Acknowledging Others

Norman Rockwell, New Kids in the Neighborhood (1967)

The fundamental building block of interpersonal relationships is the acknowledgement of others’ humanity or personhood. Obvious as this may seem, denial of this fundamental precept – or the absence of this fundamental understanding, as the case may be – has led to the severe denigrations of personhood seen in genocide and slavery.

As we proceed through the levels of development, we will see a progression. In interpersonal relationships, we begin at level one by acknowledging others’ humanity. Understanding the other characterizes level two. Appreciation for the other, representing and enhanced understanding that is informed by the intellect and buttressed by an emotional understanding (empathy, compassion, etc.), characterizes level three. Wisdom characterizes level four: it refers to a quality of understanding that surpasses the norm. As we proceed through the stages, typically, the other domains of being are incorporated into the value (e.g., empathy enhancing understanding in level three of interpersonal relations).

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Music: Composers, artists, and major works

Brahms’ chamber works for clarinet were inspired by his admiration for then-contemporary clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld. Brahms said that he discovered the beauty of the instrument at that time, and critics count the two sonatas in Brahms’ Op. 20 among the great compositions for clarinet. Still, these two sonatas for clarinet and piano sound a bit like two disparate voices struggling to find their way together. After all, Brahms was just beginning to experiment with this pairing. Perhaps the first step was for the participants to acknowledge each other’s ways.

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