Good deeds, most people would say, are the exception rather than the rule. They are something a man does. People do something labeled virtuous, some act of courage or charity, like they would pay a traffic fine to excuse their speeding. They do good deeds as an apology or justification for the way they live in the world, like paying high fees to put their parents in a nursing home. Their good deeds are penance.
I don't want to atoneó
I want to live!
My life is for itself, not for a show. I'd much rather have a life of a lower pedigree, as long as it's real and permanent, than have it be a glittering mirage. I want my life to be healthy and enjoyable, not to require diet and exercise.
Give me firsthand evidence that you are a man. I deny this appeal to your actions. I know that for myself it makes no difference whether or not I do things people call virtuous.
I can't agree to pay for a privilege that is my intrinsic right.
As small or few as my talents might be,
I actually am,
and don't need any secondary testimony
to assure myself or anyone else of that fact.
My duty is to do everything that concerns me, not what other people think.
This rule, just as difficult to follow in actual as in intellectual life, might be the only difference between great and small-minded people. The fact that you'll always find people who think they know what your duty is better than you do makes it even harder. It's easy to follow the world's opinion when you're in the world. It's easy to follow your own when you're alone.
But a great human being is someone who,
in the middle of the crowd,
keeps the independence of solitude
with perfect grace.
Last Edited: May 03, 2000
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© 1997 Richard Brodie. All rights reserved.