“A foolish consistency

is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today.”

At least, so would Emerson have us act, and, since this was one of my favorite quotations while teaching, it would seem only consistent to admit it is still one of the basic guiding principles of my life.

How, then, can I reconcile this idea with Jonathon Delacour’s recent statements: “That’s it: where my own interests lie. In other words, hardly anything to do with telling the literal truth; and everything to do with fashioning an authentic persona from bits of alibis and consistent lies.”

An adequate response demands, if possible, a clear definition of terms. For instance, what does Jonathon mean by “literal truth?” If he merely means he has little desire to merely relate events of his life, then it’s hard to disagree with the point. I doubt that even Emerson would disagree with Jonathon’s goal of “fashioning an authentic persona” if, by that, Jonathon means establishing a self that is true to what he believes.

Since I’m unclear exactly what Jonathon means by an “authentic persona,” it’s difficult to respond to the concept, but I’m more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt here considering the quality of his blog and our virtual friendship. I like to believe that, like Emerson, he’s referring to a “higher” or “truer” self here. In other words, through his writing he is constructing a self that acts like the person he wants to be, like his higher self, rather than the true self that often lets us down in everyday actions.

It’s when I come to “bits of alibis” that I feel a real need to push back, though. None of us lives up to the person we want to be. It’s part of being human. None of us needs to excuse who we are or what we did. An image of infallibility is an unsustainable myth.

I have even more problems with “consistent lies,” though I find it difficult to know exactly what Jonathon means by the term. I know that both Jonathon and I are admirers of Shelley Powers, and it’s hard to find a better example of someone who has no truck with “consistent lies.” Shelley’s greatest strength is her willingness to speak her mind freely, and to change it just as freely the next day. You don’t have to wonder what Shelley is thinking; she lets you know loud and clear. Of course, she may let you know the next day that she’s changed her mind, if not completely, at least partially. It’s hard to imagine a more “authentic person” than Shelley. Of course, since I only know Shelley as a virtual friend, it may well be that this is merely her “authentic persona,” and not her true personality. Somehow I doubt it, though.

— revised Friday evening