Virtue, encore a cette astra. 22589
Sat, 4 Sep 1999 03:06:19 EDT

'There is grandeur in this view of life-'.
(Charles Darwin)

Encore a cette astra. Nadia

Dear Learners,

A special meeting under the canopy of blue sky the other day has caused me to
reflect on 'virtue's' place in this space.

Every thing has (to have) a place to be and become.

It will call that place 'home' wherever it is.


It will call that place 'home' wherever it is.


Slower still,

It will call that place 'home' wherever it is.

Mmm, do you, can you sense through the repetitions how the meaning moves and
how the movement creates new meanings, a shift of sensibilities to and from

Look, look carefully, (Dante) listening is a form of vision. (St Christopher)

Imagine you are sleeping in a wilderness, under the stars, in a cave or where
ever. That is an immense place and you will probably look up to the sky and
'call it home' you will in the act of being there need to take it in, within
and therein you have called the heavens 'home'.


Maybe because it contains us we desire to reciprocate?

The Master said, The young are to be held in awe. How do we not know that
what is to come will not surpass the present? (Confucian)

I was with two young women creatively engaged. We rested from our work to
reflect. I asked Nadia, "Where did you start?" meaning the series of images.
After a short pause, "Somewhere!"
That, to my listening is a very beautiful answer and one that is very fitting
for those learningfully creating the new futures they ardently desire.

Where we do start and end is a very interesting question. I personally do not
think it matters. How we are during the meantime is for me the bedrock of

I am not fit to do anything other than dip my toe into what might issue from
the Confucian riddle of 'rvn' or 'virtue'. For sure it seems to me very much
like a deep thing, perhaps a well that runs through many layers of rock to
some underwater stream from which we all can drink. In the context of a most
immediate interest to the LO list my guess was and remains that it feeds a
desire for self-improvement akin to that which Senge and others call
'generative learning'. Maybe only a few wish to make that connection.
I found among some 'lost' papers yesterday a three-page article that I wrote
in response to a passage in the classic text and oracle I Ching.
It was headed with one of the oldest known sayings.

"The world is entangled in a knot, who can untangle the tangle?"

Many images come to my mind when I read those words, complexity, anxiety,
deeply 'contained' things, tensions, the great tangled knot split asunder by
the sword of Alexander the Great pupil of Socrates, but most, by far most the
image of the tangled undulating mass of the human brain. The most complex
'knot' in the cosmos.
Some believe that man's brain was driven to 'balloon' out of all proportion
by the need to create simpler 'meaning' from the complex) apprehension of two
fundaments of enormous magnitudes; that seem to call out to each other over
some great void of time space, as if they knew each other too intimately and
so seemingly and fittingly slightly fear each other, mind and cosmos.
(Dawkins: Unweaving the Rainbow)

The miracle for Dawkins is that, " We can get outside the universe. I mean in
the sense of the universe being inside our skulls."

In my understanding Dawkins, rather like At de Lange sees how nature sews
past, present and future together.
When Nadia sat above the gleaming and empty white paper below the blue sky
she sat before her own fundament of past, present and future and was
captured, captivated by losing one sense of identity to become immersed in
For Confucius the business of 'personal improvement' was through inner
learning and reflection, it was to be like the streams of Dante's envisioned
fundament, it is expressed by him (his disciples) thus,
" The Master, standing by a stream, said, Its passing by is like this- it
does not cease by day or night."
This is interpreted as meaning, among other things, that self-improvement as
movement toward 'virtue' is a continual effort.

It takes the whole of us.

Day and night, inside is as outside (Dostoevsky).

We have to know if we are the stream, the valley or the man/woman stood
beside it or all three when we approach this question.

It was understood by another sage, Heraclitus that 'we cannot step in the
same stream twice.' In my imagination and mind's eye I have the image of an
ancient old Tench that I know who swims in the streams near where I walk and
live. He 'plays' the currents and eddies the fast water and the slow alike,
and the still resting waters with consummate ease.
He is a disciple of both Confucius and Lao-Tzu, at his best he is the stream,
creature and valley. Now and then he has to struggle against the flows for
want of food, but we must forgive his perfection that. He makes few other

It is his spareness?

We can do that can't we?

Where others might wish to catch this magnificent giant of a fish my delight
is in watching. (W.Blake). I don't know if that fish dreams when he sleeps,
or if he sleeps when he dreams. (T.E.Lawrence)

To return to Nadia's own stream, and that sheet of paper, that white
fundament, that field of dreams, that 'still pool' for/of deep possibilities.
That finite place for the infinite commencements and re-commencements in the
search for her own particular virtuousness and virtuosity.

Dawkins writes, " Only human beings guide their behaviour by a knowledge of
what happened before they were born and a preconception of what may happen
after they are dead; thus only humans find there way by a light that
illuminates more than the patch of ground they stand on."

Nadia is to me just one earthly angel, from precisely when and where she does
not know any more than you or I, but certain is she of one thing beyond most
others; that she lives and she will choose the way she lives and more, right
this moment she chooses the difficult but brightly (Ming) deep and moving
stream of 'virtue' that means many things, but always heads like time's arrow
in one direction.
When in darkness Rvn looks to the stars, (the then 'absent space' now filled
by the Northern Star) for light guided by some ineffable inner voice that is
at the beating heart of 'virtue', a common inner/outer voice given freely to
all who will just stop and listen for it, among the screaming of the
tumultuous world.

The sheet of paper is like that 'patch of ground' and in the searching for
light in the heavens she finds her long, deep past writ large. And she
desires to see a shooting star. She has one in her heart and still she is
looking for it anywhere, everywhere, and somewhere.

Inside is outside.

If you think this too trivial, that all this blank white paper and unknowing
of where, when, how, why and what 'stuff' is not the 'tough enough stuff' for
those having to wrestle to create the 'realities' of change and
transformation in the world of commerce and contemporary society I ask you to
try this small test.

One statement below is by my first and pre-eminent personal 'old master' in
painting and living, Leonard Mc Comb RA, (Retired Professor of Painting the
postgraduate Painting School, London) The other is by an artist who took up
brushes, somehow, in the concentration camp of Belsen. Can you tell who wrote
in the very teeth of earthly hellfire and wrote in this 'green and pleasant

" If only one of my pictures brings pleasure or joy to one person my life
will have had form and meaning"

" I feel good; for the first time in ages I have once again begun to draw,
life once again acquires meaning and purpose."

I couldn't.

Art like life is an overcoming.

The Art of Overcoming is the Practice of Virtue. The Practice of Virtue is
the Art of Overcoming.
And the whole world is a tumult of both.
Maybe it all just has the meaning and virtue we can give it?
The Master said, Those who know virtue are few‚^ņ¶

Best wishes,

Andrew Campbell

PS. I almost forgot to mention. Nadia's surname (family name) is Halabi.
She is the daughter of a Palestinian who came to England after the end of the
Second World War to study and learn, just before the establishment of the
Jewish State. Her family origins go back to Syria and possibly from all over
the Holy Land.
Having no 'state' (homeland) he becomes a citizen of the world, he came to a
'New Jerusalem' with a vision of what learning could do. Past, present and
future are now realised and embodied in Nadia, his daughter.

Nature sews in circles.

Virtue is both made and borne.

'I hear the galaxies singing‚^ņ¶' (Dawkins)

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