Saturday, July 10, 2010

noblesse oblige

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The somewhat herky-jerky Wikipedia definition of "noblesse oblige" (nobility obliges) includes these observations:

In "Le Lys dans la vallée", written in 1835 and published in 1836, Honoré de Balzac recommends certain standards of behaviour to a young man, concluding: "Everything I have just told you can be summarized by an old word: noblesse oblige!" His advice had included comments like "others will respect you for detesting people who have done detestable things," but nothing about generosity or benevolence. He later includes the exhortation that a noble person performs services for others not for gain or recognition, but simply because it was the right thing to do.


How much of anyone's conversation and thought is focused on detesting things that are detestable and finding a home among those who likewise find them detestable? It's quite a social habit, I think -- perhaps even socializing. But it is such thin gruel.

And again I come around to Gautama's alleged encouragement: "It is not what others do and do not do that is my concern. It is what I do and do not do -- that is my concern."

Is it true? -- everyone would like to be thought noble, but few are willing to make the effort that would actualize what is elevated.
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