🪟 24 - He Who Forgets
Frame & Axiom #24 (Part 3): On agapē love, love without conditions.
Table of contents
PART 1: NATURE
PART 2: JUSTNESS
PART 3: MIRRORS
He Who Forgets
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Perhaps I get too far ahead of myself when I speak lowly of those who are hasty with love, particularly, the love of a family unit. Perhaps I have been thrown into the cream of the crop, and must count myself fortunate even among the fortunate. It is difficult for me to say, without being reborn! Still, I ought to be able to employ a general defence for the institution, and my defence is this: the value of family lies in rootedness, but not necessarily in the sameness of its rooting, as it lies in its divergence. How so? One has full say in who his friends are, since he arranges them, but he has no such privilege with his family, since it is Nature’s ruling. He grows up predisposed to contend with his family as a brutal variety, for it is one that rules over him! As a child, he will be displeased by this arrangement over and over again. And no wonder! The wider and more imposing the variance, the more confused and agitated his reflection of himself in them. He scowls, they do not understand me! Neither does he understand them.
Yet it is precisely through this sort of tension that a child learns a lesson worth a lifetime. In his early years his cognition is underdeveloped, and he naturally protests against every unfavourable divergence. But over time, his sensitivity to the true state of things will grow, and this sensitivity may enlighten him to constants from which those variances arise. If he treads down the path of wisdom, he will learn to recite affirmations such as, be kind, or no one is perfect. Or better, have this saying at front of mind: everyone is going through a battle you don’t see. If he entertains this sensitivity far enough, however, he will uncover the pivotal constant. He will uncover the chief cause on the most far-reaching of levels, from which all variances are mere consequences, and it will reframe entirely how he sees his community. He will see that it is was never in the first place about them against he, or he against them. He will see beneath the glaring diversity of souls, that there is a deep alikeness concealed in all — an alikeness born of nature. That is when maturity begins! His vague, blunt frames will be sharpened. His vision becomes clear, as the scales begin to fall from his eyes. He says: I know others, because I know myself. Wisdom has an ear out for those who can say this truthfully, for then a child has fully matured; a boy has grown into a man.
🪟 24 - He Who Forgets
Inquirer, you who had pondered the question, who am I? I will continue to address you, as your question is one my soul has not lost touch with, and I am not nearly done with my deliberation. To begin, here is a question I shall pose. Do you only love those who are the same as you? The free man spares love only for fellows of the same soul. He reflects himself in the other, and loves the portion of himself that is reflected. As a child loves one who can respond to his endless musings, he falls for his own reflection. A mature soul, on the other hand, loves differently. He reflects himself in the other and loves the one who reflects back, for the very reason that it is another mirror, an equal, who is reflected. He loves perhaps in the way a man loves a woman, because she is bewitchingly alike and unalike. There is another way of putting it. The free man loves perfection, and despises imperfection. Of course, perfection is only perfection-to-him, one who corresponds, while imperfection is one who deviates.
Hear what our youths tend to allude: He is not a friend, neither is he for my interests. Why should I have any care for him? See, inquirer, this is the sort of framing that pervades a free society! They have no care for the everyday other, unless some utility can be conferred in a manner direct or indirect. They have no reason to, and it shows in their conduct. They may follow this up: I have no care for him, but he is living his own truth and I must respect that. How accommodating! The moderns love to speak of ‘tolerance’, but I detest this conceptualisation. One may tolerate and resent at the same time. Indeed, the very meaning of the word ‘tolerate’ is to endure. To endure an offence, to withhold the expression of displeasure. Even more than that, they ‘tolerate’, as if they were in the light and the others were in the dark! The free man is caught up in loving his own reflection, but towards those who deviate, he has little care leftover. He only leaves them be, or at most, indulges his capacity for sympathy with regards to the political. His sympathy is fashionable, for he is moved by those at the bottom of the rungs, but as for his neighbour and those around him, how much care has he? (Let alone those with whom he is in disagreement.) You see, the economy of love and compassion is tainted by the free man’s ignorance and misplacement of value. I can tell… he has not yet managed to peer beyond what is apparent in his reflection.
One who perceives what is apparent shall have the displeasure of every variance to tolerate.
One who perceives beyond the apparent shall see that every reflection belongs to an equal — another full-length mirror and its frames.
For the one who sees this, there is a reframing in store. It is that, there is truly no one madder, no one holier, no one more depraved than oneself. Yes, you, my fellow mirror, are no better or worse than others, seeing that your nature is so alike. Just take one sweeping look at us all! It is a wonder that we are all so well-behaved, or I shall say, well-repressed. Have you ever been repulsed by the depraved inklings in your mind, or the carnal wishes in your soul? Have you ever been morally troubled by yourself? It calls for wonder — everything we do not do, everything we do not say — and how we continue to repress ourselves in a manner reverent to the social order. My heartiest thanks to you, great visionaries and rulers of millennia past! We are not far from beastly animals, but you have managed to set cornerstones of wisdom on the ground for us. Your laws, your systems of governance, your social constructs — they are good. They may not be eternal and infinite, but you are not gods, and so we ought not expect that kind of quality. I can see that any manmade cap on nature will be fragile, and any overcorrections made to correct it will be chaotic and also fragile. What an impossible task it is to civilise man! It is no surprise that to land where we have landed has required the effort of innumerable geniuses over thousands of years. If only the great masses were more grateful to you, great geniuses of the past! Unfortunately, we are all merely human, and rebellion is a necessary stage for growth and progress, as I am certain you would all understand.
Inquirer, do you realise the burden of the preconditions we are subject to, that no one is exempt from? Even when we speak of how one ought to live, the axioms do not discriminate. Let me reflect on those I have established here: to avoid certainty… to accept all things… to narrate… to act… and to do so justly… to be socially competent... to love… Yes, all so very rudimentary — that it feels quite unnecessary to say! If the seeds of humanity were as assorted as the totality of the animal kingdom, I may concede the necessity of a doctrine of tolerance. But they are not. No matter the divergence between a soul and another, over time and space, over races, sexes and ideologies, we have been formed from the same dust of the earth, been breathed into existence by the same breath, and to that dust we shall return! Yes, you and I are equal in our humanity! You ought to sympathise not only with the pain of another, then, but with the entirety of life. What then is the sense of envying? What is the sense of resenting? You are ensnared by one or the other when you heave the apparent too high up a pedestal. Some night, on my walk home, a ragged stranger, intoxicated after one too many drinks, may single me out, humour himself over how I look, and vilify me over the colour of my skin. I see no reason to have my mental state disturbed by it. I may have one reason, however, since I have been instructed by the free society time and time again that I ought to be inflamed by such preposterousness, I may heed their opinion unwittingly. But, inquirer, spare some thought for this question: do you see how both the despicable man and the paragon of virtue are equal in their humanness? Both are containers of the best and worst of mankind at once. They are good and evil. They are beautiful and ugly. They are truth and deception. One chooses to serve one or the other, and his choice is a measure of his ignorance. The despicable man lives under the bleak shadows of ignorance. The virtuous man is only marginally less ignorant, for he is mindful to justness. Ah, the damned ignorance of the despicable only warrants my deep compassion! I see the ignorant man, and I know him. I am not consumed with hatred, but in speaking of him, I shall say, I am only sorry for him. If only he had been illuminated by what was just!
My dear fellow! I can hear the uprisings of a protest... But look at the selfishness of the evil! Look at the malice of criminals, the horrors of history. Ponder the massacres and mutilations! Surely there is a line to be crossed. You speak vividly, and it is true that the despicable alone is effective to no one. Do not get me wrong, I am disapproving of vice. The negation of life is depraved. It is to be discouraged and stowed away in a corner, cautious to curious eyes. It is to be brought down and diminished! But have you heard the antidote — that one ought to love the man but hate his sin? Or, as I prefer to say, one ought to love the man but hate the spirit.This very same capacity for the deprave exists within you, inquirer, and it is entangled with your capacity for the divine. An eternal battleground of capacities at odds, that is what it means to be human, which is precisely what you are! You may not know their circumstances, but you know the condition they suffer. Have compassion then for the one who contains both God and Satan, angels and demons, heaven and hell — but judge the spirit that masters his ignorant soul. Before you deal with the depravity in others, see to your own. As it was attributed to the African slave-turned-Roman playwright Terence, “homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto”. (I am a human being, nothing human can be alien to me.)
I had also sensed the rumblings of a milder protest, which I shall acknowledge: Look at the privileged scumbags floundering all their riches, and their obscene uses of power to keep the underprivileged as such! Hear me out, my fellow, they are hardly privileged. They are only as privileged and underprivileged as you, seeing that they too are human! What weight have banknotes and dwellings, when true wealth is to be measured in the currency of soul? Do you think the rich and powerful are happier than you? Be wary that you are not fooled by the spectacle of consumption. Let us avoid dignifying pursuits of emptiness. Furthermore, what good is there if one gains the world but loses his soul?
Now… does a part of you still protest at this framing? If so, then I must ask you truthfully, my fellow, and know that I ask this with love. Have you been applauded for being a paragon of goodness and justice? Have you been told that you were special? That you were different? “Perfect as you are”? That is only half the full story, no matter how well-meaning its teller. You must remember — take this bitter pill and swallow it — that you are only human. It does no good to set yourself up on a high horse. Look beyond the images you appropriate of others, and into the nature of the mirrors through which you are reflected. It is a matter of fortune that we were born as humans, seeing that existence is a positivity I can only affirm, yet it is also a matter of misfortune that it is one with such gravely questionable preconditions, including that we are to be no wiser than it!
You may now resent or ‘tolerate’ this reality of humanness, or you may be indifferent towards it. But you are not only your soul, for you are also your nature, and so it is necessary to love it, lest you be at odds with yourself. A house divided against itself will not stand. Inquirer, I implore you — you only have to look beyond the apparent, beyond actions and omissions, and peer into the condition of the human soul. You must hold no resentment for the nature of your fellows, in order that you might hold no resentment for your own nature. There is a timeless French phrase: tout comprendre, c'est tout pardonner. (To understand all is to forgive all.) To forgive all, as you forgive yourself also. So, no! I do not side with the doctrine of tolerance. Although it is charitable, it is incomplete and misdirected. Remember those words: “he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone”. Who is the all-knowing one among us? There is none! Ignorance is our curse. I, as a human, am all too familiar with my own ignorance. How can I continue to live with such indifference in each moment, when I am so gravely imperfect to the bone? Consistency compels me to grant my blissful self-charity to my enemies too. I defer to the words of Chesterton: “To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable.” Love thine enemies, as it is the way to love oneself truly. My resentment shall be reserved for the spirit of depravity that succeeds in its seductions!
Can you see it now, inquirer, what kind of loss it is for a grown man to spend his life being hasty, merely tolerating, or worse, desecrating the family that he was meant to contend with? Family is a gift, a formidable challenge to grow, as it is an adventure and a teacher. It is precisely in those conspicuous divergences — the imperfect relation of those inescapably rooted to each other — that the true wealth of family lies. The modern man sees only half the picture when he speaks highly of the wealth of diversity. What he does not see is, looking away from his home and toward distant tribes is the convenient path, for there one has no real obligation to the other, and there is no need to contend with each other. It is not much more than a cultural education for a curious mind, or “good for collaboration and business”. I challenge you, you who think richly of diversity — why seek refuge from the brutal diversity in your house? The further away you look for divergences, the less the value you might glean from it. Nature has already arranged things in a manner reverent to variety — why would you ignore the divergences in your roots in favour of distant worlds? The chaos of family is the chaos of humanity. Look first to your house! Here is another pattern of life. Growth occurs only in discomfort. As the poet Hesse penned: “Suffering and disappointments and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us.” If you are fortunate, here is the brutal diversity that pays back in love and gifts of framing worth a lifetime — your family. Let us dignify such things!
If you learn to love humanity without conditions, equanimity will be your first reward. The self-ascertained mature soul, he who forgets, is born! Let us now imagine one such soul in front of us, and he has opened himself up for questioning. A gentleman raises his voice to pose him a question, what stirs your heart to anger? His answer resembles that of a Buddhist or Stoic. Let them now tempt him to their cause with a hearty round of applause! It is apparent that this too he carefully dismisses. It seems he cannot be convinced that he is any more or less worthy than others. His stature is fortified and well-grounded. Yes, I think I am beginning to understand him! I sense the cynicism of a lady by my side. Perhaps she is wondering, does anything move his heart at all? It appears, my lady, so very much. He appears not only empty of resentment, but so easily drawn to others, so generous in his affection, and so graceful in his judgement. He knows the truth of desire, pain, despair, grief, fear, for he is privy to the diagnosis of our soul’s condition, and his heart is moved by it. I realise he has gained the sensitivity to see beyond what is apparent, and the humility to see them in the larger order of things. Oh… sincere apologies, my dear inquirer! I have not forgotten your inquiry, but in my time of ruminating, I have just missed the chance to get a hold of the wise one for questioning, since he has departed to continue on his pilgrimage. You wish to know who you are, but I am certain this is not the right question to start. I shall start here instead. Wise soul, how should we who do not know ourselves, love ourselves? I, as an inspired man, shall take it upon myself to guess his answer! — First and foremost, ponder this: we are more alike than we are unlike. When you understand this, you will know others. When you know others, you will find it within you to love others. And when you love others, then you will be able to truly love yourself. — how profound it is that unconditional love might arise from an insight! The wise one peers into the hearts of all he encounters, and does not find them wanting. To know is to forget, and wise is he who forgets the sins of others. He seeks not to vilify but to edify, and his conduct is testimony to it.
I realise… love is the frame through which he sees others. He must be inspired by none other than the love of Christ! You cannot be so moved unless you loved so radically. That divine agape love, love of the fourth category — the universal love of all — the unbridled charity that surpasses all understanding. That must be the spirit that drives him. Bless this spirit!
Till next time,
Aunt Elizabeth is unreasonable, like mankind. Papa is excitable, like mankind. Our youngest brother is mischievous, like mankind. Grandpapa is stupid, like the world; he is old, like the world.
— G. K. Chesterton
By my conceptualisation of spirit, I mean a story or capacity made potent, in the sense of acting with spirit, or, the spirit of an age.