An out of the blue chat,,,

After what had been a bustling Monday morning – grocery shopping at the new Farm Boy on Hazledean Road followed by Bed Bath & Beyond, Petro-Canada, Staples, Mark’s Workwear and Beckwith Kitchen  – it was perhaps unsurprising that as we passed by Wilson Street and the Mississippi Golf Club projecting into Glen Isle and the tributaries of the Mississippi River we should have openly pondered one of Chef Wendy MacDonald’s hamburger platters with French fries or onion rings. Serendipitously the hour was almost precisely noon.  In our early morning haste to confront today’s retail agenda we had eaten nothing other than a banana or an apple. We were piqued for sustenance!

Normally we attend the club house early in the morning for breakfast.  Today we paid the penalty of tardiness because our usual table by the front windows overlooking the first tee had been overtaken by others.  We grumpily assumed another identical table with the same view located but three away from the preferred perch (the chairs are high chairs adjacent a raised table).

As good as they were, this account is not about the hamburgers, the French fries or the onion rings – of which nothing but the tiniest crumb remains. And I am bound to repeat the usual compliment about MacDonald Catering – in a word, superb! What however intrigued me today in particular was an unanticipated chat we had with a gentleman whom I did not initially recognize.  Such is the casualty of old age that imperceptible change is only evident to those close at hand.

There is an old saying that criticism is the best autobiography; basically that we see in others what we see in ourselves.  This I have found to be true, to the extent for example that I have deceptively employed the quip to provoke others to reveal themselves by asking what precisely they find so disagreeable about certain people.

But the opposite is also true; namely, the good things we say about others also betray our own happier resources. As often as not – whether speaking of criticisms or compliments – the author of the report is unaware of the self-reflective nature of the commentary. It is a curious psychological observation because it reminds one unwittingly of our inadequacy. How odd we are to believe that the microscope or binoculars through which we look – from no matter how close or from howsoever afar – are anything but a reflection of ourselves. Indeed the author of a narrative about others is frequently alarmed to discover upon anaysis the divulgling nature of the author himself.

Though my aptitude is more philosophic than psychological (primarily I suppose because my undergraduate degree is in philosophy and I have no training whatsoever in psychology), I have nonetheless the arrogance to presume a capacity to understand others. Specifically I am provoked to appreciate why people suffer controversy. You say to me, “What is the answer?“; and, I say to you, “What is the question?

Differences of any description fall into the same basket of resolution. There is in my opinion nothing in the human experience which is beyond resolution.  As bold as that may resound it is, as I imagine you will agree, the sole ingredient prerequisite to disentanglement. The overall theme must always be – Nobody leaves the room until we’ve reached agreement! If one insists upon counting the particles by which one position tops another, the scheme of resolution is contaminated from the outset.

On the other hand, if we’re willing to accept that the greater advantage is ultimately extricating oneself from knots, it may become more digestible to adopt a new approach to differences. As often as money forms part of disagreement, I know of no one who lives by money alone. Money is as much a disguise as it is a stimulus. In either instance money (whether cash, real or intellectual property) is but a facade surrounding the adherent. The sustainability of the individual depends not upon defeating another but nourishing oneself. This in turn demands a knowledge of one’s real appetites.  Even a beast must be fed – but only the appropriate fodder.

What was extraordinary today about the casual conversation which arose between us and the chap at the other table was its unparalleled frankness and proclamation of purpose. It requires a certain delicacy to appreciate the refinement of communications with others.  We must never assume that liberty reigns; indeed more often than not the parties are unaware of the underlying motives or stimuli. But each of us is more demonstrable than we might care to confess. Recognition of oneself is near impossible for a variety of reasons but it is axiomatically the key to self-expression. The more in tune one is with one’s own proclivities, the more likely is one to be extricated from knots with others. A starting point towards fulfillment is the achievement of understanding one’s own oddities.

The Ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself” (Greek: γνῶθι σεαυτόν, transliterated: gnōthi seauton; also … σαυτόν … sauton with the ε contracted) is one of the Delphic maxims and was the first of three maxims inscribed in the pronaos (forecourt) of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi according to the Greek writer Pausanias (10.24.1). The two maxims that followed “know thyself” were “nothing to excess” and “certainty brings insanity”. In Latin the phrase, “know thyself”, is given as nosce te ipsum or temet nosce.

It is equally apt to recall the further adage, Memento mori (Latin for ‘remember that you [have to] die’) is an artistic or symbolic trope acting as a reminder of the inevitability of death. The two go hand-in-hand unless you’re saving it for the funeral.