Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Searching for Virtue

A couple of days ago I started composing a little dialogue in which I try to engage Socrates in the search for the definition of virtue.  I come in all confident and quickly founder on whether or not 'virtue' is a synonym for 'good'.  I had some vague ideas as to what points I would try and make but now I'm not so sure.
The bombing in Boston has taken over some part of my mind's efforts.  This atrocity has hit me harder than some other recent events like the shootings in Newtown.  I'm not sure why.
I keep thinking of the supreme dedication and effort that marathoners put into a marathon.  The months of training and discipline.  We expect that kind of thing from professional atheletes.  It's not hard to think something along the lines of 'pay me $10 million a year and I'll dedicate that kind of time to diet and exercise'.  But the overwhelming majority of marathoners are every day folks.  They put all that time and energy into training themselves so that they can achieve a very personal goal.  There is no big payday ahead of them.  They'll get admiration from friends and family but that's about it.
On Monday some of these every day people ran in one of the most famous marathons in the world.  They pushed themselves for hours.  And then, just short of the finish line, some random group of them were targeted.  Some of them were just yards short when the bomb went off.  The explosion and the shrapnel were low and this resulted in multiple amputations.
This was evil in a very pure form and I don't know any other word that covers it.
So as I sat back and had a little fictional joust with Socrates over the definition of 'virtue', my mind kept trickling back to a sure antonym.  The Boston bomber(s) were the precise opposite of virtous.  They were evil.  They took a good and noble thing and destroyed it.  They took good and precious lives and blotted them out.  If you ask me what evil is, I can confidently hold up the Boston bombs as an example.

There was virtue in the story as well.  I think of the people who moved quickly to help the injured.  They displayed a quick and brave sort of virtue and they deserve great honors.  I want to think of them instead of the evil ones but I can't quite get there yet.

I'm kind of hoping that merely writing this will let me move past the very emotional state and let the more analytical part of the mind start working again.

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