This not only tears apart families, it destroys the fabric of our society.
These are the same people who say: let's free ourselves from legalism, moralism, and guilt, to pursue our own happiness. Happiness comes from within, not from without. Modern society has discovered this "new" truth. The sons have become wiser than the fathers. These folks are not only trying to fool the world, they are fooling themselves.
There are four cardinal virtues - justice, wisdom (prudence), courage (fortitude), and moderation (self-control, temperance). These are inherent foundational laws. If these moral values and commitments as compelling, as virtues are, they remain the foundations of moral discourse in society. They are indispensable guides to our actions. Statements which push new moral claims not absorbed into the set of shared virtues -- have no or little standing despite "the times."
"And, while there are frequently differences in interpreting the exact meanings and implications of prevailing virtues, for instance, how much is due to charity?, virtues do provide sound and shared foundations for consensus formation, community endeavors, public policies and moral standing." "Virtues in a Democracy," Oliver F. Williams, C.S.C and John W. Houck (Eds.), Catholic Social Thought and the New World Order, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, (1993). pp. 285-297.
So let's get back to that great Chinese proverb -- which was concerned with 'knowing.' If you understand the importance of perspective, if you discover how perspective is acquired, and appreciate the short-term and long-term value of perspective, how will this affect your response to the Chinese proverb? You will certainly meet those who know not and know not that they know not. Fools? Yes! Will you 'shun them'? Not at all. You will point them to the Word, i.e., the Word made flesh -- the bread of life. You may well meet those who 'know not and know that they know not'. Will you teach them? Yes, indeed, but with a different message. Will you meet those who 'know and know not that they know'? Not very likely. But you will meet many who are asleep -- and you will indeed awaken them. But again with a different message. Will you meet others who know? Certainly -- and you will keep company with them -- and this will greatly enrich your life.
Then again sometimes "He who knows not and knows that he knows not wants a beating - beat him!"
Stephen, my hero from the aforementioned movie Braveheart, and maybe it is because of my Irish heritage, added: "In order to find his equal, an Irishman is forced to talk to God... The Almighty says don't change the subject; just answer the _____ question. Of course Wallace himself says As you're lying on your death bed, would trade all your days, from this day till that, for just one chance, one chance at FREEDOM!!
However, freedom with values is anarchy. So yes individual character does matter. There remains a real tension between spheres of commonality and social virtues and spheres of individuality and personal virtues. However, there are areas which deservedly lie in the public realm and those which ought to be left to individual choice.
While it is still amusing when people who think they are really intelligent make complete fools of themselves, it is a little pathetic when they continually repeat the practice. That's what my family and friends say to me, anyway.
Happy 2005! Read at least one good book this year and make at least one new friend. What I am reading. The Marywanna Brownie, available through the website at: http://graphictraffic.biz/
--J. C. Bowman is a public policy analyst who resides in Tallahassee, Florida. He can be reached by email at: