Editor’s note: A couple of days ago in “Jane Doe, Finnish style” I wrote about how Rachel Meikäläinen, originally a character in my novel-in-progress Mistress of Woodland, became a philosophical antecedent & historical figure in the fictional Consensus society in the story universe of Long Dark & Cold. I also said that she might be writing some guest posts “because so much of her stuff about integrity and violation is relevant to the ways the Real World we live in screws with us too; & also how we keep it together.” The following, excerpted from a work of hers tentatively titled Whole Numbers, would have a major impact on the Long Dark character Esti Gusev when she read it as a ward of Mars Authority at Apollineris at the age of 14 years, about two years after the destruction of the New Nazareth armed cult at Gusev Crater, where she had been born. – Mel
The root of the word integrity, is the Latin integer, which means, literally, untouched. And so an integer is a number that hasn’t been broken or fractionated. It is complete, a whole number. Something which is integral is something which is essential to completeness, something which is integrated, which is to say, something which has been incorporated into a functioning and unified whole. And so to have integrity is to have wholeness, completion, undividedness. But if integrity is undivided, unbroken, untouched — then what, in this context, is it to be touched?
Touch is not a bad thing, usually — but in this context, to be touched is to be breached, broken, violated. That’s at its worst, anyway. But the worst happens, over and over. Even when no harm is intended, harm often comes; and very often, of course, harm is intended. The harms may be physical; the harms may be emotional or spiritual. Abuse. Coercion. The most common harm of all to human beings — the one that most harmed me — was the simple and common harm of those who convince themselves that they are well-intended when they attempt to coerce an individual into behaving according to their arbitrary standards, rather than according to the individual’s integrity — to what should properly be understood as that individual’s true selfhood.
Integrity is whole. The root of the word whole is the Old English word hal, which is also the root or closely related to the roots of the words heal, hale, holy. To be truly whole, to be fully and completely healed, would be as though one had not been touched by the harm that had touched one. But you have been touched, so how, then, can you become untouched again? Here’s the strange contradiction of it: you must incorporate the experience of that touch, that harm, into yourself. Meaning literally — because incorporate comes in part from the Latin root corpus meaning body — that you make that touch, that hurt, part of your body: but in a hale, healing way. How? When you eat an apple, does it stay an apple inside your stomach and gut? No, it transforms: your body transforms it with its acids and enzymes into nutrients for your body, while expelling the waste. If someone has poisoned the apple, you might not survive it, true — but otherwise, all but its waste products become part of your body. Call it incorporation, call it integration: transformation comes with the territory of it. You have no choice about the harms that others inflict upon you: but if they haven’t actually killed you, you usually still have the choice to transform those harms within yourself to integrate them into a new whole, a new integrity. You are not exactly the same self you began with; but you are still your own self. The Self itself is change.