Slipping without warning into a moment of supreme satisfaction is – except perhaps for the spoils of gambling – normally beyond fortuity! It is similarly utter gall to pretend that one’s calculated handiwork has contributed to the chance occurrence. Such at least was my immediate response to the encounter late this afternoon with another resident on the elevator. The plain truth is that several weeks ago – on the occasion of our last communication with one another – she and I had elapsed into a discombobulated state. Yet so unwilling were either of us to acknowledge the disconcerted conclusion of our meeting – the trifling reasons for which hardly matter – that we succeeded until now to ignore the conflict.
Thankfully upon running into one another today we both possessed sufficient training to wreath our faces in smiles and to have the courtesy to enquire after one another’s health and the weather – admittedly a stock performance in these circumstances. I consider the posture not a confinement but rather a dilution of the festering boil – the brash details of which as I say hardly bear repeating. Nor shall I permit the ephemeral euphoria which attends such serendipitous recovery to deteriorate into any greater acknowledgement than the original offence. Certainly part of the thrilling sensation of visceral conflict – and to legitimize it as anything else is a distortion – is its overwhelming superiority to mere intellectual interpretation which so often descends to obfuscation of the propulsion at hand.
Here I shall descend to another admission; namely, the achievement of resolution of this diplomatic character far surpasses the unwillingness to do so. In a word, disagreement embitters. Yet there is an unforeseen preamble – and that equates to an avowal of one’s own perspective – the belief in the authenticity of it. Make no mistake it takes a quick-witted person to listen to others without qualifying oneself. The winner is not the King of the Castle but the one who stands fast without assuming that the conduct of others is paramount.
It can be an extremely draining undertaking to be right all the time. Indeed no one is right all the time – that’s the secret. Neither is the threat of having one’s gratification only in death an impediment. Saints and angels are the stuff of fancy. The state of compromise by contrast is a much discredited though palpable ambition.
When the refinements of life insinuate our emotions like highly distilled Cognac the consequence is a much improved view of the world. It may be its own indisputable logic to succumb to the tolerance of breeding. As my erstwhile public school history Master James Carmen Mainprize once opined, “Manners are for when the going gets tough!” Very often it requires no more than minutes to translate the flames to embers. Other times some after-the-fact consternation and reflection is imperative. In either case the delay of reaction can be not only skilful but also determinative.
Whatever the outcome of our hopelessly amateur human conduct it is assured that when the dénouement brings solace, there is relief. As much as I fashion my existence as predominantly intellectual – or at the very least acquainted with an ethereal level of assessment – there’s no denying the competing seams of materialism. It may be that pragmatism is at the root of my project for pacifism. Like it or not, in the descent from youthful gusto to aging apathy things narrow in their pursuit. We become less everything. Yet in the process we unwittingly suffer the buoyancy of distillation. Though this echoes purification I believe a more acute observation is that it filters. That is, without making inductive leaps, the refinement is not always confined to noble projects but may include the less cerebral sublimation. This may sound a small compliment but I see it as a success. The process of downsizing was for me no picnic. I was guided by Oscar Wilde’s quip that his tastes were simple, he liked only the best.
“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”