Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Emotions? Yes, I suppose I have to confess, however reluctantly, that I have them. They’re not bad in themselves, but they trouble one so, don’t you agree? Such a bother, to be befuddled when one’s mental acuity is most needed. Take tonight, for example. One young drake was preening over his sexual attractiveness, elaborating upon a potential conquest -- without the need for seduction, as he took pains to make clear. It seems the colleen is already attached to some paramour, but has a wandering eye. What ever shall he do, he wondered aloud. And a Greek chorus of piping voices chimed in with their biologically determinative conclusion: “Fuck her!” And why indeed, why not indeed?

At which point a lone voice cried out, some hydraulic pressure forcing air through larynx almost involuntarily: “It has something to do with integrity.”

Yes, emotions make us fools. Take me, for instance. It wasn’t my business. I wasn’t part of the conversation. I had nothing to add, that everyone doesn’t know could be added, however otherwise unspoken such a contribution would remain. The chorus leader harmonized some coloratura to the effect of, why not? You know -- get what you can, while you can. Some disparate recitatives confirmed the theme and there seemed no further point, if initial point there had ever been, in my contributing anything more to that particular oratorio.

But on the way home, after I’d forgotten all of the music and most of the words, it came back to me, that ear worm of a tune. "Why not?" What power could the shadow of integrity possibly have over the solidity of our actions? Only that which we give it. Conscience is such an obsolete concept. Fool’s gold. I however remembered how I used to talk to the teenagers, back when I taught teenagers. I’d tell them, when they riffed on the theme of "why not", that we are what we do. We are what we do.

If we do sneaky, betraying, dishonest things, what are we? We are what we do. Anything we do in fear of being found out -- what man can do such things? To skulk and creep and tremble lest he be discovered -- how pitiful. There are several kinds of pride, but only one worth having: pride in one’s actions. What is the counterpart of such pride? It must be shame. Some might claim they feel no shame. If so, their conduct would reveal it. And if that is the case, they can have no pride either. If it is not pride, as I have defined it, then it can only be ego. What is the foundation of ego? If not actions, not accomplishments, then I suggest ego would be built on insecurity.

All this is philosophy. Philosophy is like emotion -- excretions, each, the former of mind into action, and the latter of mind into body. Yes, they matter, but only to those to whom they matter. How can you teach someone about value? I never argue about morality. It is something to be asserted, and either they get it or they don’t.

If you ever manage to burn wet wood, it smokes so that nothing can be clearly seen. Best to let the wood dry out -- the night is long and dark and cold and filled with wildness, and the day might be miserable too, burning with its own pounding heat. But it will dry out the wood, so it prepares a sort of comfort.

Self respect has a price. Not everyone understands that. Not everyone understands that the compromises one makes are paid for from the treasures of one’s soul. I know, I’m a fool. But sometimes a fool’s gold is real gold. Not everyone needs to spend long nights in the cold, and anguished days in what seems an inferno. Is pain the alchemist's crucible that transmutes base metal into gold? Not everyone needs pain. But everyone needs limits. Everyone needs to fast sometimes, for all that hardly anyone does. We think we will not be slaves. But we are slaves to appetite, unless we are its master.

I know. I know. I'm very preachy. I just about didn't post this one, it's so very preachy. But I'm speaking to teenagers.


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