Although I am fascinated occasionally to read stark criticism of revered principles and institutions (for example Thomas Paine’s refutation of organized religion in The Age of Reason or Edward Gibbon’s attack upon Oxford University in Memoirs of my Life and Writings, generally speaking I am most at ease in low light surrounded by mahogany. I conjecture that my magnetism to muted illumination and imperishable hardwood speak to my preference for restraint and the enduring elements of life though I confess my ostensible bias may be a calculated deception. Long ago I learned what it is to paint a picture, to reflect the shine of what appears to work for others, even something as seemingly inconsequential as creating an ambiance. There is security in ornamentation.
The risk of course is that one begins to believe the impression one seeks to project. This is unfortunate not primarily because it is rooted in image more than substance but rather because it tends to distance oneself from a dynamic notion of one’s inner self and the external world. We are after all what we think. Besides it is such a pity to choose impenetrable hardness over vulnerability if the price to be paid is perpetual limitation. Those who abhor disinfecting sunshine and who are entrenched in tradition foster an undeniable petrification of the mind.
Quite apart from how we fashion the comfort level of our existence I am discovering incrementally that the real thinkers in life – the discoverers, the inventors – are not necessarily geniuses but rather people who are open to a new way of doing business or who imagine what is nothing more glamorous than performing a task more easily. Relinquishing one’s customary moorings and setting oneself adrift is an adventure destined to evolve unpredictably but there is at least the possibility of spirited enterprise. Tapping into that underground vein and its precious product can be as simple as believing what one sees in both oneself and others. As transparent as the method may sound it is nonetheless a daunting undertaking as there is inevitably the chance of surprise on all sides. It also requires work. The staid comfort of the drawing room is not especially conducive to resourcefulness and daring.
As a student of law I was trained to seek and rely upon authority. This may have the appearance of cultivating an unimaginative interpretation of human affairs but in the hands of a competent and persuasive individual even edicts written in stone admit to mutability. Recent pronouncements of the Supreme Court of the United States of America upon such topics as one man-one vote, pregnancy discrimination, gay marriage, the Confederate flag and free speech, religious accommodation to wear a hijab and religious freedom in prison are examples of zestfulness and positive attitude. While it is arguable that left-leaning liberalism is the product of empowerment I prefer to see the division of the legislature and the judiciary as the very model of governance.
The buoyancy of purely academic reasoning is however under constant threat by the turbulence and violence of the vast sea upon which it bobs. How much more alluring it is to seek the sheltered cove far from the disturbances and ferocity of nature. Straight lines and few accessories afford such ample constancy. The retreat of one’s mind is often more comfortable in low light and mahogany.