Virtue? What Virtue?
We begin a weekly planning meeting that I attend by drawing a card from a deck of Virtues, reading it aloud, and using it as a way to focus ourselves for the meeting. Despite my disbelief in the power of cards to forecast the future, or, say, to provide us the guidance of angels, I have found the use of these Virtues Cards to be helpful and inspiring.
And serendipitous. Recently, as we slogged our way through budgets and bylaws, “unfun” agendas that challenged this idealistic group’s capacity for focus, we remembered that our virtue for the day was perseverance: the will to carry on.
Our organization has incorporated the Virtues Project (www.virtuesproject.com) into its teachings, and while I have yet to see the program’s benefits manifested obviously in the five year olds that are running around, I have witnessed many occasions on which the adults involved with the organization take a moment to acknowledge virtuous behavior in others. As in, “I acknowledge your perseverance in keeping us on track during this difficult discussion of the bylaws,” or “I acknowledge your purposefulness in setting a clear agenda for today.”
The virtues are not all as dry as perseverance and purposefulness sound. We can also practice the more luminous virtue of joyfulness, or creativity, or kindness. Contemplating joyfulness for several days recently not only helped me develop a deeper understanding of the concept, but also helped me begin to cultivate true joyfulness within me.
We invest a lot of our energy and time addressing the negative practices that we encounter in this world. Thinking about the positive ones is a welcome change. I found that it’s important, when studying a virtue (I would say, “new virtue,” but it would only be “new” for the day’s study) to focus on how I can best embody that virtue today, and to relinquish my tendency to focus on how I have not embodied the virtue previously, or less productive still, on how someone else has not done so. That is a different exercise, and may have it’s place, but it has not been the least bit helpful in my pursuit of a more virtuous life.
My relationships with others are, however, important to consider. In meditating upon a virtue, I can consider how we might improve or enhance our relationship and interactions with others through more virtuous behavior. Of course, I’m not using the archaic definition of “virtue” here, for while some of our relationships, (notably, our life partnerships) thrive within an environment of virtuous behavior, these relationships may be quite unsatisfying if the archaic “virtue” is left, um, intact.
Each of the Virtues Cards in my deck includes a description; a quotation from a notable scholar, author, or other source of wisdom; some affirmations; and some ways to practice the virtue in your daily life. I’m not very experienced with affirmations, other than the time I spent chuckling at Al Franken’s Stuart Smalley, and I feel kind of weird saying them out loud. Perhaps that will become more natural with time, and perhaps I’ll find that reading them silently will work, but heck, I’ll try it out loud for now.
The Virtues Card set I have is lovely, with beautiful photographs from nature, and it is a pleasure to look at, hold, and read. As a writer, these simple tools are tempting me to explore, shall we say, somewhat more noble topics than those I often ponder. I hope to post some of the results of my considerations, and I would welcome insight from other hubbers on good sources for the study of virtues. Unconventional sources would be especially helpful.
Just a dash of Stuart Smalley
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