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Dignity • Posted: Sep 29, 2013 13:10:47Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

There is a Bob Dylan song entitled: Dignity. Not all the lyrics are intelligible as sung, but they are readily available online. The gist of the story is that Bob is out looking for something and having trouble finding it: Dignity. In looking at the image above, I couldn't help thinking of that song and one of Dylan's lines from it: "Someone showed me a picture. I just had to laugh. Dignity never been photographed."

True or not true? I wondered.

Turns out, whenever you really look at something closely, you learn something. Take a look at the guy's glasses in the picture above. There is a word engraved on them, right along the piece that goes to his ear. It says "Jaguar". And take a look at his hat. That little tag showing says "Stetson". The dude is pushing 70, maybe 80, and he's sporting designer accessories. Ludicrous? Or cool? There's more. That suit and shirt he's wearing may not be the finest tailoring, but they fulfill their purpose. His tie is interesting, too. Also designer? Possibly. What is definitely clear is the gentleman has taken care in his grooming and chosen his colors to both coordinate with each other and with the color of his eyes. Nothing overpowers the blue, black, attentive intelligence of his eyes. And further, take a look at his demeanor. He's thoughtful, observant, poised, as if ready at a moment's notice to engage socially in some manner or another, whether to help a lady to her chair, step out onto the dance floor, give a buddy a hand, or respond to something said. In a word or two, he intends relevant gracious usefulness.

Now, I did some reading on the term dignity. Going back to the philosopher Immanuel Kant, dignity is something different than "worth". In Kant's view, dignity grows out of human agency, the ability to choose how one will act. In other words, for Kant, dignity is a moral dimension, in that one's choice of how, when, and why to act can be judged on the basis of social consequence. Morality, after all, is concerned with how we humans treat each other. But there is more. Dignity is not just the external judgement of the moral content of another's behavior. It also involves something going on internal to the person being judged. Per Wikipedia, the medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides cautions "Let not human dignity be light in his eyes, for the respect due to man supersedes rabbinical command." In other words, those who judge would do well to preserve and respect the other's self-respect, how that other person views and treats him or her self. Christianity and Islam both concur in noting that dignity is of a person's relationship to God, and therefore should be respected as if of God.

So, can one see, and possibly photograph, dignity? Can one look at another person and see how that other person expects to be treated by how they treat both themselves and others? In other words, can we learn to afford each other the dignity each of us aspires to? Bob Dylan may facetiously not think so, claiming in his song that dignity is something both invisible and not readily understood by most, but I do.

May you forever improve upon your own dignity by learning to respect and appreciate the dignity of others.

Sunday, September 1st, 2013