This reflection is a fruit of a mutual discussion i had with an online friend of mine last week. The crux of our conversation was on the current crisis bedevilling our modern world and what actually was the place of those who wish to steer the virtuous paddle. As the discussion progressed, he said to me “actually Stan, I quite agree with those who say that, virtue is a dangerous career.” At first, i kept silent allowing the words to sink in then, we continued with our chat. But after then, i sank into deep reflection, pondering what it actually meant for virtue to be a danger to the one who decides to wear her mantle.
I do not intend in this work to thread the path of an exhaustive lecture towards philosophical virtues. i reserve that exclusively to scholars in Philosophical Ethics and Moral Theology. My interest here is simple. To reflect on how and why virtue can be a danger and the hope of those who still maintain this life or aspire towards it. is it possible that they can find a light at the end of the tunnel?
Virtue from the Latin “virtus” and the ancient Greek “arete” simply means moral excellence. it is a trait or a quality deemed to be morally good and this is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral well being. Following the above definition, any trait or quality that promotes good moral well being can be called virtues. There are however different kinds of virtues but i think the four classical platonian cardinal virtues encapsulates most of the virtuous acts; (prudence, temperance, courage and justice). virtue then is a good habit(habitus). The Catechism calls it “a firm disposition that allows the person not only to perform good acts but also to give the best of himself”. The question now is, can adapting this habitual and firm disposition to do good pose a threat to the agent? how is this possible? why must this be so? well i think that if it is not actually a dangerous career, Perfect Goodness would not have been crucified like a thief. Saint Paul once said in his letter to the Galatians “Have I made enemies because i tell you the truth?(4:16). Here we see the courage to be truthful (Virtue) being an avenue to acquire more enemies. (we know that enemies may pose dangers to one’s life).
Virtue can be hated for so many reasons which makes it possible to attract dangers. The first reason is pride which refuses to admit that a position, statement or action once taken can be a false one. Here we observe that some of us do not like to be contradicted or proven false. All their acts are good and so when you come with an action that gears at correcting them, Beware! you could be threading a dangerous path! you could loose your head like John the Baptist!
Virtue can also pose a dangerous path because accepting the message of the virtuous man might require the “giving up” of our evil ways. An instance, if i post on my facebook wall or in my blog the following “ALL THOSE WHO COMMIT FORNICATION IN THE NAME OF DATING ARE DESTROYING THEIR BODIES WHICH IS THE TEMPLE OF GOD”, do not be surprised then at the number of criticisms, verbal attacks and over rationalization that will thrall my blog or wall. A keen observer will notice that, part of the reason for such comments will be that, accepting the truth of the above message will imply giving up fornication during dating. Very few people can boast of that.
Virtue can also arouse hatred if it implies that another agent has come to discover the truth of our sins and is not convinced by our false face of immorality that has permeated our world. This is why the virtuous man may be threading a dangerous path because, he is swimming against the current. In our world today, the above three examples are clearly metamorphosing into a Residual Escapism. This escapism sheds its light today in the various acts of indifference, ridicule and persecution of the truth. i guess it did not actually begin with us. After all, Pilate asked Jesus the vexing question “what is truth?” in other words Pilate was asking what is virtue? what does the good life actually consist of?
Virtue is not just a mere academic and abstract theory. It has some element of witnessing that goes with it. Witnessing to a good and a habitual disposition that is already innate in man. This is why the martyrs are usually respected for their excellence in one heroic act or another. Since we have seen that virtue can sometimes pose a threat, those who wish to thread this path must be disposed to fish in dangerous waters if need be. They must know that the can sometimes ;live in an atmosphere of coldness to their deepest beliefs, this is more true because of the pervasive ideological currents, human deceptions and trickery that seem to entice people into error. However this makes the task of witnessing to virtues more urgent. As the igbos say “Anaghi aso mgbagbu hara iga ogu( one does not avoid going to war because of being shot). Those wishing to thread this path are like those who want to pass through the proverbial narrow gate or undertake the Igbo Proverbial concept of war.
Thus, this is my little way of encouraging all of us not to be afraid of taking this path because i strongly believe that it is through this path that the spirit of God can recreate the face of the earth. Once this recreation takes place, then just like Gandhi spoke about in the year 1925 we can think of a society where people will value work so as to acquire wealth, to enjoy pleasure with a conscience, to acquire knowledge alongside characterstan ijeoma memoir, to engage in business carrying the spirit of ethics, to practice science with a humane heart and to participate in politics with principles.
HAVE A BLISSFUL WEEK!!!