"The bravest of individuals is the one who obeys his or her conscience." J.F. Clarke
After reaching a certain age, people start to think what were they living and striving during their whole life. They rethink their actions, analyze them and try to find the answer to the eternal questions: "Why are we here? “ In this essay I will present my critical and interpretation of the critical lens by J.F. Clarke: "The bravest of individuals is the one who obeys his or her conscience."
We are living in the world where our actions are being influenced by external factors. These factors can be global or at least at the level of government, economic situation, as well as include people who are around, their words and actions. We want to own cars that are advertised on TV, have the same sofa as our neighbor purchased or dream to become a celebrity, because it sounds good. In reality we like to cycle, our sofa is even better and we like to plant fruit trees and vegetables in our garden. Why do we continue to follow what we so not need? It might be a fear to be left alone, fear of disavowal and criticism. We prefer to live the same life as any other family in the block, drive to the country side on week-ends or do whatever is necessary to stay in-stream.
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Fear to be unique does not allow people to be truly happy in what they do. Following one’s conscience can go against public opinion and can be considered unacceptable. Following one’s conscience can lead to loneliness, but we all are lonely on practice. The greatest fear to be alone is connected with the fear to listen to yourself, your needs, your thoughts, and your opinions. It is difficult to take the responsibility for your own life, your assertions, and your choices. It is easier to blame the country and government for high taxes, lack of money or blame your family for disregard. Understanding that each single person is responsible for his or her life choice is the key to understanding of the world.
No one is saying that it is easy to do what you think is right and not follow what the rest of the world is thinking. Other people, the rest of the world, are also human-beings with their own life histories, fears, hopes and doubts and the fact of having the same thought does not make this though right and worth following. The rest of the world might not understand you, might criticize you and even mock you, therefore it takes a lot of strengths, bravery and courage to follow your own chosen way.
J.F. Clarke meant that people have enough ability and knowledge to distinguish fact from fiction and right from wrong. The inner self of every person is aware about all consequences of his or her decisions, as well as about their motifs to make those decisions. Society we are living in demands people to obey moral and social laws that were historically stipulated and formulated on the basis of people’s surroundings and pressure of other society members. Evolution of society in particular and humanity in general is impossible without bravery and courage of its members.
On the other hand, when the person realizes that something is morally unacceptable, but silently obeys or stays indifferent because of fear to lose respect, it makes the person a real coward, who is not able to face the challenge of morality. They are not able to hear their inner voice and to feel compassion. They are not able to stand against external pressure and change their beliefs.
When a person does a right thing when obeying his or her conscience – it is not always the most convenient thing to do for him or her personally. Conscience of the person has nothing to do with his or her egoistic inducements. It can make the person misunderstood, isolated and unpopular, and therefore it requires a lot of courage to be able to follow your conscience.
Arthur Miller in his play “Death of a Salesman” skillfully connects the past of the main hero to his present. It is the play that reveals how important is to be the man of word, to acknowledge the responsibility, to accept the notion of causality and to understand that our present if the direct product of our actions is in the past. The play shows how the wrong turn or wrong decision, which usually comes from person’s mind and not from his heart, can destroy the whole life. Willy Loman is looking for this very moment, when his life took the wrong turn when he ruined relationships with his son, whom he deeply loved, and betrayed his wife.
Willy Loman cannot handle life he doesn’t want to live. He struggles with the fiercest enemy – his true self, and probably loses the battle, as his mental health severely suffers.
Career of Willy Loman was broken. Even though he saw himself as a successful businessman, he was so much obsessed with this notion that could not see the reality. His character becomes volatile, he cannot control his mood and he is constantly lost in his thoughts. He often talks to his brother Ben who passed away. He has difficulties distinguishing reality from his world of illusions and shows signs of schizoaffective disorder with all his bipolar episodes and hallucinations. It is the way his organism fights the reality, it is a defense mechanism.
Willy’s illusions about his personality and his sons’ lives completely distort the facts, as he fails to acknowledge his personal failures and failures of his sons. He conceives himself as a successful and respectful businessman, when still borrowing money from his neighbor Charley. But at the same time Willy refuses to accept the job offer from Charley, as does not want to realize that he is not earning money with his job as a salesman. This money borrowing makes him feel like this state of things is just temporary and not acknowledge the fact that his entire salesman career was unsuccessful. He is stuck in the past and does not want to get out of there.
Willy Loman from "Death of the Salesman" is a bright example of a person who was not brave enough to follow his own way and lived a life full of vain hopes and empty illusions that brought him nothing, but a mental disorder and lead to the suicide.
Meursault from "The Stranger" seems to be absolutely indifferent to everything that is going on around him. He is calm when his mother dies and he shoots a person for no reason. It is very difficult to comprehend Meursault’s actions and thoughts. The fact that he is sentenced to death awakes him and he starts to dream about escaping from the jail. Meursault believed that life is meaningless until he faced the fact that he would be beheaded. His perception of the world was totally physical and not spiritual or emotional.
As far as Meursault was dreaming to escape, he hasn’t taken the responsibility for the morally unacceptable action he did. He lived in his illusory world. When he decided to take this responsibility for his choice, for what he has done and abandon all hope, he felt himself truly happy. He accepted the situation as it was, acknowledged the idea that human existence holds no greater meaning.
Hemingway in “A Farewell to Arms” emphasizes that war is a terrible time. Henry, the main hero of the novel, lives in fear after understanding that his participation in the war was a great mistake. He realizes that the war does not exist in the heroic abstract understanding of the notion. No one would appreciate heroic deeds or your death. People do not feel proud of themselves defending their motherland. They understand that they were being used.
The novel is very sad because even though Henry deserted army to live with his beloved in Montreaux, it hasn’t brought him happiness. Henry and Catherine felt themselves protected from the outside cruel world with their love. Love with Catherine was Henry’s escape from terrible war. Catherine was escaping from her sufferings about her dead fiancé. Both were running from reality. They were afraid to face it. And at the end the reality hit them hardly, as Catherine died and Henry did not know how to live without her.
In the conclusion I would like to summarize that I do agree with the critical lens of J.F. Clarke "The bravest of individuals is the one who obeys his or her conscience." It is the hardest thing to do- understand your true inner self and follow your own way, listen to your heart, make the right choice and take the responsibility for your own actions. Depending on the time, society and surrounding, this life might not be easy to live, but the realization of inner harmony will bring peace to your heart.
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