This is the unresolved question: Where do I belong? And what price do I pay for where I choose to stand? –Diana Trilling
Good morning, Gentle Reader. In his essay, ‘The Ethic of Strength,’ Greenleaf continues with his questions; this morning, Gentle Reader, I will briefly offer us two more of what I call Greenleaf’s ‘Right Questions.’
Can I accept that the best possible compromise is right? The needs and interests of those who may be affected by my thoughts, words, and deeds are rarely identical. . . .What is a right action. . .a compromise.
. . .To the informed person, the inspired mosaic of compromise can have heroic qualities that no idealistic conception can ever achieve. Compromise makes life on this earth possible. . .Gerald Heard called compromise the art of the probable.
Do I have a view of myself on which progressively greater strength can be built? Everyone who would grow in strength needs a self-view that will sustain the search. This is the most difficult of perspectives to get: to see oneself and to know who one really is, to judge the attitudes and direction sets that one sees, to know that one is husbanding one’s resources – mental, emotional, physical – as the most precious of assets.
When I look at myself, above all things I want to see a being who is serious and yet not serious, someone in whom cheerfulness and lightness of step are at all times dominant. . .
Today, in our culture, the concept of ‘compromise’ is looked upon by many as a virus that is to be avoided at all costs. We elect government officials who pledge that ‘I will never compromise’ with the other side (the ‘other side’ is evil incarnate it seems). Our founding fathers were clear: Democracy is rooted in compromise. Progress in government is rooted in compromise. Our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution are rooted in compromise. Democracy is not possible without compromise. A simple idea. . . yet. . .
In his questions above, Greenleaf connects himself to the words of the Oracle at Delphi: ‘Know thyself’ and to Socrates’ words:’ The unexamined life is not worth living.’ Anyone who has attempted to engage these knows how challenging they are.
Am I really willing to discern my ‘attitudes,’ my assumptions, my prejudices, my perceptions, my core values, my deep beliefs, my stereotypes, my judgments and then am I willing to understand them and the affect they have upon myself and upon the other(s)? Am I willing to care for my primary resources – my physical resources, my mental resources, and my emotional resources? I would add to this list my spiritual resources (Greenleaf speaks of ‘entheos’ the spirit that sustains us, our ‘life-spirit’).
Who do I see when I look at myself? Who do others see? What is my response to the person I see? What is their response? What is the story I tell – or want to tell — about my self? What is the story that others tell about me? What is the story I want them to tell – today and five years from today? For me, Greenleaf’s question is crucial: ‘Do I have a view of myself on which progressively greater strength can be built?’
Responsible people build; they do not destroy. They are moved by the heart. –Robert K. Greenleaf