Sunday, June 7, 2009

a good conscience

Someone of unbound conscience can dare to get it wrong, because they don't have to get it right. If you have to get it right, that means that you don't dare to get it wrong, which means that you are afraid of what will happen to you if you do get it wrong. But the Catholic and Christian understanding of conscience is that because we know that we are liked we can get it wrong, and it doesn't matter, because we are not frightened of punishment, but able to learn from our mistakes. In fact, if we can't dare to be wrong, then we can't truly get it right, because our being right will be a form of protection against what is other than us, what is unknown, exciting, big and causing us to be bigger-minded, magnanimous. A good conscience is not a feeling of self-satisfaction at having got it right; it is much more the underlying excitement of knowing yourself on the way somewhere, which is perfectly compatible with a deep sorrow of realisation at having got something wrong. This is the excitement of being a son or daughter who is on an adventure, not the contractual precision of a slave who has to get something right because he has no sense of being on the inside of the project of whoever is in charge, and merely senses the other as arbitrary and capricious, as someone who will glower at what is not perfect.
James Alison. On Being Liked. New York: Crossroad, 2003. 110 - 111.

1 comment:

ms said...

I read this post in NOLA in the sex and booze-drenched streets of the French Quarter. I read of the unbound conscience before too, but not this particular. Just the phrase "unbound conscience" is so full and yet empty, of promise and of expectations... I think i do not yet have one but the thought i might be able to ... an "unbound conscience." I've always had to get it right though I think I was and am not now always aware of it. Not that I get much right, but that is beside the point. Have I ever been such a child? I think not but ALison seems to say we can go back and become that child ... with better circusmtances and less bad, to flow within the unbound conscience and be of life, the continuity of being. I would like to believe this but mostly I shy away, afraid to hope for what I have only been able to dream of and never experienced so that I cannot easily trust there is such possibility.