Sunday, February 08, 2015

Virtue: Internal or External

I started out my first blog of the year saying something that should have been a little odd. I didn’t think anyone would take what I said seriously about my resolution to be a better person by finding fault in others. That’s sort of a joke I have said among friends and family over the past few years when people start talking about having a resolution for the New Year.

I’ll start this one out by saying that I think everyone has an idea in their head about the way people should be, society should be, governments should be, and the world should be. The problem is everyone has, at the bare minimum, a slightly different view of how the world should be. We all recognize that just because something in the world IS a certain way that it doesn’t mean it OUGHT/SHOULD be that way. So, everyone wants to see the world become something like they think it should be.

One of the problems that comes up with that is we don’t live in an IDEAL world. Nor can we make it an ideal world because one can always think of ways the world can be better. Many dictators of the 20th century shed much blood in attempting such experiments. I’ve seen many younger people think that all we have to do is pass a few laws and magically everyone will be much better. Like, all we have to do is pass a few laws against evil and everyone will be good.

Traditionally, going back to the ancient Greeks like Aristotle to the biblical writers to a good portion of thinkers in western civilization, the primary issues of morality were internal. Meaning, one’s concerns about morality, virtue, ethics, etc. were inside of you. You are not naturally good in this view. You actually have to work to become a better person. It is an internal struggle inside of you that constantly goes on. It takes discipline and you might never become the person you should be, but the internal fight is what is important.

What bothers me the most right now about how the internet has become is it appears to me that a good percentage of people out there think they are already morally good, and it is anyone that opposes their ideas is the problem. For example, take your typical Yahoo news article. You read the article. Then you go to the comments and you see all sorts of fighting back and forth about whose fault it is. For the record, I tend to skip comments altogether on about 95% of all articles out there, but I know what I am about to describe is usually how it works. Typically, it is either some political party, the president (or any leader anywhere), some corporation, etc. that is the fault or to blame. Now, politically speaking, there could be concerns there, but I always wonder if even if a person got his or her way politically on every issue that they believe that would make them a better person. Or, more tragically, that a person only believes he/she can be happy only if a certain political party is in power or certain political views are imposed.

Some time back I was reading something I have an interest in. One person complained that the other person should be a protester and the right thing to do would be to go outside on a street with a sign protesting what was wrong. First, there is a time and place for these sorts of things, but I think in most cases these types of protests don’t really get the results they think they do. I mean, sorry, I usually do not read all the signs and bumper stickers out there. If I do see one I tend not to take that very seriously because it takes a lot more than a few rhyming slogans to persuade me. Second, and the real point, being a protester does not necessarily make a moral person. I’ve seen many a parent use a child in a protest, and I have to admit I have serious doubts they are truly teaching any sort of moral discipline to that child. I worry that people try to use “noble causes” as an outlet for some bad behavior they have. When one demonizes others it becomes a lot easier to justify one’s own moral inadequacies.

Here’s one way I try to do this for myself, but I am going to use it as an application for everyone. So, please don’t get the wrong idea here. This applies to me first and foremost, but to make the point I have universalize it. If you wake up every morning and look into the mirror not seeing the most evil person on the planet then something is wrong. This is just the first step in a mental approach I’m suggesting. I’m not saying we are all 20th century dictators, but there is so much in our lives we do everyday that does not contribute to the good of ourselves and the good of others. I mean, how many times have we walked by someone in need and done or said something. Or, lacked the discipline to stop whatever bad habit we have that could be causing us to harm ourselves or others. Given the power of a 20th century dictator maybe we would be a lot closer to them than we would care to admit. There is a time in place to judge others, but we humbly need to look inside ourselves first.

The pictures were taken at Gull Lake off the June Lake Loop. That hawk was in a campground that some gentleman pointed out to me. It was huge! The biggest I had ever seen. You don't get the size of it based on that picture. I used the tilt shift effect for that last picture as an experiment to give it that miniature effect.