“The time is always right to do what is right.” Martin Luther King
“Values have been carved on monuments and spelled out in illuminated manuscripts. We do not need more of that. They must be made to live in the acts of me.” John W. Gardner
Actually, that last quote should have read ‘acts of men’. I was about to correct it when I recognised the existence of a Freudian typo – the values with which I profess to be congruent need to be lived within ME.
I was on a train this week and it is my routine when I do so to listen to music and read. I like being left to my reverie and to reinforce my understanding of the material I teach. It is a shame that I am societally prevented from belting out ‘It’s All Coming Back To Me’ (Meatloaf, best version), but maybe the other passengers would find that a blessing.
This week I was looking at a netbook I’m pretty sure I haven’t used in YEARS, and I discovered an old mission statement from, I believe, the mid-noughties. It spoke to me. It contained a list of values and behaviours and they all shouted, “Well?”
The list included things like discipline, effort, focus, temperance and so on. I reflected on what I read and like most of you reading this I concluded – “Making a good start, could be a LOT better, about time I tried harder.”
But it’s oh so haaaaaaard. As King alludes to, this means every drive-by of the fridge means exercising restraint. It means every time I see a car with fog lamps on in broad daylight I must not aim at them. It means – it means exercising integrity, and conscience, in every single moment of choice. In a way, it implies a need to live like a saint.
Except so few of us will ever be saints. Especially me. But we can do two things.
First, in recognising that we are fallible we can excuse the odd straying from the path provided we acknowledge that error, learn from it, and try not to repeat it. Even though we know we probably will transgress we can at least try not to.
Secondly, in recognising that we are fallible we can recognise that others are fallible, too. Which means not going ‘AHA!’ when they fail, realising that what we think is going on in their heads isn’t in fact the case, or that what is going on in their heads means that when they have made their error it is because they were distracted, or (and here’s one I thought of this week) that what we think is going on is, in fact, better for us than what we thought we wanted to happen. That it is not a transgression of integrity, it is in fact exercise of integrity and we just didn’t realise straight away.
Back to ‘us’. If we have values, we have them because we believe in them. Happiness comes from total compliance, misery comes from total non-compliance. Most of us live somewhere in between, most of the time. Try and have a holiday somewhere towards the former, now and then.
It’ll be worth it.
My thoughts this week are with those affected by the terrorist atrocity committed in Paris on the night of the 13th of November 2015.
VIVE LA FRANCE.