Roman Honor: The Fire in the Bones

By Carlin A. Barton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
Conclusions
Choosing Life

In contemporary American culture, the “honorable” person is “honest and true, ” someone who is above all consistent. He or she is conscientious, predictable, stable, solid, “four-square, ” a “rock, ” a “brick. ” He or she is committed to a code that admits no exceptions, like the Orioles' Cal Ripken, a person who never takes a vacation from the game that he or she plays.

The “honorable” man or woman is simple in the way a child or a worshiper is simple. Their simplicity, like an arctic icebreaker, clears a path through the pack ice of ritual and the muck of embodiment.

The “honorable” person is an “integrated psychic whole, ” not an actor or hypocrite. He or she is “authentic” and unadulterated in his or her being and identity, in harmony with his or her inner nature. The “honorable” have a guiding and unifying conscience rather than a fracturing self-consciousness. They can sleep at night. (“There is no pillow like a clear conscience. ”) 1 They have smooth complexions and steady eyes. They are without sinister secrets and vices.

The “honorable” tell the truth.

Although dependable, the “honorable” person is independent. He or she serves diligently and is frequently a “workaholic” (like Cal Ripken) and an altruist (like Sophie Scholl, the heroine of the White Rose resistance movement against the Nazis in Munich, 1942–1943), but this service is not servitude. Honorable people serve only their own autonomous consciences.

The “honorable” do not throw temper tantrums, “break” into tears, or succumb to other strong emotions; they do not sulk on the beach like Achilles or

____________________
1
Hans Kohut's heroic characters are true to their “nuclear selves. ” They are in a state of peaceful stability and clarity. See the wonderful example of Sophie Scholl in Kohut's essay “On Courage, ” in Self-Psychology and the Humanities: Reflections on a New Psychoanalytic Approach, ed. Charles B. Strozier, New York, 1985, pp. 5–50.

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