Featured Image is The Third of May 1808, by Francisco Goya
We are all to blame, we are all to blame…and if only all were convinced of it!
-Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Demons
Morality is not a guide for living a blameless life. It is not a method for keeping your hands unsoiled by culpability.
I do not know if anyone really believes that it is, but I have noticed many talk as if it were so.
The conversation goes like this: Bob talks about how Jane fell short of some exacting moral standard, and thus shares the blame for something wicked. Jill points out that Bob himself has fallen short of that or some other exacting standard, and thus shares the blame for the same thing or something else. Heather turns around and pulls the same thing on Jill.
In short, they proceed by negation.
This game can go on indefinitely; many never escape it. It takes a big leap to see that no one can be blameless. Our hands are always dirty, just by living in this world, supported by institutions which require an ocean of blood to create and maintain. As social creatures we always stand in relationship to other people, and these relationships always involve an element of domination and hurt.
Once you make this leap, only two paths remain open to you.
The first is nihilism. The blame game and the standards are both negated entirely. The players become disenchanted; everything beautiful about the world becomes entirely obscured by ugliness. Institutions become just tools of power, relationships become just relationships of domination.
The second is acceptance. Seeing the ugliness in the world and in ourselves, and taking ownership of it. Accepting responsibility for having a place in this world, and confronting your own wrongdoings. Above all, it is seeing everyone as well as yourself for their ugliness and their beauty and loving them for both. You must be able to do this in order to accept the world. If ugliness irreparably tarnishes the beautiful for you, then you will end up either rejecting the world, or falling into self-deception.
This path is much more difficult than the other, and more difficult still than the idle chatter of the blame game. It is a wonder that we ever find acceptance, even for a fleeting moment.
I don’t imagine I can convince you to seek this acceptance. But I hope that you can see that, although you are not blameless, you are worthy of love.