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..There's a little Samuel Pepys in all of us..

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Part The Second

But, back to the examination of the concept of faith.
Perhaps it could be said that faith in it self is admirable. Indeed, faith in any religion or philosophy, if followed as a template for daily behaviour, is most probably that one intangible that allows us all to remain in each others company, without flying off our collective handles to run amok. It is the ethics and the practice of those, which faith provides.
If one believes in an higher being, or in a life after death, or in the divinity of words or historical figures, or even in the simplicity of one’s self, then one has a foundation upon which one can build a code of conduct.
This sense of ethics is a by-product of faith, that intangible sense of right that is at the root of all actions.
For whether we choose to follow our ethical path or not, is moot at best. The fact we know there are at least two roads to follow, is enough. The right has been established, as has the wrong.
Equally, so not to become entangled in meanings not necessarily meant but still implied, we could say ‘light and dark’, or ‘blessed and cursed’, or black and white’.
The sense of the matter lies in there being two entirely opposed forces or directions, and we, having ethics born of faith, have now the knowledge to judge between them.
It also, at that point, becomes blatantly evident, that no matter what explanations or excuses might be proffered to choosing the wrong road, they are only as much as noise, unless there is accompanying action.
That, brings us to the concepts of ‘confession, repentance, and contrition’, and how humans deal with ones they have wronged, and those who have wronged them.
These three simple tenets, perpetuated by the Roman Church within its dogma, are ethically foundational. They are the backbone of a beings ability to cope with the reality of actions, in concert with the ethereal element of faith.
In many religions, historical and contemporary, the mainstream followed the tenet ‘do unto others..’. It maintained a religious element in a totally sociological function, that of maintaining mainstream peace within a changing population.
It ensured that those ‘of the faith’ kept themselves with a benign pattern of behaviour, at least where others of the same faith were concerned.
It also allowed for the formation of an ecclesiastical court, which would hear complains from the congregation on matters internal. This court indeed, was betimes more influential and powerful than the actual judiciary, for the law at it’s most severe, could only sentence one to death, whereas the church could condemn you to an eternity in Ghenna.
Be that as it may, the Roman institution of the rituals of confession, along with the ensuing repentance and contrition, forced ethical behaviour on a growing and uneducated population. While the tenets were borrowed piecemeal from earlier religions and redressed to suit the occasion, they were regardless, still of the highest ethical order.
This was the gift faith brought to mankind, as in various civilisations throughout time. The requirement to act rationally, and with consideration, for the sake of ones eternal soul, was one to be taken seriously.
While it was by no means followed stringently by all professing faith, it was a way of life for a sufficient number for the pattern to have become instinctive in some members of our own society today. It is today, as important a factor in our individual development, as it ever was, or ever shall be.
Perhaps in this day of technological ease, the study of ethics and their origins is thought irrelevant and anachronistic, but such study should never be underestimated in value. It is the measure of the man, the degree to which he can adapt to situational ethical dilemmas; the measure of his soul the depth to which he can be plumbed.
Now lets look at people, and their various reactions to the process of redress, that of ‘confession, repentance, and contrition’.
This set of actions, in response to any situation where ethics will render one wrong, is essential to follow if one is to justifiably say one has a sense of justice. A sense of justice is essential for one human to deal with another in any situation.
The first step is confession, and that is at least on the surface, an simple thing to define.
It is nothing more than the admission one has wronged another.
However, as in most situations in life, nothing is as simple as it looks, and this first step is where most people find themselves ‘talking the talk, and walking the line of self-justification and expedience’.
One must never be afraid to admit mistakes, to anyone. And if a wrong has been done to someone, then their ire is to be expected, and tolerated with humility.
More, concerning this, when we get to contrition.
But the beginning, is the confession aspect, wherein one goes with true intent to repair a wrong, and admits to the wronged what was done, and what part one played in it.
This should be done without false humility, and without dramatics or hysterics, but with an attitude of acceptance and regret. There should be neither currying for instant forgiveness, nor smarming or ingratiation.
It is an action that always should be presented with dignity, whether it be child to adult, adult to child, friend to friend, or antagonist to protagonist.
It is an affront to yourself, and also to the one you have wronged, to trivialise that which was done with anything less.
While the Japanese have a society so structure bound it can be stifling, there are aspects of their code of conduct which are perhaps the best examples of how to deal with others; how to coexist in relative peace. They seem to have a fine grasp on the niceties of apology, retaining dignity.
Here in the western societies where we are supposedly more ‘personally developed’, our inward-turning perspective has in some instances, made us insensitive to that which is constantly around us.
Perhaps it is because we have so much ‘space’, both figuratively and literally, that we have chosen the path leading us to insist on self-fulfilment at any cost, to ourselves, and to others.
One of the phrases common to this society is ‘well I could have done worse..’ which is meant to force the wronged party to step back, and wryly shake their head in agreement.
It’s a common ploy in emotional manipulation, to put the focus off the actual wrongdoing and onto an hypothetical situation which in effect, nobody has perpetrated. So now in the argument, we have no villain, no wrongdoer, and the need to apologise has disappeared.
Children do it all the time, to maintain the precarious place in the pecking order. They manipulate their playmates, friends, parents, shamelessly.
But as one assumes the privilege of adulthood, so one assumes the terrible responsibilities, and one of those is to cease the manipulation of others for personal gain, and admit responsibility for one’s own, actual, actions.
Thus, the absolute need for confession.

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