I was reading The Art of Manliness (always a good choice, for those of you who don’t read it already) and discovered something interesting.
My Personal Ethos, which is based off of the Scout Oath and Law, the Order of the Arrow mythos and ceremonies, and a broad understanding of the Judeo-Christian, Graeco-Roman, and Roman Catholic traditions goes as follows:
Prudence and Vigor
Honor and Duty
Goodwill to All
Humility Before God
Now, as I was reading Brett and Kate McKay’s article on Walter Cronkite and Gravitas at AoM, I discovered that the Romans valued four things above all in their leaders:
Pietas (duty, religiosity, patriotism, etc.)
Dignitas (honor, status, prestige, etc.)
Virtus (vigor, manliness, excellence, etc.)
Gravitas (prudence, seriousness, moral weight, etc.)
It occurred to me that this ordering of Roman virtues basically corresponded to the first two lines of my Personal Ethos, reversed: Prudence (Gravitas) and Vigor (Virtus,) Honor (Dignitas) and Duty (Pietas.)
I was surprised; I have always admired the Romans and the Americanizations of them (George Washington as Cincinnatus, Alexander Hamilton as Cicero, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt as Gaius and Tiberius Gracchus, etc.) but I never in a million years would’ve thought that I had independently, a few years back, ordered my own values in the order in which the Romans did.
So it was a pleasant surprise. Perhaps I’m more Roman-souled than I know.
As for the second half of my Personal Ethos- “Goodwill to All, Humility Before God-” that is basically the Catholic Christian in me, a commitment to Jesus’s generalized goodwill to all human beings, and to the mystic-reverential tradition that runs all the way back to Abraham and continues in Catholic theology and the various monastic orders who study it.
So perhaps I am a good Roman and a good Catholic, if I can live up to my own Personal Ethos. But am I a good American, values-wise?
That is a question for another day…