The Value of Virtue
Virtue is never about the past nor the future, but always about the present
Virtue is like humility in that once you brag about having it, you’ve lost it.
It does’t manifest itself in us by an act of magick or an overt declaration that we are paragons of purity and good intent. It is the expression of the inner soul, of our true humanity, not the dumbwitted control of any outside force. It, rather, creeps in quietly and unawares when we strive to do what is right and good despite our many flaws and failures along the way. It is the Lionheart that eclipses our inner mewling, not when we are faced with moments of decisiveness - when we are forced to choose the right hand or the left - but when we sit in a heap to wipe the blood, the sweat and the many tears of having accomplished something greater than ourselves; greater than our inmost fears; deeper than our misgivings and mistakes that may be strewn along the path behind us.
Virtue is imbued with the spirit of ‘not turning back,’ of never allowing defeat to win the day. It is not a reckless abandon in the face of tumult and adversity, but a resolve that I will not be brought under by the power of fear and the despair of failure.
Virtue is never about the past nor the future, but always about the present. It may have the caterwauls of the past that scream for us to never try again because we have fallen short so many time before; it also bears the responsibility of knowing what may lay ahead based on what we now do or how we now act. Its a test of our response coupled with our ability to step into the Now with a resolve to leave Self behind - no matter the good or bad of it - and strive to do what we know in our hearts is right and good.
And there will still be failure. There will still be setback and adversity. There will still be the Critic - who doesn’t count, as President Teddy Roosevelt once said. “… there is no effort without error and shortcoming;” Roosevelt went on, “ but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I take great inspiration from the examples of what Virtue truly is, both historically and in literature. People who stepped outside the door and off the threshold, not always fully cognizant that their next footfall would be the defining moment of who they truly were, despite who they and others believed them to be. The Abraham Lincolns, the Martin Luther Kings, the William Wallaces were great people filled with flaws and personal shortcomings who rose above themselves in the action of engaging in something greater than themselves, knowing the goal was more important than anything else they once believed or had done. They were not perfect people, but they gained Virtue by rising above their imperfections.
The fictional Samwise Gamges, the Baggins’ gardner, at great personal cost to himself never left Frodo’s side, even carrying him up the slopes of Mount Doom on his back, when Frodo could not take another step. He knew there was something greater than himself that he must do. “What are we hanging on to, Sam?” asked Frodo. “That there is some good in this world, Mister Frodo, and its worth fighting for,” replied Samwise.
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
Virtue is not about seeking acclaim or praise, but it is, rather, the recognition that all that has come before, and all that we perceive is yet to come, will never dissuade us from being who we must be in order to do what must be done. It's not always the turning back of great evil, but is most assuredly comprised of the daily small things of life.
It is all about striving above our circumstances and becoming who we truly are.