“Always act in accordance with the dictates of your conscience…and chance the consequences”

How we must begin to live our lives in order to find true peace and consequences.

I know, it’s a long title, but it’s a quote that I suddenly remembered this week that kept coming to mind- so it felt appropriate to use it as the title for this post. This quote comes from one of my favorite plays ‘The Pirates of Penzance’. It’s an absolutely ridiculous, silly, and overdramatic story, which is typically not my type of thing(I’m really not a fan of parody), but I ended up going to see it with a roommate when my University’s Acting Department was putting it on and absolutely fell in love with it. It’s a fast paced play and so much is said and done, yet this week that line stuck out to me suddenly and powerfully.

Another name for the play is ‘The Slave of Duty’ which makes sense as the main character, Frederick, is a honorable young adult who cannot disregard what he is supposed to do, leading to some important issues when that sense of duty is faced with the world around him. It often brought him much suffering and anxiety, yet he never seemed to truly regret the fact that he was so bound to his duties, no matter what happened. Truly, the boy listened to these words which are said in the beginning of the comic opera by the pirate king(his practical father figure). They are striking words and really set the tone for the serious messages and lessons that the play wishes to tell, somewhat obscured by the dramatic acting and quick dialogue.

This quote pairs well with one of the core beliefs of my religion: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may”(Article of Faith #11). Both of these quotes hold a powerful message regarding the free will we all live with, a freedom that is at the very center of most modern governments these days. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”(The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America). It’s idea that we often take for granted, I think, that we each get to live our lives how we wish to. But are we truly following our conscience? Are we like Frederick from ‘The Pirate’s of Penzance’ whose conscience tells him to follow his duty no matter what may happen and does not regret doing so? Or are we like Pinocchio, constantly at odds or running away from our conscience in order to try to gain what we desire?

This idea reminds me of another quote from probably my favorite Mini-series, HBO’s ‘John Adams’. As the name tells you, the story follows the life of United States Founding Father and Second President John Adams through his life and career. It’s an absolutely incredible story and production that I often rewatch again and again. Anywho, to make a long story short, the Boston Massacre happened(British soldiers firing into a crowd of colonists, killing 5) and now the British soldiers are on trial in Massachusetts. Public opinion is against them and calling for retribution and revenge- and here stands John Adams, the lawyer charged with defending these men. A mindboggling idea considering that, in the future, he will be one of the leaders pushing for independence from Britain. But, at this time, he is still a loyal British subject- and despite the growing tensions, he has a strong moral view towards the rule of law. At one point in the trial, he says this: “We must take care, lest blown away by a torrent of passion, we make shipwreck of conscience”.

It’s a powerful quote that has stuck with my since I heard it spoken in this show years ago and fits perfectly with the other quotes I mentioned. Often in life, we get so caught up in our emotions and desires that things become a blur and we soon find ourselves on the other side of things, mind clear and focused again and our conscience loud in our mind, dismayed or even horrified at what we just did. Too often, we move forward full steam ahead and do not stop to think about the consequences and problems that may come as a result of our actions. Other times, we listen to the words and ideas of the world and the people around us and allow them to slowly beat down our conscience until we begin to question or ignore it. Yes, it is important to listen to the world, to gain new perspective from those around us and the ideas that exist outside our own sphere, but we must not let the world destroy our own conscience for, in the end, we will risk losing ourselves.

It’s a hard thing, though, to follow our conscience, especially when it calls out something that is contrary to what those around us say. We question and doubt our own thoughts and morals in our quest to please those around us and make ourselves happy. But what we should be striving for, truly, is peace. For happiness found at the cost of our conscience is often fleeting and on the surface, hiding a storm that is brewing beneath it. We all strive to live with no regrets, but I strongly belief that that can only be achieved when it is our conscience that we are listening to and following. For conscience’s are stable and sure moors in a crazy and chaotic world.

They are fundamental and universal to each of us, something that we have all carried since birth. Our conscience’s is truly our guide through life and the more we listen to and follow it, the more confident and at peace we will be. This is something that I myself have been working hard on and pondering a lot lately. What does my conscience say? What does it want? Am I listening to it? Or am I letting to world and the words of others sway me away from that safe harbor? These are important questions we must all ask ourselves as we continue down our path towards a better and brighter future, helping us stay calm through the chaotic storms of life. And hopefully, in the end, we will always act in accordance with our conscience so that we can truly and confidently chance the consequences.