Discretion

Discretion
Jan van Eyck: The Virgin of chancellor Rolin. (circa 1435)
"Buck up, Brother, we're in this together however we play it."

Discretion, proverbially referred to as the better part of valor, was originally intended to caution that it's generally better to avoid a dangerous situation than to confront it. Modern interpretations of this term seem to vary considerably from the traditional intention, though, as one governor after another publicly insists upon relying upon personal Discretion when taking certain necessary precautions against The Damned Pandemic, like wearing masks when in public. School principals, too, have adopted this approach, instructing students to make their own choice about whether or not to wear a mask when shoving through class changing crushes. Name one other choice a typical principal leaves up to students? Just one! Given a choice of wearing pants or not, about a quarter of high school students would gleefully observe pants-less Fridays! Should completing homework, or, indeed, all schoolwork be left up to the "Discretion" of each individual student? How about attendance?

The idea that Discretion means free to choose whatever seems upside down and backwards, but then not everyone aspires to valor.
Chivalry, too, has been taking it in the shorts since at least the end of The Middle Ages. There were no Libertarian knights. Choice has become an excuse for egregiously antisocial behavior. The concept of well-informed choice, hopelessly out of fashion. A Priori Choosing seems to have become the pubic passion now; because I want to, the universal excuse; F@&% You, evolved into a common, almost cheerful greeting. Self-centeredness seems to have become the primary purpose for living, not giving, certainly not voluntarily sacrificing for any other. "He's way too heavy, and what gave you the idea that he was my brother?", a familiar explanation. "One for one and all for none" has become the modern Musketeer's creed, and there's only one of them now. Independence until we bleed and beyond.

Were we ever a careful people? My own ancestors rampaged through Indian Country, taking whatever they pleased. I thrive on privilege. I survive on patronage without very often passing it forward. I might complain about the untoward without initiating much toward unwinding it. I contribute my bit, most of that just leftovers. Should I sacrifice, I might expect some form of compensation, consideration for my trouble. Consequently, we all seem to be in deep trouble. I might have been that horseshoe nail, the want of which lost that battle. I learned this week that dear friends contracted Covid-19, likely through so-called community transmission, contact tracing essentially impossible. He teaches. She's a nurse. They're sequestered until twenty-four hours after the last evidence of symptoms disappear. Someone's Discretion might have walked upon their valor without ever noticing the havoc they wreaked.

We each might prove capable of nobility should we desire it, but we distrust The Elites. Perhaps we deep down distrust ourselves, devolving back into feuding fiefdoms, even within ourselves. Temptations to defect surround us. The seductions of a moment's indiscretion seems to suck us in like long-lost friends. We seem utterly incapable of restarting all over again, even when under such duress as This Damned Pandemic carries. Our casual indiscretions compound, the inexorable results confounding us over and over again. We seemed to have done everything right, or rightish, maybe right-leaning. We relied upon the innate goodness in each others' hearts, that Discretion might yet again roughly equate to valor. A discouraging pallor settles in over us. We seem victims of another perpetrator-less crime, a Just-In-Time operation, rejecting hand baskets out of hand. We still focus upon gaining The Promised Land, though the promiser might have reneged on his earlier commitment.
We were the promiser. We embodied that promise. Is this still The Land Of The Free and The Home Of The Brave, or have we left that up to a matter of personal Discretion, now, too? Buck up, Brother, we're in this together however we play it.

It's Friday already again, and I'll exercise an old-fashioned sort of discretion to recount my prior week's confessions:

I began the week with a sort-of screed about an invisible man and his infamous invisible hand in
InvisibleHandiwork.

I next reflected on how frolic tends to transform into folly in
LongHaul.

I submitted a story about a sorry excuse and a worse apology in
Sorrying.

I next considered circular reasoning, not really reasoning at all, but a common method for engineering a fall, in
Circlings.

I then noticed how staying home has evolved into
StayingPut, not at all one of the worst possible outcomes from This Damned Pandemic.

I noticed how the rush to reopen seems eerily similar to a particularly self-destructive form of gambling in
RushingRoulette.

I ended my writing week savoring small blessed inconveniences and the smell of baking bread in
SlicingBread.

In summary, it seems as though I kept catching myself writing about human folly this week. Though This Damned Pandemic has probably done nothing to increase the gross volume of human folly in this world, it seems to have brought a few of the more egregious forms of it into sharper focus. This is not, I insist, our new normal. Nor does it seem to qualify as passing fancy. This world has not ceased spinning, though it might have acquired a certain wobble on recent rotations. I continue producing my little incantations hoping to induce at least an ounce of awareness if not foreboding. I pledge to practice only old fashioned discretion, praying for valor to result. I invite you to continue joining me and thank you for being here for this unanticipated journey to somewhere. Remember: we cannot know where.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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