Reply To: The Principle of Honor: A Poor Substitute . . . ” with Craig Deininger, Ph.D.”
Thank you. And what a great handle: sunbug. I makes me think to the Egyptian sun-at-dawn Khepri. Everything so on point in your post. You emphasized the social element (as Jamesn brought it up as well in his post), the whole “what will the neighbors think?” direction. And I realized I had glossed over that topic in my responses. I suppose it’s no accident that I have glossed over it since my focus is stacked (perhaps too heavily) on the inner-voice/daimon/individuated/etc. side of the scale these days.
Point being, when it comes to following one’s own inner-voice, I’m sold! “Be yourself,” “Follow your intuition,” and all that. But upon further reflection, I must concede that, also, I do in fact care (regardless of to what degree) what the neighbors think of me. And I think this is inescapable for most of us. Apparently this was the case for Parzival for his first go-around.
More importantly, I’m glad you brought ego into the conversation in this context—and by ‘ego,’ I’m thinking about the word more conventionally, that is, as in the “small-self” or self-importance within which we have, on one side of the scale, the inflation of hubris and in the middle we have healthy confidence or simply a sincere sense of duty and on the far end, humility even to the very unhealthy point of self-abasement. So, if my purpose is that the neighbor’s think I’m great, then I have failed (but may take some victory if I am able to reflect on the insecurity that fueled my ambition in the first place!) But what of simply doing a thing I am told is “right action” because I sincerely want to serve society in that action? Now it gets tricky.
In reflecting on Parzival’s story, Joseph Campbell points out that even one’s sense of dharma can impede the genuinely honorable way or the genuinely higher road. It reminds me of that quote from Meister Eckhart: “The ultimate leave-taking is leaving God for God.” Or dropping a dharmic principle of one’s social position for a higher dharma. And this applies to those outside-in principles you mention as well. Even though, I think the outside-in principles are quite valuable depending on where one is on their path in any given context. Sure, following the prompting of the inner self through compassion and sincerity is the home run. But it doesn’t mean beating out a groundball to first base is valueless. And I write this after disparaging the principles in my mythblast—proof that I have yet to figure this stuff out, ha!
But I’m good with the contradictions. It’s complicated. It’s simple. It’s contextual. It’s universal. On that note, like you bring up with the simplicity of the question or like Jamesn’s “simple solutions to complicated problems that may not always guide you…” But also, the (apparent) complexity of it all, is also life-like, if not life itself. And which I think makes all these possibilities, uh, possible.
On that note, I teach some mythology classes, and in the last year I suddenly found myself saying: “The myths are messy.” It just started coming up when students hit me with very tough questions about complicated content—especially ethically-complicated content (but also, logically complicated content as well)—that comes up so frequently in the myths.
But, I do think that’s the first layer in. Beneath this, the complexity deepens. But also, the deeper one goes into the complicated matter the more leverage there is for a simple solution or, at least, perspective. And is why I appreciate your attention to the “simple” in your post. And more so, that you write about looking in the mirror and re-tuning like Parzival did. Reflection is so very the name of the game, I think. And to those with the strength to do it, goes the treasure. On that note, last week’s mythblast by Mark C. E. Peterson has great things to say about reflection.
So reflecting on this “what will the neighbor’s think?” point. Jamesn mentions guilt and shame; you mention guilt and embarrassment. Indeed, none are independent of their influence. But when they do come, reflection is the great move (and I’m going on and on about reflection here because I’m working for a simple solution). It’s not that they come (the things that push us to be concerned about neighbors’ opinions) but rather recognizing first that they have come, and second (and more important) reflecting on why they have come—meaning, really, why I have projected them! And that is one way that we all are able to step out of the socially driven context, and into the inner-self, personal context. Precisely as you point out: as Parzival did. And it worked!