Monitions of Conscience

“Like too many other men, who are not to be turned from the path of right by pleasure, by lucre or by danger, he mistook the impulses of his pride and resentment for the monitions of conscience, and deceived himself into a belief that, in treating friends and foes with indiscriminate insolence and asperity, he was merely showing his Christian faithfulness and courage.”

Excerpt From
The History of England, from the Accession of James II — Volume 3
Thomas Babington Macaulay

How easily we are confounded by an error of judgement. How soon the riddles of life are complicated by our often disrespectful presumptions. And how seldom we obey our percolating instruction to keep our mouths shut. It is, I am afraid, a common distortion of both entitlement and propriety to assume that anything we say beyond commenting on one’s own health and the weather is not at risk of provoking some degree of discomfiture. Naturally this limitation applies to matters other than those surrounding what I consider to be purely pragmatic or relating to inductive calculation; that is, strictly matters of practicality rather than issues of sublime consequence. But it most certainly includes expostulation directed at others.

When it comes to the ethereal matters of personal opinion, felicity, sexuality, government, friendship, love, ambition and religion, those are the diaphanous constituents best avoided either directly or indirectly except at the risk of ready exposure of deeper and usually more sensitive raw material. It is a sad comment upon our personal legitimacy and upon our existential struggle for right that these labarynthine matters are incapable of further explanation by supposed discussion, conversation, examination or any other prerogative. Such is the enigma of life.

We seemingly thrive upon admonition of others. This bollocking is however as offensive as back-slapping. The two are characteristic of misplaced identity. The only thing about which I am certain between me and any other is that we’re inscrutably destined to a similar end. This includes not only the incomprehensible fortuity of life but the more predictable conclusion of life; namely, decomposition and irrelevance. At the terminal stage of existence, the predominant devotion of both interest and meaning revolves about strains of philosophy which have no answer.  Better minds than mine have tried without success and without blandishment to convince me or the world that any one particular course of conduct is either inevitable or mandatory. A far more certain observation is that we’d do better in the meantime to accommodate others than expend our misguided percipience and energy upon wistful alliances.

What is the peril of assimilation? Surely echoes of the melting pot resound. Parenthetically I am moved to recall the unfathomable delight I experienced in my junior year at law school upon being introduced to comparative religion. It was comparable to the magic of viewing a distant landscape through a powerful binocular. To my thinking the integration of ideas and cultures is nothing but improving. And if it means having to share a spoonful of one’s providence, I see the gambol worthing of exploit by contrast to the alternatives of ignorance and defeat. It is a far less onerous task in the darkness of intellectual speculation to open the door than to fashion how to close and lock it. And far less tarsome. It is by pure logic more reliable and less taxing to avoid formulation of human strategy than to submit to its ineffable native character.

Certainly the adoption of clarity in what are effectively diplomatic endeavours is a posture to be kindled with unqualified resolve. Pax vobiscum!  Notably the recommendation is reciprocal.

The Vulgate version of the Gospels contains such forms as “veniet pax vestra“, “pax vestra revertetur ad vos” (literally, “may your peace return to you”; figuratively, “let your peace rest on you” or “may you be treated with the peace with which you treat others” Matthew 10:13).

Seemingly however there are scurrilous foundations upon which rest more hardened comportment. I am reminded of the adage that we’re more advanced by what we don’t know than what we do know. Frankly the attribute of conclusive knowledge about almost any topic of the human condition is threatened by possible error. The achievement of the pinnacle of truth about such vastly complicated rendition is I fear beyond the scope of most of us.

Nonetheless it is equally to be acknowledged that we can normally count upon others to express themselves without deference to our particular intellectual or elemental whims, apparently undeterred by the likelihood or proximity of unintended obfuscation.