Monday, September 7, 2015

The Path to “Constructive Virtues”

The Path to “Constructive Virtues”

My first published essays were as installments in my newspaper column “@ChumForThought,” published in the Dayton Review. “Chum” is the word for chopped fish waste that is thrown overboard to attract other fish – especially sharks. I believe that comparing ideas can be a force for good that attracts us to each other. Strangers often become friends as they talk and work together, uniting to solve mutual problems.

The column was intended for my neighbors in a small, rural, Iowa town. I hoped to encourage conservatives to think about their ideas and liberals to come out of the closet. This book, Constructive Virtues, extends my collected essays – largely on similar, and sometimes contentious, themes.

Many people prefer to avoid controversy as they would avoid swimming with sharks. You sometimes hear
friends say, “I’ll talk about anything but politics and religion.” I can understand their reluctance and, if a friend tells me that, I’ll be the first one to back off and respect his or her need for comfortable beliefs without challenge or doubt.

However, as Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” I think it is good to compare notes and discuss ideas. We make both our companions and ourselves better for the time we spend trying to understand each other.

If we withdraw and refuse to talk, empathize, think or compromise with each other, we denounce our brotherhood. People who can’t talk together become suspicious and divided. They become fearful and hateful. They become enemies. They often resort to combat to resolve their differences. Unthinking alienation is not the path to peace, security and common good.

Too many people are too ready to, out of hand, disparage and denounce beliefs held by groups other than their own. They forget that other groups’ sincere beliefs exist because they are believed to be virtuous! This realization should automatically give pause for thought. 

Refusing to consider another’s worldview damages our potential for understanding, intellectual growth and psychosocial development. Ignorance is rarely considered a noble virtue. How can anyone consider that ignorantly rejecting another’s beliefs, values and virtues might be a good thing?

It is often pointed out that gossip, by only discussing people, can be damaging. It can useful to know what is going on and discuss events. However, I believe that we become better people when we choose to compare and discuss ideas.

The ability to communicate about issues, including our values, is what draws us together as friends, families and communities. When we can communicate, we can work together to solve problems; we can unite for common goals and for our common good.

David Satterlee