Musician. Christian. Songwriter. Husband. Father. Addict. Idol. Johnny Cash was most well known for being a performer. In his “real life” he described himself as a Christian first and foremost. He was a Christian who chose to be an entertainer, not the other way around. Johnny’s rise to fame (and occasional falls from grace) were best described by his deontological ethics. He tried to live the life that he believed God had prescribed for him. From the time Johnny was a child, he knew that he wanted to become a singer. He was inspired by listening to songs in church and singing gospel music with his siblings in the cotton fields. However, once he accomplished his goal of becoming a singer, he started to stray from his Christian roots. Due to the fame that he gained, and the easy access he had to drugs and alcohol, at many times neither God nor his career was his first priority. He got to the point where these substances were the most important thing in his life. His musical career and his personal relationships all suffered due to this addiction. Despite the darkness he experienced at the lowest points of his life, Johnny always kept God in the back of his mind. Johnny realized in the retrospection of his forty-three years of ups and downs (the time at which he wrote this autobiography) that it was his faith that helped save him. With the encouragement of those around him, especially his second wife, June Carter, he cleaned up his life and turned himself over to the Lord. Johnny didn’t make any deep transformations throughout his life. In fact, it was more of coming full circle that helped Johnny to realize the life that he really wanted to live.
Earnest J. Gaines tackles the idea of what it means to be human in his book, A Lesson Before Dying. He shows the transformation of a man who was wrongfully sentenced to death. This man, Jefferson, describes himself through much of the novel as a hog. However, it is with the support of his family, especially is godmother Miss Emma, and his community, in particular, the school teacher Grant, that he discovers what it means to be human. Gaines shows us that it takes the encouragement of others and the will power of ourselves to fully realize our existence. In this, we assert this existence in a number of ways. Jefferson did so by “walking” to his death. Becoming human is a unique process. People, unlike animals, unlike hogs, have to ability to reason. This goes beyond the simple, rational facets such as thinking and comprehending ideas. In the beginning, Jefferson might have had these parts of reasoning, but it wasn’t until he discovered his true humanity that he found the other, deeper parts. He learned to show the ones who loved him that he loved them in return. He showed appreciation. He showed pride. He showed his feelings. And with that, he showed he would die as a human being.