14 July 2007

What Would ________ Do?

A few years ago, when it was all the rage for pre-pubescent girls to wear WWJD (i.e. "What would Jesus Do?") bracelets, my daughter Pumpkin commented that this was stupid, since Jesus was a boy and boys did gross things. She wanted a WWMD bracelet, since she saw Mary Most Immaculate as her appropriate role-model.

This problem of role models is as old as time. Diogenes Laërtius reports that Xenophon, immediately upon meeting him, "took Socrates as his exact model." This is, of course, a rather easy choice for Xenophon to make, for not only did he actually meet the great man, but there were so many fewer potential role models known to him at the time. Today one might consider such luminaries as Henry Agard Wallace, A.J. Muste, William Rufus, Saint Arnulf of Metz,Gayelord Hauser, Arthur Flagenheimer, William Claude Dukenfield, Herschel Krustofski — the list of worthy personages just goes on and on!

Perhaps the thing to do is to look for different models for different modes of life? Just as we would be loath to take our ethics from Captain Ernst Röhm, so too would we be misguided to emulate the savoir vivre of Mohandas K. Gandhi.

But what are we to do when the experts differ?

Recently it came to my attention that when Benjamin Franklin visited Paris in September 1767, the French secret police searched his logings and luggage, and reported that he had "the whitest underwear they had ever seen."

For years I have followed the example of Elvis, who never wore underwear. What am I to do now that the experts disagree?

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