“The Wind Of Liudao”, Jia Peng Fang, from the album “Faraway”, (2002)
One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” Tennyson, “Ulysses“.
Just how do we get from “… not to yield.” to “tired old men”? From a previous post I recap:
“What are our fondest desires, in fulsome pride? Self-Will, to be Esteemed, Loved, Extolled, Honored, Praised, Preferred, Consulted, Approved, Understood, Visited … pretty much covers the entire gamut …
What are our deepest fears? To be Humiliated, Despised, Rebuked, Calumniated, Forgotten, Ridiculed, Suspected, Wronged, Abandoned, Refused … again, pretty much covers the entire gamut of human fears, and yet, and yet …”
When the sum of all our fears grind out the anticipation of our fondest desires … desires forgotten in the mists of the past, crowded out by the realized fears, is that what produces “old and tired”? And yet …
Lord, what I once had done with youthful might,
Had I been from the first true to the truth,
Grant me, now old, to do — with better sight,
And humbler heart, if not the brain of youth …
The soul’s dark cottage, batter’d and decay’d,
Lets in new light through chinks that Time has made;
Stronger by weakness, wiser, men become
As they draw nearer to their eternal home.
Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view,
That stand upon the threshold of the new.
Love will not backward sigh, but forward strain
On in the tale still telling, never told. …
from: The Diary of an Old Soul, by the Scotsman, George MacDonald (1824–1905)
“It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.” Tolkien, “The Return of the King”
Honor, Faith, loyalty, competence, pride, selflessness, integrity, courage, discipline, sacrifice, tradition, virtues to live by. The virtues we strive to live by, for better or for worse, in sickness or in health, onto death or the end of the world in spite of everything the world throws at us in it’s effort to deny life.
The thing that all of these virtues or qualities have in common at their root is they are all about “Giving” to others. Giving away what we have and are for the benefit of others, even unto death.
To develop these “characteristics” one has to live them, repeat them, over, and over, and over, until the repetition ingrains them so deeply into every cell of our being that thought never enters into it. it just IS the way you live, as natural as breathing.
Aristotle makes this point about the virtues in general, with courage as one of the virtues he addresses. As he notes in his Nicomachean Ethics, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”
For Aristotle, the key to virtuous behavior (to include courageous behavior) is habituation. We have to habituate ourselves to facing fear and reacting courageously. A great deal of military training focuses on exactly that — the formation of certain military virtues through repetitive training.
The corollary is, of course, that choosing self indulgence also becomes ingrained. We become what we do. “Giving” to others or “Taking” from others for ourselves are the two sides of the coin. We choose what we become.
It is so simple that few acknowledge it, because to do so would mean having to take responsibility for our lives. Not being responsible has become, in our modern culture, literally a “get out of jail free” card. We can do and demand whatever we want and if anyone tries to stop us or hold us accountable THEY are the bad guy.
Honor and loyalty are kind of like a religion, a part of our religion. It is a religious experience. It’s a belief in the standards, values, morals of an organization and an adherence to them, [but] . . . it’s not a mindless adherence. . . .
Duty, honor, sacrifice: You have a duty, and by properly executing your duty you cause an honor to be associated with yourself, your profession and your beliefs. “Now do I swear fealty and service to my Lord, to speak and to be silent, to do and to let be, to come and to go, in need or plenty, in peace or war, in living or dying, from this hour henceforth, until my Lord release me, or calls me home, or the world’s end“.
“Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always,even death itself. The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for?” – William J. Bennett – in a lecture to the United States Naval Academy November 24, 1997
What is worth defending? What is worth living for? What is worth dying for? In a nutshell? People … the folks … because they are intrinsically valuable and worthwhile as individuals and as a group. and, for the most part, utterly defenseless. they are so defenseless that they don’t even know that they are defenseless. They are, in this aspect, like sheep.
Make no mistake about it … there is evil out there … there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? 8 years in the Military and 10 years in the Corrections Service teaches one the reality of evil people. Evil is nothing more than the “absence of good”, and therein lies a whole world of hurt.
In any manifestation of evil the underlying or sometimes overt aspect of evil, the “dead” giveaway, is how the actors value and treat ordinary people. In each and every instance without exception the manner in which any person, organization or ideology treats ordinary people is the hallmark of which side they fall on.
And no matter what the mental and rhetorical gymnastics the perpetrators go through there are ONLY two sides. You are either on the side of the Angels, or on the side of the Demons. There is no middle ground. Even refusing to choose, denying that there is a choice is merely to choose self indulgence and everything that implies. There are no votes of “Present”, no option to “Abstain”, in real life.
There are only two forces in the universe who have died for you – Jesus Christ, and the soldiers, airmen, sailors, police and peace officers and all the rest of the pointy end sheepdogs who put it all on the line for the sheep every time they go to work. Jesus Christ died for your soul, the rest died to make it possible for you to accept Christ’s offer in freedom, peace and safety.
You are either on the side of the Angels, or on the side of the Demons. There is no middle ground.