My late father lived until his 96th year. As the inevitable approached he often expressed the wish only for peace and quiet. Considering his age and all that he had endured throughout his lifetime (including bobbing up and down in a dinghy in the North Atlantic in World War II) it was not surprising he should have wished only for peace and quiet. The focus arose about the same time he agreed at last to allow me to refer the completion of his annual income tax returns to a chartered public accountant. Until then – the last several years of his life – he had insisted upon filing his returns unaided by professional advice (and as a result he was as regularly reassessed). He visibly enjoyed driving to the offices of Canada Revenue Agency to meet with an officer in person to review his account. But as I say the thrill or whatever it was that initially enthused him dwindled near the end.
Whether it constitutes a premonition or not I too have lately preferred a similar existence of peace and quiet. Specifically I now seek to avoid confrontation of any degree. Like my father’s vanishing interest in tax law, my interest in disagreement has utterly evaporated. Not only is it disconcerting, I no longer see any value in proving myself right or wrong concerning the particular thread of an argument. Admittedly there is some hesitancy to relinquish justification entirely; but on balance it matters not who at this stage of my life is right or wrong or for one reason or another. Not only has the grasshopper become a burden but also the grip of authenticity has completely lost its pluck. It reminds me of Uncle Stanley (a meek relative of my former fiancée’s family) who routinely commented, “Very tasty indeed!’ following whatever it was he had digested at table. I eventually recognized Uncle Stanley’s summation as a limpid dismissal. He obviously hadn’t the energy or interest for any further detail.
It is equally clear to me that (in my instance) the avoidance of conflict is currently the product of an overall pacification. Basically I have quelled the agitation of the last month arising from measurable though largely trifling threats. The root propulsion was no doubt my historic lack of patience. Nonetheless it affects me. At the moment – touch wood – serenity has returned. My devotion in addition to peace and quiet is to the preservation of tranquillity on all fronts. While this may sound to be an impossibility in this changeable world, it is notable by contrast that the foundation of disturbance is more often than not oneself. If for example one were to learn instead how to cope better with annoyance it would by definition assist to overcome or to resolve the consequence. Yet it is a behaviour which demands clarity and industry, not mere reaction as instinctive as it may be. It is perhaps time for me to submit as I had urged my father to do, to more calculated instruction.
Engaging another to make personal decisions is not always as easy as hiring an agent; sometimes we’ve got to rely upon alternate procedure. Assuming as I do that one can learn from one’s mistakes – by no means an easy task for an old dog – I am hopeful that I shall embrace a subsequent opportunity to do so with equanimity. Otherwise I fear I shall revert to an uncomfortable situation of other than peace and quiet.
It warrants one last observation; namely, that criticism is the best autobiography, that we see in others what we see in ourselves. I know that is a hackneyed quip but it nonetheless prevails. Until I discover a more apt reminder I shall continue to adopt it to fuel what I hope will reflect a better judgement. And to maintain peace and quiet!
L’homme qui peut raisonner ses actions découvre bientôt qu’il en est peu d’innocentes. Il faut être prêtre ou soldat pour ne pas connaître les angoisses du doute.