A Plague on All Our Houses

Even the most steadfastly unquestioning among believers in various versions of mainline religions will allow that, if their deity cares for them as a shepherd cares for sheep, their own religions, yes, even their own temples, mosques, and churches, sometimes harbor wolves in sheep’s clothing. Partisans of every political and philosophical school of thought have seen the unmasking of many such monsters that have hidden behind the guise of goodness and faithfulness, selflessness and judiciousness, or at least experienced the dire effects those have on the lives of the truly committed. There are reasons most languages have such large inventories of words like heretic and traitor, infidel, apostate, renegade, impostor, infiltrator, double agent, betrayer, and hypocrite.
Digital illustration: A Pox on Both Your Houses!

So it astounds me every day that such experienced, otherwise reasonable people are either afraid, or simply refuse, to regularly and thoroughly question and examine the sources of their information, whether they are people or inanimate forms of evidence. Even among the most dedicated, wise, and well-meaning persons the human flaws we all bear cause mistakes and missteps. The most widely accepted proofs of truth may have come about by means of equally imperfect human study and the telephonic accidents of human transcription and translation. No matter how inspired the origin of the wisdom, it can’t be guaranteed to get to the page and from hand to hand, meeting to meeting, one end of the surprisingly not flat earth to the other, without sometimes being misinterpreted or co-opted, whether it’s by the false sheep in the flock or by our own good intentions.

All I can say is that if such stubbornness against rigorously examining our beliefs and every source of them is at its roots a terror of self-examination, we are doomed. We will forever repeat the grim side of human history, by acting out of doubt, cowardice, and ignorance, assumptions that have as much chance of being incorrect as not, and hidebound inability to see the wolves in our very midst for fear of discovering our own culpability. Circling each other with rapiers drawn and fighting to uphold traditions or beliefs or codes that we have so ingrained that they are unquestioned no matter how wrong, we will only deserve the curse of Shakespeare’s Mercutio—who, by the way, may or may not have said “A plague a’ both your houses,” in the original text, but various scholars over the years have guessed at such a reconstruction of it. Even Shakespeare, that demigod of English literature, is only as reliable a source as the many readers and interpreters since his time can determine, assuming that there was one playwright and poet of that name and not, as some believe, some cadre of the great literary minds of that era. Don’t get me started.

I will say right out that I know full well that I am guilty of being poorly or misinformed on a host of topics, and a stubbornly slow learner on top of that. I am trying, however I may stumble along the way, to grow beyond such ossified thinking. If only we could all begin with the premise that the fault might be not in our stars but in our selves, I think we might discover that our reliance on incomplete or incorrect information puts us constantly at risk for inner and outer conflicts we ought to have laid aside or, better yet, avoided altogether. The Other Guy might in fact deserve a listen, and acting first, asking questions later is not a conversation but is likely instead to end in swords crossed and lives lost. Acting in haste or acting in hate, the result may be the same because we were ill prepared to ask the right questions, let alone come to a wise and humane conclusion as a result. There are, sadly and unquestionably, baddies among us. But even so, if we all insist on clinging to our own versions of the truth without regularly and rigorously questioning their verity, then the attack we are all under begins inside, not from any external enemy, real or imagined.

13 thoughts on “A Plague on All Our Houses

    • That’s sweet of you, Cindy. I wish I could apply what little logic and reason I have to more practical purposes in the wide world, but I just speak my heart here in my own little corner, and that’ll have to do. 🙂

  1. Superb post. Sadly, human nature seems to get in the way of logic and reason…We seem to be constantly looking for the quick fix….and so following those that promise this, that or the other…seems to have become a blind pursuit.

    As always your images are fantastic.

    Have a lovely weekend. Janet:)xx

  2. Very interesting post, and as always, beautifully illustrated, to boot. Especially love the idea that questioning what we hear is mandatory, given that information can be manipulated in so many ways, (depending on political, religious, personal gain, or other factors). I’ve been guilty of leaning too far over the edge of questioning everything, as well as accepting as fact things that don’t deserve my solid belief. Your words are a good reminder that no matter the package in which information is presented, it is always healthy to question the contents.

    • Somehow, reading that last sentence of yours on Halloween seems especially apropos! Given the days of my childhood, when people were first beginning to become paranoid about where we could wander to trick or treat, how much we could trust what people put in our collections of candy, and so forth, the holiday took on a more sinister tinge than it had had before. I think information is the currently dubious candy, and our sources of it the ones that oughtn’t to be automatically trusted but rather, vetted with a certain amount of care. Sad to think that way at all, but better that than being duped or worse.

  3. Excellent post, Kathryn! We must always be open to re-examining our ideas, beliefs, feelings, and, of course, our own behavior. Those who are entrenched in rigid ideology and dogma, who can’t or refuse to have empathy or understanding of what it is like for someone else, and who believe they can do no wrong (or they have a right to do the wrong they do) are the cause of such violence and non-tolerance in this world, such misery. Thank you for another insightful and creative post. Now, I’m going to catch up on a few more of yours, and hope you will forgive me if I don’t comment. But I’m looking forward to my little sojourn through your thoughts and artistic ‘maneuverings’! Blessings my dear friend. XO ❤

  4. In the age of the Internet, it’s especially important to verify (or at least try to verify) information offered up on any page. I’ve found plenty of instances of incorrect quotations parroted from website to website to website…. One sign that alerts me to possible (or probable) incorrectness is a quotation that’s repeatedly attributed to a certain person but never to a specific work by that person.

    • No kidding. You’d think that having grown up in a household of sarcastic and sly humorists, I’d be able to tell the difference between honesty and malarkey, and perhaps even between nefarious and benign frauds, but it’s still a puzzle to me most of the time!

    • Maybe more of a deep *worrier* on this topic! But yes, I do think it’s an endless subject, especially given how the same people who are slowest to question the verity of any topic can be the quickest to act on their belief in it! It’s a complicated world of communication, to be sure.

      Have a superb weekend, my dear Christine!!

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