Friday, November 23, 2012

Knightly Frankness (first of five)

"Frankly, my dear!" Ha! Frankness has always been a knightly virtue. And those five virtues that keep on niggling are worth examining. Two F's and three C's. Frankness, Fellowship, Courtesy, Compassion, and Courage. Cannot recall exactly where first I read about them, but I do know I've struggled with the concepts since childhood. Rather like the recent phrases popularized since '97 as The Four Agreements, so very many similar concepts can come trippingly off the tongue, perhaps precisely because we trip up on them! Ha! How do I keep my Words Impeccable; Make No Assumptions; Take Nothing Personally; and always do my Best? Comprehending, even Understanding such phraseology is one thing, but Living it? How to live a balanced life amidst the courtly expectation of three C's and two F's? The median is the modus operandi for me; one is fundamentally average with oneself, no matter how high one tries to set the bar.

"Frankly..., I don't give a...," Rhett Butler began the transition between an old world and a new, and the rest has gone with the wind. Apparently ladies fainted. Movies changed rapidly after that, and swearing became progressively authentic. An intriguing word that, 'authentic'. We seem to think that honouring authenticity gives us licence for all sorts of gratuitous depictions of life as it is, or might indeed be, if we were there as witness. We do not much drive our art nowadays with a view to how life 'should be, could be, might become.’ Yet how many of us would thereby fundamentally be influenced? Was our culture en masse ever really that caring, considerate, compassionate? History reveals how at large we readily want to escape prescriptive overtones. Hence the songs and the movies that elicit our interest in things 'real', graphic. TV shows like Father Knows Best, Lassie, and Leave it to Beaver are bygones of the past. Not all shows. But channel surfing can reveal without warning what used to pass for pornography. And nowadays one witnesses many a youngster not so much as blanch. Nudity, sex, swears, violence; it's par for the course. Not that it's all bad, or that we should conceal what does happen in reality, but in the interest of being frank, forthright, honest, truthful, we can be very revealing. Yet frankness and truth are not swappable sides of most coins.

"You can't handle the truth!" Nicholson spat. What an iconic line. It reverberates beyond the military courtroom. We deal Truth out as a commodity, as if Truth is impeccable. Truth may be desired, yet even in Biblical terms truth is harboured. The lines about 'pearls before swine', from Matthew 7:6, intrigue. There is real value in integrity. Frankly, not everyone deserves the truth; why tell the enemy things that will count against you?

Two recent episodes of the 1950's Rifleman series are fascinating examples of useful fabrications. The negative influence of a non-existent controlling wife, to teach another; and an in-court actually undeveloped photograph as proof of someone's identity have one re-examining 'truth'. In both stories Rifleman fibs in order to secure the safety of another. Utter dishonesty for a greater gain! Ethics has it that the first principle of living be not truth, but 'do least harm'. Honesty is rather different from being frank, which is not necessarily truth. Frankness is defined by Webster as 'open, ingenious, candid'; defined by the Oxford dictionary as 'ingenious' too! And somehow, that word, 'ingenious,' to be frank, has never struck me as 'honest', ha! At issue is how much one cares. And frankly, my dear, we might all care more about what we contrive. Frankly, or 'whatever!'? Ha!

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