Saturday, March 7, 2020

Self Reliance

I am preparing a seminar on Thomas Aquinas for this afternoon. I decided that I would scandalize my fellow Catholics by, approvingly, quoting Emerson. (This is not the first time I do this.) I love Emerson.

The following is not the quote I plan to use. It's just an old favourite that I noticed because it's underlined with an exclamation point beside it in my copy.
Men do what is called a good action, as some piece of courage or charity, much as they would pay a fine in expiation of daily non-appearance on parade. Their works are done in apology or extenuation of their living in the world,—as invalids and the insane pay high board. Their virtues are penances. I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My life is for itself, and not for spectacle.
For four of five generations before me, every boy educated in the Northeast read that essay. They read it. They were called upon to read it aloud at public gatherings. And they were made to write precis and responses to it. It was in my high school reader but my teachers hated it and only called attention to it to tell us how horrible they thought it was. By the end of the 1970s it had disappeared from textbooks.

It's a shame because it's very good advice. Virtue is about becoming the person you want to be. And live your virtues, don't talk about them. That means DON'T EXPLAIN THEM! Yes, you might discuss them quietly with a trusted friend whom you can be vulnerable with to see how well they hold up. Otherwise, just live them.

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