Integrity can be defined as ‘doing the right thing when no one is watching.’ I am put in mind of the time when one simple act popped on my moral lightbulb: late in the eve as I left my office, I was clearly the last one out as I traversed the hall, reading last few lines of a bulletin on the company parking policy that I carried with me as I walked. Satisfied with the read, and anxious to start my weekend, I crumpled the bulletin and attempted a hook-shot at the last waste basket near the exit.
As the automatic sliding door opened for me, and the buildings HVAC over-pressure nudged me out into the night, the crumple bounced from the rim of the basket. I turned my head to the dark as I stepped out… and I heard the flat ‘plops’ of wadded paper hit the floor, rather than sonorous tin of the freshly voided waste basket.
“La-la-la, I heard nothing… tum tum-dee-dum!” …weekend, here I come!
“Sigh,” I paused in disgust, rolled my eyes and card-swiped myself back into the secure building. I stood glaring down in disdain at the balled bulletin, floored a scant foot from the basket goal. I flipped it in. Gazing down the yawning hall as the lights went to half power for the weekend, it dawned on me that I may indeed have a shred of integrity. That, or I was truly affected with a major strain of OCD. “I’ll take the former for $1000.00, Alex.”
That ‘moment of clarity,’ whether imaginary or truly perceived, would make many return visits to me, posturing itself in my conscious, with hands on hips, one toe tapping, and the stern look of a mother to a son whose bed was not yet made. “Pick up the crumpled piece of paper Geo,” would resonate in my head at recurring intervals.
Did I check the chamber of my weapon as required to ensure it was clear? Bah, no need; I’m quite sure it is clear. “Pick up the crumpled paper, Geo.” Right, right, right… and I check chamber—all clear.
Did I brush my teeth this evening before bed? Fogettabouttit; I haven’t missed a day in years, and all I had was soup anyway; soup doesn’t get stuck between your teeth. “Pick it up, Geo; pick up the wad of paper.” Aw, Jesus… and a brushing we do go.
Shall I identify individual targets to minimize collateral damage, or spray and pray, because everything to my front deserves to die anyway? “Pick it up, GDI, PICK IT UP!”
Look, squeeze, BANG… look, squeeze, BANG. Never before did a wadded up company bulletin about parking POVs (1) ever have such a marked influence on an individual.
Memory of the metaphoric crumpled sheet faded, and gave way to the stalwart bastion, the mirror. The mirror? Yes, the mirror mirror on the wall; that one. So it came that as I peered into the mirror in the morning to shave, and then again at night to brush teeth, became my time to reflect (no pun) on my recently completed deeds, and immediate intent. My gauge of my true measure of integrity was this: “If I do this thing, either observed or unobserved… will I be able to look at myself in the mirror after?”
In fact I have actually addressed people at meetings with the same question: “Can we look at ourselves in the mirror if we do this?” or “Go ahead and do it bro; you only have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror.” I know I got to some folks with that question, by the number of guys that started to grow beards and have bad breath. Even mirrors became missing in the company bathrooms. There were employees up to no good, I tells ya!
Yes, my integral mirror analogy is akin to: “Well, how does he/she sleep at night with that guilty conscious?” The answer is nobody can sleep with a guilt on their mind. The crux is what actually manifests itself as guilt from on person to the next. I feel guilty for littering, as a car goes by me and flicks a lit cigarette butt out its window, almost hitting me.
Guilt has not manifested itself in that person’s mind. The fact is folks, and stay with me here, guilt rests where justification fails; that is, as long as a person can justify their actions, they are guilt free, and brother man… peoples can do some might creative justificationing, the lazier and greedier they are.
Take my X-wife—please!! (bah-dum TSHH!!) No, really… take for example, if you will, Back Page’s attorney Liz McDougall’s rationalization for why she is right, and most everyone else is wrong, let me know what she says, as I have been unable to finish the interview sans projectile vomiting.
You can skip to 1:55 in the video to hear Liz.
While disgusted with her remarks, I was concomitantly awash in thanks that my last name is just Hand, and not Finklewhore; its the simple things in life that bid my rejoice.
Morals then are what you make them, and you can make them anything you want to in your head. I have always said there are a number of compliments you can never pay yourself; rather, those compliments can only be paid to you by others. They are the immeasurable qualities.
“I’m a good mother” she said sipping vodka and tonic at the club, while her three-year-old sleeps alone in her apartment. Wrong! Parenting: an immeasurable quality, one that truly embodies the notion that ‘you reap what you sew’ or ‘what goes around comes around’ and even more simply put, ‘karma is the mother-fucker.’
“I’m a whiz at algebra,” she said as she held up her 100% algebra test paper. Right! Mathematical aptitude: a measurable quality.
There are minds among us that project the appearance of sound moral composition. They do so, understanding the core of moral magnitude that is expected and accepted by the society of brothers and sisters around them. They can do whatever it takes to maintain the solid exterior, but on the inside they maneuver unawares to indulge and promote their personal gain, without remorse or compunction. They can look into the mirror fully devoid of any emotion. I believe the term chosen for that realm of behavior by psychological circles is psychopathy; disease of the mind.
“Judge not, lest ye be judged,” says Geo; “Blow it out our ass,” they reply.
“If there is ever, ever anything I can do for you then please do not hesitate to call me! …unless there are reruns of The Love Boat on TV; ooo, then please don’t call.”
“Hello bro, this is bro… can you help me move this weekend?”
“Oh darn, you know this weekend is really just mayhem for me… if it were any other weekend, you know?”
“Don’t let your mouth write checks your body can’t cash,” Geo spouts glibly.
“Fuck you, and the horse you rode in on!” They retort.
Well, there you have it. We do what we have to do, and that’s what makes us who we are; don’t you agree? What really, in the name of shit, does that even mean???
I’m just a guy, my friends, that is a measurable quality, or at least I fancy it is. I’m a guy that listened more that I spoke in life. Some call that bashful, I fancy it progressive and promotional of my cause, that is to understand my fellow humans.
“Better to remain silent, and only thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt,” say I.
“It’s my turn, it’s my turn, IT’S MY MY MY TURN TO SPEAK!” they bellowed.
Well here, my brother; you can have my turn too. Me, I’ll just listen to you.
Life gifts us a mirror. The greater the ease with which we are able to glaze our own mugs in it, the better we are at life. The more buy-in we grant to societally recognized morals and standards, the more turns we are offered to speak. Speak out of turn and risk being labelled as crass.
So there you have it, my moral metric, the mirror. I look into it twice a day to check my honesty, and especially my humility. If I’m guilty I may cut myself shaving. If I’m arrogant my gums bleed when I floss. My face is a mirror to my soul. If I am anything but benevolent, you’ll see it my expression; my eyes will tell on me, and shove me in my place.
POV: Privately-Owned Vehicle, a personal conveyance, rather than a company- owned vehicle
(Images by George E. Hand IV Geo Perspectives LLC)