A cunning man

“… Reason, according to Thomas Aquinas, is a “regard for and openness to reality,” an “acceptance” of reality. This idea is very closely related to the ancient idea of prudence, the first of the four cardinal virtues. There are ways, of course, to bend or twist reality for our own purposes—at least until reality snaps back on us. And it always does. That snap-back is sometimes referred to as karma. You can use that word if you want to, but I’m going to call it the coming of the Kingdom of God. …”

“If prudence or reason is a willingness to align oneself with reality, cunning is the attempt to align reality with oneself. Josef Pieper defines cunning as “the insidious and unobjective temperament of the intriguer who has regard only for ‘tactics,’ who can neither face things squarely nor act straightforwardly.”

Jonathan Rogers at the Rabbit Room


He writes…. Persuasively on the double-sided gifts of persuasion, and the marvelous gift of language. He writes mainly with an eye toward the political realm vs the Kingdom of God, but I am, unsurprisingly, caught up by this image of a cunning man, a man who is 삐딱하게, crooked. Bent. His true affections are deeply disordered.   He is a Mr. Hyde, hiding that side of him that violates societies’, and more importantly God’s, standards for decency,  virtue, for what is right and true.  Like Stevenson’s character, he hides his other self behind a carefully crafted facade of goodness and morality, pretending to be a decent man.  Like Stevenson’s character the seeds of his destruction were always there within the Dr. Jekyll persona and eventually his cunning betrays him and he is exposed.

What comes next will vary. Some jump to self justification, projection, distractions, or understating, reducing the seriousness of their offenses, using euphemisms and vague language.  For example, when confronted with a strong probability that previous denials of things he had actually done (seeking out porn), he might ‘admit’:

“I was probably looking at something I shouldn’t have more than I should have.”

Yes, Jesus died for your admission that you probably did something or other.

Ordinarily a cunning man believes in his own cunning implicitly. His ability to fool others brings him part of the dopamine hit he loves every bit as much as the other parts of his vile life.

His ability to fool himself betrays him in the end because he is so self absorbed and delighted in his own intrigues and ‘tactics,’ that he gets sloppy with them, and then fails to notice his inability to ‘face things squarely nor act straightforwardly” has dissolved the former confidence of others like so much battery acid. The cunning man is corrosive.

Confronted, another tactic is tears, emotional outburts expressing self disgust and maybe a claim to wish he was dead. This self-pity turns instantly to angry, resentful lashing out if instead of pity the cunning man meets solid disbelief or just some light skepticism.

It is important to note that self loathing is not repentance.

If you are looking for tips or advice, I have none. I feel completely unequipped to offer any advice on seeing or avoiding what I neither saw nor avoided.

And while looking back I can see the signs I ignored, misinterpreted, overlooked, misunderstood… Maybe I don’t.  Maybe things I set aside as just forgetfulness or just whatever were really just that and nothing more, but now that I have been rudely and abruptly disenchanted of the deceptive sorceries of a cunning man, I newly view all those things through a clearer, but not necessarily perfect, lens.

I don’t think hindsight is 20-20 at all.  None of us are perfect and all relationships require a bit of rose tint to our glasses, a willingness to overlook certain things.

None of this is grief or mourning or self reproach.

This is mainly the pleasure of a word loving blogger on finding the precise and apt word for a puzzling thing.

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