Friday, December 22, 2017


Apart from the daily camouflage of existence nothing so explicitly distinguishes us from the animal kingdom as our abstract thoughts. The height of humanity is its dignity.  How we cultivate and preserve that dignity is of interest to me.  To be clear I consider it redundant to enquire whether the pursuit of dignity is either important or imperative. It is both in my opinion. If you disagree then the analysis will perhaps be superfluous.

What may in any event intrigue is the contemplation of just how one dignifies oneself.  This to me is the essential enquiry. It might for example be considered that almost any behaviour qualfies as dignified, that the objective is not some high, purist standard but rather the emanation of our every instinct and inclination.  That is rather too Bohemian for my liking.  I don't however deny the visceral nature of many implacable instincts. I'm inclined to think what preserves our dignity isn't so much what we do or think as whether our conduct or words preserve an accommodation of others.  There are so many alternative life-styles that I consider it next to impossible to insist upon one over another.  Some people attach huge significance to doing what they believe instils pride and self-respect.  Unfortunately that approach can fuel nothing more than hardened opinions about oneself and others which ultimately fails the goal of accommodation. If only one's own choices and preferences are thought to be worthy of honour I'm not so sure that qualifies as dignity, though perhaps bigotry. The greater ambition in my view is adapting or adjusting to people and things.

The elevation of others in the pursuit of one's own goals seems to me to be far more desirable. Surely we needn't impose upon others our every preference in order to garner or preserve our self-esteem. There may even be times when it is politically pragmatic to maintain the appearance of intransigence in order to impart an element of respectability to what we do or say but that can end by being self-defeating.  The greater victory is not to win but to celebrate; which is to say that personal triumph is not always cause for commemoration. If pragmatism is the sole credential then I have to say that there is far less work required to be nice than to be right.  Getting one's own way can entail such a great deal of effort and stress.  There is besides the risk that all the trouble will go entirely unnoticed, a horrid conclusion to such a punishing enterprise!

So much of what we imagine to be dignified behaviour is predicated upon our assessment of what others think.  That can be a dangerous undertaking!  More frightful than the possibility of misinterpreting the direction of others is the greater likelihood of squandering our capital on ploys that leave us cold. I'm convinced that except for the most preposterous people, most of us would make cooperation our first choice.  How we achieve that result is where the real talent lies.  But at least we can agree that the object is worthy.  There is as well the very real possibility of discovering things about oneself and others that weren't at first apparent.  We forget that alignment of our thoughts with the rigour of our minds can be terribly limiting in spite of how clever we presume to be.  A bit of the old laissez-faire can go a long way to contributing to success in life.

The really inspiring business of dignified behaviour is that by some miracle we all have it within ourselves to do so.  It's one of those oddly native talents of which we're frequently unaware because we so seldom listen to its whispering. But listen, it's there!  It tells us precisely what we need to know - it shows the way to the high road without being supercilious. There may not be the customary token rewards along the road but it is destined to better things than tawdry appeal. There is after all at least some effort required, maybe even some deprivation.

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