Sovereign Earth Episode 5 – Virtue

  Virtue

“Why Have you Come to Earth?
Do you remember?
Why have you taken birth?
Why have you come?
To love, to serve and remember
To love, to serve and remember”
            John Astin  (via Alex – As sung at Enchanting the Void)
Last week we looked at Gratitude, which in Cicero’s opinion is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.
So what are the others – and what indeed is virtue itself?
This whole series of reflections and songs is geared toward the enabling of Sovereign Earth to come back fully into awareness as central to our spirituality, our communities and our vision. We need to literally re-dream the earth anew.    I see the reclaiming of all of the aspects and qualities we are examining as being crucial to that. Within that,  Virtue must surely sit fairly central to the core of our values – but what is it?
Some clues.
First Confucius
‘If there is righteousness in the heart
There will be beauty in the character
If there is beauty in the character
There will be harmony in the home
If there is harmony in the home
There will be order in the nations
If there is order in the nations
There will be peace in the world’.
Virtue has to do with seeking to model moral excellence
As a human being thats a tall order and one which in some way or other we surely all fall short of at times – yet it is in seeking and striving to enable and live this, that it is somehow honoured and fulfilled.
A behaviour of ‘doing what is right’ and avoiding what is wrong.
Perhaps wisdom is in knowing what needs to be done for the greater good and virtue is related to actually DOING it!   Next week I’ll be examining ‘Service’ and its relationship to a virtuous life – as they seem to be entwined and closely related in many ways.
“When you were born you cried
And the world rejoiced
Live your life so that when you die
The world cries and you rejoice”
          (Traditional – Enchanting the Void)
   Aristotle portrayed virtue as being the balance point between the two extremes or  vices.   Inspired and resonant with that notion here is an extract of a poem by Howard Campbell which gives insight into virtue.  I was fortunate in meeting and spending some quality time with Howard before his departure from this apparent world a few years ago. For those of you watching this from a Druid perspective, he was Eimear Burke’s husband – Eimear is assuming the role of Chosen Chief of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids from next Summer. This poem on virtue is as much tribute to her as it is to Howard.
Aristotle – Howardean Ethics of the Mean – after Nichomachus  – an extract
‘Choose to do that which brings you towards the virtue of your being
Do not seek what you cannot know
Do not dwell in what cannot change.
If your nature be as rock, move down – go deep.
If your nature be as fire, move up, flame with sparks.
If your nature be as water, move around, meander.
If your nature be as air, expand – fill every corner – unseen.
Stir your cauldron full, with pleasure, sorrow, pain and joy.
Learn the difficult craft of choice
Make your way of being a work of art.
Not too much nor too little of any one tint
A finished work of art needs nothing taken away, nothing added.
Choose when to be full with pleasure
Choose when to be sure of sorrow
Choose when to grow through pain
Choose when to wallow in joy.
Search for the excellence of your being
So easy to have feelings given out too much or too little.
So difficult to find the centre of a circle
So difficult to change a habit to virtue.
To straighten a bent willow wand, curve it beyond the mean.
Choose to do what brings you toward the virtue of your being.
Do not seek what you cannot know
Do not dwell on what cannot change
Seek to be – not too little; nor too much.
Climb the steep path
Stoop to the wind
Navigate the mists
Towards the virtue of your being’.
As the last few lines hint – its not an easy or straightforward task.  – The willow wand having to be bent back further than the mean to find its point of balance.  The notion of virtue sitting between the twin extremes of vice.  Here’s an interesting thing – I was visiting my dear old friend Adrian Rooke a few days ago to finalise some workshops we are offering in the Netherlands in a few weeks time. I saw a vice fixed to the end of his workbench where he whittles ogham sticks and wands.   I had been struck by the word ‘vice’ and how this work tool of engineering and woodwork, perhaps symbolises the way that virtue itself sits in the middle of two conflicting ‘jaws of the vice’, just as the material we are working on to craft and engineer in a vice, is held at a critical point of balance – not too little pressure; not too much!
Rilke has a beautiful poem expressing this ‘harmonious conflict of opposites’ as I term it.  This is my own adjusted interpretation of the original (from the German.) I hope Rike will forgive my poetic license.
“Between the hammer blows of its continual forging,
 Somehow the heart endures
Just as the tongue, between the hammers of the teeth
Survives and yet is still able to sing praise”.
“Tread gently on the Earth
Breath gently of the Air
Float gently on the Water
Touch gently to the Flame”
    Traditional Song via Enchanting the Void

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