Food for the Soul
A bi-weekly blog on the virtuous life. Written not by a master, but by a student, but one at least who knows whence sound teaching is found.
Now taking up the thread again, since every kind of knowing and every choice reach toward some good, let us say what it is that we claim politics aims at, and what, of all the goods aimed at by action, is the highest. In name, this is pretty much agreed about by the majority of people, for most people, as well as those who are more refined, say it is happiness, and assume that living well and doing well are the same thing as being happy. But about happiness - what it is - they are in dispute, and most people do not give the same account of it as the wise. - Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics
A good tree brings forth good fruit. - Jesus Christ, Mt 7:17
Archery is about aiming. It is also about execution. The archer is a good archer only if he both aims well and executes well; a deficiency in either throws the whole thing off. Who cares if one aims well if one's poor release causes the arrow to miss the mark? Likewise, who cares if one is superb and precise in his performance of the action of shooting, if he is unable to aim the arrow to the bullseye? Similarly, in life we need to aim well and act well in order to be well. Aristotle says as much in his ever insightful Nichomachean Ethics. The problem is that even while all people say that they aim at happiness by their actions, "about happiness - what it is - they are in dispute." Just as various travelers setting out for "Texas" while misidentifying Oregon, Minnesota, and Missouri as "Texas" would never reach it, so also people generally strive for happiness, but many misunderstand in what happiness consists.
Over the next year, this blog will serve as a touchstone for various topics or aspects essential to living a virtuous life, the life that Aristotle and many wise others have been able to identify as the proper aim of human action in the pursuit of happiness, which turns out to literally be godliness. The virtuous life is in its most basic definition the description of the kind of life that is most human and most holy. The exemplar of the virtuous life can be summed up in one word: Jesus. Yet, a systematic approach to the question of what kind of person is a good person can be marvelously illuminated by the thirty-some virtues that paint a definite picture about human excellence.
What is more important, however, is the fact that by our individual actions we shape our very being. In other words, I become how I act. The first lie one speaks in life is quite hard on one's conscience once one realizes what a lie is; the thousandth lie, on the other hand, rolls more easily off one's tongue. This is because in the beginning one is not a liar. But after a thousand acts of voluntarily distorting the truth, lying is in one's character. It is easy for us to act as we are. As our Lord puts it, "a good tree brings forth good fruit." The hopeful thing for us, though, is that we are not alone in the shaping of our lives. Life itself is a gift from the one who created everything good, and has provided means of redemption for us whom while sinners still have value before God. Like a lost coin, lost sheep, or even a lost son, the gospels reveal to us that God comes looking for us that we might be restored to our proper place in God's communion of truth and love. In short, God's grace heals, restores, sustains, and guides us in our moral lives so that we may achieve that for which we were made.
The virtuous life is a dynamic life. It is a far cry from misconceptions about forming "habits" or becoming rigid. The virtuous life is not a mindless life devoid of purpose of spontaneity. Nor is it a joyless life. It leads to joy. It is also not the boring life of routine for routines sake, although routine can frequently support the formation of virtue. Rather, virtue is the essential foundation for attaining and sustaining the fullness of life offered by Christ: life lived in deeper relationship with truth, goodness, beauty, and ultimately God from whom all those things flow. My hope is that together, over the next year, we can discover together more deeply the contours of the virtuous life and strive to pattern our homes, school, and personal lives on it.
Fr. Jadyn Nelson