Tag Archives: virtue

Who needs strong and stable?

‘Strong’ is one of those words that can have many meanings. It can of course be a good thing, especially when we’re talking about physical capabilities. The strength to endure, to survive, to continue – that can be good too. Although in some circumstances, if strength isn’t tempered with wisdom, it can become pigheaded stupidity. All too often I’m seeing the media use ‘strong’ to mean uncompromising, unwilling to negotiate, dictatorial, domineering. These are not the qualities of a great leader, these are the qualities of a tyrant.

Strong can mean strong enough to hear the counterargument and to take onboard the flaws in your plan. When we’re talking about strength, we need to consider the difference between brittle, hard strength and a softer, more flexible strength. That which can bend a bit does not break so easily, and not breaking is certainly a form of strength.

Strong can become a way of saying unmoveable. It can be a cover for stasis, for a lack of ideas and an absence of innovation. If strong just stands there being big and solid, it may not be able to grow, adapt and change in ways that are necessary for the circumstances. Flexible and adapting can turn out to be a lot more enduring than merely ‘strong’.

Like strength, stability can also imply immobility and lack of the means to bend and transform when necessary. Balanced can be a good thing, but balance isn’t always what’s needed. Stability can all too easily stay still when all around it is moving in chaos, but it may miss the sudden leap of progress, becoming stuck and irrelevant.

I’ve seen others point out on social media that there are connotations in ‘strong and stable’ that have a lot to say about how we value the weak, the vulnerable, the unstable. The Tory government so keen on the strong and stable line, has been increasing the risk of death for those among us who are not strong, and not so stable. To pinpoint these two ways of being as the best virtues is a bit sinister when viewed that way. It’s also a very narrow way of being. Soundbites are not good models for existence. Strength needs to know when to yield, when to allow humbleness and vulnerability into the mix. Stability needs to know when to get out of its rut and make serious changes.

We live in changing, uncertain times. I for one am not looking for strong and stable leaders. I’m looking for wise, flexible, innovative leaders who won’t be afraid to change direction in face of new evidence or circumstance. I’m looking for people with more than hollow soundbites to offer, and people who are willing to dig deep and think hard about what might be needed from them.


Spiritual life and the working week

For the first time in a good 15 years, I’ve had a month of working five day weeks and taking the weekends off. The consequences have been numerous. When I started out as a self-employed person, I guarded my weekends. However, the person I was living with became ever less interested in doing anything with time off, and so out of boredom I started doing more work at the weekends. Increasing financial pressure kept me there. Then I married a man who was entirely settled into seven day working weeks. It’s not easy taking time off when the person you most want to take time off with is working. What started as a bad call became a habit, and something that seemed necessary – and in fairness, actually was at some points.

There’s a macho culture in comics that is all about working yourself to death. In Japanese manga it’s even worse, with creators not being able to expect enough downtime for proper sleep, even. Our wider culture is keen to link wealth with hard work, and poverty with indolence, so if you aren’t raking it in, there’s a pressure to try and make sure everyone at least knows that you’re trying very hard all the time. It’s worth noting that exhaustion does not increase productivity or creativity. Rather the opposite.

The five day working week means I can have time to rest and relax, and the energy and time to socialise and get inspired. I’ve felt much less isolated this month, and there have been a lot of joyful things. Working almost all the time and being exhausted the rest of the time is a recipe for depression, and it certainly increases anxiety. I’ve got to a point where I can afford not to be flat out all the time, and for this I am deeply grateful.

I’m perfectly happy to think of anything I do as a potential expression of my Druidry. However, this is a thing to be cautious about, because it can mean just not really doing any Druidry. The more run-ragged I am, the less room I have for gratitude – and to be honest, the less reason as well. To practice gratitude you need the time to stop and appreciate things. A person running flat out all the time can’t do this. It’s difficult to meditate when you’re fretting about deadlines. It’s difficult to celebrate when you’re anxious about money and work.

To bring your spiritual practice to all things calls for time. It’s not compatible with a never-ending workload. It’s also, I eventually came to realise, deeply inhuman and dehumanising to just be something that works until it can’t and then falls over, and then does it again.

Some of it, is about whether you have the luxury of choice. With a low paid job, the ‘choice’ is to work long hours, or struggle to pay the bills for the most basic things. When the only job you can ‘choose’ requires a long commute, when you’re expected to work unpaid overtime, when you’ve got to work multiple part time jobs to make ends meet, genuine choice is in short supply. Those of us who can choose, can do our bit not to support a culture of working to death. We can reject the idea that hard work is what brings money – it isn’t. Money is what brings money, and the traps that keep the poor in poverty are numerous.

Rest is a virtue, not a vice. It is something we should all have the right to, it should not be a privilege for the few.

When virtues are vices

At what point does being compassionate with yourself become selfishness? When does trying not to impose on others by asking for help become self- defeating pride? When does standing up for yourself become an attack on another person? When does gratitude become a form of martyrdom? What can start out as a virtue can become a really toxic thing, taken too far. The answer is balance, but in the habits we form, it can be all too easy to turn virtues into vices.

My default is always to try harder, give more, ask for less. Every problem I have ever faced I have tried to deal with by this means. My fear of imposing on others, my fear of adding to other people’s problems and of being a nuisance leave me almost incapable of asking for help. I don’t think that’s a virtue. I don’t think burning out regularly is a virtue either, but I keep doing it, and I keep living out the patterns of thought and action that take me beyond my limits. I keep getting myself into situations where what matters is what I can give, not whether I am happy. I keep finding that I cannot ask other people to put my comfort ahead of their own. Even when I’m cracking up and falling apart, which I do with tedious frequency. It’s not a way of being I would encourage anyone else to adopt.

I know the story holding all of this together. It is simply that any amount of self-harm is fine if it serves a cause or answers someone else’s need. I don’t treat myself as though I matter, beyond my utility, and I have no idea how to. It puts me in the curiously hypocritical position of making life choices I do not advocate, and living and working in ways I would go to great lengths to dissuade others from taking up. But I think this is who I am, that my authentic self may be entirely about usefulness, that having little room for me in my own equations is a choice I keep making because it’s about the only reliable feature of who I am. Although I hate hypocrisy, so there’s another sat of things I can’t stack up in a sensible way.

Don’t try this one at home.

Life Goals for Druids

In western culture, we are supposed to be ambitious about getting rich, owning a bigger house, more cars, maybe a private jet. Affluence and possessions are the focal points of the aims we’re expected to have. Power and affluence are part of the mix. Those of us who fail to be super-rich are to stay envious and striving. Alongside this we tend to prioritise romance and child rearing – and if you aren’t inclined to parenting, that tends not to be treated with respect. The majority of us are set up to fail, and will, if we go along with this, spend our lives chasing after ever more money, never able to be satisfied by what we have.

One of the reasons for following a spiritual path is that it allows a different set of priorities. You don’t have to be rich to be spiritual – many traditions suggest that an obsession with worldly wealth will only get in your way. Many religions are focused on what you have to do to get to a better life after this one – codes of behaviour and service to deity tend to define this. We don’t have that in Druidry, so what kind of life goals should, or could a Druid be interested in?

Life long learning seems an obvious one to me. Not the absorption of sterile facts, but a quest for deeper understanding. A desire to know, to experience and to cultivate deeper empathy is something you can explore in any circumstances, and the rewards are many. Learning adds interest to life, and allows us to see more than the surfaces in front of us. The kind of learning that cultivates wisdom and encourages flexible, rather than rigid ways of thinking, is, I would suggest, an ongoing, satisfying and happily infinite thing for a Druid to pursue. Learning creative and practical skills, and bardic learning would also be part of this.

Cultivating virtues. Paganism tends towards virtue-led ethics. It’s an interesting process figuring out what you see as virtue, and then deciding how to actively cultivate those virtues in your life. At the moment I’d list patience, persistence, generosity and laziness as the virtues I most wish to work with. I think in our over busy, over worked, over acquisitive culture, laziness can be a very powerful virtue indeed. This list will change over time.

Cultivating relationships – with people, with the land, and sky, with the history in the landscape, with the wildlife and the spirits of place, with the ancestors… the list is vast. To know, to care, to be engaged… again these things confer ongoing benefits and you’ll never run out of things to explore.

Seeking happiness and the good life. Making time to figure out what a good life is from your perspective, having the scope to live life on your own terms, setting out to enjoy life day to day rather than always striving after distant goals. One of the great strengths of the life goals I’ve offered is that they bring delight and richness from the moment you start. There’s no pouring energy unhappily into effort for years in the hopes it pays off in the end – which is at the heart of your standard western practice of making affluence a life goal. You aren’t waiting to start living, you’re living already if you’re inclined to live a good life right now with what you have.

What are your requirements for a good life? What kind of goals do you have at the moment?

Wonderful, unvirtuous creatures

We tend to think in terms of utility – we do it to landscapes, creatures and other humans. We ascribe virtue to anything that serves us, and label as useless anything that does not. Bees are industrious and virtuous because we like them as pollinators and take their honey. No one cares how busy wasps might be because we don’t think they help us, and therefore they are not virtuous and industrious, they are a bloody nuisance.

Similar things happen with cats and dogs. Humans have a long history of working with dogs. Even when we aren’t getting them to specifically work for us, they do what we tell them. They may defend our persons and property from attack. We can train them to tolerate considerable abuse and still treat us with love in return for it. Therefore dogs are good and virtuous. Cats, on the other hand, are lazy. We’ve worked with them because their eating mice can be useful, but they don’t do it on command and if you abuse a cat, it will leave. They are not team players, they do not take orders and they aren’t that interested in keeping us happy.

Why do so many of us choose to live with cats, if cats are selfish, ungrateful bastards? But here’s the thing – cats aren’t inherently mean or unpleasant, but they have boundaries. They don’t tend to bestow affection on total strangers, they expect to be treated well, and if they are happy, they express that by being pleased to see you, purring, making body contact and so forth.

Cats do not work. There is no way to train them up as beasts of burden or doers of jobs. Being small, lithe and pointy makes non-cooperation easy for them. A cat has no interest in doing anything unnecessary, anything that is not pleasing to it. Find a warm place, stretch out or curl up. Enjoy. Eat. Play with things, stare out of windows. Sing. Cats tend to have simple, uncluttered lives, and to be happy.

If we stopped measuring virtue in terms of workishness and use to humans, and started looking at happiness in other creatures, our whole view would change. We’d notice how the busy bees rapidly work themselves to death. We’d notice that cats tend to be enormously happy, and if they aren’t, they leave if they possibly can. It’s not an accident that we use the term ‘fat cat’ to describe a big company boss with a lot of wealth. However, actual cats, fat and otherwise, own nothing. Yes, they quietly take advantage of our homes, but I’ve met plenty of feral cats along the way, and they know how to find the warm spots and they make the time to sunbathe. Being a cat is a way of life that does not depend on human benevolence.

Most mammals, left to their own devices, try to rest, sleep, sunbathe and play as much as they can, and only do what’s necessary. The ‘hives of industry’ involve insects – ants and bees especially. We’re mammals. Why have we decided it is virtuous to emulate insects, and lazy to live like a mammal?

Imagining an ideal world

Generally I try to avoid complex hypothetical conversations. They tend to suck up a lot of energy whilst achieving nothing. However, unless we take the time to imagine how things could be, we can only follow the trajectory we’re on, or be steered by someone else’s vision. Here are some thoughts about what my ideal world would look like. If the idea interests you, please do post you own vision. I think there’s a lot wrong with how humans are doing things right now, but we’ll only change that if we undertake to think differently.

I believe that no one should be able to make a profit out of resources and services that are essential to life and essential to the functioning of society. I furthermore believe that every one of us who is capable of working, should be working some percentage of each week on making sure these essential things are in place and available to everyone. However we organise it in terms of money, we should be aiming to make sure that everyone has all the essentials covered. No one should be allowed to avoid contributing to essential work on the basis of wealth, and being able to buy your way, and your descendents way out of usefulness should be wholly unacceptable.

If we were all contributing to providing essential things for all people, no doubt there would be some people who felt called to do that full time, which would be fine, and they should be rewarded for that. Everyone else would then have time to study, to create, to produce things that are not essential but that improve quality of life and cause happiness. Anyone should be entitled to do this for profit if they want to. I think this would cause a shift away from wealth for the sake of it and create more interest in quality of life, and as a consequence, a better quality of life for more people. There would be more room for socialising, relaxing, resting and being physically active in playful ways.

If the core principle of a culture is that everyone is sufficient in the essentials, we’d stop creating pressures to buy and own based on ideas of scarcity. We’d become less fearful, and probably as a consequence more willing to share, exchange and gift rather than wanting to put a price tag on everything. We’d be wary of, if not immune to people who want someone else to do all the work for little gain while they rake in the profits – if everyone has enough, there’s a lot less room for exploitation.

I think we’d start to see those who want to do little and have a lot as the parasites they really are, while the myth of the feckless poor would soon disappear. If everyone is contributing to doing what’s necessary, and you have more people power than basic needs, you can just be a bit more ambitious about the baseline. If everyone can make a meaningful contribution to their culture, and if we were really interested in helping everyone contribute in the best way they could, it would soon become very obvious who wanted to participate, and who wanted to freeload. I think (based on assorted surveys about attitudes) that a good seventy five percent of us would easily engage with this way of living. Maybe more. It would be the people who feel a sense of entitlement who would be least willing to roll up their sleeves and participate, I suspect.

My approach would destroy the idea that having money is a kind of social virtue, and would instead focus us on contributing to society in more immediate ways. Doctors, firemen, engineers, scientists, teachers, farmers and the like would be highly valued for doing essential things. Creative folk would be highly valued for increasing quality of life. If most of us took our turn emptying bins, caring for small children, filling in potholes, picking fruit, etc, we’d value those jobs properly too. In fact most of us would be in a position to really value each other. Hedge fund managers and the like might seem a lot less useful as members of society.

The Other Side of Virtue

I loved this book, it’s one I cheerfully recommend. I’m very happy today to be sharing an excerpt.

Overture to The Other Side of Virtue (O Books, 2008) by Brendan Myers

The story of Christian virtue begins with the story of Moses, the holy man who climbed the holy mountain to receive the Law. Like any system of ethics based on law, it was intended to separate right from wrong as clearly as possible. This is why most of them begin with ‘thou shall not’. Of course, the law forbids things that nearly everyone would agree do not belong in a civil society: thievery and murder, for instance. So on the face of it, there can be no objection. But we should be very cautious about taking up such a gift and accepting it without question. Such pre-packaged gifts are sometimes like the Trojan Horse. They often conceal all sorts of other problems and complications. In the case of the Ten Commandments, the problem is this: if you accept it, you effectively hand over to God the responsibility for determining what is right and wrong. Your only choice in life is whether to obey or to rebel—precisely the choice made by Eve, in the Garden of Eden.

The original idea of Virtue had nothing to do with Christianity. In Europe, it is older than the Gospels by more than six hundred years. Consider the origin of the word itself. It comes from two sources. The first is the Latin ‘Virtus’, itself rooted in the word ‘Vir’, meaning ‘man’. From this direction, Virtue means something like ‘manliness’, and implies ‘macho’ qualities like toughness and aggression. The other source is the Greek word ‘Arête’, which is sometimes directly translated as ‘Virtue’, but can also mean ‘Excellence’. Excellence is what happens when some quality or talent is perfected, completed, rendered praiseworthy and beautiful. It is what makes someone or something stand out as special, a cut or two above the ordinary, and deserving of special admiration. There is nothing passive about Excellence. Instead of modesty or humility, the logic of arête calls for active qualities like initiative, honour, and intelligence. It also implies a few half-moral, half-aesthetic qualities like nobility, strength, proper pride, beauty, and grace. And it implies various social qualities, like friendship, generosity, honesty, truthfulness, and love. Virtue ethics could be more properly called ‘Arêteology’, meaning an account (logos) of what is excellent (arête) in human affairs. This account describes not only the things someone does, but also the kind of person she is. And it had almost nothing to do with obeying laws. Laws were meant for the ordering of society; being a good person was something else. The questions of ethics, in the ancient world, would never have been: What laws or rules should I follow? Which of my choices creates the least harm, or the most benefit, for those it affects? Who am I to obey, and what gives him his authority? To a Virtuous person of the ancient world, those would have been the wrong questions. The right questions were: What kind of person should I be? What kind of life should I live? What is an excellent human being like? What must I do to be happy? The general answer to questions like these went like this. You have to produce within yourself a set of habits and dispositions, something like a ‘second nature’, which would give you full command over your powers and potentials. In other words, you have to transform your character. The ‘familiar’ side of virtue has to do with a predisposition to follow laws and commandments. The ‘other side’ asserts that who you are is much more important than the rules you follow, and at least as important as the things you do, when it comes to doing the right thing, and finding the worth of your life.

The Other Side of Virtue is about that original idea, and how it is intimately connected with what it is to be human, and what it means to live a worthwhile life. I show how it appeared in the heroic and classical cultures of ancient Europe. Then I show how it appeared again in various different historical movements that revived or patterned themselves after those ancient cultures. The Italian Renaissance, Romanticism in High Germany and in Merry Old England, are only the most well known examples. There are also contemporary movements afoot, such as modern-day Druidry and Wicca, which embody the original idea of Virtue in various eclectic ways. What all of these different movements seem to have in common is that in their own way they all expressed one or more of the following three primary ideas.

  1. First and foremost, life involves inevitable encounters with events that seem, at least at first, to impose themselves upon you. Fortune, nature, other people, and death itself, are among them.
  2. Second, these events also invite us to respond. The response generally involves the development of various human potentials and resources. Some of these are social, such as one’s family and friendship ties, and some are personal and internal, like courage and integrity.
  3. And third, that if we respond to these imposing events with excellence, and if the excellent response becomes habitual, they can be transformed into sources of spiritual meaning and fulfillment. This transformation opens the way to a worthwhile and flourishing life.

There are a few others, but these ones are the most important. If I had to gather them into one sentence, this is what I would say: Virtue is the ancient idea that excellence in human affairs is the foundation of ethics, spirituality, self-knowledge, and especially the worthwhile life. Self-knowledge blossoms first and foremost with adventurous transformations of our way of being in the world. The Immensity, as I shall call it, is the situation that calls upon us to make the choices which create those transformations. It is a situation that changes us. But since our choices are involved, this is the change that also configures us, creates us, and so makes us who we are. To answer the call to Know Yourself is not only to discover who and what you are, but also to become that which you discover yourself to be.

Find out more about the book here – http://www.moon-books.net/books/other-side-of-virtue-the

Courage, delusion and the Prince of Fools

Courage was considered a virtue by the heroic cultures many modern Pagans look back to for inspiration. However, once you start prodding it in earnest, courage turns out to be a rather complicated thing.

I’ve spent the last few days reading Mark Lawrence’s novel ‘Prince of Fools’. Book one of a dark fantasy trilogy, running in parallel time-wise with his Thorns trilogy. I really like Mark as an author. He can do plot and action, he balances light and dark superbly so you’re always in your toes, but sometimes giggling, his craftsmanship with words is superb, and there are layers. Start digging around in what holds the plot together, and there are weighty concepts about what it means to be human. These are qualities I very much appreciate in a book. He’s also a lovely person.

After some deliberation, I feel that the key themes in Prince of Fools, for me were cowardice/courage and self-delusion. The interplay between the two in the narrative is also fascinating. The first person narrator ‘hero’ self-identifies as a coward. Jalan prefers running away to fighting and getting out of things tends to appeal to him more than sorting them out or facing responsibility. Much of this is held together by a total refusal to think too much about anything – a form of protective self-deluding there, which keeps him from the consequences of what he does, and does not do. His companion, Snorri, seems brave, he’s certainly driven, but there is no small amount of refusing to think making that apparent bravery possible, too.

The theory that Mark puts forward, through Jalan, is that everyone is afraid. Everyone is in the business of running away, it’s just a case of what you fear most. The person who fears dishonour more than death will run towards a fight, not away from it, quite simply. They may be no less afraid, it’s just a different fear. I note for myself that I can be careless of my own pain and physical damage, but fear causing discomfort – even minor emotional discomfort – to others. Which has interesting influences on my choices.

Without fear in the mix, it’s very hard to call anything brave. It may just be stupid, unimaginative, misguided. To be brave, you have to know what there is to be afraid of. It’s an interesting question as to whether, having identified the biggest fear, you can then bravely run away from it towards something that also offers challenges. I am inclined to think that the naming and owning of the fear might well be the bravest part of the whole process. To know what frightens you most is to know yourself, and to be honest about your fear is to be more authentic.

However, Mark doesn’t leave it there, because the theme of not being honest with yourself about fear runs through the book. It takes a certain amount of dishonesty to keep going when the things to be afraid of are big enough to easily break you. It takes a certain kind of deliberate forgetting and denying to stay sane in the face of horror and trauma.  A person with PTSD needs to forget – because it is the remembering that takes you apart. What do we lay down of past and self in order to face the future? What lies do we have to tell ourselves in order to be able to act? When failure seems inevitable, the heroic path may depend entirely on your ability to believe otherwise. To die for a cause is to be able to believe it’s worth it right up until the last breath, despite all evidence to the contrary.

We tend to hold honesty as a virtue, but it is also worth considering what the little lies and bigger ones we tell ourselves allow us to do, for well or woe.

(More about the book here – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18693743-prince-of-fools)

Wisdom of the barrow dog

I   went up to the barrow alone yesterday, to be with the sky, the ancestors and the wide horizon. I went to contemplate, seeking perspective and peace. I’d been sat there some time when the dog found me. She might have been a deer hound – certainly large and shaggy enough, but rather golden. And old kind of dog, the sort you could easily imagine has always roamed these hills. Her people had stopped to chat some yards away, and she ambled over. I am used to dogs checking me out. It’s a popular place for dog walking, and a stationary, meditating Druid is apparently too interesting to miss. I get sniffed a lot.

I was not in a good way yesterday, needing my space. Perhaps the barrow dog picked up on this, because not once did she attempt to make physical contact with me. She came over and asked me to throw her ball, and then she just lay down on the grass next to me, and there we remained for some time, much to the amusement of her people.

I was glad of her presence. To be acceptable to a dog is no small thing, especially if you’re in a dark place, and it is hard to imagine being acceptable to anyone. She reminded me that for dogs, there is no shame in seeking care, affection and attention. Openly social creatures, they arrive with wagging tails and hopeful eyes, and only if someone has mistreated them do they become afraid to make known their wants and feelings. It is very easy to be in the company of a dog. There was a generosity in that presence, the gift of just sitting down with me for a while. No need to talk, which helped. No need to wonder what she wanted from me, or whether I was doing a good enough job of it.

There is no second guessing with dogs. They do not infer or read between the lines. Either you play with them, or you don’t. I’ve yet to meet a dog who gets a perverse kick out of being miserable or who is competitively ill, or who is keeping score. They don’t gossip and, with delightful irony, they never bitch. Tolerant, friendly, ready to make the best of things, open hearted, generous, forgiving, loyal… the virtues of dogs are many. There is much I can learn from the wisdom of barrow dog.

Always be drunk

“You should always be drunk, with wine, with poetry, or with virtue as you choose.” – Baudelaire.

The first one is easily achieved, and it’s worth noting that gods of grape and sacred insobriety turn up all over the place. Alcohol warms the body and eases the mind, makes us more sociable, relieves the pain of aching muscles and helps us to be merry. We shed our fears and inhibitions and are more open to having a good time. The Romans had ‘in vino, veritas’ – in wine, truth. That which slips out when we’re pissed may be a lot more real than our closely guarded lips would normally allow. But don’t always be drunk with wine, you’ll develop a tolerance that lessens the impact, and you’ll wreck your liver, and some things work better when you can walk in a straight line…

Drunk with poetry, with inspiration, vision, the fire in the head – this is awen, and the quest for it is very much part of the bardic path. Be drunk with wonder, and with beauty. Let all that is glorious infuse your spirit so that you are floating on it in an altered state of mind. Seek out exquisite things, or create them, and let the natural highs of your inspiration carry you away. Except also bear in mind all those folklore stories about places you can sit out and either come back a poet or a lunatic – because if you try and set up camp permanently on the high plateau of poetic insobriety, you will go quite entirely mad. Now and then you must come down from the mountain to wash your socks and deal with all those other necessary, earthy issues.

Drunk with virtue, with the perfect awareness that you are acting in honour, that right action and right thoughts have brought you to a state of grace. Knowing that even if it is hard, the sheer virtuousness of doing the right things for the right reasons is worth the price. The intoxicating qualities of virtue are, oddly enough, the least socially acceptable. We are used to those who are drunk on wine. We can be amused by the tripped-out poets, or impressed, if they create anything good, and we expect creative folk to be a bit mad anyway. But virtue? Oh, dare to be drunk on virtue and expect the distaste of those you encounter. ‘Smug’ and ‘self righteous’ are the words we keep for people who dare to be off their faces on the joy of doing the right thing. Of the three, it may also be the most dangerous, the one most likely to have you courting hubris and hypocrisy. It’s essential not to be perpetually drunk with virtue, or you risk buying into your own PR and becoming the exact opposite of what you set out to be.

Fall from alcohol and you’ll have a hangover. Fall from poetry and you can be sorely depressed and disorientated. Fall from virtue, fall from saint to sinner and you will lose so much more in your own eyes, including the respect of anyone who has seen you in your elevated state. Cast yourself as a saint, and those inevitable feet of clay will leave the odd dirty print.

Be drunk, as you choose, but I do not think one should always be drunk. It all seems to work so much better if you surface for air now and then and some alternative perspectives, the washing of socks, the eating of the sandwich, the recollection of the feet of clay…