Remember virtue, that quaint thing leaders used to strive for? (Or so we thought?) Moral excellence, not just material success? It’s a concept with a lot of history … and the version that’s always resonated with me the most is Aristotle’s version. From Spark Notes (because it’s just easy):
Aristotle is clear that we arrive at moral virtue primarily through practice and that the value of studying ethical texts such as the one he has written is limited.
This view makes sense when we consider that moral virtue is not essentially different from other forms of excellence as far as the Greeks are concerned. If we want to achieve excellence in rock climbing, for instance, it helps to study texts that show us how to improve our technique, but we can’t make any significant improvements except by getting on a rock wall and practicing.
Analogously, it helps to read texts like the Nicomachean Ethics to get a clearer understanding of moral virtue, but the only way to become more virtuous is through practice. We can only become more courageous by making a point of facing down our fears, and we can only become more patient by making a habit of controlling our anger.
Since practice, not study, is the key to becoming virtuous, Aristotle takes a strong interest in the education of the young. He perceives that there is only so much we can do to improve a nasty adult, and we can more easily mold virtuous youths by instilling the proper habits in them from a young age.
Meanwhile on Planet Earth circa 2018, here we are pondering just how much more human grotesquery can we tolerate … in the air, in the water, in public life, in politics, business and government. The mess is bewildering. It makes one want to recoil, withdraw and start anew. It’s like as a society we need to have a “Walden” moment. Some kind of resetting of values, expectations and most definitely, leadership.
Begin again to begin again. A new year. I am grateful for what I have, for those I love, for this moment in space and time.
2017 was a tough one. When someone you love dearly is in a life or death situation, it really drains you. To the point you are consumed with it, hemorrhaging into all aspects of your day to day. But you learn to fight back. To keep it in its place. To reclaim your peace. You don’t surrender to the old unhealed wounds that have been quiet for the few years prior. You steel yourself and you keep on keepin’ on. And eventually the crisis abates. And once again here you are. Such is life.
There is something cool about aging. You learn to trust the cycle. You learn that the low moment is as temporary as the high moment. And everything in between is the true stuff of life.
what is happening in the world? virtue, ethics, character? some individuals possess them, but those in power (in government, culture, business, religion) don’t even strive for a facade of virtue?
2. THE CULTURE OF GRIEVANCE.
The right has appropriated this tactic from the left. It’s not a good look.
3. THE COMPANY YOU KEEP
4. GETTING *WOKE* BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE
“…So each of us has two forces at work inside us: an embryonic wisdom that wants to blossom from the depths of our being, and the imprisoning weight of our karma; an unconditioned awake presence that wants to connect fully with life, and our conditioned personality patterns that narrow our perception and keep us half-asleep. From birth to death, these two forces are always at work, and our lives hang in the balance. In youth, our green life energy is usually stronger than our habitual patterns. We are still flexible, our habits have not totally solidified, and we imagine that we can overcome any obstacles standing in our way. Yet every time we repeat a habitual reaction, we wear “grooves” in our psyche. By the time we reach old age, these grooves have themselves become inflexible, stuck, set in their ways.
Somewhere in midlife the weight of karmic accumulation starts to overpower our life force. Midlife crisis is the realization that time is running out and our karma is catching up with us. At that point, we can no longer just get by on our youthful energy. Unless we bring our larger intelligence and awareness to bear on our defensive postures, they will harden further, freezing us into a living rigor mortis. This cannot be emphasized too strongly: If we do nothing, our karma will bury us.”
i come back to this book often. i so agree with alan watts, particularly about religion and consciousness. it has been a salve for me at different times … especially lately in the times of president dumpster fire.
had a difficult talk with my kids first thing. reminded them of the tough times in history they’ve read and learned about. reinforced that we are here to take care of each other, respect each other, love each other. that we believe (talking ourselves into it as we said it) that america’s democracy will survive.
removed facebook app from my phone and did not visit the site today.
avoided TV with the exception of SURVIVOR (which the kids begged for and love to watch as a family) and clinton’s concession speech.
downloaded this book and began reading it on my dark, dreary, almost wordless morning commute to NYC. i plan to be reading a LOT over the next four years, and keeping my video/social intake to a healthy minimum. read a lot of think pieces and these 3 resonated the most:
5. I am blogging here again for the first time since Prince died. Facebook feels toxic. I am so tired of reading self righteous and – in many cases – intolerant rants about the election from both sides. If you don’t have a unique take on things, if you are not willing to pause and reflect and consider the possibility that the world does not revolve around your own field of vision, then please for the love of Goddess please, STFU.
now, that doesn’t mean i’m not horrified by this insanity, which forebodes the impending 4-year long assault on civil liberties, personal choice, free speech, freedom of worship and the physical world as we know it. But I refuse to be reduced to a state of singular obstructionism by a vile, self-serving plutocrat and his tragically misguided supporters. He’s here today but this too shall pass. As I always have, I will treat those I don’t understand in a civil manner and not demonize, dehumanize or belittle them.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
I so clearly remember the world stopping the first time I saw Prince perform. Saturday night 1983, 8 pm or thereabouts. Mom and Dad went out and left us with a sitter. We were watching Solid Gold in the family room on 51 Cherry Place. There was smoke, there were electric drums, and then he (she?) appeared. Stop the press, who (or what) is that? It was Prince was in all his glory. Oozing sexuality at a time I didn’t know what sex was. Flanked by his pretty-slash-bad looking compatriots (who would soon come to be referred to as “the Revolution”). The song was “1999.” The sound and spectacle were unlike anything my eight year old psyche had yet experienced. I held my Fisher Price tape recorder up to the TV set and captured the sound so I didn’t have to wait to hear it again on the radio. I was awestruck.
After that, my older brother Brian and I always seemed to own Prince’s albums on cassette. Not a lot of thought went into categorizing his style of music. He was just Prince: ruler of the radio and MTV. You loved seeing whatever he’d come up with next, and you generally hoped your parents wouldn’t walk in while you were watching one of his videos. #awkward I recall thinking “Diamonds & Pearls” was corny (it came out when I was 16 and hard core into Public Enemy, Ice Cube and the like…), but I got over it. There was an endless array to choose from in Prince’s repertoire. When I was deep into soul, funk and R&B in my college days, naturally his Purple majesty was very heavy in the rotation. Over time I also learned how influential he was on many of my favorite hip hop artists. Regardless of how you come to him, or what you think about him, if you want to get a party going, just put on some Prince.
In the Fall of 2001, I dressed as Purple Rain prince for Halloween. At the time I was living at home with my parents in NJ, commuting to NYC for work and hanging with friends in the city on the weekend. I had bought one of those cheap Party City purple pimp costumes just for the faux crushed velvet jacket. I had a frilly white collared blouse, purple pants, black pointy high-heeled boots, and my younger brother Kevin’s white electric guitar. I wore a curly black wig and drew on the facial hair with a black eye pencil. It was pretty impressive, if I do say so myself. (I did it BEFORE Dave Chappelle). My only regret is that I have no photographic evidence.
My adoration of Prince continued all through my thirties. And I bonded with others who had a shared love for his funkiness, his creativity, his sound. His 2007 Super Bowl performance was epic of course. And as people rediscovered Prince after that, I gloated in knowing I had loved him all along. A few years later in 2011, my girlfriends and I were at the concert at Madison Square Garden when he kicked Kim Kardashian off the stage. It was glorious (though even more glorious now, in retrospect).
In recent years, Prince had become somewhat of a meme. With his fro and his third eye girls and his Princestagram. Still cool, always cool. Nothing compared to him. Which also reminds me — Prince used phone lexicon before phone lexicon was a thing. “Nothing compares 2 U,” and others like that. Back then, it was actually pretty naughty/radical.
Now he’s gone and frustratingly I can’t access all those albums and hits I know and love backwards and forwards. He yanked his music from Pandora and Spotify, the two main ways I listen to music. I bought many of his albums over the years, but lost or otherwise just ditched my physical CDs. As for my old MP3s… they are on hard drives I no longer access, lost to the digital abyss.
At Yoga class on Sunday, as I knew he would, my radical hippie instructor spoke about Prince quite a bit. He played some of his more obscure tracks, and in the final chest opening pose he declared: “Lean back and open your heart to send some love out to the Purple One to ease his transition … in appreciation for all the joy he gave us.” It was a fitting tribute, and it made me happy. Lefsetz summed it up perfectly: “It’s such a shame our friendship had to end. But his music survives, as does his legend. Years from now his music and career will be studied, to see how someone listened to no one but himself but got it so right.”
When I was single I recall many people thinking of me as a Carrie Bradshaw wannabe. Assuming I was dating like a mofo, buying lots of shoes, and opining about my fantastic NYC life. To others I represented the other extreme: the Bridget Jones. A sad and lonely spinster, eating pints of Haagen Daas and spending New Years Eve alone at home with my pets. My reality was somewhere between those two, to the extent that you can summarize your life in Hollywood archetypes.
It is striking how quickly the external perception shifted once I got married, moved to the burbs and became a Mom. Now many people just ask me how the baby and kids are. It’s understandable given that I post lots of pictures of them on social media. It’s safe small talk, and let’s face it most people are allergic to intelligent conversation. But I never get used to it. In my mind, I’m the same old Col who likes to talk about the stuff of culture: Jonathan Franzen’s latest tome, Kanye’s latest Tweets, and what a scary maniac Donald Trump is.
People will always think what they want to think, see what they want to see. And in a crazy complex world, stereotypes are easy and help us all save time. But when you are the subject of them it can feel so bizarre and disorienting. So while maybe I’m supposed to be into Jack Johnson, in my mind’s eye, my walk on music is and will always be Pharoah Monch’s “Simon Says.”