I used the controversial term, “dignity,” at the end of my last effusion, and I might apologize to those whom it offends. I won’t apologize, of course, “I have too much dignity.” Rather, I shall explain the eccentric way in which I use the term, in this world from which it is largely retired.

To us, at least to those who are woke or equivalent, dignity is something that can be bestowed. It is frequently given as an order, with legal implications. If you don’t recognize, and celebrate, the “dignity” of another person (a sex pervert, for instance) then you are guilty of a “hate crime” and may be prosecuted in law. In this limited sense, dignity is flourishing; there is a huge number of persons who, previously objects of indifference or mere disgust among their neighbours, now qualify for police-enforced dignity.

In my own view, we should follow the hint of Friedrich Hölderlin, the German poet I am now reading through his “later odes.” True, he went mad, either from his anxieties or from his lack of them. Like other harmless madmen of the past (whether or not they could write first-rate Pindarics), he got into the habit of greeting his visitors with an excess of polite deference. Everyone, including rough and semi-literate workmen, and all but his several genuine friends, he addressed as “Your Highness,” or “Your Majesty.”

My own adaptation of this practice is to confer landed titles, in great variety. But this is immodest, for it assumes, from the point of departure, that I am the royalty.

Giving acceptable pronouns to the masses must invite confusion. “Highness” and “Majesty” are, neither of them, gendered terms, and ought to be safe and generally acceptable.

But dignity, in principle, is not something that can be bestowed, let alone demanded, or even earned. It simply is, in and of the person. (Perhaps we could include certain other animals, such as lions, or walruses.) He is dignified if he is not undignified, and the distinction is quite easily made, at a slightly prolonged glance.

The term doesn’t exclusively apply to Christian humans, necessarily, or to members of any other group — whether apparently alive or dead. The worth of it does not extend beyond itself, for the highest award that can be given to a dignified person is (invariably silent) recognition of his dignity.

To the Christian, or to the gentle, all human beings have dignity, or should have, whether born or not yet born, and we live and interact with the world in recognition of this (astounding) fact. We recognize silently, the presence of dignity, and to those determined to conceal their dignity, we offer “no comment.”