Wednesday, March 6, 2013

virtue of the vice variety

Bobbing along like a cork in a sewer pipe this morning....

Since anything called virtue probably has credibility only in direct relation to the vice that preceded it, I have to admit that I am not a virtuous person. I lack a blue-ribbon credentials in the vice department.

I never shot-up or sold drugs, pimped women, or murdered anyone. As a thief, I have been guilty of taking office supplies, but that seems pretty small-bore in the vice department. I've told my share of lies but as often as not they were in aid of not saying something cruel. There are times -- I have to admit it -- when I look with some jealousy on the vices others have exercised. All in all, I think I would flunk any ordinary vice test ... and hence, by extension, any virtue test as well.

But one vice I can and will cop to might be called the search for virtue ... becoming some sort of better or improved person. Books and temples and years of spiritual effort litter the road behind me. Like all good vices, it took me a while to recognize that this might be a vice at all. As a lame excuse, I will say that the camouflage of "improvement" and "meaning" made it hard to see.

Like the social activism that can sometimes leave the activists feeling strangely bereft or unfulfilled, my search for virtue contained within it the kernel of its own vice ... the notion that improvement was indeed possible, that it was righteous and somehow good. This was a mistake.

To say it was a mistake -- and perhaps a vice -- is not to suggest that improvements and goodness are unworthy as a pursuit. There really are things that could use improvement (me included) and goodness is not some false god ... except sometimes. It is worthwhile to make the effort on behalf of what could use improvement.

Yes, make the effort ... but ... lose the virtue! An effort on behalf of what is called good is not good on account of the envisioned goal. It is just a good effort ... end of story. So, make the effort ... but ... lose the virtue.

Strange to think that in copping to this virtuous vice of mine, I open the door to what might be called virtue ... the very virtue that helped screw the pooch in the first place.

The door opens to virtue based on a well-documented vice. But with it comes the question, "What the hell would I do with virtue if I had it?"

I am mildly pleased to imagine that my vice resume is a little less wimpy.

1 comment:

  1. I'd "do" the girl with the candle in the picture.....