After a recent post of mine on here called Where Does The Buck Stop?, someone who reads this blog suggested that I might think about removing my own final comment on it. This comment was made at a time of turbulence, and the suggestion was that I had exposed my evident disturbance too much to public scrutiny. Since I am a contributor to this blog, I can delete my own posts and comments. I’m grateful to this person, who had my best interests at heart, but the fact that I have decided not to delete that comment started me thinking about the internal forces which influence our actions, and what governs our choices.
That un-deleted comment shows that we are often not as in control of ourselves as we would like to be. My internal demons could prompt me to fly in the face of my own advice, and start blaming anyone else but me for something going wrong in my life. However, the hopeful part is that it’s clear that I knew that, and said so. I’m definitely not trying to present myself as being some kind of self-aware authority, but simply to say that, as well as plunging us into despair, our internal dialogue can drag us back from the abyss as well as prompting us to hurl ourselves into it. We have choices, and making the right choice can be redemptive and re-invigorating.
The processes which bring us to these points are of course obscure because they are subjective. We can only judge the outcome by results – by the “fruits” as Christians are wont to say. That comment shows me feeling I’ve got myself into a bad place, desperately trying to claw my way back. I now feel I have done that. Whether I’m right or wrong is of course impossible to say for sure until the game’s over, if we know anything at that point. So the woolly business of “feeling right” is about all that’s left to those of us who don’t run our lives on external absolutes gathered from the Bible, the Koran ETC. So how we account to ourselves for our actions, when faced with difficult choices, inhabits the same subjective world of experience in which any “faith” or “religious” experiences live. Crucial choices may be made by standards which won’t be apparent to anyone outside ourselves; actions which may appear plain crazy to others. At those times, like Martin Luther, we have nothing on which to stand but conviction.
In a recent post, MOI said: “I will say that faith is not the final answer to anything and that science can better explain the actual world of our senses far better than faith can, so trying to make societal rules from such an experiential medium is not a good idea.” The other starting point for this post was a feeling that I needed to respond to that quote, without disagreeing with it. As MOI says, we can’t start telling others what to do on the basis of individual or group conviction. As a side note however, having established that principle, I wonder how evils such as slavery might have been eradicated if left to the free market, were it not for the convictions of people like Wilberforce and Lincoln. But I do agree with MOI in principle about the dangers of applying our internal drivers to the choices of others.
To go back to our internal world, it’s clear to me from my own recent experience that we can’t look to rational quantification for answers. As someone who has lived much of his life in head mode, I have recently been driven to the realization that our inner feelings, what we describe as “heart”, will often be the arbiter of our actions and our sense of responsibility for them, as it is for faith as one possible determinant of the human conscience.
I wish U.S. readers a peaceful public holiday today, and the rest of us a productive Monday.