Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Apology For Impartiality

Lately it seems that I have stepped on a few toes by being impartial. I constantly find myself a gadfly, when I am merely looking for someone to commiserate this charged climate with. However, to my surprise, I find that impartiality, truthful critique, and satire are all quite unwelcome wherever it goes. Further, it seems that the truth has a rather inflammatory effect, and I can only conclude that this is because some see the truth as defamatory, or because they conflate the particular and the general. They heap symbolism on particular cases, and if you tell the truth about the particulars, then they are at your throat as if you attacked the sacred general, and to be honest, I am not like Voltaire. Voltaire prayed for his enemies to seem ridiculous, and that is far from me. Envisioning anyone as my enemy seems contrived, especially these people who are my own kindred in sacrament and blood. But it seems that I've disturbed them, and for that I must give account, which is precisely what I mean to do.

Socrates, the dear man, played with people, and naturally they thought ill of him. Socrates had done more good for the lot of them than any other and helped secure their place in history. The man pulled back the great eyelid of Greece and let the sun shine deep into the recesses of the eye, and the people liked it none too much. Half scarcely thanked him, and the other half wanted to murder him. Socrates never took the time over the years to make an apology occasionally, for his behavior and his ideas. A defense that is. Socrates was the most benevolent of his countrymen and one of uprightness and probity. He was most altruistic with the application of his intellect and his reason, and munificent and beneficent with the goods of his genius, though he was a pauper. It is a shame that the man was so ill thought of, but that is the way of things. At any rate, he might have done better to, from time to time, graciously defend himself in the form of an apology, but he only did so at the end, and to no immediate avail.

Well, I'm no Socrates, and it is unlikely that any of you will benefit so greatly from me as Athens or the world did from him, neither will I secure your place in history. Yet, taking his life as a lesson, it seems like a good thing to take the time to defend my demeanor, and my proclivity to be candid and impartial. Especially, since it is not strangers to whom I will make the apology, but my own friends, who I perhaps naively assumed understand me at all times.

To be fair, I have a habit, and perhaps it is an annoying one, of treating everything the same. I will, without inhibition expose everything without grace and go to reasoning about it. It seems natural that anyone might be offended by such treatment, especially when both our trivial and monumental beliefs are treated as equals. I will talk about politics in the same manner as I talk about religion, and philosophy the same way as I talk about theology. This is because I consider them linked. Likewise, I tend to treat the particular and the general in the same fashion, not that I conflate the two, but that I examine them under the same set of principles. It happens in life that we hasten along, acquiring beliefs and ideas as expedience would require, and we find ourselves allied with certain folks out of necessity. Finding sufficient utility and harmony therein, we take the truth, fecundity, and of these acquisitions for granted and becoming very comfortable with them. We begin to rely upon them and derive our identity from them, and perhaps rightly so, but perhaps not rightly in every case. So, when a pest like me comes along and begins questioning these things without the approbation of those who believe in them, those very people who feel one and the same with these ideas and belief they feel attacked. Further, they are twice indignant, because they sense that it is their own friend attacking them. To them it's as boorish of me as if I were to accost them argue about the color of the sky, and as rude as if I were to tear their clothes off and begin judging their anatomy.

We all are very want to have reasons for what we believe, and perhaps it is my burden to have an inquisitive nature beyond the norm. Perhaps, I am more offended than most when I am compelled to believe something without reasons. It might be the case that for the sake of their comfort alone that those around me would seek to abridge by peering into all manner of things. This is certainly a possibility. Or, also, maybe it is that some don't want me starting down paths they don't have the time, desire or ability to go down. All these might be the case, but it's not vain. I believe that nothing is in vain for those who love God, because," All things work to the good of those who love God." Still, it seems that somehow others have reaped shame and resentment from my inquiries, which is not my intention at all, and I seek to put an end to it, if possible, with this apology.

I am not favorably inclined to being in any one 'box.' I am a Catholic because I think it corresponds to reality, and one cannot escape reality. For me to not be Catholic would be like giving up my humanity. Someone might say I am certainly in the 'Catholic Box,' but to my mind that would be like saying that I am in the 'Human Box,' because they both correspond to the reality of the material and immaterial. So, such a saying is puerile. What I mean by that I have an aversion to boxes is not that I love being unique, or crave being the 'Devil's Advocate,' or that I am so pathetic as to need to be the center of attention and have recourse to being petulantly contrary; rather what I mean to say is, I heartily attempt to avoid being devoted to or defined by the concepts of others. At least insofar as the finer things are concerned. Though, I am certainly not opposed to giving credit where credit is due and agreeing with them on certain things, even many things. I am politically homeless, I don't care much for novelties, I have no devotion fashion, and I find all the divisions made by humans concerning the natural to be tiresome. I am no partisan, and people seem to know that about me. However, when they realize that includes their partisans, they think," What a mentality!" and attack me or try to justify themselves.

I strive at all times to judge no one, and judge everything. As it is written," Judge not..." and also," He who is spiritual judges all things." Things, you see. I dare to say that I have the endorsement of St. Paul, in the matter, and that I am at least trying to do what is right. However, there come times when we encounter certain things that are so concomitant to individuals, and due to the limitations of our vocabulary to convey ideas, it can happen that it is necessary to make statements regarding individuals. For instance, we might observe someone behaving hypocritically and another being honest, and we might say," If put to it I would choose the honest man over the hypocrite." People might scold, and say that you just judged the two men, but do they do so for the righteous man or the hypocrite? Certainly, for the hypocrite! Who knows why, too. Perhaps, because it is expedient for their own hypocrisies. And do they scold you rightly? No, they do not. You were merely making a statement concerning the pattern of behavior explicit in one, you were not damning him, or indicting everyone from his country, family, or religion. Neither were you suggesting that such a disposition is implicit in the later three. It is perception confined to the particular, not shared by the general.

As stated earlier, however, people who feel quite invested in certain groups are frequently inclined to conflating the general with the particular. They take statements pertaining to the particular to be indictments of the general, and throw down the gauntlet with a sense of righteous indignation. They would be very right to, if the two were conflated in such statements, but it is they who are doing the conflating. They would be right because it would be unjust, for obvious reasons. In either case, they might try to correct you or try to silence you, and if you don't fall silent or don't seem so easily persuaded, they might even attack you or abandon you. Then, only after a great labor of pointing out how you are misunderstood and misrepresented by them, will they grudgingly turn away, as if you shamed them or are a troublemaker, when in truth an apology is due you. They who imagined themselves to be misrepresented, who so vigorously demanded a retraction, make no retraction of their own in the end, though it was they alone who did the misrepresenting. That's not very fair at all, but something I've become accustomed to. It seems there is little in this world quite so as rare as an apology. As St. John Chrysostom said," No one has disturbed thee. You have disturbed thee." I find that proven daily by all.

Impartiality is necessary for contemplation. If you would see what really exists, and if you would know what you really know, you must be impartial. Still, expedition is necessary in human thought. We need not set about reproving ever single thing that supports a specific thing. For instance, we needn't reestablish that God is One, whenever we talk about God. We reason it to be so. However, we must be and should be ready with a defense of the same should one doubt, or should the need arise. We should strive to arrive at the truth by reason, even if we arrived there by other means. That is, if you arrived at a true faith because of sheer hope and a leap of faith, shouldn't you later reason about it and have reasons why it is true? Outside of your emotions and personal experiences, that is. Won't it help you? Certainly. And to do this you must be impartial.

I find it disconcerting when people take impartiality as a sign of disloyalty in friendship. Am I supposed to be loyal to them and not the truth? What do they make themselves out to be? Are they greater than the truth? No, and they wouldn't come out and say so either, but because of insecurity and impatience this is precisely what they do say by distrusting or chastising those who think, speak, or act impartially. Impartiality coupled with reason will arrive at the truth, and if they do not stand in that same spot in their opinions and their actions, then they should be obliged to move themselves to wherever the truth may be. And if there is any doubt about what the inquiry bears out, then they should try again, and again if necessary. Further, it is a very sorry and rotten thing, too, if they should begrudge the person who compelled them to inquiry, or compelled them to move by pointing to whatever a true inquiry bears out.

Finally, most absurd to me is sophistry. I am refreshed to have never seen anyone of my friends engage in it, at least that I can remember. Often a person will chime in on a discussion, as though they know something about the subject, and so you question them on what they know, and they turn out not to have the very knowledge they claimed to be in possession of. And being overly embarrassed by themselves, and often feeling stupid, they hate you for asking for the proof, or the knowledge, as though you were a troublemaker! Sometimes, they are so precipitous as to assume that because you were asking them questions, you yourself knew the answer all along and abusively toyed with them for your own amusement, or worse, for the amusement of an audience. They should be angry with themselves! for soliciting that which they did not have. Again, I can say with some confidence that none of my friends have ever been so reckless as to behave this way; at least with me. If they did, I would be sure to see if they had what they claimed to have, and if not I would reveal their ignorance to them. Why? Because that is true friendship. Friendship pertains to the soul, and there is no friendship in darkening the intellect, or allowing a friend's soul to remain shackled by ignorance in the dark, only in enlightenment and maintenance of the same.

Impartiality, sobriety, moderation, inquisition, and unconditional positive regard... these are justifiable and lead to good things. Every friend owes them to one another, as much as one owes them to himself, because," True friendship is one soul in two bodies." And so I am devoted to these things, because they are prudent, kind and owed. Anyway, it's not my desire be a menace; I only hope that we might correct our mistakes, sober up, and gain the grace of true self-knowledge, and see more accurately how far we have to go. And that's the truth of it.   

"Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and choice, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim." ~Aristotle~

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