Many years ago, I was attending a meeting in Washington, DC and the principal speaker was that famous New York senator, Patrick Moynihan. Moynihan had just left the Nixon cabinet where he had done some extraordinarily innovative and effective things for the Administration. One of the people attending the conference stood up and asked the senator, “What did you learn during your years in Washington?” Without batting an eye, Moynihan replied, “That everything is connected to everything!” I don’t remember the topic of his speech. I don’t remember anything else he said but I never forgot that sentence and I have never ceased to be amazed at how awesomely true it is.
From time to time, I like to touch upon the virtues in this space. They are almost limitless. We can categorize them any way we want. There is a sameness about all of them and it always comes down to doing good – doing good for ourselves, doing good for others.
Let’s think for a minute about everything being connected to everything. The virtue called trust means that you have the good quality and the facility in placing trust in people that deserve it and have earned it. You can’t really have trust like that unless you have good judgment and you are able to evaluate people honestly and effectively. Nor can you really trust a person unless in some sense you love them. So you can go on and one that when you begin to put virtues together you find that they interlock beautifully and meaningfully. If we live our lives marked out by those virtues, our very life itself becomes meaningful, lovely and happy.
Let us trust those we love and love those we trust.
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Last month, I touched on the fact that there has been a crisis of trust manifesting itself both in the United States and in the United Kingdom. The lack of trust is obvious in almost every area of life from the government, the financial system, the police and, most painfully, the Church.
In my opinion, it is very hard to argue that trust is not something essential to our functioning society, whether it be secular or religious. We need to work together and we can’t work together without trust.
What can we do to restore trust in various institutions in which we live our lives? Well, there are many things that can help but I would like to refer back to something that I talked about several weeks ago, namely the importance of the natural virtues – prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. These are qualities that mature responsible individuals simply must develop in their day-to-day lives. When those virtues are developed and their presence is widely recognized and accepted throughout our society, then I feel confident that there will be a resurgence of trust. It will not be easy. A great deal of damage has been done but it is certainly possible. We should get started on it now.
What can I do today to manifest that I am developing these important natural virtues in my own life?
Onward through the fog.
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From the United States, through Europe and over to the Pacific rim there has been a tremendous amount of nervousness and fear over economic developments that are unfolding. Our own country has seen its fiscal stability downgraded for the first time in history, several countries in Europe are in desperate financial straits and the other countries are finding ways to help them through the crises. And, of course, in this one world economy through which we are working, events in North America and Europe have some powerful affect in Asia as well.
Hopefully, our leaders can help us work our way through these issues. We, who are by nature bystanders observing the economic wheels churning away, day-by-day, can certainly pray that we don’t blindly walk into a world-wide crisis. We have the technical competence to do wonderful things in terms of production. Now we have to be sure that the production processes are tied in with our systems of distribution that are just and fair.
Let’s all hope and PRAY that we will get through this nerve wracking period as quickly as possible and come out on the far side with strong economies serving the human family across the planet.
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Trust is an absolutely essential component for a successful and productive society. Without trust, both our leaders and our institutions will stumble and crash. If that thesis is true, then we are in a difficult situation. There is a real crisis in trust, both in the United States and in England.
The United Kingdom is still reeling from the Murdoch scandal which has undercut trust in a wide area of British life. The media, naturally, the government, police and even the church have been seriously affected. The Catholic Church is still reeling from the devastating blows it has received following revelation of pedophile priests in both countries. However, the bigger problem in that case was the cover-up by many bishops who were more concerned about the Church’s image than about the need to protect children.
The banks were the biggest single culprit in the recent economic collapse. Having been bailed out with taxpayer money, they are now reinvigorated and, in the opinion of most of us, continuing to do the same things that brought down our economic house. They are slow learners.
If trust is to be restored, it will not come about by mere restructuring of the systems that are involved. Restructuring is necessary in many instances but, more importantly, is the need to realize that trust is built upon the ethics of human relationships independent of structures. Our culture needs to learn again the ancient Greek philosophers insight that virtue is essential to human flourishing and it needs to be systematically taught rather than left to chance.
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