I Will Answer

by thecustomhouse

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In the collection Dageurreotypes, Isak Dinesen has an essay called On Mottoes of My Life. Unfortunately, I can’t find it
online to share. Among other mottos, Isak Dinesen mentions the one of her long love Denys Finch-Hattan and his family: je responderay (I will answer). She’s very struck by this motto for two reasons–

“The first of these is its high valuation of the idea of answer in itself.  For an answer is a rarer thing than is generally imagined. There are many highly intelligent people who have no answer at all in them. A conversation or a correspondence with such persons is nothing but a double monologue–you may stroke them or you may strike them, you will get no more from them than a block of wood.  And how then can you yourself go on speaking?…

Secondly, I liked the Finch-Hatton device for its ethical content. I will answer for what I say or do; I will answer for the impression I make. I will be responsible.”

I share her affection for this motto. It’s an acknowledgement of one’s self, but also of the fact that we live within a world greater than ourselves… and at the end of the day, we must answer to both. It’s not self defeating or aggrandizing, just reasonable… I will answer for my failure or success, because they are mine.

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