Sunday, November 8, 2009

Riding the Virtue Pelaton

The Tour de France cycling race features a phenomenon where the cyclists cling tightly together in a pack called a “pelaton.” Likewise, the character traits of virtue cling together producing a cool picture of morally sound living. It’s truly amazing how this occurs as individual virtues co-represent and carry forth the others, leading the way on occasion.

A cycling pelaton, certainly relating to team members in it, looks like this:

Differing cyclists take their turns in heading the bunch, and when they’re spent they fall back into the pelaton to recover. They then utilise the slipstream effect, which relieves the rider of the burden of the valuable effort that would otherwise be required at the head of the pack. Another rider takes the lead.

How do we entrap virtue and somehow describe it with some accuracy? That task must somehow be impossible.

But, I’ve often thought one virtue shown in isolation, say courage for instance, ably represents the others—at least for the moment.

Courage, as our first example virtue in the pelaton, comes replete with sizable portions of subsidiary virtues such as faith, trust, love, hope and compassion—dependent on the circumstances. These shape the character of the courage displayed.

So, then, as courage falls back into the virtue pelaton, what virtue now takes it place at the head of the pack?

Let’s say it’s kindness. Kindness has to be rich in cousin virtue, love. One cannot be kind without engaging in the verb, love. Further, to be kind we have to have a measure of humility in seeing (and responding to) others’ need. Kindness is also full of grace; amazing, merciful grace!

It seems to me the riders on the virtue pelaton—clung closely together, taking their turns in the moral limelight—are kindness, love, faith, perseverance, justice, temperance, trust, hope, humility, patience and a whole heap more.

The complete image of virtue is hard to see comprehensively as it’s like a broad-spectrum solitaire diamond—it’s so very multi-faceted.

All we need to know is, when we epitomise one single virtue we drag a whole swag of other contributory virtue with it.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

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