Friday, January 23, 2009

The Sword of Sincerity

History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. What is the worth of all this? The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however the fate may play, we march always in the ranks of honour. Winston Churchill

The shield of rectitude and sincerity: what a fine image! I am reminded of some other fine images of a martial nature:

Remember that it is in perfect gentleness that your soul will find the strongest defence, the only armour without a flaw. Remember the words of the Master: ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.’ J.-M. Sylvain, Entretiens spirituels, P. 117

(The Taoist ideal of non-combat or non-competitiveness) disposes always of an invincible weapon: love, and a shield against which break the most furious assaults of men and destiny: sacrifice. Le Livre du Tao et de sa Vertu

We have seen that many other virtues can be considered a shield. Humility is a shield: the only sure protection against humiliation. Patience is a shield: the greatest fortitude against the evils of hatred and anger. I am sure you can think of others.
But if I may, I will disagree with my most esteemed compatriot Winston Churchill (and I think he would forgive me) by saying that I believe sincerity more closely resembles a sword than a shield. For with sincerity we can not merely defend ourselves: we can attack, we can pierce through men’s defences and win them to our cause. With sincerity as our sword and rectitude as our shield, we conquer men and destiny. Who could stand against us? Now, isn’t that a fine image?

Sincerity, a deep, great, genuine sincerity, is the first characteristic of all men in any way heroic. Thomas Carlyle

The true measure of life is not length, but honesty. John Lily

Weak persons cannot be sincere. Fran├žois Duc de la Rochefoucauld

Sincerity may be humble, but she cannot be servile. Thomas Carlyle

He who is sincere hath the easiest task in the world, for, truth being always consistent with itself, he is put to no trouble about his words and actions; it is like traveling in a plain road, which is sure to bring you to your journey's end better than byways in which many lose themselves. John Tillotson

Sincerity is the face of the soul, as dissimulation is the mask. Joseph Sanial-Dubay

Sincerity is not only effective and honourable, it is also much less difficult than is commonly supposed. George H. Lewes

Never apologize for showing feeling. My friend, remember that when you do so you apologize for truth. Benjamin Disraeli

Sincerity is an openness of heart; it is found in a very few people, and that which we see commonly is not it, but a subtle dissimulation, to gain the confidence of others. Fran├žois Duc de la Rochefoucauld

The happy talent of pleasing either those above or below you seems to be wholly owing to the opinion they have of your sincerity… There need be no more said in honour of it than that it is what forces the approbation of your opponents. Sir Richard Steele

You can play a shoestring if you're sincere. John Coltrane

It is best to be yourself, imperial, plain and true. Robert Browning
Photo from Wikimedia: King Leonidas of Sparta

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Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)
Kiyomizudera Temple has a large veranda looking out over Kyoto and beyond