I was intrigued by a recent piece by Chris Stirewalt of Fox News on the background behind Grimm’s Fairy Tales. And I was reminded of how important a common set of virtues is to a functional society. In our country today, with its issues of violence, both verbal and physical and the seemingly endless division we have engendered, one has to wonder if there is any solution beyond passing more laws...many, if not most, opposed by a significant portions of the very citizens they are intended to protect.
I have to ask, what are we doing culturally to feed our good angels? While pornography and violent images are more and more available through the “gift” of modern technology and our entertainment culture chases profit by appealing to our lowest common denominator (I.E. “Joker”), all feed our darker side, what are we doing to sustain the light in each of us?
Bill Bennet, several years ago published “The Book of Virtues”...a collection of fables, fairy tales and stories...each designed to instill in the reader a sense of the goodness we are all capable of if challenged. Virtue is not dominant in our DNA, it must be nurtured...it must be taught. It does not survive across time without stimulus from father to son.
The reason virtue is a vulnerable human trait is that it only comes with a price and while vice promises immediate gratification, virtue often requires sacrifice and its value is not immediately evident.
In a world where immediate gratification dominates...where the bottom line drives short term solutions, virtue is at a distinct disadvantage. In a society where more and more tolerance is the greatest virtue, and right and wrong are relative...can anyone honestly expect a different outcome than what we are experiencing now in America?
It appears that the brothers Grimm are right and Dr. Bennet’s suggestion that parents share the stories in “The Book of Virtues” at bed time with their children as a means of feeding our good angels may just be a small step forward to restoring virtue to our culture.
Old Chinese proverb, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.