September 19, 2020

Courage and Love

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To many, work is a necessary evil they would gladly forgo if they won or inherited a fortune. Its meaning is the paycheck and the value it has in terms of service to their community is indifferent or very subordinate.

This calculating and uncaring attitude is recognizable. Whereas people who heartily act in the interest of others are gracious, they are perfunctory. At best, in establishments that demand courtesy from employees, their behavior is irreproachable, albeit artificial. “Can I be of assistance? Here you are. Will there be anything else? You’re welcome.” There is no genuine attempt at pleasing, just a vapid exercise in politeness and efficiency that follows a procedure and arouses a feeling of satisfied indifference, as would a serving of plain noodles. They do the minimum that is required; to maintain their employment, and gladly do nothing provided they get paid all the same. They never miss a break. Come the end of their working day, they rush out before the first second of the next hour has passed. They live for their time off and dream of a permanent vacation, as though leisure were the essence of happiness.

What about love? The desire to live usefully in the service of others? The more you love life, in company with others who take part in your life, the more you love others.

Now, feeling this love is one thing, acting upon it is quite another, which needs courage. Actually, a lack of courage would not only render this love inactive but also tend to destroy it in order to avoid shame. The mind is a double-edged thinking tool that can cut its way in and out of truth by means of veracious statements or specious arguments. Love may be denied despite every reason for loving. Therefore, courage is a rich trait of character without which love is unable to flourish, neither as an emotion nor as an action. Of course, where laziness and cowardliness have rotted or stunted love, dignity is but a potential bloom.

I think courage should be valued above all other virtues, since it constitutes the necessary condition for developing them. It is not a sufficient condition, however. It is capable of nothing by itself while everything depends on it. Courage is the force that can raise life to joy and joy to love and love to dignity, insofar as the human nature aspires to these difficult heights, though it is always tempted to go for the easy and low option.

The more you are afflicted with misery, the harder it is for you to lead a courageous and honourable existence. It is not surprising that children who grow up in miserable circumstances sometimes display miserable attitudes and behaviors once they are adults. The problem is clearly cancerous.

Some dream of equal opportunities for everyone. Will this dream someday become a reality? Everywhere in the world, it meets with inequality – between those who are born lucky and those who are not. Is it a lost cause? Even a welfare state with the most extensive social assistance could only reduce this inequality, not eliminate it.

Would communism reduce this inequality further? History suggests that a communist regime would prove ruinous, economically and psychologically, in the long run. The equal sharing of resources between people, imposed on them by a centralised government regardless of their respective contributions to the common good, is an untenable and unviable totalitarian approach. In a word, it is an absurdity. Democratic societies, on the other hand, leave much to be desired, but are certainly the most satisfactory to date. They are based on freedom, talent, chance, and merit, while including a safety net for those who have fallen off the high wire of health and success. Things merely have to improve.

Forget perfection, which is deadly and imperfect after all: an illusion. Unhealthy, unwise, unsuccessful, unhappy, and unkind adults will keep bringing children into the world. Assuming these children will benefit from improved relief measures, they will nevertheless suffer from a difficult youth, lacking in the material and spiritual advantages luckier children enjoy. None but the strong will overcome. Only they will appreciate the divine justice that counterbalances the problem of inequality: The less luck people have at the start, the more merit they have in the end if they make a success of their life. This principle is universal and timeless; it is applicable here and now. May the objects of our compassion fill us with admiration as they rise from their woes to become our heroes!

This victory against the odds is an extreme. Contrary to expectations, some people born of goodhearted and well-to-do parents are miserable individuals. They are insatiably selfish and shockingly ungrateful, so infantile and spineless that play and rest are their sole ambitions. Did they have a weak character to start with? Did their parents kill them with kindness and spoil them rotten? Is that why they have no soul?.

 

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