Reflections on Aphorisms #88

Wrote this earlier in the day, so I haven’t had a chance to see how the day went yet. By all indications, though, today will be a good day. I forced myself to just sit on the couch and write for a few hours (a handful of ~5 minute breaks aside), which means that my productivity has hit a level that I am honestly a little surprised by myself.

At the time of writing I’ve written around three-thousand words (perhaps even a good chunk more) and it’s not even noon.

Aphorism 126

The evil that we do does not attract to us so much persecution and hatred as our good qualities. (Maxim 29)

François de La Rochefoucauld

Interpretation

The other day (link to my post), I wrote about Rochefoucauld’s observations on jealousy and envy and I think that there’s some truth to it when you view it by means of this maxim.

I think that it’s particularly true in modern society, and perhaps in Rochefoucauld’s society too, that people have a tendency not to focus on the negatives that people do.

Some of this stems from good, some from evil.

On one hand, we ignore the faults in others because it would be hypocritical of us to condemn them. We still have faults in our own persons, and it is right that we hold off on a certain degree of judgment. We may also be overly optimistic, trusting others and giving them grace when their actions do not line up with their ideals. That we don’t know for sure what their ideals are is a problem that keeps me up at night, but it’s a matter for deeper philosophy than I have a desire to get into before noon.

We may also lack the virtue required to see faults for what they are. If we do something wrong, we justify and rationalize it, or at the very least shamefully hide it. When we see others in the same sin, we defend them as we would defend ourselves. We argue that it isn’t so bad. We come up with a legitimate goal that it furthers. We ignore it so we do not have to confront it.

More dangerously, we may also feel that it is not our place to help our fellow humans. We can look at those adrift and argue that we were never appointed as their moral arbiters. Of course, we should not trample on the freedoms of others.

There’s an idea in certain interpretations of Judaism and Christianity that there’s a provision of free will because God wants humanity to be free to choose or reject the divine will. All the evil and suffering in the world exists because without the ability to suffer we would never be able to reject God. Suffering flows from rejection of God, but a perfect world would be the destroyer of all virtue because nobody would do anything except absolutely surrender to God.

To force others to morality has the same effect as removing their free will. It may be necessary in certain cases (e.g. to prevent the violent from preying on the innocent), but it is not a morally good act of itself outside the context of protecting people.

One of the reasons why we turn criticism of people toward their virtues is that a flawed virtue is obvious but also something which is acceptable to talk about. If you tear into someone for being an alcoholic, you look cruel. If you point out that someone who is generally honest lied about something important, you look like a defender of those poor souls that they might exploit without your warning. You can argue that you are not condemning their character (even though you are) and instead claim that it is all about their actions.

Nobody is perfectly virtuous. My best “virtues” come from a lack of temptation and appeal rather than mastery of the self. I am sure that this is replicated in other people. When I was a youth, people praised me for my pursuit of wisdom, but I was really more afraid of being a fool than I was desirous of wisdom.

In this light, what is the correct course of action?

To recognize virtue in others and praise it.

To recognize vice in the self and in others and seek to eliminate it.

To speak openly without condemnation or flattery.

Resolution

Seek to pursue virtues where I have vices.

Don’t forget that evil motives can drive seemingly good actions; they corrupt them entirely, but that is not immediately obvious.

Grant some grace. Some. Do not go so far that you permit people to become victims.

Reflections on Aphorisms #87

Lots of work to do, got most of it done. What hasn’t been done can get done tomorrow.

That’s a good place to be in.

More weird dreams. I wonder if there’s a sort of Jungian “Once you find out the meaning, the dreams will stop” thing going on for me right now.

Aphorism 125

To establish ourselves in the world we do everything to appear as if we were established. (Maxim 56)

François de La Rochefoucauld

Interpretation

One of the interesting things I’ve noticed in myself and in many students is that there’s a tendency to posture as if one is better than one is.

I mean, heck, I just got into grad school by using a writing sample that received probably the most editing of anything I’ve ever written in my life, and which took the usually freeing writing process and turned it into something a little bit painful.

I’m proud of it, but it definitely isn’t the sort of effort I can really put out reliably, which is half the reason I’m going back to school.

So there’s an irony there: the pressure to get into a spot where I can improve myself requires that I look good.

Of course, this has a positive side-effect. I’ve improved myself and forced myself into a sort of initiation on the road to further improvement.

But it does feel kind of silly.

There is a darker side to this, namely the use of posturing rather than actual improvement.

This isn’t actually unique to this field.

One of the ways to conceive our lives is as a heroic struggle, basically Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. I don’t think that this by itself is sufficient to cover everything, but it’s enough to really get one thinking about the role we play in our world.

If we look at life as a series of challenges that we must overcome on the way to something greater, we have three things that really need to happen:

  1. One must overcome their challenges.
  2. One must find the way (Way, perhaps).
  3. One must turn that into betterment.

There is room for deception at each of these steps, both self-deception (Jung’s Shadow) and deception of others for personal gain.

The problem with deception is that it’s very hard to keep your stories straight. Once one walks the way of deception they lose the way of the hero, or the Way. Let us not forget that Christ uses the terms “the way, the truth, and the life” in a strong statement of divinity, illustrating the importance of finding the right path for life as being equal not only to truth but also to life itself, and to an extent as a way of finding God. Note that this is something of a theological blunder, so don’t read too much into it. I just don’t have better words right now. The Way, understood as an archetype or otherwise, is just very important.

There’s something to be said for the idea that strength attracts strength. We desire the desirable, unless some charity works within us. For this reason we often try to posture and present our best face forward, trying to be that which we are not so that we can enjoy the privileges of that which we wish to be.

Resolution

Be the real deal.

Don’t deceive.

Find the Way and take it as far as it leads.

Reflections on Aphorisms #86

Today was a productive day.

I’m glad to be able to say that.

I had probably the weirdest dream I’ve had in a long time last night. I’m not sure what the meaning is. Probably “Don’t eat anything spicy right before bed.”

For what it’s worth, I do kind of enjoy dreaming, when it is fantastic. It’s like a front-row seat at a really surreal theater.

Aphorism 124

The hate of favourites is only a love of favour. The envy of NOT possessing it, consoles and softens its regrets by the contempt it evinces for those who possess it, and we refuse them our homage, not being able to detract from them what attracts that of the rest of the world. (Maxim 55)

François de La Rochefoucauld

Interpretation

Envy is one of my least vices, in part because I’ve always been a little frugal in my tastes and in part because I just find myself to be unusually grateful when I force myself to slow down and look at things.

Of course, I’m probably one of Rochefoucauld’s “favorites” in the sense that I’ve been lucky and fortunate, with a certain amount of prudence learned from others’ examples and a dab of talent that I don’t typically put to good use.

It makes sense then that I shouldn’t be too envious: my main goal is to be my best self, and while I’m not terribly good at that it also stands to reason that most other people are not going to be the best possible version of me and I won’t feel jealous of them.

Though, I will say, going to GenCon and seeing a bunch of other professionals in the games industry gave me perhaps the closest thing to envy I’ve ever had, though I was still more grateful to meet people than I was jealous of their success.

Reading Scum and Villainy (affiliate link), a quite excellent game that I picked up at GenCon, made me a little envious. It’s very similar in many ways to my Waystation Deimos (affiliate link) in terms of mechanics (I think they share some DNA, but I’m not really familiar with how Blades in the Dark and the Resistance system are related) but they have a lot of great ideas that I never even thought of, so I’m just a wee bit jealous of them.

Of course, that’s more of a “Oh hey, you had the idea I wanted to have” moment and I think there’s some room for healthy expression there. It’s not necessarily that one is envious, one learns from the masters.

What I think Rochefoucauld is getting at is when people become bitter over the differences between them in a social sense. Certainly I know people who seem to have had more success for their efforts than I have, and I think that this is a pretty common experience in the human condition.

Jordan Peterson once said something about comparing yourself to other people, and he pointed out that in every person’s life by the time they’re thirty you’re going to be able to draw something like a dozen different axes of comparison between you and them.

For every one in which you’re inferior, there’s probably one in which you’re superior.

And that overlooks the fact that any inferiority may be your own fault. Right now I’m not a famous or successful writer or game designer, but that may be as much due to my own skills as to any lack of exposure and networking.

If you seem inferior to someone in every way, perhaps the best response is to admire them instead of envying them. It will give you the clarity to pursue the same path that they walk, and adapt it to your own way intelligently and without deceit. It enables you to have conversations openly and without the desire to score points and inflict wounds, which makes you much more pleasant to be around.

Reflection

Admire those who do what I wish to do better than I do.

Compare on multiple points, or don’t compare at all.

Count blessings.

Reflections on Aphorisms #85

Today was kind of a weird day because I got a lot done, but not by my usual metrics.

Tomorrow I really need to get into shape on working on those, because they do tend to reflect how I’m making money currently.

Aphorism 123

We are never so happy or so unhappy as we suppose. (Maxim 49)

François de La Rochefoucauld

Interpretation

There’s a long way down, and there’s a long way up.

I like the notion that there’s a metaphysical heaven and hell that reside below the depths and above the peaks of what the world can hold. Because there is the sacred, we cannot know true hell, and because there is the profane we cannot know true heaven.

The one way to alter this would be if one or the other were to vanish from the world, and neither seems like a likely outcome.

At the same time, we are limited by our history and our context in how we perceive the world around us.

I think that this comes up a lot in modern politics; we see the world around us and think that it’s really awful, but the whole situation is really not all that worse than what people have been used to a long time. In fact, we live in a blessed golden age compared to not just some but probably any of our predecessors.

There are examples I could give here that would be more politically charged than they need to be to make my point, so I’ll focus on the idea of nuclear war bringing an end to humanity.

First, the estimates are apocalyptic in their scope, but overlook the fact that a lot of the dangerous of a nuclear war are centralized in particular zones. We’d possibly see a return to a dark age, but probably not the end of the species.

This is not good, but when you look at it in context it’s immediately obvious that there are far worse things that have happened throughout history. Think of the plagues and wars that spanned continents, famines that took out massive portions of the population.

Humanity has always faced existential threats, and always will. They take on new forms because we’ve been fortunate enough to transcend the old ones, and our means of doing so have been imperfect and driven by base motivations.

We also overestimate our prosperity.

I don’t want to diminish our accomplishments, since they’re almost always a reflection of what happens when virtues are practiced consistently and sacrifices are made to improve our condition over a long period of time, but at the same time it is important to realize that our current state of being is one of a potential multitudes.

If we were serious with ourselves and pursued virtue with the same dogmatic obsession that we tend to pursue the things that we want, we would see outcomes we can only dream of.

Resolution

Never settle.

Don’t obsess over the pain of the day. It is a reminder of imperfection, of virtue unfulfilled. Nothing more.

Don’t presume that there is something fundamentally different between now and the collected past.

Reflections on Aphorisms #84

Getting back from travel really leaves me on something of a back foot.

Of course, I spent like two hours today on a call hammering out some game design stuff, so I suppose that one could say that I really wasn’t unproductive so much as not doing the normal things that I would consider productive. There was some of that too, but not as much as I had been doing.

Aphorism 122

Strength and weakness of mind are mis-named; they are really only the good or happy arrangement of our bodily organs.

François de La Rochefoucauld

Interpretation

Right now I have an appreciation for this statement in ways that I don’t think I would always have. I’ve got a headache and I’m exhausted, and I’m also a tad hungry. It’s amazing how a couple little things have such a big impact on my abilities.

Of course, none of these are novel. I’ve been tired and had headaches before, and I get hungry with regularity. In fact, I’ve experienced this exact combination of detriments over and over again.

But one of the things that I note about this is that I tend to lead myself down very different paths of behavior when I’m in “good” condition than I do when I’m not, despite the fact that my actual abilities are probably not significantly impaired by the way I am right now.

Of course, Rochefoucauld has perceived a reality that definitely justifies the statement he makes. Being tired definitely gets in the way of functioning. Pain and hunger impact mood, but how much they really impact functioning is probably pretty dependent on the individual. I’m afraid to say I’m something of a wimp. I have a very good pain tolerance on the high end of the spectrum–I broke my arm as a youth and was more concerned with getting dinner than any pain that it was causing me even as it gave way under my weight when I attempted to stand–but I also have a tendency to whine and moan. Worse, I enjoy this sort of complaining and I let it lead to a certain self-indulgence in which I am less productive than I really should be.

Of course, this is the antithesis of what I should probably be doing. When you face a trial, you are presented with a unique opportunity to overcome something that poses a challenge to your unique being. This allows you to move along several different paths, most of which can be labeled clearly as heroic or unheroic (and perhaps there is only one heroic path).

Generally I find that I miss these opportunities, and this makes me something like a fair-weather friend to myself. This is not a good place to be, because part of the act of becoming fully human is to figure out a way to take care of oneself.

Fortunately, there’s always going to be room to improve on this. I like to think that I get a little better at dealing with things each time I encounter them. Of course, this probably doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, but I’ve been on such a process of self-improvement that I might actually have a chance to change it now.

I guess the lesson to take away from this is pretty simple: You are a creature of circumstance, but you don’t have to be defined that way.

Resolution

Don’t let circumstance overcome potential.

Be willing to sacrifice the moment for the future.

Remember that you are a being of flesh and blood.

Reflections on Aphorisms #83

Travel is brutal and I don’t like it. I’ve had something like five hours of sleep in the past 24 hours, and that’s being optimistic about the amount of time I actually spent sleeping on the plane, so if this is more rambling and incoherent than my average work I apologize in advance.

Sometimes being tired leads to free association, though. Even though this isn’t always desirable, it can lead to points of interest. Speaking of which:

Aphorism 121

Interest blinds some and makes some see. (Maxim 40)

François de La Rochefoucauld

Interpretation

I’ve written about the distinction between the known and the unknown before, especially as it pertains to heuristics (basically, they’re fast hacks to understand the world better than our brains could otherwise do), so I’m going to take a different approach today.

Having an interest in things leads to an opportunity cost of all other things in which one could be interested. My experiences recently with dipping my toes into the game industry have pushed me to realize this: I’m not sure that I want to make games as the be-all end-all of my life, but there are people who have totally committed themselves to that to the exclusion of all else.

And that’s not necessarily bad, but it means that they’re not even considering applying some of their talents elsewhere. This is not, of course, a universal rule; some people have fully assessed their life and still choose to be monolithic in their pursuits, sometimes in error and sometimes in pursuit of exceptionalism.

The dangerous thing is when people haven’t assessed their life. I remember an instance when I was in college where it looked like everything was going to go off the rails. I was in a teaching program and hadn’t yet gotten any classroom experience and was letting the angst of uncertainty build up. My father was between jobs after the company he had been working for canceled his project, my friends had all gone away for the summer, and I generally just felt like I was adrift and life was down to the lowest point it ever had been.

Because I was living with the conviction that I was going to be a teacher (one I still hold) but I had not considered my options, this became something of a crisis. In reality, had I been willing to see it, I would have realized that I had talents and skills that would help me reach my goal, downplay my fears with the reminder that other people go through the same things without issue, and work toward a goal.

Instead, my interest in the path I thought I was on, the life I thought had been granted to me, blinded me to the fact that it was really a path that I could choose to walk and take proactive steps toward.

You can’t do much without a purpose, and interest can be a pathway that leads in that direction. However, if all you have is one consuming passion, it can vanish or be thwarted and put you in a state of disorder.

Resolution

Be open to opportunity.

Reflect on goals.

Find the pathway that leads to the stars.

Reflections on Aphorisms #82

This was originally supposed to go up on August 3rd, but I was traveling and forgot to upload this to the blog when I wrote it, so it’s going up on August 4th.

I’ve never really read much of Hobbes. In fact, I’ve probably read more Calvin and Hobbes than Hobbes. This is not a great comparison, since I believe I’ve read, the entire corpus of Calvin and Hobbes at least twice, with individual comics and collections occasionally receiving more repeat attention, but the fact remains that I know Hobbes more from how people have talked about him than what he said.

When I first wrote this, I think I missed an important point that runs contrary to my main argument but reflects another way of interpreting the aphorism out of context: when you try to imitate something it is often possible to unintentionally cheapen it, to miss the essence in pursuit of the image. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it is still mere flattery.

Aphorism 120

To imitate one’s enemy is to dishonor.

Hobbes

Interpretation

One important part of life is to establish guiding principles. They serve as a shelter against oneself. The reason for this is that we aren’t perfect, and in moments of weakness or uncertainty we make bad decisions.

The modern era is full of examples of people who attempt to find a moral equivalence with others. Modern morality seems to be about being better, or at least equal, but not about being good.

There are a few problems with this, the most obvious of which is that there’s a strong temptation to fall in line with patterns of behavior that we would find objectionable in ourselves, but which we justify because it is at least as good as what other people do.

Because we justify things in relation to others, we have the ability to overlook the faults our choices and decisions reveal in ourselves.

The failure of others becomes the failure within ourselves, but we do not comprehend it.

Another problem is that not only do we justify our flaws, but we work against our own purpose. It is not the case that everyone is designed to have the same role in the universe. There may be one higher goal, but the method of achieving it needs to follow the individual’s capabilities and tendencies.

Living one’s life using primarily one’s own weakness is the same as failing to do one’s best in their areas of strength.

To contribute all an individual can, they must find out what makes them special and different.

Looking at another person and choosing their path is only going to minimize their potential to bring their own gifts to the world (even if both people manage somehow to work for the good).

However, one can also see a parodic imitation of sorts play out. It’s the Israelites forging the golden calf in the desert: the desire to be like one’s enemy and beat them at their own game is blind to the fact that the game of the enemy may be self-destructive.

What makes the enemy an enemy?

It is the fact that they are working against all that the individual needs to have.

To fight fire with fire is to burn the world down.

Resolution

Don’t imitate others just because they seem to be successful.

In everything seek the right path, do not assume it is obvious.

Remember that it is possible to be a monster without being conscious of it.

Reflections on Aphorisms #81

An interesting thing that I’ve found as I work through the aphorisms is that there are ones that I don’t feel like I can talk about when I first examine them, and then later return to them and feel comfortable expounding on them.

I’m not sure to what degree this reflects growth and to which degree it reflects the various mindsets required to engage with a text, but I find it interesting.

Sometimes it’s the case that a point that I’ll come to while discussing one aphorism will reflect itself in another aphorism, which isn’t surprising when one focuses primarily on maxims by a single person.

This one from Rochefoucauld is another example: a few days ago I skipped over this aphorism in favor of another one (you can see it here), in part because I didn’t have anything to say about it. Now I do.

Aphorism 119

What we term virtue is often but a mass of various actions and divers interests, which fortune, or our own industry, manage to arrange; and it is not always from valour or from chastity that men are brave, and women chaste. (Maxim 1)

François de La Rochefoucauld

Interpretation

Humans are and are not moral creatures, depending on how you define them. The problem is that as with most matters which defy simple classification neither really satisfies the truth.

People can be moral creatures, and that sets us apart from everything else we’ve found in the universe. We’re capable of making decisions based on guiding principles, not just the experiences and stimuli around us.

However, that doesn’t mean that we always are. Consciousness is expensive, and we budget our attention toward the things that we view as important in the moment.

What that means practically is that more of our actions and reactions are reflex, or subconscious, than we would like. This is pretty logical, really; we don’t know exactly how much unconscious stuff we do because it’s precisely unconscious. If it’s happening and it works, then we don’t think about it.

One of the biological functions of guilt is to discourage patterns of behavior that are known to bear consequences. If I spend more money than I’ve made in a week and then notice that I’m headed in the wrong direction financially, I feel a little guilt about it. It’s a manifestation of the worries I have about my future state, even if I can’t explicitly communicate that to myself.

When we do things with unknown consequences or we actually manage to avoid everything that we associate with guilt through supreme effort, we assume automatically that it is a form of virtue.

The problem is that virtue isn’t just avoiding the things that earn us guilt.

Virtue is strength. It’s a moral sort of strength, one which does not grant mastery of others, but it’s strength nonetheless.

One of the problems with strength is that it’s relative. I can go about my daily life without doing anything that I would consider at the outer edge of my physical capacities, but that doesn’t mean that I would be considered strong. I might be “strong enough” but even that is a relative description.

Virtue is the same way. You might look at honesty and say “Well, I don’t lie on my taxes.”

That’s very good!

It’s also pretty much nothing. There’s a giant penalty for lying on your taxes. You’re forced to be honest, or at least lie well enough to get away with it, and most of us are bad liars and know that on at least an unconscious level. If you aren’t, you’re gonna get a whole lotta pain, and that could be what’s driving the honesty.

If you could make a universal statement (“I don’t lie.”) that would be a virtue. Of course, virtue being a relative strength it may be impossible to really have perfect virtue. But if every time you were to tell a lie you instead chose honesty you’d be making a lot of progress. There are further forms of dishonesty, of course: omission, over-statement, miscellaneous deception, and “white lies”” all degrade the virtues of honesty and integrity.

However, the struggle is what forms virtue. It’s not an inherent thing that some people have and others don’t, which is part of the reason why the virtuous don’t have any claim to superiority. Virtue is an interaction between the individual and the universe (to put it in hippy language; I’d argue that it’s an interaction between the individual and God), and it has to be found outside the individual’s disconnected being.

Choosing virtue may be laudable, but virtue itself is revealed. Nobody can claim to be closer to it than anyone else, because the problem with a choice is that it overlooks two key points.

First, for every virtue one chooses, there are likely virtues they have not developed.

Second, a choice is not permanent. It can be reversed. The virtuous person is not in a fixed state of virtue, and can throw away everything in a moment of moral compromise.

Resolution

Don’t enter into moral compromise.

Look for opportunities to develop virtue.

Remember that all morality is shaped by our relation to the universe.

Reflections on Aphorisms #80

One of the best things in life is to sit still and enjoy it. There are always worries, and always problems, but a single good thing is worth living for even if all else falls away.

It’s not a matter of hedonism, it’s a matter of potential. If there’s something good in the universe, it stands to reason that there can be more good things in the universe.

Aphorism 118

Passions often produce their contraries: avarice sometimes leads to prodigality, and prodigality to avarice; we are often obstinate through weakness and daring though timidity. (Maxim 11)

François de La Rochefoucauld

Interpretation

I think a lot about passionate emotion. In the past I’ve expressed terror of it, but I don’t think that’s the best way to describe it.

My relationship with emotion is something akin to respect, sort of like how people translated the biblical injunction to be faithful to God as a command to “fear the Lord” though I don’t take it to the same extent.

One of the things that comes up with passions is that you act in ways that go against your set goals.

Just this morning I recall getting really upset about an injustice, and it got to a point where I was almost yelling while in a one-sided conversation with my mother (despite the fact that she had nothing to do with it and was actually in agreement with me about it).

Now, I don’t think this really did any harm to me, and I actually value my ability to feel for those who suffer at the hands of oppressors, but I also felt a twinge of bitterness and vitriol.

It occurred to me that in that moment I was walking down a path that would enable me to justify an unacceptable action against those who I was ranting against, that I would let myself oppress them if given the chance. My desire turned away from the protection of the innocent and toward the punishment of the guilty.

That’s not to say that there isn’t some merit in punishment; it plays a key role in keeping the world spinning, but it’s also not a goal unto itself. That’s just revenge, and righteous indignation is great for turning people into bloodthirsty mobs.

My passion for protecting the weak quickly transformed into a passion for vengeance.

I’m not sure that I want to attribute this to some inherent law; there are certainly passions that don’t have an opposite and no law that says that one passion transmutes into another one, but there is definitely something to be said for passion evoking a state that leads us to further passion.

I think that this can also be said of consuming goals. Often what we desire to bring us the good life gets in the way of living (e.g. being passionate about a project), and it’s possible to abandon what is really good for the sake of something that promises to improve what will be long gone by the time it is complete.

Resolution

Don’t let passion drive the show without slowing down to check what I’m doing.

Control the emotions which lead to passion.

Operate on principle, not reaction.

Reflections on Aphorisms #79

Taking a quick break because of course I would. Shaw is one of the great aphorists, along with Wilde, who is always able to provoke a response from me, even though I see some major issues with a lot of his philosophy of life.

He’s thought-provoking, if nothing else.

Aphorism 117

Youth, which is forgiven everything, forgives itself nothing: age, which forgives itself everything, is forgiven nothing.

Shaw

Interpretation

I hate to agree with Shaw (disclaimer: I don’t actually hate to agree with Shaw, but that’s a dramatic way to start a sentence and I’m weak enough of character to start with it instead of a better opener), but there is something to be said for the truthfulness of this statement.

One of the trends that I’ve tracked in my own life is that I was consumed with burning passion in my youth, and mellowed out as I got older. I’m not that old, but people used to call me an “old soul”, which is a tremendously horrible praise to burden someone with.

I just like big words. I may have had an interest in philosophy and religion. It wasn’t really that noble.

With that said, I definitely had more of a streak of self-condemnation. Some of that is because I was dreadfully sheltered, and my own mistakes stood out to me because I didn’t see other peoples’. That’s not to say that nobody messed up, but I think there’s a hidden part of that where you also don’t judge motives well when you’re sheltered.

Basically, everything I did out of base motives, I recognized as a fault in myself, but I always looked at others as having merely accidentally sinned.

I consider this one of the most praiseworthy elements of myself, because it wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I began to consider that others around me were capable of evil, despite holding the bitter philosophical and religious concept of total depravity of humanity as a guiding principle in my own life.

While that’s foolish, and really shows that I was a late bloomer (so much for the “old soul” appellation), it also meant that I had the most perfect view of other people. I could count on one hand the number of people I had disliked in a serious by the time I turned 20, and I’ve only begun to start needing a second hand.

That’s a great spot to be in, because it shows that you’re not bitter.

Of course, a lot of my distress was internal. I blamed myself for pretty much everything. This included, in a particularly shortsighted moment, being practically catatonic for a semester of college because I was worried about being a burden on my family. The irony of shutting down because one is worried about being undeserving escaped me, though it’s also a very common course of action in the grand scheme of psychological phenomena.

Fast forward five years from then, and I would be successfully independent inasmuch as it is possible for an individual to be independent. No man is an island, after all.

Now, obviously it’s easier to be merciful on yourself when you feel like you’re earning your keep. No Jude the Obscure ending for me.

Quick side-note: Jude the Obscure is a seriously dark book. Like, of all the angsty and broody stories I’ve had to read over the year, I find it odd that it would be a part of my high school English classes that stands out. I’m not trying to deny its literary merits, and I certainly remember it better than most of the books I read in high school (I’ve returned to the other ones I remember, so I can’t tell if a single impression of them served me better).

One of the things that happens when you get older is that you realize that a lot of what you do is more common than you had feared.

Of course, there’s a balancing act here. You don’t want to let yourself sink into mediocrity (or maybe you do on a certain level, but there’s such a danger in it that you also have a part of yourself that revolts against it), but you also feel the intolerable weight of moral standards when you have to be the person making decisions and sacrifices.

The resolution of that is that you start compromising parts your morals, or else you engage in a truly heroic struggle to keep them.

Resolution

Forgiveness comes at a cost to the victim.

Remember the source of all value.

Don’t sacrifice morals for expedience.