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Mr. Toad, Illustration by E.H. Shepard from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908)
" … every action seems somehow destined to produce some greater wisdom if we can only pay attention."

Have you noticed how arrogance always seems to accompany ignorance? The most insistent seem to turn out to be the most consistently wrong. The soft-spoken, ain't jokin', while bluster seems to be trying to muster more acceptance as if it could not possibly stand on its own. It almost never can, and the bluster rarely helps longer term. A tangible humility accompanies most truth, for it seems to have nothing further to prove. It walks both softly and without carrying around any over-sized stick. In spite of this fact, some always seem to attempt to successfully argue at annoying volume, perhaps compensating for an absence of veracity with distracting noise, as if few would notice the naked emperor before them. Besides rendering themselves annoying, they quickly become boring and eminently ignorable, just so much irrelevant static. They can, however, attract teeming legions of the ignorant, people perfectly willing to, for instance, take up arms to defend utterly fictional rights and privileges. These people seem genuinely dangerous.

Napoleon noticed that if he gave any decent man a red banner and a uniform, he would quickly become a soldier, and willingly die for abstract concepts like God or country, liberty or fraternity, without ever asking for supporting definitions.
Family forgotten, future misbegotten, he could convince them to do almost anything. A farmer's rights meant nothing when foraging for the legion. The concept of forcing freedom upon someone went without question among the rank and file, for they were riled up and filled with Airgknowrance, a certainty beyond questioning, manifest righteousness. Truth never comes packaged up like this, for doubt bestows certain benefits, humility most prominent among them. Belligerence betrays us. Give me, please reluctant warriors, ones unconvinced of the righteousness of their cause. Give them considerable pause before attacking and before responding to any offending action, for our reactions render us stupid while our reflections render us wise.

Our history was not written with pure reaction. Our liberty was never intended to justify rashness. Ours was a humbling admission that we were created equal, not an assertion that we were necessarily better because of our belief. We were initially unconvinced, and set up our Constitution more to test our hypotheses than to merely defend them. We might have been wrong to elevate what began as personal insight into a more collective assertion, for not everyone realizes at similar rates. Some would inevitably show up late for the party, misunderstanding its premise, and perhaps even assert an annoying Airgknowrance about the underlying purpose. Any Jehu can assert any relative wrong as their absolute right, and dedicate themselves to defending against all enemies (foreign and domestic) without ever acknowledging the resident enemies within themselves.

I represent no font of wisdom. Perhaps because of this inescapable fact, I try to be careful before I act. I have been incited to rashness and always came to later recognize that I acted without understanding even half of what I'd convinced myself to act upon or against. I've come to appreciate those wielding the lighter hand, the ones presuming that any man or woman might become their teacher and that no one was born their enemy. If I believe that we were all born equal, then we must have also been born friends, for what sort of self-revulsion could believe their equal was not also their friend? I find myself classified by those who do not seem to understand, folks seemingly informed by poisonous doctrines. What wisdom finds solace in that? I firmly believe that we're all still learning, not yet finished growing up. For some, acceptance comes noisily, for others, seemingly much more easily. Not one of us are yet as wise as we might one day become. Even if conspiracy theorists mean well, the theoretical underpinning of their beliefs remain unproven, and every action seems somehow destined to produce some greater wisdom if we can only pay attention and be patient with ourselves.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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