Sunday, October 24, 2010

"the crowning virtues" a sketch essay

I have been thinking more and more about what comes from being virtuous, what is the ripeness of virtue. Here are some of my ideas.


The crowning virtues

                These eight virtues which I knit daily into the fabric of my life come to bloom with a fivefold laurel, the virtues of Pride, Perfection, Passion, Poetry, Possession, and Allness. I wonder what another would feel aiming for the same virtues? Since virtues are so personal, built into instincts and needs, there can be no universal virtue, let alone crowning virtues.

            And yet Aristotle was right to call megapsuchis, or Great-spiritedness the crown of virtues. As it is sometimes translated: Pride is the crown of the virtues. And this it must be, when we follow his definitions and qualifications. For pride is the virtues recursive. When the person considers his virtues through the eyes of honesty, when he reflects on his own character carefully, if he is great, he is even greater to know that, and change his expectations of life. Pride is recursive even to itself as a virtue. If a man is proud of his pride, he will never be arrogant or bragging, since this would be to cheapen his deserved self-respect by attempting to impress it unto the minds of others. It will rightly be said, therefore, that pride alone allows for honest and nonhypocritical humility. Only when you are certain of your worth are you willing make no show of it. So where Aristotle’s pride expects the honors that are its due, the Emersonian pride is willing to live of self-honor, lacking a worthy audience.

            Pride is deserved self-respect; and since respect is different than love, since respect is a fear and honor of power, and love is a joy and intimacy of beauty, we should not quickly define pride as “self-love,” and leave the virtue of self-love for a different name.

            Perfection is always choosing what you believe to be the best decision. Once one is able to do this, to choose what is best, and to admit that sometimes what seems best isn’t, because he simply lacks the power to choose it, then the guilt and inferiority of imperfection is lost.

            Passion is the combination of love and fear, love and power, into one forward thrust. Passion is the vitality of the emotions that charge the system, and give the will energy to use. Passion is more important than intelligence, for though women are plenty intelligent, men are plenty passionate, and thus the great geniuses of history were men of great passion first, and of intelligence second.

            Poetry, which along with passion and pride, were the great virtues of Odin, is to speak always with a trope, with a thick multivity of meaning. This requires a man to pause before he speaks, to practice his words, to reflect, to think before he utters, and to think often, of the best words to say.

            Possession is the ability to use everything you own, to put so much of your will into it, that you possess it. A man with self possession therefore masters his passions with a strong will. A man ought to own his face, to emote what he wishes, to own his anger, his desire, his routines. A man with self-possession, and possessions of his property and family, will have the flexibility and wisdom to own even people, not in a way that lessons them, but which allows them to flourish in their own freedom. As the Tao says, the king acts with such cunning that the people congratulate themselves on the success of the kingdom.

            Allness is another word for what is called Enlightenment, or a mystic connection with ultimate reality. Those who experience this call it the most important of experiences. There are many ways to feel one with the all, but self-possession is especially important.










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