Your Thought is Not Your Authenticity

‘Such are his words, and sick at heart with immense grief he feigns hope in his expression, but hides his pain deep in his heart’ (talia voce refert curisque ingentibus aeger / spem vultu simulat, premit altum corde dolorem. Aeneid 1.208–9, translation given by David O. Ross in Vergil’s Aeneid: A Reader’s Guide [Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2007], 9).

I’m nothing like these epic heroes psychologically: I cannot so feign something without thinking it’s true, even if I must do violence to myself to get there. If I’m torn asunder in grief – oh, it will be known, and you need not speculate.

I note also, you are what you do, not what you intend to do, not even what you think you’re doing – your good intentions cannot save you from your monstrous deeds. The subjective deliberations in your mind between reason and counter-reason, between one emotion and another, and even what you think is your choice, are the construction of your self, not the more authentic ‘you’. In the end, no decision is final until action has actually been taken, for no one can know whether he will change his mind and be made other than he originally intended to be.

If you’re a hypocrite, your actions, and not your thoughts alone, belie your words; if you’re engaged and intend to be married, you may yet break off the engagement; if you’ve given yourself to be catechized in the Way (‘made a personal decision’), you may yet decide at the last that you cannot be baptized into the faith. Our reaction against this, our attempted revolt, is a plea for the illusion of autonomy. ‘Peace, peace,’ they cry, but there is no peace; ‘freedom, freedom,’ but they are everywhere in chains, in the hands of the Accuser.

These also are the issues of authenticity that surround apostasy, which is not predicated on your earnestness or lack thereof.


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