Inspiring Enchantment & Illumination with Tarot & Intuitive Guidance

What We Do, Who We Are

You are a citizen of a great and powerful nation. Are you not ashamed that you give so much time to the pursuit of money and reputation, and honors, and care so little for truth and wisdom and the improvement of your soul?
— Socrates, The Apology

There is no doubt about it – times are getting tough and may well get tougher. The economic news continues to be dire – already this morning, the day’s trading in the Japanese and European markets has suffered staggering loss. In last night’s Presidential debate, both candidates dodged the question that I suspect we are all asking ourselves: are things going to get worse before they get better?

When faced with difficulty, we ask ourselves – what should I do? This is a fundamental question in life, isn’t it?

However, from earliest times, some have argued that this question is less important than the question of what kind of people we can be. If we know who we are, and aspire to be better, the right actions will naturally follow. In other words, the virtuous person consistently takes the good action in any given situation.

In a recent article titled Happiness, Virtue and Tyranny, published in Philosophy Now magazine, Matthew Pianalto notes that “to answer the question of the Enlightenment philosophers – ‘What should I do?’ – we really need to address the broader question with which Socrates and his contemporaries were preoccupied, namely, ‘How should I live?’”

The “utilitarians” of the Age of Reason, he writes, assumed that reasoning and logic would be “intrinsically motivating, and that anyone who grasps the moral law or the principle of utility will find himself bound by reason to obey its commands.”

In other words, the belief is that humans are by nature reasonable, so living a proper, virtuous life is simply the logical thing to do. And this principle has profoundly affected our own system of government and law.

In its original context, this was a powerful and positive breakthrough from previous views that declared humanity as sinful and evil by nature. But sadly, we can see many instances of the failure of this premise. One glaring example has been in the blind belief that free market capitalism, when given an unfettered reign, will pragmatically, automatically do the right thing for the greatest good.

Of course, now we are paying a terrible price for that theory. The Charles Keatings, Jack Abramoffs, Enrons, and the Fannies and Freddies of the world are examples of the greed, fraud, and corruption that thrive on such naiveté. In fact, we can learn from them that perhaps instead, Virtue, that is, a habit of personal excellence, is a more reliable quality.

So what is Virtue? What can other traditions teach us about who we are, and who we can be, in order to better understand what we should do?

More tomorrow.

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  • October 8, 2008, 10:06 am ARIE

    "If we know who we are, and aspire to be better, the right actions will naturally follow. In other words, the virtuous person consistently takes the good action in any given situation. "

    This means to be at the center of the sphere. This is the PLACE where one can take the necessary action for any impression that happens at any point of the circumference. Does that sound familiar?

    But to be at this PLACE, one needs to be balanced. Physical body, emotions, intellect. Only then can we connect to the divine self. Then all actions will be the right ones. Familiar?

    How do we achieve that? By doing a conscious effort. But alone this is very difficult, as we do not have a point of reference. Where we are and where we will go. We will need to work in a group. In a group we will meet people from whom we can learn, and also people to whom we can pass on, what we have learned. Others can serve us as a mirror. This is the way to "Know thyself".

    But this group must have Commitment, Honor, Truth, Strength and Compassion. Familiar?

    Instead of Impression => Reaction
    it will become:
    Impression => Understanding => Right reaction.

    All well said, but I'm still trying to form a group for this work without much success. I think that in the US there are more opportunities. Also in England.


  • October 8, 2008, 10:07 am Maritzia

    You know, I’ve been laid off since August first. And while I’ve spent a few moments here and there worrying about money, for the most part, I’ve looked at this time as an opportunity. I get to spend some time working on my various blogs, spend more time really reading others instead of just scanning them all, take time to actually comment.

    I’ve spent some time canning, which I’d never have the energy to do if I was working. I’ve got to spend more time working with my Tarot cards, more time politicking. And I’ve had the opportunity to look for a job that had more breadth than my previous jobs.

    All in all, this has been a pretty good time for me. It’s been nice ot have time off. Yeah, money is tight, but it’s still been nice. I’m looking forward to going back to work, but I’m still enjoying this time to myself a bit.

  • October 8, 2008, 10:12 am Greg Fletcher-Marzullo

    Great post, Beth Owl!

    I think some of the flaw of Socrates’ belief and how it’s manifested over the years is that it’s heartless sounding.

    Logic is fine in human beings without the tumultuous experiences of the heart, but who is that, really? We shouldn’t cut that out of our expression.

    Perhaps cultivating a heart of love, kindness and compassion would be a more successful bet (or at least a balance).

    There’s something to be said for the divine Heart of the Mother.

  • October 9, 2008, 8:28 am Anonymous

    Dear Beth,

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. Again. You and your blog are a shining light.

    In a bit of synchronicity, yesterday I ran across cliff notes about Plato at Goodwill. Because Socrates was a great influence on Plato, the notes begin by discussing Socrates, who was sentenced to death for criticizing the government.

    Socrates faced this sentence fearlessly, refusing to escape, even though he could. He drank the ordered poison without struggle. He told his friends that death cannot harm the soul. Further, he told them, no real harm can come to a good person.