Tuesday, August 03, 2004

I Wish I Had a Wishing Well, but All I Have is Wishing Well

I've been thinking a bit recently about Jonathan Edwards's view that true virtue consists in an unconditional disposition of goodwill, or, as he calls it, benevolence toward being in general. It seems to me that society could potentially be much improved by a simple exercise. The exercise is this: Take a moment - a moment is all that would be needed - to wish each person you encounter, or hear about, well. Even if they annoy you or make you angry (especially if they annoy you or make you angry). After all, they are human, they can improve, learn, grow. So what's the harm of wishing them well? I mean, really wishing them well - i.e., wishing them to grow in the wisdom and strength required for genuine excellence and virtue. Everyone, from the greatest saint to the most horrible person you could possibly imagine, could use a bit of goodwill in this sense.

Of course, the exercise needs to be coupled with the recognition that you, too, need to be wished well in this way. Don't we all? But if this were done, then I think we might find it just a little bit easier to live with each other.

I wish you well.

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