On Virtue

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

"It seemed rather incongruous that in a society of supersophisticated communication, we often suffer from a shortage of listeners." -- Erma Bombeck

You have many conversations under a variety of circumstances. Some are pleasant and others are challenging, some are easy and others are frustrating. The latter are just like Kurt Vonnegut said, "People have to talk about something just to keep their voice boxes in working order, so they'll have good voice boxes in case there's ever anything really meaningful to say;" but what if there was at least one situation where you could be assured that the conversation would always be pleasant and easy, never challenging or frustrating?

Terrific news! A friend has discovered just such a situation. He has a brick on his desk that is the perfect conversationalist. Now, his brick is not merely a run-of-the-mill brick and you will need to go to considerable effort to find one like it for your desk.

It's a brick with bumps on it that is made specially for sidewalk curbs so blind people can "feel" when they are near the corner. As you can tell, this is a very special brick that was made to help.

Here's what my friend discovered. His special brick is even more helpful than its creators envisioned. He learned this after one of those challenging, frustrating conversations with an associate. Once the person left his office, he was reminded of something his father said about him when he was about twelve. His father said, "I swear, sometimes talking to you is like talking to a brick." He doesn't recall what the conversation was about but does remember that insightful observation.

Back to the brick. When he was at last alone in his office, he thought he would see if talking to a brick was as productive as the conversation he had just had with his associate. Anyway, here's what he learned.

Talking to a brick can be most satisfying. These are the top ten reasons why a conversation with a brick is at least as pleasant as talking with some folks. – You know who they are, don't you?

1. A brick doesn't get agitated and never yells.

2. A brick doesn't interrupt you.

3. A brick doesn't disagree or argue.

4. A brick doesn't think it's smarter than you are.

5. A brick doesn't roll its eyes and look at the ceiling.

6. A brick is trying to be helpful or at least to not screw things up.

7. A brick is not in a hurry and trying to rush you.

8. A brick doesn't care if you interrupt your conversation to take a phone call.

9. A brick is always there when you need to talk.

10. A brick isn't trying to get you to do anything.

What do you think? Does talking to a brick beat conversations you have to have with a few of "those" people who happen to walk into your office? If so, all you need to do is find your own special brick, with bumps on it, and converse at your leisure.