I'd rather aim for the latter - the former is a fool's errand.

carrie said...

It is an affluent point of view where you need either the government or a trust fund to support you so that you can work only in jobs that interest you. There is not duty to support yourself anymore. Think of all the companies that were founded by people who started out at minimum wage jobs because they needed to work to support themselves and then the drive to improve their lot in life pushed them to found new companies or to invent new things. There will be no drive to succeed in the world that she envisions because their will be no such thing as success.

carrie said...

It is an affluent point of view where you need either the government or a trust fund to support you so that you can work only in jobs that interest you. There is not duty to support yourself anymore. Think of all the companies that were founded by people who started out at minimum wage jobs because they needed to work to support themselves and then the drive to improve their lot in life pushed them to found new companies or to invent new things. There will be no drive to succeed in the world that she envisions because their will be no such thing as success.

Almost Ali said...

Would people read your biography?

What's the most interesting thing you have done?

In this context, is "interesting" the same as exciting? Or risky? Or impromptu?

Finally, is the safe life an interesting life?

Jane said...

Perhaps there was more context in her talk, but the big hole in this speech is the premise: what is a "meaningful" person -- someone who him/herself feels good about themselves and feels like their life has meaning to them, or someone who is meaningful to other people, either in a social skill-y sort of way or in a "society approves of you"/"I approve of you" sort of way. Is she being prescriptive or just giving helpful advice to young 'uns who want to get the most of their college lives?

Tom Gallagher said...

Sounds like the speech was written while watching an interesting show on TV; probably Charlie Rose.

AJ Lynch said...

Has Sotomayor ever been described as fascinating or interesting? I wonder what she would say is the last new thing she learned?

jacksonjay said...

Seems rather shallow for such a
"wise Latina"!

Illuminati said...

Those who believe in a loving father God automatically derive meaning in their lives when they establish a loving relationship with him.

Atheists and agnostics create their own meaning in life a la existentialism. Sotomayor has given her personal definition of a meaningful life, but it has no value for other people. Althouse or anyone else can choose her formula for a meaningful life, but that choice has no value beyond how it fulfills those who chose that definition.

Other people derive meaning by gang membership, still others measure their self worth by their relationship to their family of lover. Many people measure the meaning of their lives by how much power they have over others regardless of how they achieve that power. Nietzsche the ultimate antichristian intellectual was probably correct that the will to power is the strongest motivator for those who do not believe in a being higher than themselves.

SteveR said...

She's very wise

Strick said...

And how much of being boring is being interested in things that no one else is? Or being interested in the things that interest you to the exclusion of other people's interests?

Isn't being interesting measured by most people, at least to a degree, by how interested someone is in them?

Lem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aunt Vesta said...

Obama is someone who seems to have done everything to be interesting - and he's had an extremely interesting life - but his personality is extremely uninteresting.

Andy Freeman said...

"even number crunchers do great things"?

Wowsers. Number crunchers are far more likely to do great things than the navel gazers that the wise latina prefers.

Heck - plumbers contribute more than such folks.

Mark O said...

Can she really be that banal?

Some Wise Latina we got in that round.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Even number crunchers do great things.

Fairly insulting to number crunchers, without whom everything, including Sotomayor's employer, would grind to a halt.

TMink said...

Some very meaningful people I know are drastically handicapped. The meaning of their life is not so much what the contribute directly but what they bring out from loving people. A smiling, non-verbal kid at our special needs VBS could not walk, he just looked and smiled. Seeing people hold and love on him was a powerfully interesting interaction.

Trey

David said...

A liberal education makes life more interesting.

That is it's greatest value.

Rocketeer said...

Better than boring is a high standard.

Inga said...

Being an interesting person without being a humane person simply ruins any interesting qualities one may have, IMO. Being "giving" is part of being humane as well as kindness, compassion and more that separate us from the beasts.

William said...

I'd rather be rich and sexy than interesting and giving, but I suppose that interesting and caring crap is more attainable when you're an overweight civil servant.

Lydia said...

Sotomayor was raised a Catholic, so she must have learned somewhere along the way that a meaningful life is one that acknowledges we are children of a loving and merciful God who has given us the responsibility to love and help others.

That's it, period; not being "interesting."

Paul said...

So if you are not 'Interesting and giving' does that make you soylent green?

Scott said...

Charles Manson is an interesting person.

Scott said...

Charles Manson is an interesting person.

CWJ said...

David@11:15 & Lydia@3:34 -

Together FTW!!!

Game set match.

CWJ said...

Being Interesting is something denoted by others.

And I suspect, Sotomayer's notion of "giving" is equally defined by others.

Ann's elaboration on the Judge's actual comments gives her, the Judge, more credit than I believe she deserves.

The judge's actual elaboration, including her backhanded compliment to number crunchers, does far less to advance her case.

America's Politico said...

Prof. Good point. The book by Nobel Laureate, Watson, would be of "interesting" to you.

http://www.amazon.com/Avoid-Boring-People-Lessons-Science/dp/0375412840/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1379979562&sr=1-1&keywords=boring+people