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(2.2) Conscience Has An Attitude

“When your intelligence don't tell you something ain't right, your conscience gives you a tap on the shoulder and says ‘Hold on.' If it don't, you're a snake.” -- Elvis Presley

As one might expect, Carl Jung expressed Presley's folk wisdom in somewhat more formal language; but the idea is the same, “Through pride we are ever deceiving ourselves. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience a still, small voice says to us, 'Something is out of tune.'” Christopher Reeve also heard that inner voice, “I think we all have a little voice inside us that will guide us. It may be God, I don't know. But I think that if we shut out all the noise and clutter from our lives and listen to that voice, it will tell us the right thing to do.”

The recurring belief is that the voice of conscience is ever-present and far less fallible than the voice of reason. For example, Josh Billings asserted, “Reason often makes mistakes but conscience never does.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau made the same point this way, “Reason deceives us often; conscience never.” Although stated less dogmatically, Joseph Cook agreed with Billings and Rousseau, “Conscience is our magnetic compass; reason our chart.”

Unfortunately, that little voice may not be quite the totally reliable key to recognizing the good and right some say it is. Samuel Butler pointed out, “Conscience is thoroughly well-bred and soon leaves off talking to those who do not wish to hear it.” As it turns out, conscience has an attitude. If you don't pay attention to it, it may just stop paying attention to you. Were that not problem enough, what conscience is saying isn't always clear. You can listen and still struggle to understand. As William Dean Howells pointed out, “The difficulty is to know conscience from self-interest.”

Conscience and reason are having a fight. They go back and forth all through the night. It's a right to the nose and a left to the chin. When morning comes, they start over again.

Reason says that it makes perfect sense. It's trying to nudge you off of the fence. The tug of conscience is hard to abide. It's pulling you hard to the other side.

You sway back and forth, first left and then right. Do you do what makes sense or do what seems right? Conscience gives you a pull, then reason a push. If this isn't resolved, you'll be dumped on your tush.

Does reason prevail or does the little voice win? Do you take one on the nose or one on the chin? Either way you go, it doesn't feel good. Do you do what makes sense or do what you should?

Calm yourself and try to unwind. Take a deep breath and make up your mind. Do you go with what you think or with that little voice? It's up to you; and you live with your choice.

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