Monthly Archives: January 2011

Reflection on Reflections from Damaged Life

Final Serenity

A newspaper obituary for a businessman once contained the words: “The breadth of his conscience vied with the kindness of his heart.” The blunder committed by the bereaved in the elevated language reserved for such purposes, the inadvertent admission that the kind-hearted deceased had lacked a conscience, expedites the funeral procession by the shortest route to the land of truth. If a man of of advanced years is praised for his exceptional serenity, his life can be assumed to comprise a succession of infamies. He has rid himself of the habit of getting excited. Breadth of conscience is passed off as magnanimity, all-forgiving because all-too-understanding. The quid pro quo between one’s own guilt and that of others, is resolved in favor of whoever has come off best. After so long a life one quite loses the capacity to distinguish who has done what harm to whom. In the abstract conception of universal wrong, all concrete responsibility vanishes. The blackguard presents himself as a victim of injustice: if only you knew, young man, what life is like. But those conspicuous midway through life by an exceptional kindness are usually drawing advances on such serenity. He who is not malign does not live serenely but with a peculiarly chaste hardness and intolerance. Lacking appropriate objects, his love can scarcely express itself except by hatred for the inappropriate, in which admittedly he comes to resemble what he hates. The bourgeois, however, is tolerant. His love of people as they are stems from his hatred of what they might be.

Yes.

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