Submitted by William Elder.
“You again— what can you possibly want now?”
“Liar, liar! That’s all you are, you lying scum— a liar!”
“Are you so blind you can’t see the truth in front of your stupid face?”
We started our last discussion with a bit of irony— even humor— from Winston Churchill about the flawed practitioners of democracy. All we true Americans— or so we thought. We think again after 6 January 2021, less charitably, seeking a new core, or more correctly, a revitalized old one.
Truth is that old core remains sound. I recommend taking a look back at, with an eye to looking forward. Winston’s it is a civil voice that helps us again. “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” But where, exactly, is there?
To pronounce upon how the human brain is able to arrive at one particular claim as “truth” is tough. To accept widely it as so is tougher. To generally accept how we— as sometimes sentient beings— pretends its ascendence is toughest of all. Some guidance might be helpful. Arthur Schopenauer offers a thought. “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Neat— if so.
Safe to say we passed the first stage with many bruises. The American electorate has endured that second onslaught for too many years now. Third remains to be as yet seen, the scales from our eyes have yet to fall fully away. We live among those who still see what they want to see— not as reality is, but for their own blinkered ends, for that someone so long wanted to tell them they saw, and seeing thus, blinded them. Blindness is an infirmity, a burden to be borne every day, endured, perhaps overcome with effort and practice. Self-blindness, on the other hand, is a self-affliction. One that can be cured in a wink by merely opening your eyes and your heart at the same time. Try it. It may crack your set face with a smile. The rest of you may crack too, and follow.
“Agree to disagree” we concluded before, as best we should. But not before each of us truly knows what he or she agrees to or disagrees with, seeks out the honesty within to conclude truth or trash there, either way. Honesty and integrity are the inner hounds within each of us that sniff out our true selves. Noses known best to ourselves, mouths, most often, best left to others. Try Polonius’ speech in Act 1, Scene 3 of Hamlet:
There, my blessing with thee.
And these few precepts in thy memory
Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel,
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatched, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear ’t that th’ opposèd may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear but few thy voice.
Take each man’s censure but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not expressed in fancy—rich, not gaudy,
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell. My blessing season this in thee.
A lot of fair-thee-well father-to-son— but some gold among much dross. Chief gold is the very advice to those less experienced from those who have been there. Don’t trip here, it warns. Very rare and precious. For the rest: Keep your mouth shut and listen. Show respect. Fight well in a fair fight. Understand criticism, let it go, unwarrented. Watch your bucks. This above all: to thine own self be true; be not false to any man. Wish I had been wise enough to pass along to my own son those lessons so readily. Glad enough he learned them, on his own, to earn his father’s undying pride.
Argue if you must, skillful as you are— learn always, in doing so, as best you can.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.