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富贵闲人

一口气把《唐顿庄园》的第6季看完。好像是在Psychology Today上第一次读到,说唐顿的编剧本人就是上流社会的一个笑话,他是暴发户却又着迷贵族的生活,最终娶上一位有门第的夫人,然后便冠上头衔处处显摆。

似乎有很多人都认为富贵闲人会比穷人更宽容些,我也曾有过这样的心理感受/经验,然而现在却觉得这又是一个MYTH。譬如,唐顿的大小姐,她可以同情贴身女仆安娜,可以操心大管家卡森的婚礼,可是她并不太宽容自己的妹妹(和她同一个阶层)嫁了一个好人家,也并不太宽容3等女仆现在可以和她共进正餐。穷人的种种做派老是为人诟病,想来主要是吃相过于难看而且人人都看得见,譬如在小菜场买东西时会“顺”一两根小葱;譬如为退个税天绞尽脑汁和税务局斗智斗勇;譬如为得到一个小小的晋升溜须拍马用尽心机。富贵人首先根本不会把这点小恩小惠放在心上,其次他们在玩手腕的时候常人根本也看不到,最后他们的斗争影响深远牵连的可不仅仅是菜农或同事。虽然我从来都不属于那个圈子的人,但看过《红楼梦》、《纸牌屋》、《傲慢与偏见》等等那些描写贵族之家的作品,他们在审美偏好上或许要高过芸芸众生,然而一旦触及到个人利益或是那个给予他们安全感的平台轰然倒塌,他们所谓的天真率性也就同样地不复存在,和《红与黑》的于连一样,不择手段不计后果。

孩提时,一块奶油蛋糕就能让我开心;学生时,带着一台Walkman去秋游能让我开心;上班时,发好几个0的年终奖能让我开心……真的如The road to character说得那样,所有的幸福感似乎都是来自外在,所有好与坏的价值判断也都来自外界的反馈。讽刺的是,一边把自己看的非常重要所以世界上没有同一的标准没有基本的底线所有的标准底线都可以因人而异因地制宜,另一边成绩成功成就却是需要得到外面的评价系统的认证和肯定为了获得大家的认同天性中的独特消失了变成了斤斤计较的“精算师”。

那本书说衣食无忧后,人就会追寻人生的意义,也就是说,除非是衣不裹体的乞丐,大多数人都有同样的心理冲突和挣扎。它提供了一些锻造品格的方法,其中之一也是我不太信服的是unconditional love,因为我怀疑世界上有这般高尚纯净没有任何杂念的情感(作者说的爱,包括对上帝的,对国家的,对恋人的,对孩子的……)作者说爱不是投之以桃李报之以琼瑶这样的礼尚往来, they don’t even think of loving their beloved because they want something back. They just naturally offer love as a matter of course. It is gift-love, not reciprocity-love.

其他的几点还是赞同的,人性的提升更在于努力和坚韧而不是财富和出生。

 

What to live for and how to live. These are the general propositions that form this Humility Code:

  1. We don’t’ live for happiness, we live for holiness. Day to day we seek out pleasure, but deep down, human beings are endowed with moral imagination. All human beings seek to lead lives not just of pleasure, but of purpose, righteousness, and virtue. The best life is oriented around the increasing excellence of the soul and is nourished by moral joy, the quiet sense of gratitude and tranquillity that comes as a by product of successful moral struggle. The meaningful life is the same eternal thing, the combination of some set of ideals and some man or woman’s struggle for those ideals. Life is essentially a moral drama, not a hedonistic one.
  2. Proposition one defines the goal of life. The long road to character begins with an accurate understanding of our nature, and the core of that understanding is that we are flawed creatures. We have an innate tendency toward selfishness and overconfidence. We have a tendency to see ourselves as the center of the universe, as if everything revolves around us. We resolve to do one thing but end up doing the opposite. We know what is deep and important in life, but we will pursue the things that are shallow and vain. Furthermore, we overestimate our own strength and rationalize our own failures. We know less than we think we do. We give in to short-term desires even when we know we shouldn’t. We imagine that spiritual and moral needs can be solved through status and material things.
  3. Although we are flawed creatures, we are also splendidly endowed. We are divided within ourselves, both fearfully and wonderfully made. We do sin, but we also have the capacity to recognize sin, to feel ashamed of sin, and to overcome sin. We are both weak and strong, bound and free, blind and far-seeing. We thus have the capacity to struggle with ourselves. There is something heroic about a person in struggle with herself, strained on the rack of conscience, suffering torments, yet staying alive and growing stronger, sacrificing a worldly success for the sake of an inner victory.
  4. In the struggle against your own weakness, humility is the greatest virtue. Humility is having an accurate assessment of your own nature and your own place in the cosmos. Humility is awareness that you are an underdog in the struggle against your own weakness. Humility is an awareness that your individual talents alone are inadequate to the tasks that have been assigned to you. Humility reminds you that you are not the center of the universe, but you serve a larger order. 
  5. Pride is the central vice. Pride is a problem in the sensory apparatus. Pride blinds us to the reality of our divided nature. Pride blinds us to our own weaknesses and misleads us into thinking we are better than we are. Pride make us more certain and closed-minded than we should be. Pride makes it hard for us to be vulnerable before those whose love we need. Pride makes cold heartedness and cruelty possible. Because of pride we try to prove we are better than those around us. Pride deludes us into thinking that we are the authors of own lives.
  6. Once the necessities for survival are satisfied, the struggle against sin and for virtue is the central drama of life. This struggle against, selfishness or prejudice or insecurity gives meaning and shape to life. It is more important than the external journey up the ladder of success. This struggle against sin is the great challenge, so that life is not futile or absurd. Contending with weakness often means choosing what parts of yourself to develop and what parts not to develop. The purpose of the struggle against sin and weakness is not to win, because that is not possible; it is to get better at waging it. The most important thing is whether you are willing to engage in this struggle.
  7. Character is built in the course of your inner confrontation. Character is a set of dispositions, desires, and habits that are slowly engraved during the struggle against your own weakness. You become more disciplined, considerate, and loving through a thousand small acts of self-control, sharing, service, friendship and refined enjoyment. If you don’t develop a coherent character, life will fall to pieces sooner or later. You will become a slave to your passions. But if you do behave with habitual self-discipline, you will become constant and dependable.
  8. The things that lead us astray are short term – lust, fear, vanity, gluttony. The things we call character endure over the long term – courage, honesty, humility. People with character are capable of a long obedience in the same direction, of staying attached to people and causes and callings consistently through thing and thin. People with character also have scope. They are not infinitely flexible, free-floating, and solitary. They are anchored by permanent attachments to important things. In the realm of the intellect, they have a set of permanent convictions about fundamental truths. In the realm of emotion, they are enmeshed in a web of unconditional loves. In the realm of action, they have a permanent commitment to tasks that cannot be completed in a single lifetime.
  9. We are all ultimately saved by grace. The struggle against weakness often have a U shape. You are living your life and then you get knocked off course – either by an overwhelming love, or by failure, illness, loss of employment, or twist of fate. The shape is advance-retreat-advance. In retreat, you admit your need and surrender your crown. You just have to accept the fact that you are accepted. Gratitude fills the soul, and with it the desire to serve and give back.
  10. Wisdom starts with epistemological modesty. The world is immeasurably complex and the private stock of reason is small. We are generally not capable of understanding the complex web of causes that drive events. Our ancestors built up a general bank of practical wisdom, traditions, habits, manners, moral sentiments and practise. The humble person understands that experience is a better teacher than pure reason. He understands that wisdom is not knowledge. Wisdom emerges out of a collection of intellectual virtues. It is knowing how to behave when perfect knowledge is lacking.
  11. No good life is possible unless it is organized around a vocation. If you try to use your work to serve yourself, you’ll find your ambitions and expectations will forever run ahead and you’ll never be satisfied. If you try to serve the community, you’ll always wonder if people appreciate you enough. But if you serve work that is intrinsically compelling and focus just on being excellent at that, you will wind up serving yourself and the community obliquely.
  12. The person who successfully struggles against weakness and sin may or may not become rich, but that person will become mature. Maturity is not based on talent or any of the mental or physical gifts that help you ace an IQ test or run fast or move gracefully. It is earned by being dependable in times of testing, straight in times of temptation. A mature person possesses a settled unity of purpose. The mature person has moved from fragmentation to centeredness, has achieved a state in which the restlessness is over, the confusion about the meaning and purpose of life is calmed. The mature person can make decisions without relying on the negative and positive reactions from admirers or detractors because the mature person has steady criteria to determine what is right. That person has said a multitude of noes for the sake of a few overwhelming yeses.

 

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