Vices Versus Virtues

Sep 7, 2018

Credit Larry Taylor

Vices versus virtues: sounds like a sports team rivalry, doesn’t it?

Sometimes when I get into the car on Sunday morning, I hear bits of the Catholic catechism on the radio. “What?” you say. Well, it’s because I’ve gotten out of the car on Saturday and left the satellite radio set to the Catholic Channel. They religiously broadcast the Notre Dame football games, and if I’m on the road and not in front of a television, this is my go-to, information-getting media. Then, the next morning that’s where the “dial” was left set and they often seem to be broadcasting basic tenets of the faith at the time that I get into the car to drive to church.

Recently, they were talking about virtue and this resonated with me because I’ve been thinking some about vice and virtue lately for a reason that I will get to in a moment. First though, let me tell about the definition of virtue which so captured my attention. The person on the radio read, “A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.” Certainly praiseworthy, but on a shallow level, I was very pleased that the masculine pronoun was used: exonerated this feminine being from what seemed to be a goodly amount of work.

What had boarded me on this whole thought-train of vice/virtue conflict was dealing with the copious collections of very elderly persons. In our culture, having a long life gives one a chance to pile up masses of “stuff” which those coming behind are forced to confront. A huge burden: the wages of sin, so to speak, resulting from the vice, greed. It may not seem like greed, but other than the very basics, isn’t the amassing of “stuff” the result of the “I wants” i.e. greed. And, the curious thing is that the collectors of these hoards were good people. They were kind, and generous, and loving. Somehow they just slipped down this rabbit hole -- and packed it full of collections.

A side-light of technology enabling us to live long lives has created the many-yeared opportunity to collect. This leaves behind adult children and even adult grandchildren, who already are well on their way to good-sized collections of their own, at a loss as to the disbursement of these collections since they have no need nor desire to embrace the abundance left by their progenitors.

Admittedly, this is a first-world problem. We have the wherewithal to indulge our “I wants.” Think about the people who came to or crossed this land with just a few precious possessions. No longer. Consumerism and its resultant collections are “I wants” in vigorous action. Sure, those collections give the collector some pleasure and aid in the growth of the economy, but then we come to the people left behind and the literal application of the saying, “What’s one man’s treasure is another man’s trash.” Again, a bit of knowledge expressed in the masculine, but this time the action-part, in my observation, mostly is dealt with by the feminine of the species. It’s very often the ladies in there mucking out the stalls. And toil and decision-making regarding the disbursement of the collections so often is mentally and physically exhausting. Guilt, another interesting vice, looms large in the process.

Not to be a vice-promoting devil, but when I had been thinking of this vices-versus-virtues conflict, I decided that, at least in literature, vices are much more interesting. Sorry to say it, but most of us really aren’t riveted by a story about a goody-two-shoes. A good-old, down-in-the-dirt- vice-doer is a far more intriguing read. Can’t say why this is so, just know it to be a true. In literature, vice wins. In life though, whether masculine or feminine, have pity on those who come after and virtuously pare down your collections. Every life story does not have to be a juicy read.

Music: "Greed" by Sweet Honey in the Rock