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Oh, and in case I don't see ya, good afternoon, good evening and good night
Setting out to try to become a nicer person sounds like a deeply colorless and dispiriting ambition
In theory, we love niceness, of course, but in practice, there appears to be something embarrassingly anodyne, meek, tedious, even sexless about the concept
A nice person sounds like something we try to be only once every other more arduous and more rewarding alternative had failed
Our suspicion of niceness may feel personal, but it has a long history
bearing the sediment of at least four major cultural currents that it pays to try and understand:
For centuries, Christianity was the single most powerful force shaping our intellectual horizons
and it was profoundly committed to promoting niceness to the world
With the finest aesthetic and intellectual resources, it sang the praises of forgiveness, charity, tenderness, and empathy
But – unfortunately for niceness – Christianity didn’t simply leave it there
It also suggested that there might be a fundamental opposition between being nice and being successful
Successful people were not, so believers were told, on the whole very nice people
and nice people were not, on the whole, very successful
It seemed applicants to the Kingdom of Heaven had a choice to make: niceness or success
At a stroke, the dichotomy deeply tarnished the appeal of niceness to anyone with the remotest spark of healthy, worldly ambition in their hearts
Christianity might have been striving to enthuse us about niceness, but by connecting it up so firmly with failure
it created an enduring feeling that this was ultimately a quality of interest chiefly to losers
For the last two hundred years, we’ve been heavily influenced by the cultural movement known as Romanticism
and for the Romantics, the admirable person has been synonymous with the exciting person
someone intense and creative, mercurial and spontaneous, someone who might upset tradition
and dare at points to be forceful, even rude, in the name of following the call of their own hearts
The diametric opposite of this heroic figure was, for the Romantics, someone mild and respectable, guarded and conservative, unflashy and quiet
In other words, the boring person
Here too, there has seemed a radical choice to be made: either fiery, unpredictable and brilliant, or meek, conventional and always in bed by nine
To this charge-sheet of niceness, Capitalism added another indictment
presenting an interpretation of the world as a deeply competitive arena in which all companies were committed to forge continuous battle for market share
in an atmosphere marked by ruthlessness, determination and impatience
Those who succeeded had to know how to destroy the competition and handle the workforce without a trace of emotion
A nice person, unwilling to squeeze wages or outwit an opponent, would end up either bankrupt or in the mailroom
A final, more personal association hangs over niceness: the belief that the nice can’t be sexually desirable
for the qualities that make us erotic are bound up with the possession of brutal, domineering, confident edges at odds with the tenderness and coziness beloved of the nice
Once again, an awkward choice presents itself:
between the pleasant friend with whom to go to the park and the dangerous companion with whom to disappear into the dungeon with handcuffs and a whip
Despite all this, the truth is that we like niceness very much and depend upon it even more
It's just that our true memories of niceness have been suppressed by a culture that unfairly makes us feel unintelligent for lending niceness our approval
All of the qualities we've been taught to think of as opposed to niceness are in fact highly compatible with, and at points, highly dependent upon it
However much we are committed to success,
for long portions of our lives, we are intensely vulnerable creatures wholly at the mercy of the gentleness of others
We’re only ever able to be successful because other people, usually our mothers, have given up a good share of their lives to being nice to us
As for excitement, this too can only ever be a phase, as all those who've made real contributions to humankind know
Quiet days, domestic routine and regular bedtimes are the necessary preconditions of the creative highs
There is nothing more sterile than a demand that life be constantly exciting
For its part, capitalism may reward competition between firms, but it relies on collaboration within them
No company can function long without trust and bonds of personal affection
Much to the frustration of bosses, money can’t guarantee the necessary commitment from employees
only meaning and a spirit of companionship will
Lastly, the sexual thrill of nastiness only ever properly entices in conditions of trust
However much we may fantasize about a night with a ruthless conqueror
it would be alarming to wind up with an actual example
We need to know someone is fundamentally kind before an offer of a rope and the sound of swearwords become properly interesting
So much of what we value is, in fact, preserved by niceness and is compatible with it
We can be nice and successful, nice and exciting, nice and wealthy, and nice and potent
Niceness is a virtue awaiting our rediscovery and our renewed, un-conflicted appreciation
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為什麼說到底,我們其實都不太想成為善良的人? (Why We Don't Really Want to be Nice)

13149 分類 收藏
Chloe Tyan 發佈於 2016 年 12 月 16 日    Chloe Tyan 翻譯    Mandy Lin 審核
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