SOF: Virtue

August 2nd

Speaking of Faith, July 30, 2009 — Repossessing Virtue

As a means of better connecting with my community and understanding what fuels others, I’ve organized a group to discuss the podcast Speaking of Faith. I’ve enjoyed this weekly show since a fellow blogger suggested it several years ago. Krista Tippett, the host, manages to make such complicated topics fascinating and within reach of understanding. The podcast is not Christian, but just as its name suggests — about faith. This week’s show is a rerun of an ongoing series — Repossessing Virtue. Scientists, religious leaders and community members are interviewed and asked three key questions:

1. What are you doing different in this economy?

2. What virtues are you drawing on?

3. Is the economy a moral or virtuous crisis?

Two of my favorite quotes from the show are:

Sharon Salzberg: Suffering is something that we tend to avoid, we shun it. If we ourselves are suffering, we feel humiliated. One of the things that should make us closer is our vulnerability and yet we can feel so isolated rather than really together.

Vigen Guroian: It’s a good moment to sit back and reflect on what’s really valuable in our lives. And maybe riding the crest of the wave was exciting and exhilarating, but maybe there’s an advantage to being landed on the beach.

I am doing things differently. I’m more conscious of the blessings and luxuries I enjoy daily. I am consciously trying to share more with others. I am trying to save money so it can instead be spent on causes that make much more sense than $3 lattes and $300 handbags. I still want those things, of course. I just want to be better, more.

Aristotle defined virtue as an excellence in fulfillment of a particular function. Happiness is a result of being virtuous. Specifically, he labeled the following as virtues: magnificence,  courage, temperance, liberality, magnanimity, pride, good temper, truthfulness, wittiness, friendliness, modesty, and righteous indignation. Aristotle put these in one of two categories; a virtue is either intellectual or moral.

I’d argue many of these are both. I am drawing on many of these virtues to find meaning and significance in life, although I’ve never considered myself virtuous. I pray for more temperance and am humbled to admit I’ve got a bit too much indignation. I think with the current economic conditions, as a country, world and people, we could use to have less pride, more good temper and certainly more friendliness.

If you are interested in participating in the conversation, I’d love to hear your answers to those three questions in the comments. The podcast is linked above. Each Sunday possible, I’ll now be posting about SOF. If you live in Phoenix and want the details to meet us in person, send me an email. I hope to hear from those who consider themselves members of a faith group and those who do not believe. Virtue isn’t specific to religion.


Posted in
Community, Faith
Follow the comments.

7 Responses

  1. So…I read your post a couple of hours ago and have been thinking about it. I read the transcript of the podcast, too. I think, in the last several months, that I’ve given more $$ to nonprofits. I’ve always been a fan and have given but I’ve stepped it up lately because I know a lot of them are going under in these times and that is a shame for those they serve (people and animal causes both).

    Like you, I love $300 purses (that has always been my limit, too) but I had decided to forego that luxury this year. The $300 ones wear pretty well, as you know, so I really think I can somehow get by without a new one as I have a couple to fall back on. I have bought almost no clothes at all this year. I don’t really like most of my summer clothes but I’ve been making do with them and I’ve found a few old things that I sort of like again now.

    But I don’t have a garden or sew like you. One group of my friends and I now give to animal NPOs in each other’s names instead of giving birthday gifts. That was new this year. I make birthday cards often instead of buying them. We don’t eat out as often.

    But I also know I’m not suffering yet. My next-door neighbor is on the verge of losing her house and I can’t do anything to help her. I imagine she’s 10-15K behind in her payments; that’s far too much for me to be able to make any sort of impact. She seems to not be trying to help herself but to just be sitting back watching it all happen, and I guess I am, too–feeling bad for her but incapable of helping.

    I try to conserve energy, not just for myself but for the “greater good,” so to speak. Hang clothes on the line instead of putting in the dryer, if possible, being “green,” recycling, of course.

    But I worry, too, that I could lose my job and then I would wish I had all the $$ I gave to NPOs. I try not to think that way but I have been trying to save a little better. I’m not much of a saver, unfortunately.

    The virtues I’m trying to draw on? Compassion, positive attitude (that’s a difficult one for me), magnanimity, thriftiness, discernment, courage, gratefulness, sense of humor, personal strength, trying not to let worry and fear cripple me and having faith that it will all work out the way it’s supposed to (also hard for me).

    I consider myself faith-based. I don’t really understand the 3rd question enough to attempt an answer. I think I just rambled incoherently 🙂

  2. 1. What are you doing different in this economy? Thinking more carefully about purchases; adjusting to the fact that we will likely be in our small townhome for a long time to come (even though we are bursting at the seams and keep givning stuff away); meditating on the fact that I have so much, that my life is so rich. I have all I need.

    2. What virtues are you drawing on? Patience, mindfulness, grace.

    3. Is the economy a moral or virtuous crisis? I’m in two minds: Some days I feel that our wants, impatience and mindlessness (and those of others) brought us to this point — so yeah, a moral crisis. Other days, I’m less philosophical about it … meh …. The Byrds said it best:

    To everything – turn, turn, turn
    There is a season – turn, turn, turn
    And a time for every purpose under heaven

    A time to build up, a time to break down
    A time to dance, a time to mourn
    A time to cast away stones
    A time to gather stones together

    – Sue

  3. 1- What am I doing differently? I’m thankful everyday for my job. I’m sharing. I’m saving. Just a little more. I shop at Target. For pretty much everything. My make-up brushes and my pajamas have never come from there before and turns out I love them just as much. I worry about my family; I thank heaven for the opportunities and education I’ve been given.

    2- I’m drawing on compassion. Compassion for others who aren’t in such a good position as I am finding myself in now. Gratitiude. Patience. Tolerance. Acceptance.

    3- Yes, I think this is a moral crisis. It’s enacted an entire paradigm shift for so many. Material things matter less. The superficiality of flipping houses has been replaced by trying to make a rented apartment FEEL like a home. It’s becoming about people; about love; about supporting the people who are struggling. I literally worry about a little cupcake store down the street on an almost-daily basis. I’m pulling for the American Dream to save us….eventually.

  4. Just catching up with your posts while I was away. Now I’m back and kicking! And I truly missed you.

  5. 1. It seems that we always do the opposite of everyone else – because we seem to be counter-cycle. We were poor when there was money, and we’re richer now, when there isn’t.

    Case in point. When everyone was buying big homes, we didn’t have the money. So when we finally bought our home almost two years ago, we got a lot of comments about how small it was, and why didn’t we invest more, and so on. But we can afford the payments, while others are foreclosing; we don’t have a yard to maintain, now that we’re in a drought; we don’t need a gym (we’ve got three flghts of stairs) or a housecleaner (it’s only 1600 sq. feet). We also just bought a used car, because it was time and we needed one.

    Thankfully neither my hubby or I are in danger of losing jobs. However, we reined in our spending during Lent and are keeping with that. We’re close to paying off one credit card and are chunking away at the other. I went shopping in my closet for summer, and at Target for a few staples (spent about $100 – much less than my usual shopping budget for seasonal clothes). We are eating less meat. We joined a CSA, for local produce. We are re-thinking all purchases. But, we are also eating out locally just a bit more (we’re supporting our local frozen yogurt shop, and our little cupcake store!). We are giving to charity. We are still trying to lessen our carbon footprint and live simpler.

    2. Patience; delayed gratification; compassion; the idea that when you give, it blesses you as well as others; planning; being grateful for what we have; and perhaps most importantly, multi-tasking donations: some for us (retirement planning), some for church, some for community, some for debts, etc.

    3. I believe it’s all connected. Our morals, our virtues, the season shifting – it’s time for a change in this person, in this place, in this culture, in this country. I hope each person finds a way to make it real and meaningful, whether they are thriving or struggling in these times.

  6. 1. What am I doing differently? Not much. When I was in my late 20’s I lost everything I owned in a fire. If I had been home at the time, it would have been likely that I would have lost my life. It took me several years of self discipline to get out of debt after the fire and I have not been in debt since then. I pay up my credit card monthly, I have a savings reserve, and if I can’t afford it, I wait. It really changed how I think about the “things” we think are important. Since then, I have always carefully considered how I spend my money. I am careful and really think about purchases.
    2. Generosity. I have learned that when I give of myself or my money, somehow, I get more in return. I don’t mean that I will magically get more money back, but it changes the way I use my money. Generosity has taught me that my happiness has little to do with money and much to do with the people in my life.
    3. I wonder if it is a moral crisis. It seems that for the past several years shopping has become more than just a means of acquiring what we need. It seems to have become a form of entertainment or recreation. It seems people shop to fill some hunger or emptiness in their souls…and the items purchased don’t bring lasting satisfaction. I wonder if shopping has become some kind of idolatry?

  7. coach or juicy i love their bags. but they can be pricey, but honestly i don’t care because i am RICH i tell you RICH!!! MWHAHAHAAA!