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The compass is so true that it is hard to be anything but enthused by his moral clarity.  It is refreshing to encounter such a firm purpose, so in tune with both the ethos and the actions of the saviour in who’s faith he garbs himself.

In the grey twilight before dark thoughts, I see there is more to the compass’ story than unearthly alignment.  The compass knows evil.  It gnaws itself in self-doubt at critical moments.  Its triumph is because weighing the two alternatives, he unfailingly chooses to remain true.

In darker moments, I admit disillusionment.  Such purity of purpose is naive.  To navigate the world with nothing to call to your aid but a belief in the goodness of God, a good heart and the love of good people is reckless. It is insanity.

Or so I tell myself. The truth is I would surrender heaven and earth to possess a share of that moral courage.



    • T
    • Posted April 3, 2010 at 6:22 pm
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    Never being one to miss the opportunity to jovially trample on religion, but the last time I checked, the devil hasn’t put out a book.

    But even setting aside cynical atheism for a moment (no small feat), morality is better defined as struggling to identify the right thing and then doing it; not as getting it right ever single time. It sounds like a lawyer’s duck to say that, in hard cases, it’s genuinely difficult to know how to apply rules that seemed so clear when drafted, but this exposes the truth of a more fundamental proposition which is that principles couched in general language are incapable of interacting in an unambiguous fashion with reality. The complexities and variety of reality are precisely the reason we resort to generalities in rule-making in the first place: there is too much reality to provide a rule for every situation. If you accept, then, that no set of general rules can interact unambiguously with subsequent specific reality, then it follows irresistibly that there must be uncertainty in their application, from which it further follows that people who are cocksure of themselves in their application are in fact more cock and less sure.

    • mtalib
    • Posted April 3, 2010 at 11:38 pm
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    I agree with you. The compass would accept all the things you describe except the last: it’s not cocksure.

    It has values and rules. It realises how difficult rules are to apply to facts: it struggles with the many moral textures that a single act can have every time it comes to a difficult juncture. I’ve seen gnawing self-doubt.

    What makes it unique, what constitutes its moral courage, is that I have never seen it take the easy way of a moral dilemma. It chooses to remain true. I wish, with all my heart, that I might say that some day about myself.

    This struggle makes it the very opposite of cocksure. The difficulty and ambiguity that it battles makes it empathetic to all those who make moral decisions, no matter how they decide.

    And that is no bad thing.

    • Craig
    • Posted April 18, 2010 at 8:23 am
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    Mo, Everytime i stumble across your blog I wish i did so more often! Your post in intriguing. I cannot quite tell if you are referring to someone whose compass you envy or giving recognition to an internal compass you wish you had the strength to follow.

    Whats strange is you seem to be describing a man I know… it fits but i’ve never heard him called compass before.

    I find it strange how i strain so little to reach what I most want and reach so much for what i know will not satisfy. I feel i have a moral compass… that we all do… my wish is that mine weren’t so ignored and violated.

    And i wonder about what T says… he highlights the way ‘that principles couched in general language are incapable of interacting in an unambiguous fashion with reality.’ and he is right… but i think the principles like the compass they make up are much too dynamic to be couched in language… even the best words leave everything ambiguous… which is why brilliant ppl like you will never be out of a job. But true principle can be applied to reality. not in a written code but a way of life. So long as the moral compass points to the next step it has done all it can be expected to.

    i wonder to about the need for unambiguous interactions with reality. unambiguous to whom? if reality itself is ambiguous (as it seems to be to me) how can interactions with it strive to be unambiguous. and given the shakiness of reality and the pantheon of commenting observers the value of a compass showing even how to put one foot further in the right direction is even more apparent.

    and finally I wonder if you… or any of us… would really give heaven and earth to have moral courage… the willingness to pay the cost is the courage. if you were willing to pay you would have the courage. I stumble because if i can see the moral path will cost me in embarrassment or status i am usually out before ive looked twice.

    but then as you say… encounters with the compass are stimulating… so i’ll hope we keep interacting.

    and i hope your lion finds it share of courage.

    best wishes… and i think you owe me an email 🙂


    • Tasneem
    • Posted September 22, 2010 at 6:45 pm
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    I have read most of your blogs and the other article and must say – Chicken Soup for the Soul. Well written.


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