Defects of Virtues

Before I get into this, I realize there are few other holy things as well besides the Holy Cow, like holy mackerel, holy Toledo, holy jumping, etc. There are others, which I will not mention in my blog for obvious reasons. I will wait for some more comments from you before my next blog on the holy cow.

Meanwhile, do you recall in my introductory blog, a quotation from Bishop Liddon? In describing one of the unique human aspects of Jesus, the good bishop said “In Jesus, there were no defects of virtues.” It sounds like an oxymoron. How can virtues have defects? Let me try to explain. One of Liddon’s readers explained it this way. “If my left foot is longer, not necessarily shorter, I am a lame person.” Using the same maxim, allow me to add: If my left hand is longer than my right hand, it is uncomely and cumbersome. If both my hands are longer in proportion to my body then it is awkward. Can I drop in another Sanskrit word here? It is called Ajanabahu, or persons with longer hands. Now, that is a good word for my old friends with some background in Sanskrit. Hey, I thought I forgot all those quaint Sanskrit words! Those longer hands can be very useful technically but not necessarily comely.
The point I am making is that anything out of proportion and unbalanced is normally uncomely! Ah, here I come again to my theme of moderation. Let me give some unique examples from life experience. Mind you, the following are not 100% accurate. There are always exceptions, but these are close enough with a degree of exaggeration to illustrate the point. After all, did not Jesus similar tactics to drive a point home?

Have you ever come across one who is a personification of so called integrity? You may find him/her an intolerable person. Perhaps you are living with one who is extremely fussy, given to or looking for perfection, insisting on minute details at all times? This person can be difficult to get along with. Do you know someone who feels totally given to righteousness? You may be close to one who has a tendency to be unforgiving.

It is interesting in this regard, to read the story which Jesus told, of a Pharisee (religious leader) and a Publican (sinner). In the interest of brevity, I will simply give the reference as recorded in Luke 18:9-14. You will enjoy reading it. Jesus was a great story-teller.

Here is an odd joke. Have you seen a guy who is always organized, methodical, with his desk always tidy? He has a sick mind!

Surely you can add plenty to this collection from your own experience. You get the trend of my thought. This is what I describe as the defects of virtues or as the good Bishop described as warping or disturbing influences.

Now, you must be thinking, “Danny, I agree (or disagree) with what you are writing.” But are there any real or living people with the defects of virtues? My answer is – with fear and trembling – yes. We have already found out that Jesus did not have these defects of virtues (more on this subject in later blogs).
I have often wondered if this was one of the reasons why Jesus purposely called himself the “Son of Man” – manushyaputra (in my mother tongue as well as in Sanskrit).

Despite significant human limitations, there are occasionally men and women who have balanced this excellence. Let me make a reference to a Biblical character. King David was given a strange but lofty title – man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22). The question is – Why David? Why not father Abraham, the man of faith, or Moses, the great liberator, or Joseph the spotless, Daniel the Statesman or Elijah, the fiery prophet? These men had less “shades” than David, so to speak. After all, David had blood on his hands, didn’t he? The point is not simply that David was a great king, a great song writer or a valiant man; but along with all those attributes, he redeemed or balanced himself with a human spirit constantly seeking after a merciful God. He combined his strength with tenderness. In fact, he expressed sincerely his own need and desire for God when he wrote “as a deer panteth after the water brooks so panteth my soul after thee” (Psalm 42:1).

On a personal note, I had observed this balance of virtues and moderation in my own dear mother (late Mrs. Chandramathi (translated, beautiful face like the moon). Also my own father, Paul, orphaned as a child, married to a rich aristocrat, later lost all wealth, yet maintained throughout a smiling face, trusting God weathering all obstacles.

Yes, there are those who did not have the defects of virtues. Think on this; maybe your own father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, your teacher, mentor, children, or one of your close friends. Perhaps you cannot name one yet. Then consider Jesus Christ, the friend of sinners.

HOLY COW!

HOLY COW! Is this a slang term, a pious line, a joke, a funny outburst, or a religious expression connected to India? Besides, what has this got to do with my blog In Search of Moderation? I figured I could write a few words, suitable for a blog – brief, fitting in one page and not a long and comprehensive essay. Now I wonder if a few words would suffice. So allow an ageing man some literary latitude. Hey, I am new at this. Whatever the outcome – here it is.

This may sound strange. Cows played an important part in my life growing up as a child in south-west India. Here I must give a word of explanation. In those days, there were no established farms or dairy boards. It was a natural thing for families to own a couple of cows. It was not a luxury, but an absolute necessity. Many families depended on cows for at least one nutritious drink/meal a day, made of a cow’s milk. These were harsh wartimes, with food shortages a regular occurrence. Products derived from milk include butter milk, yogurt, butter,ghee (clarified butter), sweets and delicacies. By the way, yogurt was part of a daily menu for hundreds of years in India, long before others discovered the “probiotic yogurt.” Some of my senior blog readers will recall the thatched coconut leaf branch booths set up at major street corners to give FREE, cool butter milk to young students returning from schools (Viyyur village) in the summer! This was under the reign of the old Maharajahs of Cochin.

As to feeding, the cows would go to pasture each morning. They knew where to go. In the evening, they came home by habit or it was in the unwritten “job description” for the youngest kid, to walk up to the fields and bring the cows home – namely a much younger Danny Paul. I was the youngest of eight children!
The relationship with the cow is phenomenal. At the age of six, I still vividly remember our cows’ names: Kalyani, meaning blessed, the mother cow. Her daughter, Kannu, meaning one with beautiful eyes. Then Ponnu, the grand-daughter, meaning golden. Ponnu had a beige coat. I will come to these later on and show how, at one time, these cows sustained our family.

When we moved to Canada in 1969, I was often asked “Hey, what about the Holy Cows in India?” People meant well. This, however, was a good conversation starter. Most believe Hindus worship cows. Why? They thought Indians (of the Eastern variety) lack a pure concept of a monotheistic God and are reduced to worshipping cows. Really?

This brings me to the important question – What is worship? Where does deep respect end and worship begin? Do we worship for what we can get out of it – cows, dollars, prosperity, or even heaven? Do we have our own holy cows? As to the connection with the blog In Search Of Moderation,forget not what Jesus taught about the mote and the beam in our brother’s eye (Mathew 7:3).

Think on this and write me your comments.

Power and Tenderness

The above two words – for some – are kind of incompatible. They don’t jive. When we think of power, our imagination takes us to a DC8 or a Boeing 747 taking off with a thundering noise. Or a Caterpillar machine plowing into a hill – flattening it out. Or a team of horses with a wagon at the Calgary Stampede. On the other hand, when we ponder tenderness, we imagine a grandmother rocking her grandchild softly to sleep. While both are unique in its own separate scenes, the combination of both – strength and tenderness – is not common in some human personalities. Can a person so powerful and strong be at the same time soft and tender? Why not?

I am thinking of historical Jesus in this regard. Artists, I believe, portrayed him wrongly, as someone weak, fragile and almost effeminate. They forgot that he was a brown, sinewy, muscular labourer. He was a carpenter for 30 years before he started his “father’s work”. Just imagine, thirty years of preparation for 3 years of divine work! In those days, well, even today for that matter, in many parts of the world, carpentry is a low-class job. It is different now with the dignity of labour and with electric tools and power saws and yes, even computers and F150 trucks, it is a different story.

Would it surprise you that this labourer turned Rabbi stood up against the top religious leaders of his day and openly exposed their hypocrisy?
He even publicly called King Herod a fox.
He single-handedly drove out a bunch of hucksters, backed by temple authorities from the holy temple. I often wondered why no one dared to stop him; neither the high priest nor his deputies or the temple guards. They all stood by powerless.
At one time he even challenged the leaders and asked “which of you convinceth me of sin”?

Let us not forget that he was named after the greatest military commander of the old books, Joshua.

At the same time, ah, here comes the combination of excellence; Jesus was so tender that little children ran to him. They were attracted to him. It goes without saying that they were attracted to him as well. He did talk about little children.

On one occasion he was forced, rather trapped, and insisted upon by the authorities in the temple, to deal with an unfortunate woman, caught in adultery. They demanded stoning her, quoting the law. He simply wrote on the ground with his finger for a while and then told them “he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”. Again he started writing on ground. Accusers were so convicted of their own sins hat they left one by one, leaving the woman alone with Jesus. Then Jesus, now the liberator, asked her “Woman, where are thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee”? She said “no man Lord”. Notice, one of the most tender and kind hearted statement from Jesus; and I must quote the exact words to preserve the grand but simple beauty of his words: “Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more”. John 8:3-11

Here is the display of my theme of moderation the altogether loveliness. Or the combination of excellence. There will be more on this in the coming blogs.
I plan to write in the next blog my interpretation of the holy cow.

The Equal Balance of All Excellence

I guess I need to explain what I mean by “In search of Moderation”. It is not a descent to mediocrity by a middle-of-the-road principle. It is not a black and white becoming a battleship grey or “a fifty shades of grey.” Neither is it toning down a passion for excellence.

It is best expressed in words like beauty or loveliness. Allow me to introduce a Sanskrit adjective for perfection: “Sarwa Swarupa”; Sarwa meaning altogether and Swarupa meaning perfect form. For folks familiar with the Holy Bible it is best explained by King Solomon (Songs of Solomon ,5:16 kjv). The words used are “altogether lovely.”

Did I confuse you with my definition? Let me try again. This time I am quoting Canon Liddon on Jesus Christ. He said “(Jesus) did not have the defects of virtues. It is not in the unrivaled exhibition of any one form of human excellence, whether purity, or humility, charity or courage, self-denial or consideration for others, that we appreciate the significance of our Lord’s human character . It is in the equal balance of all excellence, in the absence of any warping, disturbing, exaggerating influence.”

There it is, the “equal balance of all excellence.” There will be more on this as we continue on this important theme. In my next blog I would like to give an example of how one can combine two so-called opposing views: “strength with tenderness.”