I've been reading about Colonel Ted Westhusing.
Op-Ed Columnist Frank Rich introduced his story to me. ("Suicide Is Not Painless", NYTimes Published: October 21, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/)
The story is reminiscent of Socrates.
What is it about virtue and deceiving greed in the battleground of this world?
The most articulated value in Greek culture is areté. Translated as "virtue," the word actually means something closer to "being the best you can be," or "reaching your highest human potential." The term from Homeric times onwards is not gender specific. Homer applies the term of both the Greek and Trojan heroes as well as major female figures, such as Penelope, the wife of the Greek hero, Odysseus. In the Homeric poems, areté is frequently associated with bravery, but more often, with effectiveness. The man or woman of areté is a person of the highest effectiveness; they use all their faculties: strength, bravery, wit, and deceptiveness, to achieve real results. In the Homeric world, then, areté involves all of the abilities and potentialities available to humans. We can, through the frequent use of this term in Homer's poems, make some tentative conclusions about the early Greek world view. The concept implies a human-centered universe in which human actions are of paramount importance; the world is a place of conflict and difficulty, and human value and meaning is measured against individual effectiveness in the world. (--by Richard Hooker, http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/GLOSSARY/ARETE.HTM)
When the Christ-Reality became human, something shifted in the ontological realm of existence. And yet, the epistemological realm remained dull and uncomprehending. We couldn't see the change. Still can't.
When believers of particular religious doctrines emphasize that all people have to do is accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and savior, they are advocating an affirmation that bypasses the epistemological realm and settles into the realm of dogmatic belief. This might be a comforting bypass (knowing and knowledge being oftentimes so troubling) -- still, there's something elemental about wanting to know. Aristotle began his Metaphysics with the words: "ALL men by nature desire to know."
Belief is not knowledge. Nor is knowledge faith. To know is to be. When we know
While there were some odd details about his death, the Army's investigation quickly concluded that it was a suicide. An Army psychologist who looked into Westhusing's case concluded that despite his superior intellect, his ability to accept the fact that some Americans were only in Iraq for the money was "surprisingly limited. He could not shift his mindset from the military notion of completing a mission irrespective of cost, nor could he change his belief that doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do should be the sole motivator for businesses."
(--from 'I Am Sullied – No More', Col. Ted Westhusing chose death over dishonor in Iraq, by Robert Bryce, in The Austin Chronicle, http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/story?oid=oid%3A469141" )
, really know, it has nothing necessarily to do with head or brain. To know is to embody what is known.
A display of intellectual knowledge is very often used as a substitute for the act of incarnational manifestation.
Mahatma Gandhi, when asked: What do you think of Christianity? Did you consider becoming a Christian? responded:
Please do not flatter yourselves with the belief that a mere recital of that celebrated verse in St. John makes a man Christian. If I have read the Bible correctly, I know many men who have never known the name of Jesus Christ, men who have even rejected the official interpretations of Christianity, but would nevertheless, if Jesus came in our midst today in the flesh, be probably owned by him more than many of us. My position is that it does not matter what faith you practice, as long as the soul longs for truth.
(--Derived from Millie Graham Polak's book Gandhi, The Man. by Jyotsna Kamat)
Something breaks through into existence, this bodily existence, when longing for what is true reaches throughout.
Gaston Bachelard, the French philosopher, wrote about "epistemological rupture."
Epistemology, from the Greek words episteme (knowledge) and logos (word/speech) is the branch of philosophy that deals with the nature, origin and scope of knowledge. Rupture, from Old French ""rupture"" or Latin ""ruptura"" is defined as an instance of breaking or bursting suddenly and completely, as well as a breach of a harmonious link in a figurative way.
The notion of epistemological rupture was introduced by Gaston Bachelard. He proposed that the history of science is replete with "epistemological obstacles"--or unthought/unconscious structures that were immanent within the realm of the sciences, such as principles of division (e.g. mind/body). The history of science, Bachelard asserted, consisted in the formation and establishment of these epistemological obstacles, and then the subsequent tearing down of the obstacles. This latter stage is an epistemological rupture--where an unconscious obstacle to scientific thought is thoroughly ruptured or broken away. (-- from, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemological_rupture, )
There's a terrible torture to not being able to stomach the non-virtuous behavior of companions in war, military, business, corporations, schools, monasteries, governments, marriages, and on the streets of our neighborhoods. The idea of virtue is so attractive. Yet, men and women, all of us, disappointingly fall short of any ideal. Some don't even bother to glance in the direction of virtue.
"Nunc lento sonitu dicunt, morieris."
(Now this bell tolling softly for another,
says to me, Thou must die.)
(--from John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, MEDITATION XVII.)
This beautiful October day in Maine, full of warmth and color, is gift.
I think of Col. Ted Westhusing and enter prayer with him. With and for all of us.
Maybe, soon, truth will be "immanent within the realm."
We will know.