Yesterday, in the House of Commons, Charles Kennedy’s parliamentary colleagues gave moving tributes to his life. There is never a rush, of course, to speak ill of the dead, but these tributes had the clear ring of sincerity. David Cameron said his “character and courage inspired us all”, and Nick Clegg that he always put people before politics. Outside the commons, colleagues and friends have spoken repeatedly of Kennedy’s compassion, decency, and principled nature as well as of his ongoing battle with human frailty in the form of alcoholism.
It seems Charles Kennedy displayed what the New York Times Columnist David Brooks would call “eulogy virtues”. In his most recent book “The Road to Character”, Brooks contrasts eulogy virtues like kindness, faithfulness and humility with what he calls resume virtues - the kind of things we put on our CV. He’s convinced that both eulogy virtues and resume virtues take work to develop, and is worried that western society pushes us to put our efforts into the ones that will help improve our careers, not our characters.
It's the age old question- what makes a good life? How do we go deeper amongst the clamour of a culture that monetises status anxiety and defines us by what earn, own or look like?
David Brook’s call for us to do the hard work of developing character, to cultivate self-restraint and self-suspicion in the age of the selfie stick, isn't really controversial. It's obvious, when we stop to think about it, that the real legacies of our lives aren’t job titles, twitter followers or cellulite free thighs. But how do we develop the eulogy virtues, when the gravitational pull of the self is so strong?
Christians would be the first to acknowledge that these virtues don't come naturally. The church’s hunch is that change happens through vulnerable, committed relationships. To overcome the tyrant self we must confess our frailty and darkest tendencies - first to God, and then to others.
Behavioural science is beginning to add evidence to what religions have long understood - virtue develops best in relational communities. Not short term communities of self interest made up of “people like us”, but awkward, diverse, grace filled communities, established for the long term. The New Testament encourages Christians to be part of communities like these, to encourage one another, bear with each other and create space for the hard conversations. To keep reminding each other of the virtues that matter and the things that last. These kind of communities aren't of course unique to Christianity, and they are often far from perfect, but if we want to be remembered not for our fleeting achievements but our depth of character, they might be the best hope we have.
1.moving adj. 感人的
It is very moving to see how much strangers can care for each other...
2.inspire vt. 鼓舞
These herbs will inspire you to try out all sorts of exotic-flavoured dishes!
A list of items is repeatedly flashed up on the screen.
There is an ongoing debate on the issue.
I'm not going to believe it myself, never mind convince anyone else.
6.clamour n. 喧哗声，喧闹
She could hear a clamour in the road outside.
You have to acknowledge that we live in a racist society.
8.fleeting adj. 疾驰的，飞逝的;短暂的
The world is like a fleeting show.