Over the course of the summer, there is much required reading. For the juniors, the reading included Young Goodman Brown and Other Short Stories. Often summer reading is thought of as a meaningless book meant to impede the freedom vacation brings, but this book rather interested me.
Each of these stories have one source of intrigue or another, but one ensnared me, titled Artist of the Beautiful. It is the story of an artist named Owen who, not once, not twice, but three times pours his life into the creation of a mechanical butterfly to pursue his dream of creating “The Beautiful.” Each time Owen tries to build it, the project is broken by some interference or circumstance, and each time Owen stumbles into a darkness of despondency. Yet every time he stumbles, he rises from the pit, guided by the Beauty he sees around him. This resistance to naysayers and upholding of his beliefs is what makes Owen admirable.
There are many people in the village who argue against Owen’s quest and their complaints are merited. His former master believes Owen to be a negligent fool to not devote himself completely to fulfilling his duty as clock maker in the village. The blacksmith thinks Owen to be strange for not investing his time and strength into more fruitful pursuits as he does, hammering and twisting iron into tools. And finally, there is the woman Owen loves. He believes she could understand him, but, like the rest, she does not comprehend his obsession with Beauty and believes him foolish. And so, Owen is disliked and mocked by most of the village with no one to stand by him.
Owen is far from perfect, as he lets his dream control him and neglects his duties to the town, but Owen does still present a good role model in the approach he takes to achieve his dream. Each time the butterfly breaks and the naysayers gather around him, Owen’s spirit is broken. But this hurt and pain never stops Owen from pursuing his dream and what he believes is important. His belief in his principles and values while he stands alone is what differentiates him from all other characters who stand together in their scorn. Few people possess that certainty in their principles while being faced by a majority.
Each day, when we leave Ridgeview, we read this creed: “Even if everyone else, not I.” This creed tells us to stand for our beliefs and values even if everyone around us does not. This mentality imitates Owen’s model, but to avoid Owen’s faults or pursuing the wrong principles, we, as students of Ridgeview, must draw examples from texts and teachers alike. Each day, we learn about life and how to live it well. From Cicero’s teachings on morality to Emerson’s teachings on self-reliance, we are taught what is good. But from subjects like Owen and Socrates, we are taught how to stand for it.