Judgement part 1

In the middle ages, thinkers and scholars and the kind of people who reasoned things out in their minds and wrote them down turned their minds to what were, for them, the big questions. They argued amongst themselves about the nature and operation of divine grace as mediated through Jesus Christ and his mother Mary. They made pronouncements about witchcraft and the dangerous power of the devil. And they also showed off their learning by formulating opinions on such topics as what angels could and couldn’t do on earth, whether they had sexual organs, and how many of them could sit on the head of a pin. The reasoning used by medieval scholars often appears specious (and downright silly) to us – as when they seek to understand how something works by breaking up the word for the concept into its constituent lexicographical parts, sometimes in other languages, often misspelled or translated poorly, and show how definitions for these words “prove” what the concept is and how it works. The reasoning is the key. It is a display of learning. There is a logic and an order in this thinking process. And it is a demonstration of intelligence and years of study – mastery, in fact – which must mean that the writer’s answer will be correct, as his reasoning will be sound because it is backed up by such thorough learning. Of course this is a circular way to think. Much study can go into a wrong conclusion. And the definitions of words can’t explain that the Earth goes around the Sun if you lack a scientific mindset equipped to allow for this fact.

These thinkers were trying to understand the world, and in order to understand it it made sense to sort things into categories: lower and higher animals, chaste and unchaste, religious and irreligious. We all make similar judgements all the time – although the issue of chastity doesn’t come up with ordinary people very often. With very little evidence we are forced to judge people – even though it isn’t good to judge – as there is just too much going on in the life of a person living in a community of more than a handful of people to really get to know everyone you might encounter and then make a sober decision about whether they should be friends or just acquaintances or even enemies. Instead we are forced into snap decisions, and naturally these are often wrong decisions, or they are with me anyway, and that can be embarrassing and quite shameful. It can also be a very sad thing to contemplate the association you might have had with an individual if you hadn’t decided they were bad news when you met – and later found out that they are a saintly person with a volcanic sense of humour who just happened to dress like a bank robber in those days or someone who seemed like a massive pain in the arse back then but they were going through a difficult time, and they are now a beautiful person, and weren’t you a dickhead for letting them go or being rude or shutting them out, and doesn’t it make you feel bad? Of course it does. But what are you going to do? Try to give people a chance, I suppose, is all you can do. Try – genuinely try.

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Published in: on June 19, 2012 at 8:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

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