Magazine Home
Too Honest

Mar. 5, 2023

by Dr. David Fialk, Editor / Publisher

Western civilization is getting a bad rap these days in colleges and universities across the USA. But the tolerance that permits, and even encourages such self-critical investigation is itself distinctly a product of Western civilization. Go try criticizing the government in China or most any Arab country.

Tolerance came to the West through the Judeo-Christian tradition. The most prominent proponent of which, Rabbi Hillel, when mockingly encouraged to explain the whole Torah while his interlocutor stood on one foot, replied, to great effect, "What is hateful unto you do not do unto others. The rest is commentary. Go learn."

Tolerance and charity may have existed in indigenous cultures, but in terms of Western civilization they are a Judeo-Christian innovation. Loving your neighbor as yourself took all the fun out of the murder, rape and pillage that were the Roman Empire's way of doing business. Greco-Roman civilization made many contributions to our West culture, but charity, taking care of the poor, wasn't one of them.

Interestingly, on the subject of lying, the bible recognizes some shades of gray. Clearly, you are not allowed to deceive anyone for your advantage. But the injunction, "Thou shalt have a true and just weight, and a true and just measure", is interpreted broadly, far beyond the realms of commerce. Still, when it comes to white lies, particularly those designed to save someone discomfort, we are permitted, even encouraged, to fib.

This was on display when Abraham welcomed the angels, disguised as men, who came to announce that he and his wife Sarah, both over 90 years old, would have a child in a year's time. Sarah, listening outside the tent, laughs to herself, and, complaining to God for taking so long, says, "Now that my husband and I are so old, qqq now we will have a child?" The angel in conversation with Abraham, responds to Sarah's chiding, "And though Sarah says, 'I am too old to have a child', still at this time next year it will be so." But we see that isn't what Sarah said. For the sake of marital harmony the angel eliminated Sarah's refererence to Abraham as old.

Our local Chabad rabbi has taken this lesson to heart. Honest and true, he is yet a master at not discomforting people. Always keeping in mind his larger goal, to bring people to meaning, he overlooks, as much as possible, the slights his congregants unknowingly make against tradition. Sinner that I am, I much prefer the old-time, brutally honest, fire and brimstone style of religion, but I have learned a lot from the rabbi's tolerant, charitable approach.

Speaking of the Greek influence on Western civilization, Diogenes famously went around Athens' agora (market and public plaza) with a lit lantern during the day. When asked the reason for his strange behavior, he replied that he was looking for an honest man. The other day I found one.

I went to visit a couple, following up on the wife's repeated encouragement to just drop in. However, at the moment I rang their doorbell, she wasn't at home. The husband, A., a very smart, kind man, who is borderline autistic, opened the door, looked at me and my bicycle, and didn't know what to do. Smilingly I persisted until, after four or five seconds, during which time he noted, but did not explain, his wife's absence, A. remembered his manners, opened the door wider and invited me in.

His wife normally out front in social situations, A. was a little awkward filling that role. But, with some of my best friends on the autistic spectrum, the ice soon broke and rapidly thawed. Within minutes we were seated comfortably and animatedly chatting away.

Fairly honest myself, we were chatting away about A.'s social awkwardness. He told me that around a social dinner table, he had learned when to keep his mouth shut: "When we are out and someone says something which is not right, something insensitive or even outrageous, I know not to say anything in response. But, even with that, the expression on my face gives away how I feel about it."

I have an honesty routine. Honest to a fault as I am, I sometimes have occasion to declare this sincerity in Spanish, "Yo soy un hombre sincero" (I'm an honest man). Now it just so happens these words are the first phrase of the popular song, Guantanamera. Having plainly stated this opening, I then burst, rather unexpectedly, into song, melodiously finishing the well-known phrase, "de donde crecen la palma" (from where the palm grows). I'm likely to immediately follow up this performance with another declaration, this time in English, "You may not like me, but you know where I'm coming from," usually adding the caveat, "Of course, one has to be especially careful with people who declare themselves to be honest."

I reprised this routine, varying it slightly so it applied to A., and, 15 or 20 minutes into our continuing conversation, his wife came home, carrying a small bag of groceries. More forward than A., most anyone would be, she unpacked and took the social lead as A. settled comfortably back into his supportive role.

It was a pleasure to have an inside view of the loving, entertaining dynamics of their relationship; she, affectionately calling out his careful reserve, therapeutically chiding his, at times overdone, sensitivity; he, providing brilliant, quirky insights into the subjects being discussed. It was like I were watching, no, participating in, a high-brow vaudeville routine. It was precious to witness, to be part of their intimacy, my own sensitivity earning me the privilege.

Very good about keeping other people's secrets, I tend to blab about my own, as regular readers of my articles can attest. My openness about matters usually kept private, disturbs some people, especially, I suppose, those uncomfortable with the skeletons hidden away in their own closets. Famous as he was for violating social conventions, if you'll allow me the comparison, I doubt very much that Diogenes kept anything of his own life secret.

Alexander the Great enjoyed receiving the philosophers. Diogenes never attended. So one day the emperor went to visit Diogenes, who at the time was naked, sun-bathing. Leaving his guard some distance away, Alexander approached with just a few of his highest generals. Standing above the still reclining philosopher, he declared, "I am Alexander. Is there anything that I can do for you?" "Yes," replied Diogenes, "You can stop blocking my sun."

History doesn't record what else might have been exchanged between the two, only that as the royal entourage was walking away, with the generals ridiculing Diogenes as a madman, Alexander, interjected, "Say what you will, but were I not Alexander, I would be Diogenes."


Dr. David presents Lokkal, the social network, the prettiest, most-efficient way to see San Miguel online. Our Wall shows it all. Join and add your point of view.


Please contribute to Lokkal,
SMA's non-profit community publication:


Discover Lokkal:
Watch the two-minute video below.
Then, just below that, scroll down SMA's Community Wall.


Visit SMA's Social Network

events @

Subscribe / Suscribete  
If you receive San Miguel Events newsletter,
then you are already on our mailing list.    
Click ads
copyright 2023