Wednesday, October 17, 2007


This is not a fun time of year to listen to National Public Radio (NPR) because they are in the midst of one of their twice a year fundraising campaigns. It is necessary, of course, if they are going to stay on the air, which I desperately hope they do. I depend on NPR for in-depth coverage of important issues. This year I finally became a member and I would encourage others to do the same.

I persevered through the fundraising and listened yesterday on my way to Anderson University to teach my class (it’s a two-hour drive for me). I caught just a snippet of a program that had something to do with artists.

A caller told a great story.

It seems that an artist of Japanese descent had a show in California. An art critic did a review of the show in which he said that the artist’s sparse style indicated Zen Buddhist influence.

Later, another writer interviewed the artist. Referring to the other writer’s article, he asked the artist about the influence of Zen Buddhism on his art. “There is none,” the artist replied. “I’m a Christian.”

But what about the reserved use of colors and the sparse style? Didn’t that indicate Zen Buddhist influence? “No,” the artist replied, “I didn’t have enough money to buy more paints.”

One writer thought, “Here’s a Japanese artist with a sparse style; obviously he’s influenced by Zen Buddhism.” He assumed and he got it wrong.

Another writer went to the trouble to get to know the artist and to find out about him. He did not assume and he got it right.

I still remember the episode of the old television program The Odd Couple in which Felix Unger, played by the late, great Tony Randall, was involved in a court case. Someone offered incorrect testimony against him. Felix, representing himself, got the witness to admit that he had assumed that something was so. Felix wrote in very large letters the word ASSUME on the blackboard and proclaimed, “And you know what happens when you ASSUME, don’t you?”

You know what he said, don’t you?

We make a lot of assumptions about people based on generalizations and stereotypes. It’s better to get to know them so that we can draw our conclusions based on facts.

Christian love demands no less. So does common decency.

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