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Posts Tagged ‘virtue’

Man in exercising his intellect and manual labor, is not merely filling time but validating his life. He is making useful to others. Man as a social animal in order to be happy has to connect with others. Society is his creation and quality of which reflects his inputs into the common fount.  As a useful member he is standing between his ancestors and future of his offspring. But as a social animal you and I are not simply connecting dots in time and place. We are part of social changes like the heat thrown from blazing fire. Ancient Greece is the cradle of democracy. This form of people power has enveloped much of the world and quality of the present government reflects also social changes. Welfare state may be viewed in some parts as Nanny state and in some government interference to regulate unfair trading practices as not desirable to them. Quality of life under different forms of governments reveal social stagnation or progress. In short the present is not merely man bridging the past and future. He is like honey bees carrying social changes.

If such social changes have only produced  some one percent garnering national wealth it might show laws are not correctly formulated as to have produced this vast inequality. There are special groups to push their own agenda and lobbyism has become incorporated into the people power within which law makers work for particular advantage of some section than the whole. The idea of Bread and Circus by which Imperial Rome bought the mob works even now. Social changes have thrown wool over the citizens. Happiness that is inherent in individual, a virtue has by default come to be equated in the consumables that he could purchase. We are a victim of our own success.  

“The pursuit of happiness” is the most famous phrase in the Declaration of Independence. Conventional history and popular wisdom attribute the phrase to the genius of Thomas Jefferson when in an imaginative leap, he replaced the third term of John Locke’s trinity, “life, liberty, and property.”  It was a felicitous, even thrilling, substitution. How did this work out in practice is yet another.

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Timon of Athens belonged to the school of Cynics and while the city was in an uproar he went around as though he had no idea of coming invasion of Xerxes and asked why they were working themselves to a lather. One morning he went to the woodlands accompanied by his servant. Seeing the nobleman in charge of logging, Glaccus by name Timon asked why he was up there about so early in the morning. The man said he was supplying the wood for ship building. “There is a war coming on !” exclaimed Glaccus. At the end of conversation Timon advised that there was no guarantee the wood going into building a vessel for naval battle would serve its purpose. He explained all the hazards the vessel was subject to when uncertain weather and uncertain course of the war were against her. ” But she can carry sea-men.”the man insisted. “Why you want them to drown rather than on land?” At the end the Cynic advised. “If you were to hang from any of the branches, you are dying among your kith and kin and you are assured of a fine funeral.” Glaccus knew well enough to keep quiet. At the end of the day Timon had seen enough folly that his fellow men committed in the name of patriotism. He turned to his servant, “I am so happy. I need not skip a rope every time Athenians throw one”. Timon proved in his conduct he was a cynic. The term “cynic” comes from the same root as “canine.” Their view : The world is basically evil: in order to live properly, people must withdraw from participation in it. You know what the world will be if all good people were to shirk their responsibility in changing it for the better?

If man does not dare change society according to his vision he will be condemned to live in one that he cannot see eye to eye with it. It is what we see in our present world though social changes were not result of a cynical view of the world. Progress and undue reliance in our own ability to work changes created the world. Naturally in a consumer society happiness has come synonymous with fad and novelty of things. It is a cashless society and progress spelt for all a good life on credit. It was a disaster waiting to happen for people who dared not follow their own vision. People perish for want of vision. Virtue of an individual is not in his holiness; not in his intellectual capacity; nor in his religion nor in any ideology. All these are means to fix his vision and happiness is the result of being able to make them serve his best interests. Period.

Vision of man is in his integrity that he is an individual. If he wants only to conform to the general trends he has  compromised his virtue. Happiness derived from goods than from happiness that is based on soul is as different as a drug induced happy feeling than the happiness of being alive to the world of real time and people.

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Bear and the Fox-the story
A bear having entered into monastic life spoke highly of his love for vow of silence. For days he spoke how he had loved a rowdy life and recited all his past escapades. “Now as I go through every little transgression I feel myself blessed. Wasn’t Holy Spirit behind me after all?” After having exhausted his understanding on the subject he ended saying, “Am I not fortunate?” Brother Fox who was subjected to the non-stop confidences of the bear finally blurted out, ”If only you had shown your gift for introspection before you took the vows, this monastic life might still yield some fruits for me.”
benny

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Hercules was the son of Zeus but his wife Hera would not hear of it. She hated the idea.’He shall never sit among the gods,- over my dead body!’Hera had reason to feel very cut up. He was the son of Her husband’s philandering. She hated to think Zeus would choose any woman over her. Whereas Zeus was sure she was being petty about such things.’As Mother Goddess you must be above jealousy.’Zeus tried to reason and Hera remained in a state of denial. She even set things rolling to shake up the even tenor of Hercules’s life.
Stricken with madness Hercules at one point killed his family. In order to redeem himself from the foul deed he had to put himself under a mean stupid king whose cruelty knew no bounds. He set 12 labors which he was sure would be impossible for Hercules to perform. But the first labor gave Hercules twice as much experience to tackle the second labour and with each labour his confidence, life experience and strength grew exponentially. Naturally he fulfilled the 12 labours.
There was only one problem. And what could top these?
Hercules overcome with exuberance and a touch of pride went around treading heavily. He asked all and sundry,’Who shall set a more hard task? I shall perform it.’
He was sure it was not bragging since he had achieved what was beyond any human.
Zeus heard of it. He came instantly down and appeared in a dream.’My son, I shall set you more hard task. If you perform it you shall be set over all as immortal god. Do you take the challenge?’
Hercules agreed. Zeus said,’Keep silence over your labors.’Hercules never more crowed over his past deeds. He knew the challenge that Zeus threw at him required every ounce of his energy. Whenever company of men boasted over their victories he made himself as though he had none to offer.
Zeus told Hera,’You have been like a tap running on, never giving a thought if it was godlike to control yourself.’
Hera was sure she was justified. ‘Whenever you have an itch you know what to do. Then you come moralizing.’ she retorted. Zeus pointed to Hercules and said his son, though a human did more than she was capable of . ‘He is in full control of himself.’
Hera could understand and she felt ashamed. She relented that when Hercules died she let him sit among the immortals.
Speech is silver and silence is golden and godlike in the case of Hercules.
benny

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The essay ‘Horse’s Hoofs’ by Chuangtse(c.335-c.275) is given in part here below.

Horses have hoofs to carry them over frost and snow and hair to protect them from wind and cold. They eat grass and drink water, and fling up their tails and gallop. Such is the real nature of horses. Ceremonial halls and big dwellings are of no use to them.
One day Polo(Sun Yang 658-619 BC-a legendary horse trainer) appeared, saying,’I am good at managing horses.” So he burned their hair and clipped them, and pared their hoofs and branded them. He put halters around their necks and shackles around their legs and numbered them according to their stables. The result was that two or three in every ten died. Then he kept them hungry trotting them and galloping them, and taught them to run in formations, with the misery of the tasseled bridle in front and the fear of the knotted whip behind, until more than half of them died.
The potter says,’ I am good at managing clay. If I want it round,I use compasses;if rectangular a square.” The carpenter says,” I am good at managing wood. If I want it curved,I use an arc; if straight, a line”. But on what grounds can we think that nature of clay and wood desires this application of compasses and square, and arc and line? Nevertheless every age extols Polo for his skill in training horses, and potters and carpenters for their skill with clay and wood. Those who govern the affairs of the empire make the same mistake.
I think one who knows how to manage the empire should not do so. For the people have certain natural instincts-to weave and clothe themselves, to till the fields, and feed themselves. This is their common character, in which all share. Such instincts may be called ‘heaven- born’. So in the days of perfect nature, men were quiet in their movements and serene in their looks…. For in the days of perfect nature, man lived together with birds and beasts , and there was no distinction ..who could know of the distinction..? Being all equally without knowledge, their virtue would not go astray. Being all equally without desires, they were in a state of natural integrity. In this state of natural integrity, the people did not lose their (original) nature…’
This essay becomes all the more relevant when we consider the Human Rights abuses record of the Chinese regime. When man has lost his integrity he needs controls. And who applies controls but those who are as clueless as the governed? This is a vicious circle into which abuse of power is added because of the fear and certainly is a direct result of power wrongly applied. Fear of the rulers is that their ignorance may be seen through so they apply the whip all the more harshly. At least these ignoramuses know those who are smarting from the whiplashes cannot think straight or see as they might in a calm and settled mind would. The sage of recent memory albeit a fool, who spoke of perpetual revolution merely rephrased the fear of every megalomaniac that he will be found out
benny

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The Man Who Lived In A Tub ©

Long, long ago in Old Greece there lived a man. When he was born he was so beautiful. So his parents had to call him a name which was as beautiful as his person. His baby blue eyes ever reminded them of sun-lit skies; his smile, oh how divine it seemed! His parents were already rich and they had everything they could wish for. And a baby so well formed and sweet as he, made their joy complete. Naturally they named him Diogenes, meaning God given, which was a proper thing to do.
But his grandparents who came to see their first grandchild said, “A name such as Diogenes is fine but it does not have a ring such as we are used to.” They were so rich and the proud parents wanted to make them happy. So they added the name of his grandfather too. Then it was the turn of the king who wanted to show his favour. He decreed the child should bear the name of the clan to which he belonged; as a mark of special consideration he was allowed to use his royal name as his middle name which was quite a tongue-twister. So many great personages bearing presents, all belonging to the clan descended on the proud parents. In order to please them the parents added the names they were particular about. In the end the baby had a name like this:
DIOMEDOTANTAlUSGENETCETERAETCETRA
The boy grew to a man’s estate. He thought he did not deserve a name so long as his. It was such a dreadful bore! As boring as his father’s mansion so large he often got lost in its many halls. He took it ill to see his servants behave rudely towards every beggar who came to the door. “I shall not put up with this!’So he got rid of his impossible name. Instead he took on a name as simple as Dio-mio. He practised simple living which made all at his father’s table raise their eyebrows. His father said,”Let him!” He saw in his manly eyes that same baby blue which he first beheld on the day he opened his eyes.
His father still loved his son.
Dio-Mio had only one friend who was also his neighbour. Nike said the name Dio-Mio sounded more like a cat meeowing when he had nothing else to do. He liked his friend so much as to please him. So he changed his name to Dee.
Nike, like his father lived at the table of his father. Dee did not like such luxury as his father who lived so extravagantly. But Nike disagreed. He said,”A dinner wasted is a day wasted.” Dee liked his friend but not enough to live as he did. So one day he left home to live a life of utmost simplicity. He did not tell anyone. Not even his good friend Nike.
People shook their heads and said,”Poor Diogenes! He has gone to the dogs!”He did not think so. He had found himself a tub a commodious one at that. It was large enough for him to stretch himself and it still had room for a small library. By day he could read under the sun. But at night it was difficult. One day his father sought him out. He called on him and asked how things were. He replied,” Fine dada!” He looked around and saw there were still puddles of water in his tub. “Oh son, it rained this morning and you are wet all over!”
“Oh no!”replied Dee with a laugh which rang as pure as a bell,”It was my wash day!” His father was pleased to hear that. “What have you done with your bath towel?”He replied he did not have one. “What is the sun for, dada?” Dee knew how to explain himself,”why waste sunshine which is free? It will dry me just as nicely as any towel.”His father could understand. He said,”I must give you at least something. Well everything I own after my time is yours by law. It is quite a heap boy! “he asked, “What shall I now give you?”
His son said,”Well send me enough oil for my lamp. I would like to read before bed-time.” His aged father agreed. They hugged each other and he left.
At nights Dee would sometimes light his oil lamp and wander around sleepy streets. People looked at each other seeing the strange sight of a not so young man walking about in search of something. Under the light of the oil lamp his shadow struck them as menacing. “He is searching for honest people. We ought not be here.” One said nervously to another. One night he came across a family huddled against a wall and seeing light they crouched still deeper into the shadows. Dee came closer and he was shocked as light from the lamp fell on the face of his old friend, Nike!  “What are you doing here?”
“You have come to see me in my shame!”Nike whimpered. Dee felt sorry for his old friend. He took his friend by the hand and said “Let us go home.”On the way Nike said how he lived at his father’s table and thought life was a round of feasts. “but when your father was gone, so was my hope!” Dee said he also had learnt as he had learnt his lesson. “Living simple means you cannot be of use to others. At least with riches which are my own, by right I can make a difference.”Before he took his friend and his family in he said he should work for his living if he were to be his friend. “You shall look after my estate and you shall dine daily at my table. Agreed?” Nike agreed and did everything to keep their friendship smooth and easy.
benny

Man’s private virtue in some cases  becomes vice when it is set into the framework of the whole community. In market economy if every consumer practiced thrift how will traders survive? So man in casting his lot with rest of his species need to be responsible for others as well. You need to support the aspirations of the whole. Let it be for good rather than for vices that could ultimately destroy you in the bargain.

Diogenes’ parents had to take into account of pleasing so many of those who were men of substance. So the name they arrived at was quite a mouthful. Cluster principle denotes the complexity of keeping a private virtue from being compromised. This principle is behind the inflation theory(*In physical cosmology, cosmic inflation is the idea that the nascent universe passed through a phase of exponential expansion-ref:wikipedia for more). Paradox of thrift also is an example of inversion principle.

benny

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