I got a new computer, and I spent some time importing some old emails (from a non-cloud, pre-hotmail type of email account) so that these old emails could live on in infamy. There’s a shitload of infamy, because these emails are from 2002, and scientists agree that I was even dumber then than I am now. There’s political stuff in there, as well as personal. There’s things I wrote that I thought were really funny, and they really weren’t. There’s a general level of childish idiocy, because the emails in question are from ten fucking years ago.
I’m not in a hurry to share any of the actual emails with anyone, ever, under even the most desperate circumstances, but I am keen to keep them around, because they represent a fairly concrete example of just how foolish a person can be. As much as I’d love to never think about a lot of that shit again, never thinking about it again might well prompt a relapse into my old ways, because I’d trick myself into thinking now that I’m as cool and clever and valuable as I thought I was back then. I don’t have a lot of fundamental values of character that I think should be primary. Because I think humans are on the whole too woolly, mercurial, irrational and complex for hard-and-fast rules to run a society. I do think integrity is an extremely important value to focus on, to practice every day, and I can’t maintain my integrity if I don’t admit that I have spent a majority of my life being a dick.
I guess integrity works for me as a fundamental value because actually, it is a bit of a vague concept. “The quality of being honest”? There’s more to it than that. Integrity is also about action – about not only doing the things you say you’ll do, but also the things you ought to do. It’s not good enough, and has never been good enough, to do a half assed job and cry “but I didn’t know I was supposed to!” or its ugly older brother “Nobody told me!” Because you were supposed to look, asshole, you were supposed to check. Can’t make your commitments? Call someone. Confess. See if someone else can be roped in to help fix your error. Integrity is not only about admitting you were wrong, but about genuinely preferring to be humbly corrected rather than wanting to win the argument.
Look, this all got a bit vague, and I know what you’re really hanging out for is some embarrassing emails, which you aren’t going to get (I’ve built them up. They’re not even that bad. That’s part of the problem. They’re stupid and naïve and killingly dull). What you’re getting is this: there is no human interaction in life that is not improved by an increase of trust, and trust is born from integrity.