Friday, November 18, 2016

Bethink yourselves

Image "borrowed" from A. Christoyannopoulos' Conversation article

In a recent article at The Conversation, Alexandre Christoyannopoulos suggests four things you can do to make a difference, if you think the world is in a mess:

1. Be a reflective "producer" (this is about one's work choices)
2. Be an ethical consumer
3. Be an active citizen
4. Be a principled person

In conclusion, the author refers to Tolstoy, who wanted us to “bethink ourselves”. It turns out that Tolstoy's essay with the title Bethink Yourselves was written against the background of the Russo-Japanese War and contains this noteworthy statement (not least in the context of Remembrance):
Strange as this may seem, the surest and most certain deliverance for men from all their self-inflicted calamities, even the most dreadful of them – war – is attainable not by any external general measures but by that simple appeal to the consciousness of each individual man which was presented by Jesus nineteen hundred years ago: that every man should bethink himself and ask himself who he is, why he lives, and what he should and should not do.
The word "bethink" is interesting from a linguistic perspective. The Oxford English Dictionary confirms the "suspicion" that it is etymologically related to the German word "bedenken". It seems a shame that it is "obsolete". Perhaps it will make a comeback.