“The best mask for a treacherous heart is an honest face!”

Growing up I didn’t often watch television.  The common room was not for me a particularly favourable resort as dirty young boys sat about the television, sprawled upon the sofa and library chairs, throwing scraps of paper at one another, rudely joking, stewing (as my late father once so memorably observed) in their own juices. There was a reason I graduated Head Boy (a purely academic distinction). It was indisputably rubbed into me at a tender age that it was all about production and achievement, not idleness and camaraderie.  The latter social contact was for me reserved for those now emblematic dalliances upon the Lower Field on a brilliantly sunny day in chilly late autumn with my special school friend Max whose mother we later learned committed suicide by hanging herself with a school scarf at the Royal York Hotel when she was putatively frequenting a continuing learning medical course in Toronto.

On one occasion I was watching Blackbeard the Pirate on television. I can’t recall when or where. I have always had a proclivity for matters maritime of almost any description, from sailing ships to ship’s bells (and even sealing wax). During the television narrative (I somehow recall that Blackbeard was instructing his young shipmate or steward Jim), the pirate meaningfully observed, “The best mask for a treacherous heart is an honest face!” It is a euphemism which has stuck with me for years. I have since extended its meaning to apply to varying circumstances all of which essentially condemn the threat of apparent favour.

There is a wide range of apothegms which are available to provide direction in matters of the heart and mind. Some clearly have application to business and commerce only. I’d like to touch upon the sometimes delicate though predominant matter of trust.

It is possible that the trustworthiness of a person depends upon as little as the weather so mercurial at times is the persuasion. Even associating someone  with vastly superior ornaments such as intellect or rationality does little to advance the examination. In the end we make our own choice upon what credentials are convincing. There are however precedents some of which I find particularly useful.

Here are some suggested rules to ponder.

Trust you’re instincts. As clever – that is, as cerebral as we may intend to be – the trump card in matters of lingering debate must always be the gut; that is, the visceral. There’s a reason an animal runs from danger – and it is seldom a reasoned decision. Furthermore I remind you of the dubious calculation, “I knew something was wrong!” Unless you intend to be purely entertaining, I remind you we’re not late afternoon football critics! Certainty requires the greater immediacy and pungency of one’s bowels.

If she knows why she loves him she doesn’t. Don’t be persuaded by flattery. It is a net before another man’s feet for a multitude of reasons not the least of which is social climbing. Having said that, I know a fellow who openly admitted his wife married him for his money and he for her name.  Reciprocity appears to dilute the abusive element of the deformation. I would however caution that such blunt candidness is seldom tolerated; hence the common preservation of deceit instead. And in case it matters to you, consider the overall diminutive affect upon society. It is an additional observation best reserved for a further time; namely, that in the end we’re only fooling ourselves!

Criticism is the best autobiography. That says it all! I love to conjoin this maxim with a further premeditated inquest, “What do you love about him most?” Cast off with the abandon of cocktail banter, the question has the appearance of generosity. The answer is invariably highly suggestive because the saying works two ways, both good and bad. Either way it is a surefire course of investigation of the opining character.

”Nemo dat quod non habet”. No one gives what he does not have. This maxim is an elemental feature of the British Common Law which washed upon the Atlantic shores with the Pilgrims in 1620. Aside from its applicability to immediate issues it extends to such esoteric refinement as the American Constitution (establishing the division between federal and state legislatures). It invites the query, “By what authority do you act?“ It further restricts the beneficence of any who purport to deliver what is beyond their entitlement to do so. Basically, it ain’t yours to give!

“He who is delegated may not deligate further”. Only a direct appointee is entitled to speak on behalf of his principal. Otherwise you’re attributing responsibility to an unauthorized person to do what he was never appointed to do.

“The ruler of Riseholme, happier than he of Russia, had no need to fear the finger of Bolshevism writing on the wall, for there was not in the whole of that vat which seethed so pleasantly with culture, one bubble of revolutionary ferment. Here there was neither poverty nor discontent nor muttered menace of any upheaval: Mrs Lucas, busy and serene, worked harder than any of her subjects, and exercised an autocratic control over a nominal democracy.”