Friday, May 05, 2006

The Higher Compassion

Fresh from her adoring portrait of death-penalty abolitionist Pope John Paul - in which she bemoaned the "dumbing down" of Catholic precepts - the irrepressible Peggy Noonan lashes out at the jurors who denied her the blood of Zacarias Moussaoui. In doing so, this God-drunk lamb shows off her ability to x-ray the souls of her fellow citizens, and reveals her essentially Nietzschean view of morality:

What we witnessed here was not the higher compassion but a dizzy failure of nerve....How removed from our base passions we've become. Or hope to seem.

It is as if we've become sophisticated beyond our intelligence, savvy beyond wisdom. Some might say we are showing a great and careful generosity, as befits a great nation. But maybe we're just, or also, rolling in our high-mindedness like a puppy in the grass. Maybe we are losing some crude old grit. Maybe it's not good we lose it.
Compare Nietzsche in The Geneology of Morals:
What if a symptom of regression lurked in the “good,” likewise a danger, a seduction, a poison, a narcotic, through which the present lived at the expense of the future? Perhaps more comfortably, less dangerously, but at the same time in a meaner style, more basely?
I must say, Noonan's deconstructive approach to moral excellence has me thinking very seriously about my marital vows. Am I faithful to my wife out of "the higher compassion," or was my unwillingness to get involved with that woman at the sushi restaurant merely a "dizzy failure of nerve"? Am I rolling in my high-mindedness like a puppy in the grass? Do I merely hope to seem removed from my base passions?

How can I prove to myself that my fidelity isn't vanity masquerading as rectitude? Only, I suppose, by consciously wallowing in the "crude old grit" of infidelity.

If anyone's interested in helping me along the Via Dolorosa that leads - I hope! - to Noonanesque spiritual authenticity, I'll be spending the weekend in Room 108 of the El Morocco, in Bakersfield, California. Knock three times. And for God's sake, bring a bottle of something.


Thers said...

Now that you have Online Blogintegrity you have higher responsibiities than mere marital vows.

ntodd said...

I'll be right over. With a bottle of Nyquil.