Private Vernacular

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by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

It has to be the great conciliation of life’s struggle that one finally succumbs to living it as one should, that is in accordance with one’s better judgement. While it sounds to be a small compliment it is, in fact, a cosmic  accomplishment. Until recently I cannot recall a moment when I didn’t feel that my conduct and thoughts were to a degree at least constrained by independent authority. To abandon that imposition requires not only the effluxion of time but also concentration and commitment. Living one’s private vernacular is serious business. Naturally, I have always attempted to work my way around the problem but it is only lately that both the means and the end have united to promote personal expression.External governance is remarkably penetrating. In ways we cannot even imagine, the sometimes fatuous modifications have insinuated our lives. But the influence is undeniable and seldom ignored. We forget how like animals we are in recognizing the force of fear and flight. If those fears were nurtured at a tender age we quickly learned to adapt accordingly for self-preservation. Later in life we are hounded by the same restraints even if they are intellectually unsustainable, which is to say they persist when the source of the fear has long ago disappeared. Call it habit, we just keep doing what we’ve always done. It doesn’t help that some of our trepidation originates in heady mystical experiences – like religion – which have no foundation in fact. It is concupiscence at its best, the “wounding of our perfect nature” eventually manifested as a battle between good and evil. On this epic scale it is small wonder it requires resolve to dig out from under the burden.

In Catholic theology, concupiscence is seen as a desire of the lower appetite contrary to reason. For Christians, concupiscence is what they understand as the orientation, inclination or innate tendency of human beings to long for fleshly appetites, often associated with a desire to do things which are proscribed.

In Judaism, there is an early concept of yetzer hara (Hebrew: יצר הרע for “evil inclination”). This concept is the inclination of humanity at creation to do evil or violate the will of God. The yetzer hara is not the product of original sin as in Christian theology, but the tendency of humanity to misuse the natural survival needs of the physical body. Therefore, the natural need of the body for food becomes gluttony, the command to procreate becomes sexual sin, the demands of the body for rest become sloth, and so on.

Like most candidates raised in the Protestant tradition, I favour the cerebral over the visceral. This does not mean the adoption of reason was anything more than public but it nonetheless contaminated my private delectations. I am not now counselling the overthrow of guilt where it may have its well appointed place and purpose; but neither am I defending absurd distortions of human interests and yearnings. What constitutes reasonable expression is subject to its own similar proscriptions but generally I exclude from the vernacular anything which isn’t empirically verifiable or which is not doing overt harm to anyone else.  And we should be very careful about how we characterize the personal idiom of another. Let’s face it, it’s what makes us different!

In many, if indeed not all cases, it is useless to rationalize the choice of one’s everyday jargon. Besides resistance is doomed to failure in any event.  One will inevitably lapse into one’s own vernacular, be assured.  And the sooner, the better.  A period of adjustment may be required.  Ancillary to that motivation is that one must condition oneself to ignore competing philosophies. Often this entails nothing short of complete disregard of the opinions of others. The real reason that is a good idea is not particularly because everyone else is wrong but what is more likely, our interpretation of what they are thinking is probably way off.  It is not even certain that most other people care enough about you to formulate a site-specific assessment of what you’re doing. It is that sort of bizarre thinking which got us into this in the first place!

Having once made the decision to live as one wishes, I believe it is prudent to cultivate the same social niceties we expect of others.  There is, for example, no need to create an annoying persona as a demonstration of one’s independence. This may, however, entail more than a little biting of one’s tongue. Caution may, in the end, be counsel of perfection especially if the posture of forbearance is viewed as a double-edged sword which can cut either way. More often than I care to admit I am reminded of the tendency to become curmudgeonly, apparently part of the fallout from all that wisdom we fashion to have acquired with age.

The real advantage of adopting one’s private vernacular (and leaving others alone to pursue their own objectives in the meantime) is that it eliminates useless consternation. It additionally has the pragmatic allure of not tempering what little time remains to savour the hermetic dialect. I mean, once we know what we want and like, nothing should get in the way least of all ourselves! If ever there were proof that we are the author of our own fate, this is it.