Why we can and can’t just be ourselves, but pigs can

by Andrea Elizabeth

Virtue does not mean being “nice” and “proper” in an isolated act or ommission. Virtue means: man’s being “is” right, and this in the supernatural and natural sense. Here we find two dangerous possibilities for perceiving the notion of virtue within the Christian common consciousness itself: first, there is the possibility of moralism, which isolates the action, the “performance”, the “exercise” and makes it independent from the living existence of a vital human being; and second, there is the possibility of supernaturalism, which diminishes the value of the natural well-lived life, of vitality and of natural decency and integrity. Virtue is also, very generally, an essential enhancement of the human person; it is the fulfillment of human potential – in the natural as well as in the supernatural domain. This is how the virtuous man “is”: by the innermost tendency of his being he realizes the good by doing it. (from “A Dead Word?” by Joseph Pieper)

First and foremost, a presupposition must be clarified and then accepted, namely, the belief that a man “ought to”, in other words, that not everything in his action and behavior is well and good just as it is. It makes no sense trying to convince a pig it ought to act and behave “like a real pig”. That the rude line by Gottfried Benn – “The crown of creation: the pig, man” – can be spoken at all and, further, hold true in such terrible ways: this fact alone shows that humanity must still realize the truly human in the domain of lived realities; it means man, as long as he exists, “ought to”. […] the human being ought to become what he is (and therefore not already (eo ipso :”is”); that one can speak of all other earthly creatures in the indicative, in simple statements, but of man, if one wants to hit upon is actual reality, one can only speak in the imperative – to him who cannot see this or does not want to admit to its truth it would be understandably meaningless to speak at all of an “ought to” and it would make no sense to give instructions on obligations, be it in the form of a teaching on virtue or otherwise. (from “Ought To” by Joseph Pieper)

He speaks against moralism, so to me “is” or being is less action centered and more along the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, and long-suffering. I suppose we still have to prove our love and long-suffering through action, but in transfigurations, the light and warmth of being in communion are what unifies more than unforgotten forms.