“Virtue—even attempted virtue—brings light; indulgence brings fog.” C.S. Lewis
I was told to drive faster by a man who had driven these roads for decades. Normally my wife tells me to slow down. These roads were narrow and twisty in old Black Forest, Germany where I now roam. “Did he say faster?” I asked myself. The rain was pouring, the night was dark, visibility not great and I was just getting used to driving a stick shift in an old van! “Is there a reason why you are going so slow?” he asked. Honestly, I was a little uncomfortable with the the idea of increasing my speed. All I wanted was little safe dollops of slow. I wanted to see the contours, read the little writing on the signs, you know, get familiar with my surroundings.
Indulgence brings fog. And I thought about that great observation by C.S. Lewis in light of my new responsibilities. It is so true that when we indulge in our own appetites usually someone else has to stumble in some sort of fog. Feelings of being unsafe caused by not knowing what the next blind curve will bring is unnerving, add some fog and it is down right scary.
My new job is about living with and caring for twenty teenage boys. I didn’t know what I was getting into when I said, “Yes, I’ll do it!” I do have to say that they are awesome kids. But I’ve picked up on a reality that most boys are okay with disheveled rooms and a lack of sleep. For me rooms filled with clutter, open drawers cascading with clothing and the sweaty odours keeps me from wanting to enter. Enter at your own risk! How do they find things in that fog? Last night as I did my rounds in this 17th century bath house turned dorm to lock doors and shut off lights I saw it there again. I saw our huge jar of Nutella left opened for a second time on the counter with a knife thick with its sweet delight and an open bag of bread. Indulgence that says “Let someone else deal with my messy mist.”
“Virtue—even attempted virtue—brings light…” I wonder if we all should just close our ears to the voices that say, “Go faster!” Open your eyes to slow down. Take the curves and the ups and downs of living in earth’s community aware what your conscientious attempts at virtue can accomplish. Virtue, in the end, is to think about the other. That is moral excellence. We all should be about creating environments to live our lives in places of honour, brotherhood and respect.
When I drive my old dorm van on a rare German day of sunshine, I can revel at the corn fields, the vineyards, the places to cut your own flowers and the villages that date back earlier than the United States and Canada. No fog. My passengers, especially my wife feel safe. She’ll even do a giggle-holler, “We are in Europe Peter!” Comfortable driving. Driving in the light. I am struck with this thought today, my virtue, even my attempted bumbling virtue brings to you and those in my circle comfort, safety and maybe even some hooting for joy.
Yes I did speed up some on that rainy dark night, just enough to satisfy my more experienced instructor. But if you were to drive with me on the narrow winding roads of the Black Forest I think you would much prefer to ride in the clear light more than me trying to beat the clock in the fog at dark. Of course this is not about my driving; it’s about living life. I’d rather learn this life lesson about slowing down to notice what is happening around me, noticing you so that together we can relax in the safety of light and relish the surrounding beauty together. Isn’t that better than to be obscured by indulgent conduct.
“Virtue brings light. Indulgence brings fog.”
Good thought. So please close the Nutella jar and put away the bread before I do my final rounds!