How are individuals with a high cultural level? Anton Chekhov explains it to us.
What exactly does it mean to be an educated person? There are many habits and cultural concerns that we could identify with this group of people, and sometimes it is not very clear if these characteristics really speak to us about someone’s way of thinking or are simply a description of the ways in which they express themselves their pride or vanity.
Sometimes what we know as educated people are nothing more than members of the upper classes who have had the privilege of being able to access books, films and other cultural products too luxurious to be paid for by the majority of the people. In others, what we call culture is a simple facade that is used to gain power of influence.
Both options were despised by the young Anton Chekhov, born in 1860, who when he grew up would be one of the most important Russian writers in history. However, Chekhov did believe in the existence of truly cultured people, and in one of his letters to his brother Nikolai he spoke about the eight characteristics that, according to him, define them.
The true cultured people according to Anton Chekhov
Nikolai, who was 28 years old at the time his younger brother Anton wrote the letter to him, was becoming a recognized painter and educated people were beginning to take an interest in him. Due to this fact, Antón Chekhov included in one of his letters to Nikolai a list of what, for him, are the characteristics that define cultured people, so that his brother could see to what extent he did not belong to that type of circle .
In this way, Anton Chekhov tried to encourage his brother to undertake the lifestyle of truly cultured people, away from any trace of vanity and superficiality, and to start working every day to train in that direction.
Beyond the intentions that the 26-year-old Anton de Chekhov had at the time of writing this text (which can be found in Chekhov’s compilation of letters ), anyone can find in this list of characteristics a reasonable way to identify educated people. It is summarized below.
1. They are kind and respect others
Chekhov argued that, by default, everyone is treated with respect and kindness by educated people. That means that they never prejudge those they do not know and that they are polite to everyone, without actually doing favors only for the people who can return them.
2. They show sympathy not only for beggars and cats
Educated people take the initiative to help others and care about people with whom they have had little or no contact.
3. Respect the property of others
Educated people know that stealing is not the only way to damage other people’s property, and therefore they pay off all their debts.
4. They flee from lies
Educated people don’t lie even in the smallest details. They consider the lie as a lack of respect towards the interlocutor and they show themselves on the street as they are at home.
5. They do not manipulate or allow themselves to be manipulated by compassion
They are not afraid to awaken compassion to others, and they do not try to produce compassion to take advantage of the favor of others.
6. They do not embrace vanity
Educated people do not try to relate to other people simply because they are popular or powerful. They also don’t strut to speculate on their own public image.
7. They cultivate their talents
If they have a talent, educated people strive to develop it, sacrificing immediate pleasures for it.
8. They develop aesthetic intuition
They are not concerned only with living life through a pragmatic sense of usefulness, but think about what they do in aesthetic terms. Therefore, especially if they are artists, they reject some habits simply because of the aesthetic appreciations they have about them.
Another conception of culture
In his letter, Chekhov emphasized the fact that whether or not to become a cultured person is a matter of attitude, rather than access to books.
Therefore, culture is defined as the property of internalizing the most positive and socializing elements of the culture in which a person lives, not isolating themselves from others through the elitist barrier of access to luxury. It is an idea that, today, we could claim more.