I heart Noam Chomsky | Moment's Notice

By Maria Montalvo | Jun 09, 2016

The heroes of my youth, more or less in chronological order, include Laura Ingalls Wilder, Ferdinand the Bull, Jimmy Carter, my brother, James Dean, John Taylor (Duran Duran), Eva Peron (think outside the populist box), Isabel Allende.

I also grew up hearing lots of names that I was very lucky to learn … Neruda, Garcia Lorca, Stiglitz, Castaneda, Gibran, Noam Chomsky.

Many of them have taken their rightful places as my ideals, alongside those from years ago.

Chomsky? Why him and who the heck is he? Not only was he on Nixon’s Enemies List, but he has been quoted as saying that anyone who disagrees with his ideas is either blind or a huckster.

He grew up in Philadelphia, not far from where I did, and even went to the same Oak Lane Country Day School that my brother and I attended (a few decades later).

Oak Lane approached teaching to foster creativity and intellectual growth, focusing less on competition and more on healthy environments for development.

Based on his comment about hucksters, I would guess the less competitive nature was not fully embraced by Chomsky (as it was not by my brother and me).

I treasure Chomsky’s brilliance and daring. He somehow turned linguistics into a basis for revolutionary philosophy.

In my poor interpretation of many of his writings, Chomsky believes that as humans we have both opportunity and a huge responsibility from the gene that allows us to use language. Because we can communicate with each other, we must use our intellectual abilities to attempt to support the greater good, and to aggressively fight against anything that opposes our moral code.

The moments when I shake my fist at something or someone … and the news gives us more than enough fodder … my mind often goes to the place of what can possibly be done to stop him, her, them, it.

In addition to going to my friends and family to craft the appropriate response, some of my other heroes provide perspective.

Neruda taught me to appreciate and value the smallest things. Evita could be described by many adjectives, but no one can deny her drive. President Carter was humble in his wisdom and kindness.

They say James Dean was like his characters in his disdain for injustice, and we want to believe that about our favorite stars.

Chomsky still challenges my internal status quo by proposing concepts that take much thought to unravel.

Today, I see heroic qualities in friends and family. Even if we are not together every day or live thousands of miles apart, they give me strength and inspiration, like heroes who I have never met.

In “The Prophet,” Gibran says, “When you part from your friend, you grieve not; for that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.”

What makes someone a hero certainly changes as we age, but much of the criteria in our younger years proves to be accurate, and the people we keep with us continue to serve as our motivation.

I need more “I … ” t-shirts.

Note: With the passing of Muhammad Ali, I am reminded what a hero he was to my father. I grew up hearing that Ali was not only the greatest, but also a great man. His inspiration will live on.


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