Assume The Virtue Though You Have It Not
At least one time each year a student would ask, “You know a thousand quotes, how do you do that? I usually laughed and said, “It really is not as hard as it may appear. It is simply a matter of starting with the first one. You have the mental freedom to think whatever you want. If you choose, you can memorize crude, disgusting, pathetic quotes (there are a lot out there). The quotes will become part of you and you will act accordingly. Or, you can select quotes that are uplifting, inspiring and filled with hope and enthusiasm. Unlike the ‘low road quotes,’ these will take you to a higher level of passion, sensitivity, perhaps even love.”
In a way, however, it was easy for me. We started out nearly every Biodesign session with a quote from someone famous. Of course Muir, Eiseley, Thoreau, and Emerson were quoted often, but so were many saints, scientists (even sinners). Loren Eiseley wrote so succinctly and economically that he often offered several gems on a page. However, some of my favorites came from previous Biodesign students.
“Then, I remembered the Merced River2,000 feet below, flowing over Nevada Falls. I thought about the water that had been flowing for over 50 million years and wondered why people waste so much time hating each other?”
One of my several skeptical principals, knowing that I used an ongoing plethora of quotations, derisively commented that he thought citing quotes (out of context) was like eating at Mc Donald’s. He was a self-proclaimed “secular humanist” and apparently not capable of discerning the potential spiritual radiance of a “free-standing” quote. Many of my favorites appear as lustrous pearls, dazzling diamonds, brilliant blue sapphires, fiery rubies, threads of silver and apples of gold. For example, it is good if you know that the phrase, “Assume the virtue though you have it not,” comes from Shakespeare’s, Hamlet, Act III, Scene IV, however, if William is not your cup of tea his gem of a quote can be enjoyed, perhaps even be transformative.
Prior to the Grand Canyon trip we read from James Allen’s, “As a Man Thinketh,” where he suggested:
Mind is the Master power that moulds and makes,
And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes
The Tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills:—
He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:
Environment is but his looking glass.
Allen had no doubt that our human destiny was a result of all of the thoughts that lead up to our ever-evolving behavior in the present. Some people delight in memorizing trivia, historical events, world records, athletic records, cooking recipes; the topics are endless. The important thing, however, is that each person is in charge of his own list and thus the direction of his own life.
For those of you who have discovered the NatureIsUs Fb page, I rest my case. Sharka and Mark have created a quintessential page of platonic truth, beauty and goodness. BOFAW readers, familiar with C.S. Lewis,’ “2%-essence-of life,” will readily see that they continue to operate in that rare zone. They marry stunning photographs with words of wisdom and inspiration (their own and other’s) into a dynamic slide-show that costs only the effort of a mouse click. You may have to dig a little deeper, but Linda Williamson Fb (BOFAW editor) offers equally stunning images of the plants, animals, and especially people that she has encountered. All three of these people are “goose-bump-people;” when you see their work you are likely get goose-bumps. Each one has enriched my life and I am profoundly grateful.
One of the hundreds (?) of triads that I tossed out included the ethical foundation for the International Olympic Organization: Altius (higher) Citius (faster) Fortius (stronger).
My yearly challenge to the students (and myself) was to aspire to think, act and respond in a higher, faster and stronger manner. In order to do this we often had to assume the virtue though we had it not.