We pay attention to the loud people, the extreme, the newsworthy. Instead of the person who silently pays his taxes and goes to work, we lend our ears to the idiot Texas rancher, grazing cattle on federal land, who doesn't believe in the federal government, is racist, and is part of a militia that apparently would use their wives as shields. Why are we listening to this guy? Who gets a voice? Or how about Mike Tyson, who is now the darling of the UFC, a guy who probably raped several women. Instead of listening to public debates with big ideas, we consume pointless details of the lives of the rich and famous: brainless, materialistic, drug addicted nobodies that history will not remember. We praise the guy who runs around telling people: "I've been sober for a year now!" Congratulations! What about the guy who never had a problem to begin with? Is there a way to praise him? We love the person who lost 300 pounds, but what about the person who was never obese to begin with? It's fascinating how much we cling to underdogs, to people who did something horrible and then turned their life around (like the apostle Paul, who we all love of course but certainly wasn't the best apostle by a long shot...wink wink).What about the person who drinks in moderation, eats in moderation, and (most importantly) thinks in moderation? What about the person who lives a quiet, moderate, good and simple life? The people who never do anything horrible to anyone? Forget about giving to charity, just stop the nonsense, right?
Aristotle thought that virtue was essentially being a moderate person - or, as he put it, aiming at the "mean" between two "extremes." So, for example, never steal but also never give all your stuff away; instead, aim for the middle path, between those two extremes. Was Aristotle right? Is moderation the king of all virtues?
Luckily, on the whole, the typical person actually is moderate. Americans, for example, contrary to what we hear in the news, are moderate people with moderate views, even politically. That's just how it is. So cheers to that.
I must admit, I do love reading biographies about the heroes of history. And I do think history if largely the biography of great and horrible men. But even our most cherished heroes, real heroes like Gandhi, led such extreme lives that they sacrificed certain virtues for others. At one point Gandhi disowned his son. MLK cheated on his wife, Einstein was a bad husband, Saint Francis of Assisi despised his body. And, even worse, why do we make up heroes? Why, for example, do we pay lip service to the war mongering, manly man Winston Churchill? With all the actual heroes to choose from, we choose him? really? (I really shouldn't pick on Churchill, I've only watched a couple TV programs on his life and was totally disgusted by it...history buffs feel free to correct my view on this amazing man who pulled a country through a horrible war...(as if history buffs read my blog).
So raise up a beer and drink to the moderate. Don't drink to much!