“Yes, but…”

And rising up, he rebuked the wind, and said to the sea: Peace, be still. And the wind ceased: and there was made a great calm. – Mark iv: 39

And he asked him: What is thy name? And he saith to him: My name is Legion, for we are many. – Mark V: 9

But let your speech be yea, yea: no, no: and that which is over and above these, is of evil – Matthew v: 37

“Because virtue is boring and vice is disgusting. But that which lives at the foundation of the heart is neither boring nor disgusting”. – Unknown Friend

 

The garment that is our inner life looks strikingly like a patch-work quilt. Where the amalgamation of each of the different patterns and shades of cloth lend our life an overall appearance of shape and continuity. Upon closer inspection, however, it’s discontinuous nature betrays the initial impression. The entire ensemble, gaudy and ill-replete, betrays our latent possibilities. This patch-work, we are told, is the result of a mechanical process working away within ourselves.

Throughout the course of our daily lives we experience various shocks and disturbances: situations and circumstances which either challenge or further entrench our existing notions, habits, and securities. Over the particular course of our lives these shocks and disturbances slash and tear away at the inner garment. Given the nature of these shocks our internal response tends to be one of either avoidance or attraction. It is these actions – automatic and mechanical – that make up these various patches and shades of cloth.

We live in a constant state of patching things up.

The process of ‘patching things up’ is akin to a lie. A lie we perpetually tell ourselves. As Mouriavieff says, and I paraphrase, that if our positive and negative deeds and attributes were totaled their sum would be almost equal. As to their amount: infinitesimal. We are, when we lie to ourselves, morally bankrupt. Zero. Tending towards death.

And we lie to ourselves constantly. Why? Continuity. Given the legion of voices that live inside us at any one time: the little ‘I’s’ that constitute the various impulses, desires, justifications etc. Every man has recourse to three means of establishing and maintaining the veneer of shape and continuity that we have come to associate with our lives: our name, the memory of our experiences, and (of course) the lies we tell ourselves.

These lies typically occur as some form of rationalization which serves to mitigate the shocks and disturbances experienced, thereby perpetuating the mechanical response of ‘patching things up’ which in turn maintains the veneer of continuity. As the above passage from Saint Matthews Gospel alludes to, these justifications are typically comprised of two parts or movements: first, the acknowledgement (often superficial) of the shock experienced; then comes the rationalization, thereby placating the personality and rendering any chance of self-knowledge potentially gleamed within the first movement null and void. Or, put most simply: “Yes, but…”.

However, to begin to admit these lies and catch the process of rationalization signifies an awakening conscience. And to cease entirely: an awakened one. This should be our ideal; our practice.

August 5, 2018

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