By Patrick Meagher
What are the things about people we really like?
We could say its their good jokes or their good looks. It could be their charisma, or maybe its just that theyre fun to be with.
We know thats superficial but a quick look back on 2014 and it appears that were satisfied with superficial. Former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi was most of those things, although allegedly not always fun to be with. Justin Trudeau has the looks. But in 2014, one of his foolish comments banning pro-life Canadians from representing the Liberal Party proved to be the most bigoted that I have heard from a Canadian politician in recent years. But polls show he could be prime minister.
We love celebrities and the weaknesses in their on-screen characters that are perfectly choreographed to be endearing. Then we discover in real life that Leonardo DiCaprio is a blow-hard hypocritical environmentalist. Few of our Hollywood heroes can make a commitment. They rarely marry or stay married.
Real people let us down so often that last year a robot named hitchBot was manufactured to be the hitchhiker weve always wanted. It proclaimed: “My charm and wit make me a great travel companion.” Now were manufacturing superficiality.
Is there anything about real life to admire anymore?
Im reminded of a weakening old man who attracted the largest crowd that Canada has ever seen. More than one-million people were in Toronto 13 years ago to see him. Pope John Paul II was stooped over, wrinkled and almost crippled. He had none of the qualities that we would expect in the rich and famous. The news media pondered, “what is it that hes got?”
People are and have always been attracted to virtues. Pope John Paul II lived a life of self-sacrifice. He never had a bank account. There was no self-promotion in him.
We admire in people their virtues of discipline, kindness, generosity, honesty, perseverance, cheerfulness, and self-control. We admire people who work hard, own up to their mistakes, and look out for peoples needs.
Virtues ensure enduring relationships. But when virtues arent important, civic duty suffers. We need only look to our cities to see that in the 21st century and the rise of the machine, where the average person spends more time looking at a screen than in direct personal contact, were heading toward a society that is circling the wagons on charity towards others. Its much deeper than just insensitivity from vehicle drivers and store clerks. Canadians are not only comfortable with weeding out children we dont want before they are born, were now talking about weeding out the elderly before they naturally die. Were convincing ourselves that people just arent that important anymore.
But we can do better than that. There is still a good news story to tell. We know that great things in our own lives are achievable. Most of us know that we are passing through this world in preparation for something better and that by practising virtues, we perfect them and become more like the people that we have always wanted to be. As a priest once told me, it can start by simply smiling when you dont want to.
At the same time, we know we are flawed. We constantly fall short, say or do the wrong thing, as we trip over the rock of self. But like an athlete in training, we can train ourselves for virtue just as we can sloth our way to vice. We know people we call living saints, quietly going about their day, making life more joyful for others. Their virtues attract us by grabbing our very souls and whispering to us that we can do this; by struggling daily we can become more than fun to be with. We can be the heroes in the story of our lives and among our families.
We know these things but get busy and forget them. Thats why striving for a better me is my resolution for 2015. Ill need a lifetime for this project but take solace in the fact that patience is also a virtue.
Patrick Meagher is editor of Farmers Forum and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.