Saturday, May 26, 2018

Practice what you preach

I have found it so much easier to tell other people what to do than to do the same myself. Living up to one's own expectations is far less convenient than merely directing traffic.  Not to mention the gratifying appeal of rhetoric which abounds in preaching generally!  Listening to one's own voice  - by comparison to the filthy trouble of performance of what one actually says - is considerably more fascinating.  Yet as irresistible as it may be, inevitably the depth of evangelism has its limits.  Specifically the nasty possibility of having to practice what one preaches comes home to haunt us.  The rebound or echo of one's own scintillating voice is ultimately inescapable.

The disturbing corollary to this uncomfortable admission is that one's entire belief in the legitimacy of instruction of almost any order is under siege. If as I say it is so troublesome to do what one is suggesting, then how can we possibly expect others to do so?  It is for that reason alone that sermonizing to others is a dangerous undertaking from the get-go. The fruitlessness of the effort tends to detract meaningfully from the initial intent.

The alternative however is not to withdraw completely from personal engagement with others. Abandoning even the pretence of assessment of another's conduct is precipitously close to ignorance. One might as well opine, "It's your bed - you make it, you sleep in it!"  While this evasion may satisfy the desire to remain impartial it does not however succeed to engender the faintest hint of genuine participation.  We are not here merely to watch an unfolding drama; we're part of it whether we like it or not.  And that means we cannot avoid the necessity to participate at least on some level of acuity.

For many years I have harboured the view that old people like I owe it to younger people to share what if anything they have learned.  Perhaps this only satisfies some nascent didactic element of being; but I prefer to imagine it is the result of active deduction, the object of syllogistic reasoning.  There are for example so many other tiresome preoccupations in life.  I can't but think that doling out some intellect is more useful.  Unfortunately the competing feature in these otherwise learned endeavours is that the party of the second part may very well we experiencing a less than purely logical sensation.  In fact the prevalence may instead be purely emotional, not exactly the most thriving environment for abstraction.

In the polarized vernacular of action and thought there are axiomatic truths which nonetheless prevail, among them that none of us is capable of telling others what to think or do. Yet we are capable of promoting what we perceive to be the best instruction for ourselves.  Surely anyone who has devoted any time at all to the contemplation of conduct knows that there are some methods which work better than others.  Assuming as I do that the authenticity of those conclusions is wrought from personal experience, then there exists the potential for examination and disclosure.  To be clear this is not the same as commanding another.  Rather it is purely relational - and hopefully illuminating in the process.

Each of us is bound by his or her own elemental realities. When all else fails to persuade us of the manifest beauty of life, it may be the only recourse is to endure the elapse of time and circumstance, those universal healers which are independent of our singular nature. Certainly any enthusiasm requires a degree of optimism in the future.  But in the end it may be the best advice of all.

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