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Exemplars of self-formation
With the worksite in an early stage of prototype development, this list will be rather scatter shot, extending in scope and depth as work on and through it proceeds. It will also probably divide into several lists, each with a distinctive rationale, as the worksite develops.
An exemplar, a person who has completed life, receives attention because other persons now engaged in their own self-formation extract from that life insight, understanding, and inspiration in shaping their own. An exemplar stands before us, not as an object lesson instructing us about some unattainable principle or ideal, but as a complex person of achieved significance, worthy of study, a person whose thoughts, experience, and fates we can examine with curiosity and interest, extracting for ourselves caution, insight, and inspiration.
We, as living persons, identify others as our exemplars and project an aura of exemplarity onto them. Thus, exemplars indicates an open, inclusive set arising from the concrete judgments that we make, investing an exemplar's life and work with special significance for our shaping our own lives.
Through our work here, we identify predecessors we judge to be our exemplars and present their lives and work for study, relative to our five imperatives. Although we all often have living exemplars, here we restrict our attention to persons who have completed their lives. That leaves us much to do, and it lessens the distortions that celebrity and notoriety can induce in the assessment of exemplarity.
Exemplarity has a lot to do with our giving ourselves positive and negative feedback in forming and carrying out aspirations. Hence we resist the temptation to see exemplars as only the good guys, the positive models. We can and should project exemplars that help us define formative possibilities that we can and should resist as well as those we can and should pursue. Judgments of exemplarity need to be nuanced and many-sided. Novelas ejemplares by Miguel de Cervantes helps greatly in grasping the subtleties of the concept.
- The Exemplary Novels of Cervantes (William K. Kelly, trans., London: George Bell & Sons, 1881), Project Gutenberg