Saturday, November 16, 2019

Virtue (A prequel)

Rembrandt—Aristotle with a Bust of Homer—David Mark from Pixabay

This is a weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny. I write letters to my grandchildren (who exist), and my great-grandchildren (who don't) — the Stickies — to haunt them after they become grups or I'm deleted.
This column is rated SSC — Sexy Seasoned Citizens Perusal by kids, callowyutes, and approximately 39.9% of all grups may result in a debilitating intersectional triggering. 



Erratically Appearing Hallucinatory Guest Star: Dana — A Gentlerreader

"The greatest virtues are those which are most useful to other persons."

Dear Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies (& Gentlereaders),

In my last letter a—New & Improved!—version of my thoughts on the formerly famous Seven Virtues that I originally wrote about in early 2017, I mentioned that I planned on writing a—New & Improved!—version of my take on the four cardinal (hinge) virtues that I also wrote about in 2017.

When I reread last week's letter a hooge honking flaw became apparent. What exactly are virtues and why should we cultivate them? I didn't go into this in 2017 or in last week's letter.

In my defense, having arrived on this planet at the tail end of the Black&White Ages I was thoroughly marinated in a cultural consensus that's been fragmenting ever since.

But I must be ever vigilant concerning things I take/took for granted. For example, when I was a kid baseball was literally the National Pastime, consciously capitalized.

Although to me, and no shortage of my fellow geezers and geezerettes, metaphorically speaking it still is and always will be (and I'm not even a fan)—it isn't.

We have all sorts of competing national pastimes nowadays. Sports, entertainment, infotainment, and outrage—24x7x365—come immediately to mind.

When I was a kid, Americans were hardly all on the same page but at least from this kid's perspective at the time, they all seemed to be on pages in the same book.

That book is no longer in print but many battered copies with yellowed pages and notes scribbled in the margins remain.

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Wikipedia: "Virtue is moral excellence." Sounds simple enough. But this is the very first sentence of complex entry with 53 references.

Sister Mary McGillicuddy taught me and my fellow barbarians that we didn't have to figure out how to be morally excellent. The Catholic church and society had gone to the trouble of working it all out for us.

All we had to do was learn all the ecclesiastical rules laid down by the church. S'ter Mary, Miss Crabtree, our parents' et al. would provide the secular ones. 

However, it was a given that we'd break them from time to time, in fact, that we were born owing a share of the vigorish on Adam and Eve's original bad bet. 

But the all-merciful and all-powerful God had well-established procedures in place to get yourself right. It was highly recommended that you take advantage of them or the all-merciful and all-powerful God would sentence you to burn in hell for all eternity.

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While I rejected Catholic fundamentalism in my early teens, and reject religious fundamentalism now, I understand the appeal of knowing exactly what the rules are and what sort of behavior is required of a civilized H. sapien.

In fact, I worry not at all about folks of faith from the center, left, or right who cheerfully embrace the notion live and let live, fundamentalist or otherwise. The socialist left, Catholic or otherwise, scares the hell out of me. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

In fact, when the progressive socialists start talking about placing restrictions on freedom of speech I...

[Calm down, Sparky. You're veering off-topic and you've got that look again.]

Look! what look? Serenity now! Serenity now! I'm just... (Heavy sigh), thanks, Dana, you're right.

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Look (GRIN), A life well-lived requires us to consciously decide what sort of behaviors (virtues) will allow us to function at our best while graciously (as possible...) sharing the playground with other kids trying to function at their best.

The cardinal virtues are four time-tested fundamental virtues with a deep pedigree that have much to offer everyone. There are also myriad other virtues that can be classified as fundamental or secondary.

But if you don't want the Big Bad Nihilist ("Everything's, like, relative, ya know?") to huff, and puff, and blow your house down you're going to need, at the very least, a solid foundation, strong walls, and a roof that's up to code.

I don't have a virtual clipboard hanging from an imaginary nail in an office located somewhere in my little grey cells with a sheet of tattered and smudged paper that's a copy of a copy clipped to it that's titled, Virtue's Checklist.

However, I do have Aristotle's comprehensive and actionable take on this sort of thing as explained in this video clip 'cause I'm cool like that... Also, it saves me from having to write an entire column on a subject that would probably bore you and most of my tens of gentlereaders.

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

Please scroll down to react, comment, or share. If my work pleases you I wouldn't be offended if you offered to buy me a coffee.  

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Your friendly neighborhood crank is not crazy about social media (I am a crank after all) but if you must, you can like me/follow me on Facebook. I post an announcement when I have a new column available as well as news articles/opinion pieces that reflect where I'm coming from or that I wish to call attention to. Cranky don't tweet. 

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