NASA/JPL/CalTech - Messier 104

My Error-Prone Self
Extract from an e-mail sent to a personal correspondent

The reason why I now do not – and have no desire to – “get involved with social change” (or to “go out into the world and try to give something back” as another correspondent recently expressed it) is the reality of me having made, and knowing and feeling I made, so many mistakes, shown such poor judgement, been so arrogant, so selfish, for so many decades – for most of my adult life. Given this reality, I simply do not trust myself anymore not to cause suffering, not to make even more mistakes, not to show poor judgement again. Just as I know my responsibility, my blame, for those my past mistakes and their human consequences.

Thus, why would I want to inflict myself on the world anymore? External engagement might in theory (just might) be possible for me again were I to have the guidance, the oversight, of others; a moral authoritative framework provided by good people I could empathize with and trust to guide, advise, correct me. But even then, even then given my past propensity to be hubriatic and selfish, I might veer away from doing what was right.

For the simple honest truth is that I now feel, in my very being, that I have no right to, can find no justification for me to – beyond that necessitated by personal honour in the immediacy of the moment [1] – interfere in the lives of others, in however small a way even if my initial motives might be (or seemed to me to be) good. For who I am to judge, decide, things beyond the purvue of empathy and a very personal honour? I am just one fallible exceedingly error-prone human being with a long proven history of impersonal interference, of hubriatic, suffering-causing, and selfish, deeds. Someone who does not trust himself anymore and who values and tries to cultivate wu-wei. Which is the major reason why some months ago I ceased to write (to pontificate) – about anything; leaving me with only some few and sporadic (and soon also to cease) personal correspondences such as this [2].

In effect, I feel I am not – by being reclusive – retreating from the world, just seeking not to inflict my error-prone self on the world, on others. An error-prone self, a person, I admit I now do not like very much. Which is why there is also no longer any desire, not even any secret desire, to share my life, in however small or complete a way, with anyone or even with others be they friends old or new. Of course I could be wrong, and am just being silly or stupid. But it is how I have come to feel.

All I now have therefore are the brief human contacts that this type of reclusive non-religious life allows or finds is fitting. The smile, the cheery return of a ‘hello’ or a ‘good morning’ when a person is passed while out walking. Or perchance talk of the weather. No reason for me to be gruff, aloof or rude. Quite the contrary – a need to smile; to be polite; perhaps even a little charming and briefly. As if such small so human things so briefly made might be some minuscule emanation of that wordless quiet quite inexplicable inner joy and peace which somehow in some strange manner seems to flow within when I am out, outdoors, wherever whenever, able thus to feel the freshness of the air, see clouds and sky, feel this living planet as Nature lives and changes, and be again one particular if fragile brief mortal emanation, one microcosmic none-harming connexion, to all Life. For there, alive, it is as if I am who and what I now should be: no thought, no words, to spoil or soil earth, wind, sky, sea, clouds, heavens, or water.

But yes, there is a certain inner emptiness, and often and bearing grief and sadness, when alone indoors. Inner vacant sometimes colding spaces which perhaps a belief in God – or the gods – might fill, and which certainly a partner or prayer or both would warm and dissipate. Yet this certain inner emptiness, such sadness, I sense is perhaps is as it should be for me, as part expiation for the varied harm my varied pasts – in this one life – have caused.

So many, so very many many, others in so many places world-wide far less fortunate than I, so that I have to – must – accept my pottering hopefully now non-harmful way of life, remembering. Always remembering that θάνατος δὲ τότ᾽ ἔσσεται, ὁππότε κεν δὴ Μοῖραι ἐπικλώσωσ᾽ [3] and the suffering I personally have caused, balanced (perhaps) as such remembering is by a (perhaps naive) hope that someone or some many may learn and change as I seemed to have learnt and changed: learned to see, to feel, to try to gently be, the goodness we humans are capable of and have often shown ourselves to be capable of. A goodness revealed by empathy, and thus presenting to us an understanding of innocence, peace, forgiveness, honour, love and joy, far beyond any words I know.

The grievous reprehensible sadness-causing mistake I as extremist, with my fanatical hubriatic certitude of knowing, made for some forty years – and which all extremists of whatever kind always make – was/is to place some idea, some ideal, some dogma, some abstraction, before the innocence of human beings and before those quite simple things which empathy and pathei-mathos reveal and which express our humanity:

“…the desire for personal love and the need to be loyally loved; the need for a family and the bonds of love within a family that lead to the desire to protect, care for, work for, and if necessary defend one’s loved ones. The desire for a certain security and stability and peace, manifest in a home, in sufficiency of food, in playfulness, in friends, in tolerance, in a lack of danger. The need for the dignity, the self-respect, that work, that giving love and being loved, provide…” [4]

and a knowing of, a feeling for, and acknowledgement of, innocence: where those who are personally unknown to us are unjudged by us and are given the benefit of the doubt, since this presumption of innocence of others – until or unless direct personal experience, and individual and empathic knowing of them, proves otherwise – is the fair, the reasoned, the numinous, the human, thing to do.

That reprehensible mistake I made is why extremists embody and manifest hate and violence and conflict; because extremists dehumanize, as well as so often enjoying and needing the exhilaration, the sense of identity, the ‘enemies’, that hate and violence and conflict and abstractions give birth to and always thereafter nurture. A dehumanization so evident in the truth that extremists place some goal, some idea, some ideal, some dogma, some abstraction, some political/social/religious agenda, before a personal love, before a personal loyalty, before stability, peace, and innocence; blind as extremists mostly are – willfully or neglectfully, or naturally because of their character – to the good and to the good people of human intentions which and who exist and which and who have existed in those societies such extremists almost invariably, because of their hubriatic certitude-of-knowing, seek to undermine, destabilize, decimate, overturn, revolutionize, or destroy.

But I have no chanted, sung, or contemplative Opus Dei to try, in monastic peace and with hope and faith, to balance – Soli Deo Honor et Gloria – the unwise deeds of so many; nor any longer a desire or need to interfere in the lives of others. So there is for me only the living of each moment as it passes: no aim, no goal. Instead:

The smile of joy when Sun of Summer
Presents again this Paradise of Earth
For I am only tears, falling

David Myatt
November 2012

Notes, Post Scriptum

[1] As I mentioned in The Numinous Balance of Honour section of my The Way of Pathei-Mathos – A Philosophical Compendiary,

“[The] personal virtue of honour, and the cultivation of wu-wei, are – together – a practical, a living, manifestation of our understanding and appreciation of the numinous; of how to live, to behave, as empathy intimates we can or should in order to avoid committing the folly, the error, of ὕβρις, in order not to cause suffering, and in order to re-present, to acquire, ἁρμονίη. For personal honour is essentially a presencing, a grounding, of ψυχή – of Life, of our φύσις – occurring when the insight (the knowing) of a developed empathy inclines us toward a compassion that is, of necessity, balanced by σωφρονεῖν and in accord with δίκη.

[2] The minor reason why I some months ago ceased to write is that my Recuyle of the Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos contains (in my fallible view) all that is required for an understanding of, and all that is relevant to, my now completed weltanschauung.

[3] ‘Our ending arrives whenever wherever the Moirai decide’. Attributed to Καλλίνου, as recorded by Ἰωάννης Στοβαῖος in his Ἀνθολόγιον (c. 5th century CE).

In respect of Μοῖραι (τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες) – Trimorphed Moirai with their ever-heedful Furies – qv.Aeschylus [attributed], Prometheus Bound, 515-6, and Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 130:

Μοῖρ᾽ ἀλαπάξει πρὸς τὸ βίαιον
…by the purging Moirai subdued

[4] Some Personal Musings On Empathy [Part II of Recuyle of the Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos]


Image credit: NASA/JPL/CalTech – Messier 104