My voluminous private FP-related email correspondences all seem to be harping on the same theme lately. Oh Jack H, you hardly ever tell us about your personal private feelings and the details of your fascinating life anymore. Is everything okay? Because you are so interesting and we all admire you so much! Now, while I appreciate the outpouring of such unconditional love, I rather did feel that I have been sharing quite a bit about myself. But a cursory inspection of these postings confirms the sad fact that much of what I write here is indeed not about me specifically. For this grave oversight I do apologize. Sometimes I forget what's important, here. Sometimes I think that people come here for information, rather than to admire the wonder and the glory that is Jack H. I will strive in the future to focus more on myself -- but understand, magnetic though my personality is, I myself am an overweeningly modest man, and I might feel just a tad self-conscious attempting to fill the gaping void of your hunger for details about me. Nevertheless, I am nothing if not accommodating. Therefore, I will speak a little on the subject of conscience.
Not long ago some of my pals and I were sitting around gabbing, the way we do. Someone inquired about the worst thing I'd said back in the days when I would say anything. Well, all of that was quite literally 30 years ago, and it's not a landscape I revisit on a regular basis, so the mists of time have covered over all but the tallest peaks of that barren world. One salient feature did suggest itself, though. I had said something coarse to my journalism teacher, in a loud and jocular and overbearing voice. "And just then the principal waked in," I related to my buddies. But it wasn't the principal.
This has been bothering me. This inaccuracy. It feels like a lie, and I haven't told a lie since 1992. I can't go back and correct it, first because it is utterly insignificant and would make me seem even weirder than I already seem. Second, because I understand it to be the convenient gloss of the storyteller. It wasn't the principal, it was some big important-seeming administrator of the school or the district. But the fraction of a second that I took to debate on how I'd label this character -- go through the inelegant extra and vague words of a more accurate but clumsy identification of this administrator, or call him the principal -- that process felt exactly like what it feels like to make up a lie. And it bothers me still.
I don't generally like to repeat details in these pages -- themes yes, but not details. But I'll call up again how I wish I'd told a certain person how much I respected him. I told him I loved him at every appropriate moment. But respect. I don't torment myself for this reticence. It didn't occur to me to say it. The blessing that such words might have bestowed was missed, but I gave him other blessings, and they would have to be enough. The word "perfection" means, sometimes, "completeness" -- as God is perfect. What I have left undone will not rise to condemn me, though. Enough is enough.
Some things should not be left undone. We need words for their clarity -- their concreteness, for all that they are only vibrations in air. Whether truth or deception, they convey meaning and intention. All communication is about respect, or its absence. It's all about integrity. It's all a manipulation or an attempt at intimacy. Even baboons can lie -- one is being chased by another, and it stops suddenly and peers watchfully at the horizon, in the typical baboon scanning for danger because a predator is near pose; the other baboon instantly scans the horizon too. We always have reason for it, our deceptions and our truths.
That's why I have patience with the fool and the braggart. It's only the bully that I despise. Look at how wonderful I am. Such comments make me smile. Look at how stupid you are. Such comments call up my contempt. They might all stem from the same insecurity, but their effect is different. We are allowed to be insecure. It's part of our endearing imperfection. We aren't allowed to bring lasting harm to the innocent.
That's it then. A few thoughts about conscience. Almost every word here is true. I might have taken a few narrative shortcuts, as, say, when I spoke about my voluminous email correspondences. But the essence of even those words is true, or at least revealing. What more could you want? Perfection? I allow myself such devices because they allow you to exercise your patience and your capacity for tenderness. If I gave it all to you in bland if nutritious bite-sizes, you'd never learn the richness, the full savor and delicacy of the wonder that is Jack H. That would be a catastrophe. Worse than death. Worse than Hitler. Worse than telling a lie.