Friday, June 15, 2012

....eroded by the gap..........

"The problem in talking about humans beings is precisely that there is always a problem.  As to other living creatures on this planet, the details of their lives may happen to be largely unknown to us, but they can be observed and studied.   The life of the bald eagle, or the common skunk, or the Malay tapir is lived as it is lived, and the facts are there to be discovered.  But which facts, which thousand facts, will give the real picture of human beings?"
     "When we speak of a wild animal as good (or bad) we mean its meat does ( or does not) taste good to us, or that its fur is (or is not) valuable to us, or that it does not (or does) take food from our garden.  It has nothing to do with the moral virtue or vice on the animal's part.  With humans, on the other hand, everything seems to have some sort of connection with virtue or vice.  What men or women do is usually to a greater or less extent morally good or bad.  When we talk about one another, such moral judgements are largely what we discuss.  It is precisely these moral qualities that are important in human life.  The 'best' eagles, or skunks, or tapirs might be those of exceptional size, or of unusual longevity, or with especially handsome feathers, fur, or hides.  The best men and women, on the other hand, are those of superior moral discernment, those who perceive what ought to be done, and who have the courage and perseverance to do it.
     "Human life is blemished and eroded by the gap between what ought to be and what usually is.  The effort to close that gap, to make what is become what should be is the peculiarly human challenge; this is the distinctive calling of people.  Prophets, moral philosophers, preachers, and teachers have the uniquely human task, the preeminently manly and womanly task, of helping us to see the gap and motivating us to endeavor to close it.  A saint is not only a 'better' man or woman that you or I, but also more of a man or woman, a more complete human being, one who is closer to the center of the human enterprise."
-H. Boone Porter, excerpted from his essay Eagles, Skunks, and 
Tapirs, as found in his book A Song of Creation

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