January 1, 1969. This is an appropriate day to begin writing again in my journal. By this, I don't pretend to be announcing any resolution. I have long ago given up making resolutions, only shortly after I had given up following them.
I have many topics to discuss, since it has been several months since I wrote last.
On lack of dedication: Reading is the pastime of the untalented.
One should always look for a proper relationship between reality and the idealistic-altruistic theory. A theory that doesn't stand in practice should be abandoned.
The essence of religious teaching will have some accuracy in reality even though the disguise of words and mysteries is illusive.
The evidence of his special form of cynicism is clearly exposed.
During much of the last year Jack had been seriously dealing with the issue of transition from a religious life to one where he had to follow his own ideals and establish his own behavioral pattern. This work was tentative and formative, but he succeeded in developing a format that held promise. He called this format a "Cubed Rubric."
One experience which led to the development of this format was the time he spent teaching children, especially in Bari where he had organized a Primary. He had been impressed at the level of difficulty in preparing an appropriate lesson so a child could comprehend and internalize instructions. The CUBED RUBRIC responded to that challenge and offered a comprehensive approach to solving all of these problems at once. He finalized his concept in these last few weeks.
This innovative device took the shape of a cube with six sides because there were six important criteria that needed to be elaborated or satisfied for any particular decision of how to act to be judged as a virtuous act. He wanted to create a systematic review of human qualities that had many layers of intensity. The following is a preliminary explanation of his new invention.
Jack made a Cubed Rubric and began discussing this with those who had the patience to listen. The first cube was made on light red or pink paper because that plays on the origins of the word `rubric.' In fact, Jack made several of these and sent them to his family members.I - PREAMBLE TO A DISCOVERY OF VIRTUE
In the rapid pace of today's world, it is difficult to catch up to, let alone teach about, virtue. Society is changing so fast that it is important to slow down occasionally and examine the question, "What is Good?" or "What is virtuous?"
In the beginning of this search to understand virtue, there is a disquieting thought: Is it possible that after all the effort and discussion, no one really knows what virtue is? Is virtue an object one might wear like a black suit, gown, habit or a collar? Is it a beard or short hair?
Is it possible there is no such thing as virtue? Only deeds that can be characterized as virtuous? Or can people, who, after a consistent pattern of doing virtuous deeds, be considered virtuous people? This is not just playing with words because the issue is important. Parents must have a clear understanding of virtue in order to help their children as they grow and develop. A clear understanding of virtue and acceptance of values can remove stress from the daily lives of adults. I have had to arrive at many different conclusions in my own life: What to do? What course to follow? So, this is an important, vital issue.
When there is a question relating to the value of some action--Is a particular action virtuous or not?--How does one go about finding an answer? For example, there are many people who decide to give to charity and to others. These people are usually regarded as thoughtful, reasonable people. When a person gives to charity he/she does so--because--for some reason. Maybe they give out of a sense of sharing or out of a willingness to help develop some goal (i.e. medical research) which they perceive to be desirable. Maybe guilt? Is this kind of action virtuous? When presented with the opportunity to help another family in need with some material goods, how can we determine whether this act has virtue? Or does it just always have virtue? Is it always the right thing to do?
People do have reasons for selecting one charity over another, for deciding to give to any charity at all or for not giving when asked. So there are at least two things going on here: 1) the act itself, and 2) the reason behind the action. Where lies the virtue? in the act? or in the motivation? Is a person without means who wishes to give to charity, and would if they could, just as virtuous as one who gives, but only gives a small proportion of their income?
The possible questions and challenges to any claim of virtue are too numerous to state. Yet, the topic in general is essential and fundamental to the decision to live a reasonable life, or stated differently, a life of reason.
Everyone has a value system which is the basis for their own perception of virtue whether they know about it or not. The values an individual holds consist of standards and principles by which life choices are made. These are often the assumptions underlying our daily actions and provide each person with a basis for the way one responds and acts throughout life. Even though the way one looks at life changes with maturity, these assumptions often remain the same. Therefore, this value system should be based on deliberate and personalized standards, not arbitrary principles supplied by peer groups, gangs, country clubs or even by society in general. Even those inherited from our families need to be challenged from time to time.
We simply have to take responsibility for the formation of our own value system as we grow older. If we agree to accept one that is given by a religion or social system this should be a conscious, deliberate decision, not just acquiescing to the route most traveled.
It is natural and healthy to be concerned about these issues. But, it is also helpful to come to closure, to reach conclusions. When we deliberately ask what is right or wrong, good or bad or what is more or less important, then the search for virtue begins. It ends in discovery of VIRTUE, self-satisfying and powerful. Therefore, the search for VIRTUE is parallel to formulating individual values and ways of living.
II - Solving the Puzzle
The search for VIRTUE is aided by a simple tool, the Cubed Rubric which is given the name "Virtue." The purpose of this device is to be the catalyst for communication between parent(s) and child(ren), between professor and pupil or between any two (or more) people interested in exploring or expanding their understanding of what is right for their lives. In either an intimate or scholarly sharing process, people can exchange and create explanations for their actions and learn to find and appreciate the virtue in their lives. They can begin to communicate values, love and expand their art of living.
The Cubed Rubric offers no preconceived message or dogma. It has no hidden agenda or prescribed set of answers. As a catalyst, it is neutral to the outcome of the discussion at hand, yet it can be used to guide the scope and nature of any particular discussion about or search for virtue.
The Cubed Rubric embodies the most important questions we might ask about our lives; it does not, however, contain a catechism or ideological bias. In many ways the questions are more important, even sacred; the answers are often mundane, self-serving or too practical.
Philosophical discussions often wander aimlessly. The Cubed Rubric can give guidance to the course of the discussion without imposing any predetermined end to the discussion. It can help bring the discussion to the level of any participant without demeaning the subject or the capabilities of the participants.
The puzzle is solved when the Cubed Rubric is used to bring the parties in a discussion into agreement as to what conduct or action is virtuous. That is only one possible use of the Cubed Rubric. Since it is a puzzle, it might have many other similar useful applications. The nature of a puzzle is to be somewhat ambiguous.
III - The Cubed Rubric Design
a. THE RULE SLOGANS
The Cubed Rubric is designed as a puzzle, not out of any particular desire to be clever or obscure, but rather out of a sense that this puzzle most closely parallels reality. Life is a puzzle, or at least, life is often puzzling. The virtue of any act or decision one might make is not always clear. In fact, more often than not, people are confronted with perplexity, stress, cognitive dissonance and confusion about what to do and how to act. Enter the Cubed Rubric.
b. FOLLOW THE RULES TO SOLVE THE PUZZLE
SEEK AND FIND THE VIRTUE IN LIFE
The rules are inscribed in circles on each side of the puzzle as reminders.
Rule One: ONE TOPIC EACH DAY
Rule Two: EACH MONTH--ONE ASPECT
Rule Three: SET GOALS
Rule Four: THINK CLEARLY
Rule Five: REPEAT--EVALUATE
Rule Six: BE HONEST
The beauty of the rules lies in their simplicity and flexibility.
c. Rule One: ONE TOPIC EACH DAY.
There are five numbers on each side of the cube. Thirty in all, one for each day of the month, on average. If a parent is using this puzzle with a child, the child might be urged to find the topic for that day. The topic corresponds with the number representing the same day of the month. (Of course any topic might be considered just as easily.)
One caution: It is usually beneficial to limit the conversation to one topic at any one sitting. This permits a more thorough discussion. There is always the temptation to rush over too much territory and thus take any one subject too lightly. So, this is a useful rule to limit the scope of the inquiry and slow down the conversation.
Besides, what's the hurry? This is a lifetime endeavor. By disclosing every possible consideration that comes to mind, one at a time, relating to one topic, a more detailed analysis is created. Virtue is discovered in this manner.
d. The suggested topics have been chosen carefully to be general enough to include many different possible discussions. 1) Artistry 16) Positive 2) Bravery 17) Quality 3) Charity 18) Respectful 4) Do-Your-Duty 19) Strongminded 5) Eco-Life 20) Temperance 6) Friendliness 21) Useful 7) Graciousness 22) Versatile 8) Healthy 23) Wisdom 9) Industrious 24) Excellence 10) Justice 25) Young at Heart 11) Kind 26) Zealous 12) Love 27) Trustworthy 13) Modesty 28) Loyal 14) Nurture 29) Thrifty 15) Obedient 30) Chastity
Many more topics can be added to this list.
e. Rule Two: EACH MONTH--ONE ASPECT
Rule Five: REPEAT -- EVALUATE
Through a process of serious study, meditation, inspiration and considerable guess work, it was discovered, as such things happen, there are six essential aspects in determining Virtue. That was the genesis of the shape of the Cubed Rubric, not vice versa as some skeptics have suggested.
For best results the cube should be used frequently, every day if possible. Since there are enough topics to last a full month and there are only six aspects, it is reasonable that there should be two months assigned for discussion of each aspect. So each month begins with a reexamination of the same Topic as was discussed the previous month, but IN TERMS OF the particular Aspect identified with the new month.
This will simplify and slow the discussion further, because Virtue is very complicated.
The Aspects are listed in the center of each face of the cube just above the rules. The corresponding months are found in the top right corner of each face. These are described by key words.
Codes: February - August
Free-will: January - July
Teleology: May - November
Language: March - September
Context: April - October
Character: June - December
By the time each of the thirty Topics are considered in terms of these six Aspects, each for a full month, a virtuous character can be created. Thus, the full course takes six months. The graduate course involves repeating this effort during the second half of the year.
That is just one possible solution to the puzzle. Those more adventurous or creative can use any topic on any particular day in terms of whatever aspect seems important.
The opposite is possible: Analyze a conversation about virtue to determine the impact or significance of each of the six aspects. This is for those who have advanced to the level of Wisdom.
This rule is flexible too.
f. Rule Three: SET GOALS
To succeed at practically any endeavor it is essential to set goals and progress step by step. To develop a virtuous character and change undesirable behavioral patterns it is essential to establish goals. This may involve both short term goals and long term goals or maybe something as simple as "steps in the right direction." Later, it will be possible to measure your progress from time to time by adapting Rule Five for that purpose.
This is an important issue in the methodology of achieving virtue. Learning to act in the best way is an important objective of the whole exercise. Words and talk are cheap. Self-improvement, growing up and socialization are objectives in learning about virtue. There is no end to such progress.
Thus, any proposed solution to the puzzle of Virtue is not complete until it is implemented. Virtue is not just a theoretical tool, although it can be used for that. It also should be used to inspire a course of action. When the lessons of Virtue are internalized over time, these become part of an individual's character. A confident, positive and decisive outlook on life will reduce stress, enhance competence and expand happiness.
The puzzle can be picked up at anytime and used to initiate an entertaining discussion, even if the discussion is outside the goals that have been set.
When goals are set, it is useful to record these in a diary or some notebook. If a diary is used to record the lessons developed each day, a section can be set aside to list goals. These should be quantitative and easily measured--such as reducing the frequency of foul language or putting clothes away. Be specific.
On each face are key words, or hints, that relate to each Aspect of Virtue. These appear in the center below the rules and are as follows: `Constraints: contrast to Free-will. `Goals and God: are studied by Teleology. `Dialogue-Meaning-Knowing: the use of Language. `Di-sumption, Judgement and Accomplishment: are part of a special discussion of Character. (Di-sumption is antonym for assumption. The process of dissecting, disclosing or discovering assumptions.) `Norms, Morals, Laws and Etiquette: Codes. `Legal, Social and Private: Possible Contexts.
These ideas may seem to complicate the puzzle, but the intention of a hint is just the opposite, to facilitate solutions.
IV - HOW TO BEGIN
a. Rule Four: THINK CLEARLY
The questions in the upper left hand corner on each face of the cube relate to the respective aspects. These are designed to trigger responses or considerations relating to the Topic in relation to the Aspect to be discussed on any particular day.
Where? and When? relate to Context.
Did? relates to Character.
How? relates to Codes.
Why? relates to Teleology.
Can? relates to Free-will.
May? relates to Language.
Certainly other questions might be developed, but these at least get the conversation rolling. These questions can be used to help the process of mental stretching.
Example: To solve the puzzle on April 10th, the topic "justice" would be chosen. The discussion would proceed by considering when? and where? (in what context ((the Aspect)) ) Justice might be important, useful or found. A simple example of a courtroom trial might be suggested and elaborated.
Another example: A teenager should be able to develop an answer to the question: "When is it Just to share evenly with friends, and when is it important to look out for oneself?" This would lead to another quite different and acceptable solution. It would clearly focus on a practical decision that is important to the individual as well as to the family.
b. Rule Six: BE HONEST
The Cubed Rubric is like a truth stone. When anyone is holding it he/she is required to tell the truth and be objective. This is like being under oath in a court of law, or similar to the candor required when confessing to a Priest. Self-improvement and Virtue are not gained by self-deceit.
V - THE LOGICAL STRUCTURE
There is an additional layer of complexity that appears as optional at the bottom left of each face of the Cubed Rubric. An explanation of this is usually only attempted by experts. This is the underlying logical structure of each Aspect listed. Language, as it relates to clear communication, can be a `Possible Condition of Virtue.
Character, or implementation is a `Necessary Condition as already suggested by Rule Three.
Codes once established and accepted are a `Necessary Condition.
Teleology invokes a `Sufficient Condition especially for those who accept a higher authority (some god).
Context is likewise a `Necessary Condition and leads the discussion away from the theoretical to the practical.
Free-will becomes a `Pre-condition.
There are many possible sayings, stories, rhymes and quotes which can be used to describe virtuous deeds. These are sometimes called `RUBRICS. Therefore, Virtue is discovered by the use of the Cubed Rubric because it intends (and pretends) to represent these very personal and special ideas about virtue in an artistic way. There being six essential Aspects to virtue, and six sides to a cube, it follows that the rubric or the puzzle is `cubed.' Thus the genesis of the name `Cubed Rubric'."
It should be apparent that this puzzle has as many levels of complexity as desired. Once an adult has practiced forming questions and finding answers during the course of six months, he/she should be capable of putting it all together and discussing the virtue of a decision that needs to be made in terms of the six possible aspects of that decision all at one sitting.
Some adults may have already developed such an ability and these exceptional individuals who can consistently solve the puzzle of the Cubed Rubric are those who possess WISDOM. Similarly, when a person understands what Virtue is, and consistently applies the lessons and techniques demonstrated by the Cubed Rubric in life, he/she can be considered VIRTUOUS. Part of Wisdom is understanding what Virtue is. Another part of Wisdom is knowing both how to achieve virtue and how to communicate that to others.
By following these instructions carefully it is possible to construct a "Cubed Rubric" from a block of wood cut with six equal sides and cover this with paper on which all the words to the puzzle appear in the prescribed arrangement.
None of them were able to decipher the puzzle, even with instructions. So, it is certain that Virtue is part of the mystery of life.
The discovery and organization of this Cubed Rubric was time consuming. In order to develop such a complex system, it is obvious that Jack had time on his hands.
This last week I stayed home almost the entire week because my comp was sick. The week before he was sick too, but I had to work with the DL, Elder Grower, because his companion was sick as well. The zone leaders exchanged this last week, so I worked with one of them and they stayed here. Then the DL got sick. Elder Rosen and I are the only ones not affected by this epidemic of influenza. I'm usually the first one to get a cold, but I've learned finally how to take care of myself a little better.
One of the 'philosophical' conclusions Jack had reached was the need to use reason to guide his life. The Cubed Rubric was complex tool that hosted the reasoning process, and the justification for depending on reason is no less complex.
He objected strenuously to those Eastern religions, Gurus, Theosophy and New Age teachings that advocate intellectual surrender to a charismatic leader and the reliance on intuition or some mythical inner spirit. He added to his journal and made some concluding comments relating to this important topic:
The Need for Reason.This is possibly Jack's most sophisticated conclusion. He's right; it propels human conduct beyond common sense to the level of reasoned argument. Too often people lead their lives without being able to explain why they do what they do. This is frequently the cause of deep sadness and misfortune. By observing the errors of others it is possible to learn to appreciate reason, and avoid making costly or unfortunate mistakes.
It is easy to imagine someone shouting: `You senseless, stupid fool!' in rage as an epithet when they disapprove of the driving habits of some careless person on the highway or at an intersection. It happens all the time in Italy. The Italian word `cretino' carries that connotation efficiently. `Senseless' would imply some action that was arbitrary, dangerous, thoughtless, random, unexpected or unpredictable. This would be a serious insult or as they say: `them's fightin' words.' A cretino is a creature that can't think or reason--less than an idiot.
It is so commonplace that we obey rules and laws when driving a car that any other kind of behavior seems totally out of the ordinary and unreasonable. Thus, bad driving and even making mistakes while driving is regarded as conduct without reason. To follow reason is so natural, that the reasoning aspect of driving and most similar mundane daily decisions is simply taken for granted.
Rule following behavior is expected but it only comes after reason and is conducted by reasonable people. Thus a criminal is not a reasonable person, at least in respect to some crime.
Decisions in life should be made for good reasons. Especially important actions, such as marriage or divorce for example, should not happen by chance or arbitrarily. These decisions should be based on reason if they are to be respected and viewed seriously. Even in the case of a child who responds "Because" to any inquiry about his/her actions, there is the explicit assumption that some reason is necessary, desirable or implied.
Like the child, political leaders may not always have the capacity or the candor to enunciate all their reasons. It is, however, reasonable to expect that a justification or rationale is there, somewhere hidden in their psyche. Second guessing politicians is practically a national pastime in the United States. Thus reason and even logic can be seen as essential for many different aspects of our lives.
We should not surrender, ignore or take for granted reason or some rational process or logic when we make decisions that guide our lives. We cannot approach our political lives as if we were looking for religious truth and rely on the psychic refuse of our subliminal natures as part of a decision making process. The two endeavors must be unrelated the same way church and state need to be separated.
The corollary to all this is: At every step in the development of the goals to which we aspire in life, unless we show thoughtful reasons for what we decide, we cannot prove that our behavior or goal is not arbitrary or random. Our goals must come forth from an identifiable and defensible reasoning process. If we leave our lives to chance, we could not hope to enjoy the consequences no more than we would trust our fate to a random number generator or a game of Russian roulette.
This seems so fundamental, yet it is curiously original to everyone with whom I have offered an explanation. It is much more than common sense to conclude that `unless we have reasons for what we do we cannot prove that our behavior is not arbitrary.'
These conclusions come from an enlightened sense that reason is essential to guide action.
This corollary also applies to the foundations of morality, and is in part an answer to the general question: "Why do this or that?" What seems so simple to most people on the surface, giving reasons for their conduct, can be terribly difficult when they are actually put to the test. It is even more difficult if what someone is trying to do is generalize from these reasons to develop theories which apply to the entire society or promote absolute truths which apply to the whole of humanity.Jack makes a strong and convincing case that the reason for any action or policy, especially those that affect groups, must be well defined and stand the test of scrupulous investigation. This is like insisting that a scientific fact or law of nature must be observable and lend itself to replication before it can be generally accepted.
The tendency to generalize from a collection of evidence, often very selectively, runs rampant in human nature. This error is possible and is exhibited by the way some biased and stubborn politicians lead along the path of chosen ideologies. They promote their vested interests and silent agenda and sponsor laws and strictures for the whole of society based on particular biases and preconceived, unwarranted and too frequently, undisclosed assumptions.
To avoid these limitations, leaders can be required to back up one step and deal honestly and specifically with the circumstances that surround political issues. Likewise, individuals can back up and contemplate honestly the proper course of action based on objective reasoning patterns. In fact this kind of sensible reasoning is essential to human happiness in the long run, both for individuals and society.
When individuals compete with organized religions and offer dogmatic solutions they error twice. First they act without the accumulated experience of ages of social evolution such as that which is summarized, for example, in the Christian teachings. And second they leave themselves open to the challenge that their recommendations and decisions are arbitrary, capricious, intuitive, and simply nonsense, no better than those of most religions.
Even artists have to train to learn to use their instruments or painting technique. Likewise artists of life must learn logic, clear thinking skills and reasoning capabilities to function well in their daily lives. Reason is the equipment used by those who would lead life as an art form, like a painter uses a brush.
This subject is so important that it deserves elaboration. Jack summarized his argument by personalizing his conclusion:
At the beginning of my missionary experience I wanted to accept the teachings of the Mormon religion. I wanted to believe in what seemed a very logical and beautiful plan--the `Plan of Salvation,' as it is frequently described. This Plan includes a rather complex set of rules, ordinances, sacrifices and rewards. This invoked a concept of Universe that seemed very thorough and compelling. Mormon Doctrine is supported by `divine scripture', a whole host of miracles, and for most adherents, personal experiences. `Prophecy' was the word used to justify any specific teaching or opinion which had something to do with the word or will of God. Prophecy created a binding moral glue that holds the pieces of this complex religion together. (This is the telos of the religion.) It extends to such detail as to dictate abstinence from coffee and certain sports activities, but not others.
This capricious morality no longer has a hold on me. I no longer am suffering under the burden of the desire to believe. I no longer accept the prophecy or the pattern of morality it created. Although I admit, it isn't all that bad, it just seems irrelevant to me.
I present this autobiographical sketch because I think it explains how most people have come to learn about and accept morality--either as conditioning or by intense desire out of desperation. This whole pattern of socialization and religious training that I underwent is probably typical for most people, and is what most people rely upon for guidance for their life. As long as one maintains a belief in some particular religion, questions about morality can usually be answered by recourse to the particular divine source accepted by that religion. But what about morality and ethics for those who have lost their belief in religion?
Jack regarded the solution to the puzzle of the Cubed Rubric to be an important method for answering these questions. That's something, even if it is a puzzle.