Came across an interesting quote by conductor George Szell:
Is that line defined by the balance of empathy and ego?
The borderline is very thin between clarity and coolness, self-discipline and severity. He was discussing orchestras and conductors but his observation seems to apply to personality and social interactions.
There is a performative element to those personalities which we describe as “cold” or “severe”. People are not usually labeled “judgmental” unless they make a habit of pronouncing judgments on those around them.
Those we describe as “severe” are not the only people who have high standards. But in this case, we know of their standards because they are quite good at pointing out who falls short of them and in what way they fail to measure up.
Love of what is fine should not make one finicky.Jacques Barzun
Maybe there is an agenda at work.
Agatha Christie's spinster-sleuth Miss Jane Marple sees the world with as much clarity as any cynical hard-boiled private eye. We don't call her cold or judgmental because she is reticent with her opinions. Even when she unmasks a killer, she eschews histrionic denunciations. Never an apologist for murder, she also never loses sight of the fellow-sinner who committed the crime.
From the Apostles [Lytton Strachey] grasped the principles of group power: The ability not merely to exclude but to be seen to exclude. He perfected the art of inapproachability and rejection.Paul Johnson
Hercule Poirot strikes the same balance. He has no problem confessing that “I have a bourgeois attitude to murder: I disapprove of it.”. Yet he also understands that “The world is full of good' people who do 'bad' things.” In her detective stories, Agatha Christie shares Solzhenitsyn's conviction that “the line separating good from evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either-but right through every human heart-and through all human hearts.”
(This would seem to put her at odds with the writers of Scandi-thrillers and Nordic noirs. But that is for another time.)
The more one gets into the habit of thinking of evil as a byproduct of social or economic circumstances, or as an anomaly in the neural architecture of the brain, the harder it becomes for one to take it seriously as a permanent element of the soul, one's own included.
The first principle of goodness, it would seem, is to accord evil a healthy respect.Michael Knox Beran