“I will tell you the tale of Tinúviel,” said Strider, “in brief--for it is a long tale of which the end is not known...”
It was not the thing that I expected to find most difficult about doing Professor Peterson’s Self-Authoring Present: Virtues and Faults.
Confessing my sins to the world? No problem! I have been doing that on this blog for nine years now, which is why I started after Easter with my Faults, to get warmed up. Plus, it seemed appropriate to do a confessional novena, having been newly confirmed as a Catholic. Writing about my Virtues after Pentecost was more challenging. I have a hard time seeing my strengths as strengths. I tend to want to change them into Faults so as not to feel like I am bragging.
But writing stories to illustrate my Virtues and Vices? That should have been easy! Like a good Franciscan preacher, I know the value of exempla. Except, it seems, when it comes to my own life.
I have spent my life “self-authoring” in one guise or another. The diary that I …
Back in the Middle Ages--according to J.S. Mill--it was possible to be an individual. Not. Any. More.
As Mill argued in his On Liberty(1859):
In sober truth, whatever homage may be professed, or even paid, to real or supposed mental superiority, the general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendent power among mankind.
In ancient history, in the middle ages, and in a diminishing degree through the long transition from feudality to the present time, the individual was a power in himself; and if he had either great talents or a high social position, he was a considerable power.
At present individuals are lost in the crowd. In politics it is almost a triviality to say that public opinion now rules the world. The only power deserving the name is that of masses, and of governments while they make themselves the organ of the tendencies and instincts of masses.
Mill’s contemporary Jacob Burckhardt begged to disagree. Publishing his Die Cultur der Renaiss…
Virtue: Feel enough shame if I do something stupid so I won’t do it again Describe an experience: Please write a short story (approximately 1,000 characters) about a time in your life when this positive trait or virtue contributed to or created a situation that had a positive impact on your life.
I cheated on my first husband. (Ha! That got your attention.)
It was twenty-six years ago. I was young, as was my lover. We got married three years later, after waiting out the period during which according to the law in the U.K. I could ask for a divorce. We are still married now. But I did it. We did it. He was already married, too, but his wife sued for divorce immediately.
The whole town knew about it, it was hardly a secret. This was academia, after all. They were in the same department. After I left my first husband for my lover, I didn't talk to anyone else except on the telephone for the better part of a year. It did wonders for getting my dissertation written. Not so much for my s…
Virtue: Am comfortable alone Describe an experience: Please write a short story (approximately 1,000 characters) about a time in your life when this positive trait or virtue contributed to or created a situation that had a positive impact on your life.
There’s a reason I find it hard to think in stories. Stories involve other people, and I spend most of my time alone.
Not completely alone. Like a good medieval scholar, I have a dog, who sleeps while I’m reading or writing, barks at every hint of intrusion, and is ecstatically happy to go outside and chase the squirrels in our backyard while I watch Jordan Peterson videos on my iPad.
But mostly I am alone, except when I take my dog for a walk or, during term, when I have to teach.
I have spent whole years of my life almost completely alone. The years I was working on my dissertation. The years I was working on my second book. (While I was working on my first book, I had a year--nine months--at the National Humanities Center, which was s…