“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
"I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don't even invite me." -- Dave Barry
This self-disclosure prompted Curious George (CG) to check around to see just how closely the quotation aligned with reality. The first step was to check with a couple of Barry's remaining friends. Let it suffice to note that a second step was not possible, due to an inability to complete the first. CG confronted Barry, "As it turns out, no one will admit to being your friend, remaining or not." To that, Barry turned red in the face and said, "I for sure have three remaining friends. I used to have more but it has gotten to where three is all I can afford. Your not finding them is hardly my fault. Never attribute your incompetence to mine. Remaining friends aside, I can still win an argument on any topic, against any opponent; and if you want to push the point, we'll just take it outside."
CG was tempted to get it on with Barry but remembered Dale Carnegie's advice, "Why prove to a man he is wrong? Is that going to make him like you? Why not let him save face? He didn't ask for your opinion. He didn't want it. Why argue with him? You can't win an argument, because if you lose, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it. Why? You will feel fine. But what about him? You have made him feel inferior, you hurt his pride, insult his intelligence, his judgment, and his self-respect, and he'll resent your triumph. That will make him strike back, but it will never make him want to change his mind."
CG just smiled at Barry and calmly said, "Hey Dave, taking it outside would do nothing but make us feel inferior, insult our intelligence, our judgment, and our self-respect. We are diplomats, not parking lot brawlers. Besides, it's raining out there; and although you're already all wet, I'm definitely not; and I plan to stay that way." On that note, CG quietly walked away.
It was a few days later and Barry was hanging out at the library, by himself, of course. The friend thing really had gotten way to expensive to bother with anymore. He was just randomly flipping through first one book and then another when he ran across the words of Caskie Stinett, "Diplomat: A person who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip." He smiled to learn that it was Bisaac Goldberg who said, "Diplomacy is to do and say the nastiest thing in the nicest way;" but the smile became a chuckle when he discovered these words from the famous Anon. "Diplomacy: The business of handling a porcupine without disturbing the quills."
As Barry closed the book and left the library, a quote from Aesop kept flashing back, "He that always gives way to others will end in having no principles of his own." He thought to himself, "It's also true that he that never gives way to others will end in having no friends; but that's not a problem for me. It costs far less to be a simple porcupine handler. Even better, I'll get new business cards that say, â€˜Dave Barry: Diplomat'."