In my previous two posts I presented two works of art, one by Homer and the other by Michelangelo. The first work expresses the virtues of wisdom and courage needed to recognize one’s purpose in life (or calling) and the courage to begin the Adventure to complete one’s calling and find happiness.
The second work expresses the virtue of moderation and temperance to resist the many temptations of greed, power, and fame. This virtue, along with the preparation needed to fight the many battles of the Adventure earned during one’s Journey, allows the individual to secure the boon or gift of one’s calling and begin the return back to the everyday world of one’s family and society.
One final virtue is needed to complete the adventure and approach the threshold of happiness – justice. This virtue, while concerned with the rights and obligations of individuals to others in one’s community, is more about the concern for the flourishing of one’s family, friends, and society. It is the virtue allowing the individual to ignore the temptation to remain in the Adventure forever, and not be subject to being misunderstood or unappreciated by one’s family and community for the adventure undertaken.
The following painting, St. Jerome, by El Greco, illustrates a lone man, exhibiting the virtue of justice, willing to share his life’s work of translating the Bible from Greek to Latin. The risk that is seen in his appearance is one of possibly being unappreciated or misunderstood. He is willing to share his life work (his calling) with those around him, but he is uncertain as to whether his efforts will be appreciated. His work is complete, the boon of his adventure has been secured through the exercise of the previous virtues, and his translation of the bible awaits those of his society.
St. Jerome was responsible for the Vulgate: a fourth century Latin translation of the Bible represented by the large volume upon which rest his hands. The Catholic Church adopted the Vulgate as the official version of the Bible in the 16th century. The painter removes his figure from any specific setting, with St. Jerome depicted as an ascetic scholar with an inner vision. The figure seems to pause as if contemplating whether future readers will understand his 30 years of hard work to seize the boon, which was his translation of the Bible into the most widespread language of its time. The figure appears to need the appreciation and understanding by society for his work before he can rest in happiness.
The four virtues take us along the Adventure to the threshold of happiness. However, there is still one remaining need that must be satisfied before happiness can be attained. This final need is outside of the power of the individual. This final requirement, which is crucial for meeting Maslow’s self-actualization need, must be obtained in order for happiness to be realized and in which there are no further needs or desires in life. In fact, this final requirement is needed if society is to flourish.
More to come!