28 June 2009


For as much as we are capable of reason, human beings are also creatures of passion. This is usually most pronounced in adolescence when a river of emotion and hormones can sometimes overwhelm us. At that age we usually do not have the requisite perspective to tame or control these feelings. We are subject to animal instincts that are difficult to temper. There are two possible mechanisms of control- external, under the supervision, restriction, or approbation of others, or internal, by way of self-discipline and conscience. If the latter are not sufficiently developed, passion will continue to reign in adulthood.

Passion can be all-consuming and once in its grip everything else becomes secondary as perspective is lost. The rush of emotion can be so intense it overcomes all other considerations, resulting in a total absence of common sense. We are all subject to it, even superficially; who is not drawn to an attractive woman? But mechanisms of control must be developed, and values we think ought to provide some restraint do not seem to. Love cannot control it alone; one may truly love their spouse and yet succumb to aroused passions. Rectitude, faith, reason, and the moral sense cannot ameliorate lust when the fire burns. Why do otherwise sensible men behave like lovestruck teenagers?

All of this is in play in the case of Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina and the widely reported affair that seems to have effectively caused him to flip out and disappear to Argentina for a number of days. Republicans are far less tolerant than Democrats of errant behavior because we expect people to practice what they preach. Given that he heads what is just about the most Christian state in the union his position seems untenable to me.

I believe there is only one thing that suppress such passions, and that is honor. A well-developed sense of honor is what can keep passion in check. In the past it was honor that sustained unrequited love, based upon one’s sense of obligation and duty. Unfortunately in modern times it has fallen out of favor and self-aggrandizement is the order of the day. Honor can only be instilled by proper upbringing that enables one to resist temptation despite all that is going on around us. Unless and until we restore the value of honor to its proper place there is little to control an unchecked ego seeking to indulge itself.

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