Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Heavenly Graces (Part One)

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who aren't here yet) -- the Stickies -- to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.

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Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars
Marie-Louise -- My sublime, drop-dead gorgeous muse (right shoulder) and back scratcher 
Iggy -- Designated Sticky
Dana -- Designated gentlereader (left shoulder)

"The system is a jury-rigged combination of the "pagan" virtues appropriate to a free male citizen of Athens...and the "Christian" virtues appropriate to a believer. -Deirdre McCloskey 

Dear (eventual) Stickies & Great-Grandstickies,

A while back I wrote a series of -- letters/columns/whatever this is -- about the four Cardinal Virtues. I promised that at some point in the future I'd explore the three Theological Virtues. The three Theological Virtues are also called the Heavenly Graces, a name I much prefer, even though I am, for lack of a better word, an agnostic (it's complicated).

"I act as if God exists." -Dr. Jordan B. Peterson

The quote above is a tease. I will have more to say about this subject, as well as much to say about Dr. Peterson, going forward. If you're curious... (Apologies to my readers that follow me via the dead trees format.)

[A technical timeout has been called by Dana. Question: Cranky one, why do you regularly capitalize things that don't need to be capitalized? In fact, you have a tendency to play fast and loose with all sorts of writing rules.]

Answer: It's my whatever this is, and at the risk of peeing off the other kids, I get to follow my rules. Fear not, I won't bore you with a list of my rules, which are, um, flexible, and vary according to context. And by the way, I like Heavenly Graces simply because it sounds... cooler, poetic (I have a license).

OK class, a let's review. The four Cardinal Virtues get their name from the Latin word cardo (hinge). There are all sorts of virtues of course, but the meme is that these four, dating back to the time of the ancient Greeks, are regarded as fundamental. Other virtues hinge on these four: Prudence, Temperance, Courage, and Justice.

The early Christian church added the three Heavenly Graces (Theological Virtues) and titled the grouping the Seven Virtues. This was how the subject was presented to me in my Catholic grade school days, as a done deal. My original motivation for bringing this subject up remains the same.

"...the reason I'm writing about the seven virtues is because it occurred to me that given the fact America, and a goodly chunk of the rest of the world, tossed the tot out with the jacuzzi water back in the 60s, perhaps we could find some guidance, and common ground, in the cardinal virtues."  -me

"The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines VIRTUE (my caps) as 'an habitual and firm disposition to do the (my emphasis) good.'" -Wikipedia

Now, while I have no intention of exploring the teachings of the Catholic Church's Catechism, I will, in the future, have a thing or two to say about "the good," you've been warned. 

Which brings us, at last, to the Heavenly Graces. You know...

[Wait,wait,wait. Dana calls another technical timeout. I'm confused, are you talkin' spiritually or secularly? If this ain't about the Catholic Church's Catechism, specifically, or say, the early Christian church generally... I mean, Heavenly Graces?

Oh. Good point. I should've specified early on that the Heavenly Graces can easily be given a secular spin (not that I'm the first person to try and do so). Also, back when I wrote about the Cardinal Virtues I threatened to eventually write about the Heavenly Graces, but with a secular spin. In my defense, I'm aesthetically besotted with the phrase, Heavenly Graces.

[Iggy weighs in: HUH?]

Cool, I think it sounds really, really cool. Hey, where's your, um, where's Marie-Louise?

[Getting her nails done, why?]

Never mind, listen, could you guys stop interrupting? I'm working here.

[Well excuse US your Crankesty. C'mon Iggy, let's go fire up your Xbox. 
It's a Playstation Dana.

Anyways... St. Paul is credited with pointing out the importance of the, OK fine, the Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope & Charity (or Love, it depends on which translation you're into.) Aquinas is credited with linking them to the Cardinal Virtues and turning them into The Seven Virtues, that, as I mentioned, were handed to me as a package back in dark, dank and misty days of the Black and White Ages.

Aquinas said that the Theological Virtues are supplied to us by God, via grace. Thus the name Heavenly Virtues. Personally I... excuse me my lawyer's calling, I'll be right back.

[DISCLAIMER: I am not a scholar, I don't even play one on TV. I'm merely a semi-humble multipotentialite with 39 certified college credits. Any and all scholarly, and/or scholarlyish sounding statements found in this missive, or in anything written by me, should be taken with a grain of salt.]

Personally, I think that regardless of where they come from, what you call them, or whether you favor a spiritual or secular spin, they and their cardinal cousins deserve your consideration. Think of them as the philosophical version of your favorite retro band that's trying to make another comeback now that everyone's out of rehab and they've replaced the dead guy.

[WARNING: What follows is a lame joke, but one much enjoyed by the author. Please skip the next paragraph if you're an easily offended senior citizen. Sexy Seasoned Citizens are encouraged to read on.]

A new study of numerous studies has revealed that people with car radios that have every button preset to call up nothing but classic rock or "oldies" stations can easily determine approximately what year their lives stopped.

Hmm. I'm rapidly approaching 900 words already. I'd originally planned to cover at least one of the Theological Virtues here, but I'm a slave to the whims and guidance of Marie-Louise. I think that... what's that Mary-Louie?

Excuse me, I'll be right back.


Sorry. Deirdre McCloskey, a polymath who will be asked to serve on King Crank's Privy Council of Perspicacious Polymaths once I assume power, has written extensively (to put it mildly) on the Seven Virtues. She's just like me in that she would like the Magnificent Seven to make a comeback.

Other than that we don't have much in common. I'm an old Crank from Flyoverland with 39 certified college credits and she's Dr. Deirdre McCloskey, Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago. And them's just the high points.


I offer the following quotations because what could be more secular than the application of the Heavenly Graces to the business world. Oh, and I promise to never say Mary Louie in public again.

"...Love, to take care of one's own, yes. But it is to care for employees and partners and colleagues and customers and fellow citizens, to wish all of humankind well...finding human and transcendent connection in the marketplace... ."

"...Faith, to honor one's community of business. "...also the faith to build monuments to the glorious past, to sustain traditions of commerce, of learning... ."

"...the Hope to imagine a better machine. " infuse the days work with a purpose, seeing one's labor as a glorious calling... ."

Go and sin no more. Poppa loves you. 

Have an OK day.

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©2017 Mark Mehlmauer   (The Flyoverland Crank)

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