There are many writings and speakers across history who have declared tenets for the ideal human life. They pretty much agree that we should avoid wickedness and strive toward virtue.
However, there are many, maybe most, people who struggle with living a virtuous life, and quite a few who just give up. There are, of course, some who have not significantly been exposed to the ideal. Then there is the problem of defining virtue and giving help in avoiding the pitfalls that lead us astray.
In my study and experience, there are several essentials to living a virtuous life: kindness, integrity, service, generosity, a spiritual underpinning, a community of others also striving toward ideals - all with generous splashes of forgiveness, self-reflection, critical thinking, and a commitment to life-long learning.
Our egos can lead us astray. We can become boastful, judgmental, and even cruel. This especially so when the ego labels some as "other" and therefore not worth receiving kindness or consideration. Or when we elevate ourselves as higher than or better than the "others."
To protect our ego positions we can engage in confirmation bias. We ignore any study or opinion or person not in agreement with our positions, and we recite and pay attention only to those in lockstep with us. We even out and out lie to demonize others and to elevate ourselves. This results in a lot of negativity including fear, persecution, violence, and the shutting down of free speech.
We become easy prey for the propagandists and demagogues of this world who have gone far astray from the ideal human.
The question I think of is - then how do we help those who have gone so far astray as to be a danger to themselves, others, and even our civilization?
So far, I don't think anyone has come up with a workable and useful solution to bring all those who have gone into the far reaches of negativity back into the human ideal, or at least moving in that direction.
Of course, we strive to keep moving in that direction too, knowing full well we have broken places in us that are in need of care and healing.
While that is important, that doesn't solve the larger problem of restoring those with a cruel, violent and criminal sickness and who do not know or care about the ideal human they can be. They obviously don't know about our responsibility here to develop and be all we can be, and that we will be held accountable when we pass from this earth.
I know there is some success in prisons where religious groups lead studies and discussions. There is quite a lot of success in 12 Step programs helping people rise out of various addictions. There are some effective groups restoring those who have been trafficked and in prevention of it. There are those who see and do something about it.
But nevertheless, my heart breaks to see the horrors of war right now, or the rampaging youth destroying buildings and carrying out armloads of stolen merchandise, or the shootings and stabbings going on in neighborhoods and parties and even on the streets. So much is going on in plain sight that is the opposite of the ideal human.
Won't you pray with me this week for wisdom and for an answer, or more likely answers, to be found? There has to be a way through and out of this. I offer a simple prayer:
Oh Divine Presence, You have inspired many over the centuries to show us Your Way, the Way we as humans are to be and live. You spoke through Jesus great and wondrous words. Help us to hear with our inner spiritual ear, to see with our inner spiritual eye, and to heal our lameness in our spiritual walk. Grant us Wisdom to live as closely as possible to the ideal You have shown us. Guide us to find a way to restore those who have gone astray. We are open to You and are thankful to know that because You are everywhere present, You have heard our prayer and are even now in this moment in process of answering. We listen. We seal this with the ancient seal of faith, Amen, Amen and Amen