Monday, 3 November 2014

When is truth due, and when it is not. The fine ethical line between benevolence and privacy

Fifty-nine years is a long time in the life of a man. Days can go by without trace, leaving nothing behind, turned to dust by the daily grind. During such a long period, most men choose to ply quietly their trade, while a few prefer to go on a crusade. For writer Daniel Defoe, that was the time it took him to learn when to speak and when to forgo critique.
"It was then that I began sensibly to feel how much happier my current life was, despite its miserable circumstances, than the wicked, cursed, abominable life that I had led in the past," wrote Defoe in his immortal novel Robinson Crusoe.
Rational living, rational working

To whom do you owe honesty and truth?

The book was first published in the year 1719, when Defoe had just turned fifty-nine. During the initial forty years of his life, he had been repeatedly prosecuted and imprisoned for speaking out his mind. Moved by financial desperation, he had then wasted the following decade writing propaganda for different employers.

It was only in his late fifties that Defoe finally felt secure enough to write a major work of fiction. Robinson Crusoe was the result, a story about a man stranded on a solitary island with no company other than his own thoughts. Taking into account Defoe's personal background, it is not surprising that the subject of his novel was silence.

Written in the first person, the narration continues to appeal modern generations due to its profound philosophical tone, which reflects Defoe's desire for freedom, independence, and truth. 

"Now I look back upon my desolate, solitary island as the most pleasant place in the world," laments Robinson Crusoe in the novel, "and all the happiness my heart could wish for is to be there again."
 Rationality is the way to happiness

Life doesn't have to be that way. Playing the lies of society versus the honesty of the hermit is a powerful literary ploy, not an accurate portrait of reality. In any circumstances, only reason can tell you whether it is better for you to keep silent or if you should take a stand on principle. The dichotomy presented in the novel Robinson Crusoe makes a great story, but it is radically false.

Truth seldom comes for free and there is no reason why it should be. Individuals owe honesty to themselves and to their family and friends, not to strangers of doubtful reputation. Men owe loyalty exclusively to the facts of reality, not to any fashionable mentality. 

Your dreams and thoughts are only yours

Your dreams and thoughts are only yours. They are meant to be exchanged with those who are congenial, not oppositional. If you perceive good reasons that counsel you to keep silent, heed the advice of your heart. Seek out those men and women who deserve the best in you. To the rest, let silence be their due.

For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living


[Image by stevehdc under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

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