Attitude Part 8
Awareness Of Responsibility
When we call someone a “morally conscious” man, and another man a “morally unconscious” one, we have in mind a difference which is decisive from the ethical point of view. The unconscious man drifts through life; of course, he grasps certain values, and responds to them, but, his grasp of values remains more or less accidental. Above all, his life, on the whole, is not consciously and expressly lived under the awful sword of good and evil.
The unconscious man behaves according to the impulses of his nature; he has not yet discovered within himself the capacity to direct himself freely toward the objective demands of the world of values independently of what is or is not congenial to his nature.
Moral consciousness and moral awakedness are indispensable presuppositions for a real grasp of values, for true responses to values and consequently for the possession of moral values. The morally unconscious man can be good, faithful, just, and a friend of truth, but only in the sense that he is a pale reflection of these virtues. His goodness, fidelity, justice and truthfulness lack the specific beauty of moral excellence, a full and free turning to values, a submission to their sovereign majesty, and real subordination to their eternal laws. The accidental character of such a man’s virtues and the incomplete character of his responses deprives them of their true moral core.
Reverence and that true fidelity, which we have called constancy, are closely related to this moral awakedness. Moreover, they can only fully unfold themselves in a morally conscious man. This moral awakedness is also the soul of the fundamental moral attitude which we have called “awareness of responsibility.”
Only the man with this consciousness of responsibility can justly appreciate the impact of the demands of the world of values. He grasps not only the splendor, the inner beauty, and majesty of the world of values but also the sovereignty over us which is objectively due to this world. He understands the implacable earnestness of their demands; he experiences their personal call on us. He perceives the commands and the prohibitions which issue from values. He possesses that awakedness toward the world of values which places his life under its sword of justice, which makes him at every moment aware of his own position and duties in the cosmos, and makes him realize clearly that he is not his own master.
Veracity is, like reverence, fidelity or constancy and the awareness of responsibility, a basis of our whole moral life. Like these other virtues, it bears a high value in itself, and like these is also indispensable as a basic presupposition of a personality in which genuine moral values may flower in their plenitude. This proves true in all the domains of life. Veracity is the basis for all true community life, for every relationship of person to person, for every true love, for every profession, for true knowledge, for self-education, and for the relationship of men to God. Yes, a basic element of veracity is, in a specific way, its relationship to the absolute Source of all being, God.
Goodness is the very heart of the whole reign of moral values. It is by no accident that the term “good” means moral value as such, and also the specific moral quality of goodness. Among the different moral values there is none which embodies more completely the entire reign of moral values, than goodness; in it we find the purest and most typical expression of the general character of moral goodness as such. It is the center of all morality, and at the same time, it’s most sublime fruit.
Its central importance in the moral sphere is, therefore, of a completely different type from that of the fundamental attitudes previously mentioned: reverence, fidelity, awareness of responsibility and veracity. For, apart from their own high moral value, these virtues are accepted as a presupposition for the moral life. Goodness, on the contrary, is not a presupposition, but the fruit of moral life. But not a fruit among others, such as meekness, patience, generosity, but the fruit of fruits, i.e. that in which culminates all morality in a specific way; it is the queen of all virtues.
What is goodness? What do we mean when we say that a man irradiates goodness? We say this of a man when he is disposed to help, when he is kindly, just, when he is ready to make sacrifices for others when he pardons wrongs done him, when he is generous, when he is full of compassion. All these qualities are specific forms and manifestations of love. This indicates the close connection which exists between love and goodness. Love is, as it were, flowing goodness, and goodness is the breath of love.