The Doctrine of the Mean
It is a truism that needs repeating – avoid extremes at all costs. Did not Aristotle underscore moderation and balance in all things in his famous doctrine of the mean? Such is truly to be desired so that some sort of peace might reign in this world. Yet we all know that our earthly abode is far from peaceful. Indeed, it is all too often “knee-high” in blood. I won’t list all the trouble spots, but I rather limit myself to the Israeli-Palestinian unrest (perhaps more correctly called an outright war), the daily blood bath in Iraq and now the conflict between the extremes of the liberal western world which heralds the right to free expression versus the lack of it in the theocratic societies of the Moslem world which counts blasphemy such a supreme sin. (Obviously here I’m referring to the cartoons of Mohammed issue which has preoccupied our news media lately). Two worlds, two extremes and both speaking a different language. We have two cultures at loggerheads. And in the middle, you might ask? Certainly much spilling of blood and great loss of innocent lives! There has to be middle ground somewhere, does there not? Or is that just wishful thinking, a mere pipe-dream? We only have to think of the polarised situation in the North of Ireland - DUP intransigence versus Republican extremism. Can opposite sides which are poles apart do business? Blair and Aherne seem to think so, as does Gerry Adams. The dinosaurs in the DUP are still shouting “No”. Where does this leave those of us who would count ourselves beings of reason and indeed beings of compassion? How do we bring so many people in from the extremes? Is there such a reality as the middle ground or is it just a “No Man’s Land”? One would at times almost want to bury one’s head in the sand, turn off the news bulletins, cease to buy papers and take refuge in films and books of an escapist nature. As T.S. Eliot once so wisely said, “Mankind cannot bear too much reality” or words to that effect. How right he was! I can’t help wishing and hoping that some compromise cab be reached in all of the above. (I am of course conscious of the fact that we can never compromise with evil per se, and by that I mean not just what is evil in my perception, but all that is patently evil to all human beings of good will. The case of the Hitlers, Stalins and all blood thirsty megalomaniacal dictators are exceptions to my hopes and wishes – this goes without saying.) Come back Aristotle, all is forgiven. We need your wisdom.
I enclose above a picture I took recently of a candle in my study - I usually meditate with one lit. I thought that the only possible image I could place at the top of this post was a candle to represent my hopes. I am so aware that a candle can inspire hope, and at the same time it is such a fragile thing that can be so easily extinguished)