I see a hierarchy of circles of concern that mark different levels of virtue.
2. Family, close friends
3. Local community
I aspire to live in service to these concerns. At times I actually succeed in doing so.
Self-care is the first level of virtue above negligence. Self-care to the exclusion of caring for others is self-indulgence. Yet self-care is a vital virtue that cannot be neglected if one is to honor others at all. Placing others at a higher priority is self-sacrifice; yet, self-sacrifice carried to the extreme is mere slavishness.
Love of family and close friends is a higher virtue than self-care. But caring for one’s family to the exclusion of the broader community is clannish.
Caring for the local community is a greater virtue than caring for one’s family. But ignoring one’s family for the sake of the broader community is grandstanding. And caring for one’s local community to the exclusion of the wider word is parochialism.
Caring for one’s nation is a greater virtue than caring for one’s immediate community. It’s called patriotism. But caring for one’s country to the exclusion of the wider world is mere jingoism.
Caring for the world is a greater virtue than caring for one’s country. It’s called internationalism.
To care for the vast universe beyond our own world is to be a creature of tremendous vision and deep spirituality. But to focus exclusively on such ethereal notions is to be, quite literally, an airhead.
I’ve personally experienced the pitfalls of too strong a devotion to any one rung of that ladder.
A deep rooted concern about world problems led me to seek a career in which I could have a positive impact. I first looked to education, then to the performing arts. I’ve worked in both these fields and have experienced the joy of seeing positive results of my work. Yet I’ve also had the experience of being only a pawn in someone else’s game. Perhaps I’d have done more genuine good in the world if by first focusing on making as much money as possible, then becoming a philanthropist.
The point of this is not so much to express regret about my own path or to glorify it either. It’s more an expression of acceptance of myself, with a mixture of both nobility and human frailty, and – hopefully – also and acceptance of others whose paths may be different from my own. Naturally I will feel a certain affinity for those whose values are nearest my own; but if I’m at my best I’m also able to value those who march ever so diligently to the beat of a different drummer.
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