Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Art of Becoming...

Over the past week I've been reading Plutarch's Lives. I'm taking an online class for the heck of it, and we're studying The Great Books from the Western World. This is my second one-month class. I've learned so much and its hard to believe that only a month ago I didn't even realize that such a series existed. For those of you who aren't familiar with it...The Great Books of the Western World is a 54 volume series that includes the original works of important literature, writings, philosophy, history, etc... that has really made the western world what it is today. Talk about AMAZING stuff. Granted its a bit overwhelming, but its also exciting. It starts with ancient Greece stuff, and ends with Freud. During my first class we read Plato, Socrates, Aristophanes, and Aristotle. This month we are reading some of the writings of Plutarch, Aristotle, and the entire books of Matthew and Acts. I've finished the Plutarch reading, and I'm half way through Aristotle.

I must say that so far I am amazed at these men (okay except for Aristophanes...I'm not sure what to think of some of his plays). A few days ago, I finished reading Plutarch's writings about Lycurgus and Numa...and then this weekend I watched conference and my mind was swimming with all the uplifting information. Plutarch was an influential man (and was actually for a short time the king) in Sparta. He's agenda's and initiatives helped create the culture and stigma many of us think of when we hear of the warring city-state of Sparta. Numa, (whom Plutarch compared and contrasted him with) on the other hand was the second king of Rome. Unwilling at first to become the king, his legacy was one of taking a war loving people, and inspiring them to become a peaceful people. Ironically as Plutarch says, "...both were aimed at the same design and intent, which was to bring their people to moderation and frugality; but of other virtues, the one set his affection most on fortitude, and the other on justice. Numa did not out of cowardice or fear affect peace, but because he would not be guilty of injustice; nor did Lycurgus promote a spirit of war in his people that they might do injustice to others, but that they might protect themselves by it." Its interesting as I read more about these two leaders how who these leaders were inside and what they believed in on a very personal level made all the difference in how they solved their nation's problems and their ability to change their people's hearts.

Today, during conference someone quoted President Monson and it really struck me. "Learn what you must learn. Do what you must do. Be what you must be." How simple this statement is, but how profound. The more and more I learn the more I realize this is a pattern that is taught in all good inspired literature. We can not inspire, lead, teach, or help others if we haven't gone through this circle ourselves. Just as so many leaders throughout history follow this pattern...so does Numa. He was voted in to become the King, because the people recognized him as a virtuous man. He was who they all wanted to be. He was religious, content, happy, knowledgeable, kind, authentic...Plutarch described him as "a shining and conspicuous example of virtue..." he went on to say, "virtue in the life of their prince will bring them spontaneously to virtue, and to a conformity with that blameless and blessed life of good-will and mutual concord, supported by temperance and justice, which is the highest benefit that human means can confer; and it is the truest ruler who can best introduce it into the hearts of practice of his subjects." Numa was able to turn a war loving people into a peace loving people by love and example not force. Numa was the person he expected his people to be. (I must digress here for just a moment to define virtue according to Aristotle. Aristotle defined virtue as 'fulfilling the measure of your creation.' Or said in another way 'doing what we were created to do!' Understanding this definition will helps clarify what I mean as I continue to use virtue as a defining quality in good men and women throughout history.)

Today I was reading Politics by Aristotle, and he wrote, "in some sense virtue...has actually the greatest power of exercising force...power seems to imply virtue." Then in conference I heard a talk preaching this same principle. The talk was about teaching and leading others, and how we can only do that when we ARE the example of what we want those we are leading to BE. It was as if this weekend I needed to understand this principle of learning, doing, and being. I saw it in Numa as described by Plutarch. I read it in the words of Aristotle. I listened to it in a talk from a general authority during conference, and in during a lecture about Greatness by Dan Ralphs on Friday.

I once heard someone say that information is simply a collection of data that can be obtained in many different ways...HOWEVER knowledge requires DOING, ACTING, and APPLYING all that information. The process of DOING turns information into knowledge, and changes me so I can BE who I need to BE! If I ever expect myself to be able to lead and inspire others (especially my children) I must BE who I want them to BE. It all starts with me. I realize with more clarity how much learning, doing, and becoming I still have to do so I have the ability to lead my family on the path of virtue...I have got so much to do, because I have to BE who I want them to BE! Thank goodness I am starting to understand the cycle of Becoming!

2 comments:

Ranee said...

Beautifully written, Andee! You are a great example to me! I to, enjoyed conference this weekend! I particularly loved Elder Bednar's talk! It went right along with the feelings I have been having lately, to study the Book of Mormon more effectively as a family! I loved the three steps he listed, so that we may understand that "Early Warning System" for our kids: !. Read and talk about the Book of Mormon! 2. Bear testimony! 3. Invite our children to act! Wow! Conference was such a boost for me! I am SO glad that we have it every 6 months! I always need to hear what
the inspiring words that are said, and feel the spirit that is present there! :D)

Verena B said...

What a wonderful journey!