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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Quality of Conscience

I always feel much worse about the things that I do to other people than I do about the things that are done to me. I like being this way, and I flatter myself that this is called having a high quality of conscience.

You would think that this has left me open to all sorts of damage, but I feel that the opposite has been true. You might say that I just don't remember and that instead the haze of retrospect is in operation here, a natural defense mechanism that sets in with age. I am glad that so many events are safely in the past, but I have no sense of aching from injuries of that era.

Similarly, the instances of damage that I've inflicted on others have been few and non-toxic. Another defense mechanism? I'm just going by the scarcity of times that it's been called to my attention. They were always the result of miscalculations of some sort instead of being intentional, which my conscience, being on the iron-willed side almost to a fault, would never have allowed. But nothing protects us from being careless once in a while.

I have long known that being this way would automatically disqualify me from ever having positions of prominence and power, high or low, and I've been more than happy with that. Any time that circumstances pushed me close to being a leader of some type, it didn't last long and was always accomplished in a lackadaisical manner.

The Reverends Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy promised to lead Rainbows to the Promised Land. In an earlier era, however, Eugene Debs was more on the mark, I think, when he told his followers that he wouldn't think of leading them to the Promised Land, because if he could, somebody else could come along and lead them back out. That sounds like the real truth of things to me.

I wonder how I came to be this way? Was it inborn or was it taught, or both? I don't recall being showered with any precepts in this direction.

It sounds close to the Golden Rule, but I've never liked the way that that is phrased. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The operative word there is the sometimes deadly word "do." It seemed to me that, generally speaking, it was better not to do anything at all to or unto others, positive or negative.

Negative is self-explanatory. Not doing anything positive is based on a recognition that dawned on me slowly through the years, namely that we don't always know whether our "good" acts are actually of benefit in the long run. I can feel that I know what's best, and therefore, for instance, the things that I write in this weblog, but as for pushing hard in those directions ...I am not the godhead, nor -- unlike so many -- have I ever felt that I had a direct line into the Ultimate Authority. Too many times you see people behaving towards others with full confidence that what they are doing is all to the good, though in the end things don't turn out that way at all.

"Leave everybody alone." There it all is ...I think.


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