Friday, January 11, 2013

Virtue and Time

There are these temporary nexus where things run together and produce a single feeling, but giving it expression is tough. I saw Barney Frank, the just retired Congressman on MSNBC’s Hardball producing in a couple of minutes all sorts of very coherent comments and prescriptions (link). Earlier, on the car radio, I’d heard a report about a woman who is literally “fixing” a series of bankrupt cities in Michigan very competently—but, of course, emergency management laws give her the necessary powers. Last night Brigitte and I watched about three minutes of two different movies on disk, jerking them out, one after the other, because of their gross implementation of stories that sounded all right on the cover. Then later came a telephone conversation; I heard a report, from the field itself, on the mad ways in which teachers are now being evaluated. That call had been triggered by my last post on “teaching to the test.” Add to these my by now stoic reactions. The right acts needed to correct, the positive unraveling, of so many different messes will not take place in what little time is left to us here. The mills of God grind slowly.

By this morning—a remarkable morning because it was raining in January, and I mean really raining—all this had distilled into a single word, Virtue—because virtue was either present or markedly absent in what I’d experienced before going to bed. It is the foundation of culture and in each one defined in identical ways. The marked feature of virtue is that it is innate and unqualified. It is to do the right thing—but never in the context of a quid pro quo. We are not virtuous in order that—but because we are or it is the right way to act. Therefore the time dimension, which is always present in quid pro quo, is absent in the practice of virtue. Interesting to ponder that vast eras of time are governed by something outside of time. This too shall pass—but virtue remains.

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