Virtue is everything in a way. It is necessary for the good life but insufficient for earthly maintenance. Food and oxygen come to mind as other necessities for earthly maintenance. But, even though virtue is insufficient if we gather all the insufficient necessities and rank them we find that virtue stands out. Is there anything more esteemable than virtue?
In a way there is something more esteemable than virtue. But I hesitate because I do not find battles between Aristotle and Kant terribly useful. What is in a way more esteemable? It is that good will that aims at virtue from the non-virtuous state. Given the difficulty of rationally articulating how a will can aim well without virtue I let it go. But I do want to meditate on the moment of willed virtuous activity that is prior to virtue.
Before resting in the shining moment of real and vivid willing of virtuous activity from a non-virtuous condition let us begin in the utter darkness and negation that is what the sage Jesus called poverty of spirit. What is this moment?
Poverty of spirit is the moment of union with the expansive nothingness that is one’s being inadequately. Paradoxical? Sure. Things are at these points. Poverty of spirit is not a third-person judgment. It is a first-person judgment. It is not “he” who is impoverished in spirit. It is “I”. It is the “I” that is impoverished in spirit that is blessed.
At the moment of poverty of spirit the “I” becomes two. This is in self-consciousness. There is the judged and the judge that are both the same and different. From here-on I mean to discuss the “I” who is two as if the “I” is a “they”. I do not mean to make metaphysical claims. I do not mean either to make psychologically technical claims.
When he that is judge identifies he that is judged, and judges inadequate, as in “he is in adequate” when the judged and the judge are the same, the possibility of self-production has emerged. This production is indefatigably the best and that which makes all other production and preservation of earthly good most probable but it does not need to be framed that way in the moment. In fact, if it is framed with a desire for gold it may be corrupted.
What, when the judge judges the judged as inadequate, does he then do if he is prudent (and he is not necessarily)? He sets about to replace the judged inadequate with someone who can be judged more adequate. And how does the judged inadequate experience this replacement? It is experienced as a kind of death.
Just as opposites cannot simultaneously be instantiated in the same reality (living and not, better and not, cold and not, wet and not) the better and worse self cannot co-instantiate the same body. One must go for the other to move in. Where does he who moves out go? I do not mind speaking in terms of death. Framing the situation as one of life-and-death helps explain why he who must go holds on so tightly and fights so vigorously to remain.
Addicted me has never voluntarily said, “I volunteer to no longer be”. Addicted to chemicals, to sex, to being liked, to being successful, to being anything except virtuous the latter virtuous-I seems to voluntarily give up regularly for the others. And though I have much work to do dear reader, please know, the little progress I have made has involved beating the addict off with a stick.
He who has been beaten off repeatedly has accused him who beats of “murder”, “neglect”, “injustice”, “unkindness”, “lack of mercy”, “lack of compassion”. Yes, he loves to appeal to notions of “humanity” and “fellow-feeling”. But what have I found? Union with him always has to be chosen over virtue. And he who rejects virtue must be shunned. To abide with him is to abide time with the thief, the liar, the manipulator, the murderer.
The Puritanical Libertarian, in some moments, takes the metaphor of death to self very seriously. He finds himself in some acceptable and metaphorical way, aggressor. But the Puritanical Libertarian, when working literally, only respects the physically detectable boundaries of property. The value of said property is not his to be under obligation toward. Were he obligated by the value of the property he would live under the obligation of the man who says to him, “Work for me and feed me. Otherwise I starve.” Nay. I cannot accept such speech.
But, to put myself in better position to build prosperity without aggressing literally I have had to take up aggression metaphorically. You could say I have become slayer of demons except that I would never pass the responsibility for my inadequacy on any third-person. Any demons over here are of my creation, my feeding, my sheltering. They are mine and mine to destroy. And so, I take up my cross. I die to self. Metaphorically.
Literally, I make as much as I can of this pitiful little soil of the soul that is mine so that it will be as productive as possible while I am here. I go to garden. But remember, the weed-puller is a killer. He regularly favors some species of plant over others. He eradicates with extreme discrimination. So does he who pursues virtue. He becomes intolerant of the vicious in himself. It is the only way he has found.
At the end of this thought I am struck by how the metaphor may be the more real than the literal. For another time…