Saturday, December 17, 2005


Here's my thought in rough form: THE two moral question that most of us face area:

• "how do I find the will to listen to--and act on--the small voice within (or, not necessarily within; we hear it silently, but how we hear it doesn't necessarily locate it in space), which knows the 'truth' even when 'I' don't?"

[er... for now, please ignore the obvious question of what happens when that "small voice within" is crazy or mean, I'm meaning to get to that. For now, suffice to say that I'm a qualified admirer of Socrates' maxim that if one knows the good, one is incapable of doing evil.]


• "how do I encourage others to do the same?"

Because, this is what I notice: people do not overcome obstacles, minor or major, without the innate will--or courage--to do so. That will--or courage--may get damaged, battered, maimed, and nearly killed, but somehow it has to be there, somewhere, on life support or in a coma, but there. The old saw is that you can't help a person who won't help him or herself.

I tend to believe that most people do HAVE tht will, so I want to know how to abet it. I also see, however, that there are people who lack will--or courage, or heart, whatever you call it--and even seem uninterested in having it. I see people go down all around me, not in flames but with sighs, and often, they drag others down with them as they do, like dying swimmers too lazy to help their rescuers and too selfish to let them go (alcoholics not in recovery often die this way.) Such people confuse me.

For me, there is something I keep rebounding to, a 'voice of truth,' or better--much better, actually--a 'resonanace' with which I always, eventually refind harmony. Dissonance and harmony. Perhaps will is another word for 'ear,' with which we actively listen for resonance. (Another concept I believe in is 'moral imagination,' which I take to mean a talent for imagining one's self in others' shoes).

I know these thoughts don't quite cohere, but I want to articulate the active philosophy by which I seem to live my life, and provides the moral yardstick by which I seem to expect others to live, and is the visible spirit in friends and loved ones to which I'm so strongly attracted.

These are rough jottings.

(One good means of abetting will, or courage, in one's self and others is by telling stories--especially dramatic ones--in which we may recognize through moral imagination the old and nearly forgotten resonance--and source of courage--of our own in the experience of others. This is Aristotle, of course, whom I prefer over Plato. The moral life begins in dreams, not lectures.)


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