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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.