Rising above it all

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

It isn’t often I succumb to my better judgement and rise above the straitened circumstances of life. Which is to say that introspective levity demands both acuity and unflinching conviction.  Seeing beyond the range of what are perhaps one’s trammelled horizons is no easy matter. For one thing the perturbing annoyances of living are always more compelling than any armchair reflection upon the subject. Yet there is I find an unquestionable reward for doing the right thing.

The trick to seeing one’s way to the higher ground is not – as one might imagine – strictly sanitized or biblical. Frankly I don’t know anyone who was forever either a virgin or a teetotaler. No, the capitulation to wisdom is as hard-won as any other battle in life and the prerequisite unsettling commotion is as common. Eventually though the bifurcation must be addressed or otherwise risk the loss of making the correct decision. Naturally it makes sense to embrace well-informed determinations sooner than later.  But if you are like most people, the cultivation of the lofty aspiration is neither instinctive nor habitual.  So there unfortunately has to be room for stumbling and error. To make the matter easier it is equally shrewd to confess the visceral element of what is so ideally marketed as entirely cerebral or maybe even spiritual.  The mind/body dichotomy isn’t a trifling philosophic decoration to be ignored for its apparent contaminating (and a fortiori lesser) features. Humanity in its panoramic view is an inalterable appetite, something which can be both nourishing and vulgar if misappropriated.

Apart from the work of making mistakes and learning from them (and having to accept the sometimes regrettable baseness of life), it helps to consider the over-riding motive, the imperative amidst all the fracas and dust.  If as is so frequently the case the nearsighted intent is simply a matter of paramountcy, then the project is doomed.  For one thing, nobody wins all the time (and supremacy can be such a hollow recompense in these largely private sentiments). For another, the object isn’t winning but fathoming the delicacy of our experiences (rather like the difference between going up to the trough or getting into it).  This sadly means that the punishment of thinking is de rigueur as well as the occasional indignity of temporary defeat (though in my opinion one should never squander the strategic opportunity to crawl). More likely than not it will become apparent that the initial reaction to a set of disturbing circumstances is considerably different from what is revealed by an ounce of reflection (assisted by a smattering of patience – that undeniable panacea for all life’s tribulations). Even in the heady realm of charity and sociability for example there is nothing distressing about acknowledging an agenda, as rude and overtly deliberate as that may resonate. Perhaps it assists to assuage the egoism of personal advantage to characterize it as a variation on the theme of self-preservation. If for example it is indeed true (as I believe it is) that no man is an island then the sustenance of alliances is a necessity. The corollary is that one mustn’t taint those vital confederacies with the fleeting pleasure of repugnance or any other form of token displeasure. One must rise above it all for the sake of greater achievement. Therein lies the truly seductive feature of this policy; viz., by raising our sights we correspondingly elevate the discourse which in turn translates the dialogue into a more calculated and far-seeing production.

It is the fermentation of life which affords its intoxication. Nothing can or should be done to rush the process – and, like the knack of distillation generally – it is an art to be learned.  Youth by contrast is so impetuous and misguided in spite of its apparent pungency and dynamism. Perhaps I am unwittingly accommodating my own personal declension but I prefer to maintain that rising above it all is nonetheless a talent. Besides the alternative of becoming a nasty curmudgeon or a bitter old man or suicidal is not altogether persuasive. For the time being at least I shall content myself with what may be characterized as psychical distance, a bit of intellectual cushioning if you will.  It has such a pleasing air of nonchalance to it to suggest that one simply rises above it all!