In Pursuit of the Beautiful Soul

Food for Thought

Integrity was once a sacred concept for me, so much so that I was willing to lose friends to preserve it. To be clear, I didn’t expect their agreement, only that they valued integrity as much as I did. Reason was my religion. I wanted to know if their allegiance was to reason, too, not their feelings. The unpredictability of the latter scared me.

It was simple to test them; I wielded blunt language and tone without regard to their feelings in our debates. If they grew angry, their emotions would distort their thinking, and eventually, they would contradict themselves. Checkmate. Off they stormed. The question then was: Would they come back? Surprisingly, many did, but many vanished from my life. Those who returned, I figured, valued reason more than their feelings.

I feared that people would find out about my religion sooner or later, so I wanted to expedite it to ease my anxiety. Many of them must have felt I was deliberately hurting them, but at least I saved them from wasting more time with me.

But in hindsight, it was a fool’s errand. Just as some lose faith in God when prayers go unanswered and life grows bleaker, I lost faith in reason. It gave no solace, no answers to the hardest riddles of life. Not that I now prize feelings higher; neither is better. The rational and the irrational within us are forever in a dialectical conflict, never to resolve or blend into harmony. I had to either tolerate or embrace contradictions. You can arrive at this realization whether your allegiance is to reason or feelings.

Hegel had a concept called the “beautiful soul” who pursues ethical perfection that paralyzes her because any engagement with the real world forces her to compromise her integrity, leaving her theoretically pure but powerless and ineffectual.

In science, we methodically remove contradictions; in art, we weave the ones we choose. Mathematics is pure beauty that represents nobody’s voice. Beauty in and of itself is not art. It is through impurity that we reveal ourselves in art.