November 08, 2010

Charm: Offensive? Part IV


Ambition – it is the last infirmity of noble minds (J.M. Barrie, The Twelve-Pound Look).
Who deserves to be charmed, and who are the charming? It should so far be clear that I am no advocate of false charm, but rather see that the rewards of charm must reflect its genuine qualities. The charming man is usually superior to his audience in this respect, for he sees in them what they most wish to see in themselves, but they are incapable of returning the insight. It is true that, in the case of despicable people, the charming man may choose to withhold that which would charm, for he may see no purpose in inflating the bad. Then again, if, as I maintain, everyone has something to redeem them, then the accentuation of this quality may nudge the bad man toward the good. We are wont to do that which brings us popularity and success, and it is as well that these things are wrought by that which is good in us, for history reveals ample proof that they need not be. It is possible, therefore, for the charming man to facilitate power without necessarily taking it. It would indeed be so much the better if charming men were our electors, for then we should have leaders chosen for their better qualities, instead of leaders who put themselves forward with inflated ideas of their own virtues.

The great pleasure of being truly charming is to see people basking in the goodness of themselves, and to know that it was you who put them there. They will, perhaps, love you and reward you for it. Insofar as charm is to offer generosity, therefore, it also reflects back and serves the interests of the charming. I must be clear, again, that these interests cannot determine charm, for this will lead us to flattery and deception. Rather, one must assume that good follows good, and that what we sow we shall someday reap, without knowing in advance the nature of our crop. The charming man therefore actively pursues the good, but he does not reduce his goals to ambition. He may seem self-effacing, but in reality he knows that his rewards will be just.

1 comment:

  1. Doctor, it is perhaps fitting to stop here for now, because I confess I have hit a stumbling block as old as can be. One thrust of charm is ultimately or triumphantly political. It glories in the good and hence shames the bad. It does not preach or moralize, but by making the good seem beautiful, it implicitly makes the bad seem ugly. Whether any greater service can be rendered to honor and hence to men who love honor I do not know-

    But there is also a hint in charm that is politic in the utmost. It hides in plain sight, as you well know things of this nature do. You yourself allude to it in various ways. We could all learn it if we could learn the answer to these questions: what do the charming men love? Are they themselves lovable - and if they are, what do people love in loving them? Indeed, the charming cannot take power; but they certainly influence - or if you will educate - the powerful, if they are susceptible at all to charm. Perhaps the clue to the charming is that they know their audience better than it knows itself. In some way, to charm is to know in broad daylight what most may only dream of at night...

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