If you can, try and remember when you first held a pencil. What was your instinct with this tool? Grasped with full fist, ripped paper surely inevitable? Then again, maybe the idea of paper was foreign to you, and the walls beckoned invitingly. Precision probably didn’t enter your mind or how you could achieve it. One of the most important uses of the tool, creating words, would be only a tickle at the back of your mind. You were approximately two or three, dimly, if at all, aware of written letters and numbers and their purpose.
But now, despite your facility with the laptop or computer before you, you’re knowledgeable about the mighty pen. It’s a signature that authorizes for a credit card purchase, a letter addressed to friends, or the electric company, and a scribbled “don’t forget” list. And these are the most basic things. Even with ubiquitous computers, many people still compose by hand, and compute complicated mathematic equations this way. Your early teachers and mentors took this basic tool, and turned it into far more than it’s first destructive impulse. Teachers are there to take our first stumbling efforts with important tools, and transform them into something useful. On our own, we are inclined to use tools ineffectually, or with limited success.
Now, there are a lot of other tools in the world, which require far more skill than writing implements. Musical instruments for example. Beyond basic instruction in producing melodic sounds, there are the variations of composition, and the history of others music production. In fact, this very addendum adds another harmony, that of influence. The influence of predecessors determines the future of music now. Inspiration is built on past invention.
But, I’m building up to more than tangible tools. I’m really talking about other tools, those that profoundly impact the composition of our lives and those around us. I’m hinting at tools like hospitality, civic participation, stewardship. Tools we’ve grown up with around us, but we’re not often taught to use them. We dimly intuit that we should possess certain tools, but how to acquire or exercise them can still confound. In plain terms, I’m talking about Virtues.
This summer I proudly read the entirety of a Classic; Plato’s The Republic. In it, he speaks highly on justice and the virtues necessary for it. They are: Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude. Old fashioned words, ones that don’t come up in conversation often with us young folk. Which is a bigger argument for diversity and those teachers to which I first alluded. Usually diversity is strictly relegated to multiculturalism, but there should never be disparagement of intergenerational diversity. Those who grew up, 30 years before us grew up in different cultural times, and surprisingly, those who are even 7 to 10 years younger than us are growing up in different cultural times. (Speaking as a twenty-something) Those who are older have had time to learn even what virtues are. Those who have written books on them, even from 2400 years ago had more time than we’ve had to observe them and attempt to instruct us. These are the mentors we need to seek out, because virtue tools are even more useful than pencils. And we, of course, will be called on to mentor those younger than us, in a not-so-distant future.
This admonishment is for me a starting point in my toddler understanding of Virtue’s place in life. Once grasped even clumsily, to seek out teachers who can instruct me in Virtue, and to examine how they write about it, learn about it, and employ it. Finally, I want to saturate my own life with Virtue