The Art of Worldly Wisdom: 9


Is it possible to love a maxim?  It is quite possibly  a silly thing, but I do really like this maxim.  I am a patriot.  I am an American in the truest sense of the word since I worship at the Temple of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence.  Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Hamilton, and Revere are a few of my high priests.  When I speak of liberty, I am referencing Liberty.   Yet, here is a maxim that seems to be an anthem for the anti-Patriot.

Avoid the Faults of your Nation. Water shares the good or bad qualities of the strata through which it flows, and man those of the climate in which he is born. Some owe more than others to their native land, because there is a more favourable sky in the zenith. There is not a nation even among the most civilised that has not some fault peculiar to itself which other nations blame by way of boast or as a warning. ’Tis a triumph of cleverness to correct in oneself such national failings, or even to hide them: you get great credit for being unique among your fellows, and as it is less expected of you it is esteemed the more. There are also family failings as well as faults of position, of office or of age. If these all meet in one person and are not carefully guarded against, they make an intolerable monster.

This maxim is the slave that whispers in Caesar’s ear to remind him that despite the cheering crowds, he is mortal.  Despite the greatness of the country of your birth, there are elements, faults associated with that country, that one must try to eliminate from one’s one personality.

The braggart with swagger who speaks only out of national pride, never considering the faults that he or she may carry, is a sad individual indeed.  In this discussion, I’m not going to list the faults of my country, though I do believe I am a subject of two countries… the United States and Montana.  Both beds have their own taint and it behooves me to recognize and rise above both.  I cannot think solely in terms of my rural upbringing, nor can I only think in terms of a global superpower.

Consider carefully what it is like to speak to an individual from another country who defies the stereotype of that country?  It seems remarkable and refreshing.  It piques interest.  That person suddenly seems more wise, more magnanimous than ever.  That is something everyone can aspire.

The Art of Worldly Wisdom

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Published by Sean D. Francis

Sean D. Francis is a technologist, writer, and geek. He podcasts, makes video, and dabbles in all the geeky genres including horror, sci-fi, and fantasy.