All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
By Blaney Pridgen
Among us are many who see the setting moon before a rising sun. You know who you are. At that time of almost day, restless thoughts take some kind of form. Coming to my mind is one line from a poem, “The Monks of St. John’s File in For Prayer”, by Kilian McDonnell. The poet refers to “eager purity and weary virtue”. That dichotomy speaks to me. It is not a false one but quite true. When I look around, I see a kind of person who is self-possessed in their convictions. They know what is right and will tell you so quickly if you give them a chance. Then, I see another person who has known something of virtue but has grown weary. Virtue is mature purity that has learned humility. But, after that, can come less assurance of what might be achieved in one’s life or in anyone else’s. The pursuits of purity and virtue have their dark sides. They burn up a lot of energy along the way and leave casualties behind.
Consider the professionals in medicine, law, education, public service, applied and theoretical sciences, and religion. They pursue the practice of pure principles with no small amount of learning and experience on the job. From the outset, the professionals are eager, but thirty or forty years at a vocation can erode any virtue obtained in the passage into a weariness. This is not to imply that any virtue ever arrived in the professional in the first place. Dullards, mountebanks, and self-serving opportunists receive advanced degrees and slip into the professions all the time. Eager purity is no guarantee. Conversely, the vocations can flourish with virtuous women and men. The stone mason may be more virtuous and holy than the bishop in the cathedral the mason labored to build. But even his virtue can grow weary.
Yet there is another point to ponder in this distinction between eager purity and weary virtue. The eager purifiers among us can cause real problems. They bring trouble to the house. They are obsessed with two or three issues and blow them out of all reasonable proportion. The end can justify the means as they seek power to codify their convictions. They lack the humility to achieve genuine virtue. The weary virtuous among us too easily give up, grow old at heart, and too often succumb to cynicism. This opens the door to a take over by the eager purifiers, in which case the weary virtuous become accomplices. An ideal situation might evolve if the purifiers learn humility and the virtuous recover their intestinal fortitude.
I don’t wish to create another artificial division here. We each have some eager purity and weary virtue in us to some degrees. We each struggle with that. True virtue occurs between the extremes.
In the business of daily living and in the deportment of our relationships, we need to rein in and tweak our convictions. Too eager is usually too bad. A bit of humility helps. When we have grown weary in doing good, we need to recover our energy and vision and return to the higher purposes of self-abnegating love. This is hard work but ultimately satisfying work. Now, if we could just get this message to Congress, state and national.