On Virtue

The Key To Virtue


(2.1) The Key To Virtue

“When one ceases from conflict, whether
because he has won, because he has lost, or because he cares no more for the
game, the virtue passes out of him." -- Charles Horton Cooley

There are three concepts here that represent an unusual
juxtaposition: “conflict,” “the game,” and “virtue.” Robert Lynd said, “No
doubt there are other important things in life besides conflict, but there are
not many other things so inevitably interesting. The very saints interest us
most when we think of them as engaged in a conflict with the Devil."
Conflict can certainly be interesting either as a participant or as an
observer; but “the game” and its relationship to “virtue” may be even more

The game must first offer real and present, win/lose
possibilities. If it doesn't, the virtue passes out of you. More to the point,
an immediate possibility of losing is the key to virtue. Here, “virtue” is
doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong.

The virtuous person pursues winning while doing only what is
right. “Conflict” is, then, not the tension between winning and losing. Rather,
it's the responsibility of “right” vs. the risk of “wrong.” The truly fatal
risk is not losing. It's succumbing to the temptation to sacrifice one's virtue
on the altar of success.

It's tempting to put forth a few moral pronouncements about
right and wrong; but it's your call. The take home point is simply that, if you
are a virtuous person, you know what's right and understand what's wrong. “The
game,” for you, is doing what's right and avoiding what's wrong, while playing
to win, every time. To do otherwise is to let the virtue pass out of you.


Here's Just a Random Musing

"Nine requisites for contented living: Health enough to make work a pleasure. Wealth enough to support your needs. Strength to battle with difficulties and overcome them. Grace enough to confess your sins and forsake them. Patience enough to toil until some good is accomplished. Charity enough to see some good in your neighbor. Love enough to move you to be useful to others. Faith enough to make real the things of God. Hope enough to remove all anxious fears concerning the future." -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"Contented living" means different things to different people. Martha Washington suggested, "The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions, and not our circumstances." The notion is that being happy is an internal experience and not an external condition. As Aristotle put it, "Happiness depends upon ourselves." Carlos Castaneda believed, "We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same;" and Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "To get up each morning with the resolve to be happy is to set our own conditions to the events of each day. To do this is to condition circumstances instead of being conditioned by them." Woody Allen said, "The talent for being happy is appreciating and liking what you have, instead of what you don't have." Seneca expressed the same perspective in his typically pithy way, "A man can refrain from wanting what he has not and cheerfully make the best of a bird in the hand."

What, then, is your bird in the hand? It's health, wealth, and strength; grace, patience, and charity; love, faith, and hope. Having those, Andre Gide advises, "Welcome everything that comes to you, but do not long for anything else." Enough is enough; and you have enough, enough of what you need to be happy. You need not seek more nor waist time talking further about it, for as Holbrook Jackson said, "Those who seek happiness, miss it; and those who discuss it, lack it."

Are you skeptical? Do you have your doubts? Do you see it differently? It's as Leo Tolstoy admonished, "Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them." There you go. Do you see yourself as happy; or do you see yourself as unhappy? You start each day with the opportunity to choose. How you choose is your call. Decide to be happy or not, it's up to you; and the truth of the matter is that you are the only one who actually cares.