Monday, June 15, 2009

(21) Seeds of Virtue

"I do not need to be told that all virtues are fragile in the beginning
and acquire toughness and stability in time."
ESSAYS AND LETTERS, W.W. Norton & Company, 1958, p. 76.]

Comment: Upon reading the little sentence above, by the great
Roman Stoic, I immediately thought about human development in
modern terms. I also thought about the philosophical concept of
*apriori,* the assumption that proceeds from deduction--or perhaps
knowledge which we bring into the world, already intuitively aware
from the very beginning of our wee consciousness.

Our memories really have to be jarred, if we can go back to our
first couple of years. Did we sit at our parents' knees and listen,
comprehending the nuances of Virtue--or did we simply respond
to Yes and No, sometimes emphatically expressed?

Still I can relate to some early experience, when not yet five years
old. It was about facing a "justice" issue, and somehow deciding
by my action upon what I considered a good and right course to
take. Over the years I have wondered about this event, wondered
how in the world I knew correctly what to do. Was this action on my
part something inborn? I knew that my father subscribed to a system
that caused a certain injustice to others, and by my small action I
took issue.

So was I perhaps acting out some sort of disagreement (or even
antagonism) against my father? Later, when I was lots older, yes
I disagreed with my father on this justice issue. But by that time I
was far more consciously aware about the history and concerns of
this issue. I truthfully cannot say that was the case when I took
action when still a very small child.

Now very much more mature in age, I have been long exposed to
my environment and its impact upon what is deemed Virtue.
Just me, but I'm inclined to wonder where our idea(s) of Virtue
come from. I believe that the "seeds" of Virtue are imbued in us,
already imbued as we are born into this world--thus, *apriori."
Many of us seem to know that certain high values are written in
our heart.

But like any form of talent or potential, it is left to our evolving
human development to hone our sense of Virtue and according
conduct. Hence Education is significant.

With this there is an abiding question: why is Virtue important?

I suspect it is strongly connected with Survival. As we humans
slowly developed socially, developed communities, unto cultures
and civilizations, we had to learn to live effectively with one
another. Our behavior toward the "other" had to be carefully
constructed, so as to produce a livable environment wherein
we did not harm (or even destroy) the other. Like tennis, what
we lob across the court can come back at us. The "Golden
Rule" is basic, so to speak.

Yet the wise Seneca noted we need stay strong when it comes
to Virtue. If we let such slip, we can quickly begin to see the
sad ramifications. Virtue need *stay* written in our heart, mainly
accomplished by continual testing of our individual and societal
behavior towards one another. As for Stability, well it surely is
helped along when we successfully practice Virtue.

It would seem that we need constantly to nourish the Seeds of
Virtue, lest we fail.

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