Winter 2013


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“The essence of greatness is the perception that virtue is enough…” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Let us pause as we approach the new season, and give some thought to the things that motivate us as individuals, and that inform our behaviors in the various relationships in which we engage. We should all be concerned with the impact that our lives have specifically on those around us, and on the world in general. Like me, you may want that impact to be substantial and positive.

We are in that season of the year when we celebrate the significance of light all around us. From evergreen trees to menorahs, illumination abounds. There is Christmas, and Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa; all calling us to reach into our most spiritual selves as individuals and as communities, and to lift ourselves and each other to a place of more enlightened being. All these festivals celebrate the reality that light overcomes darkness. We are hopeful, and joyful about the fact that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness overcomes it not!”

This is a season when we celebrate the hope that we may all coexist peacefully. It is a time when we seek, through gift-giving, and family/communal get-togethers, to lift each other out of the circumstances of despair that tend to envelope our lives in the course of the year. It is a time of coming together to celebrate community, as we cast off the loneliness that depresses so many. Regardless of our religious affiliations, or lack thereof, we are all affected by the spirit of the season. In some cases for better, in others for worse.

It has been noted repeatedly, that the suicide rate increases this time of year. Unfortunately some are overcome by the absence of meaningful lives and relationships. That is where we come in. We are called to reflect on how our lives can make a positive difference in those other lives. We are reminded in this season, of our duty to shine our “light” into the “dark” places where others stumble and some fall. We are all called to virtuous living.

Virtue is defined as: moral goodness; upright living; righteousness. It is the conduct of one’s life in accordance with principles of Righteousness. It is doing to others as you would have them do to you. Virtue challenges us to lift each other up in the face of circumstances that are down-pressing. Virtue is that light in the darkness that warms the cold, comforts the afflicted, reassures the frightened, and points the way to those who may be lost.

Virtue moves us toward each other. It makes us care in a culture where one person’s mis-step or misfortune is treated as nobody else’s concern. Virtue opens our eyes where it is more convenient to be blind. When we care, we align our lives with the cause of justice. When we align our lives with the cause of justice, we find ourselves in solidarity with the purpose of working to liberate our fellowmen from all circumstances that are dehumanizing. These circumstances range from personal habits of drug and sexual addiction to  the corporate cultivation of inhumane working conditions.

Virtue calls us to call each other to personal and corporate accountability. It challenges us to let our light shine as a guide to others. Virtue reminds us that an authentic love is not a function of our simple-minded heroism.

It is not enough to give the unfortunate a turkey so that we can then feel good about ourselves. A “hand-out” is ok. We are reminded of our human duty to feed the hungry. However, a hand up is always better. The empowerment of persons is the real mission to which we are called. We must remain mindful of the reality that we cannot do for others what they should, and must do for themselves in the course of their humanity.

An authentic love, a virtuous love, is the real work that we must each do to save ourselves from the despair bred by dysfunctional living. What we can all do for each other is to lovingly, but firmly, point the way to self-redemption. No person can save another person’s soul. The cultivation of self-control is absolutely necessary in each life. Virtuous self-control is liberating. It leads to a state of good health. Moral health. Physical health. Cultural health. Spiritual health. That is what salvation is! Anything less is religious vanity. Nothing more.

Let us be conscious of the fact that peace on Earth is always a function of goodwill to all persons.  Goodwill must first be a personal desire in each of us toward ourselves. We cannot project that which does not exist in us. So, as we enter this new season, may we cultivate in ourselves and in each other, that virtue which is a foundation of the greatness which one generation can establish for its successor. My prayer in this season of reflection is that the virtue we seek in others, may begin in us.

With this in mind, I conclude with thoughts from the apostle Paul as written in Philippians 4 vs 8: “Finally brethren, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”.

One love!
R. A. G.
Roy Alexander Graham
Copyright 2013 Figtree Enterprises, Inc.

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