Tag Archives: Honor

Rise and shine

“The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him. What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows? Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings. It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink.”

The door opened and the curtains were drawn back as the king awoke to the admonition of a very concerned mother. Choosing her words cunningly, she spoke to him with regard to his standing in the eyes of the nation he led. Actions unbecoming a king would undermine his authority. If a king could not rule his own nature, how could he rule a kingdom positioned for world dominion? Jewish Rabbis recount a tale regarding an event with this king. On the day of his marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter, the king assembled musicians from far and wide. As the festivities unfolded, a day of celebration progressed into a night of excessive drinking and revelry. By the forth hour of the following day (10am) the king was found passed out with the keys to the Temple under his pillow. It was then his mother went looking for him and the words at the beginning of this post were the start of what she had to say. Sometime later when King Solomon would narrate this proverb, it was said that scribes used a pseudonym to protect his character of wisdom.

While resolve declines in some quarters, there is a movement of those who desire to advance beyond the vices and shortcomings. Not everyone is born into greatness but everyone can position themselves for it. Though our feet are on the earth, our spirit is not subject to it. The confines of the natural can take precedence to the supernatural. There is a limitation placed by some on whatever is not quantifiable or qualifiable by scientific measures. I believe in systems of reason and logic, I believe in the sciences. But I also acknowledge that humanity is a work in progress and we do not know 100% of what there is to know about anything. Thus we should be growing and like King Solomon sometimes we need a voice of reason in our life to facilitate that growth.

Many choose to remain within the boundaries of their predisposition and knowledge base thus they never grow. These boundaries must be expanded and the territory must be extended otherwise progression becomes impossible. Ordinary sliced bread remained virtually unknown to the world for 15 years after the inventor first came up with how to do it. Otto Rohwedder limited his energies on the processes of mass produced sliced bread. It was Wonder Bread that took the concept to the next level through mass marketing the concept, thus generating the infrastructure for mass production.

Is there anything in your life that could undermine your position? Is there anything that stands in the way of your progression?

Whatever you wish to achieve in the future must be actively worked toward in the present. I was told that the farmers of the distant past set their eyes to a fixed object as they plowed their field. This would keep them plowing in a straight course. Sometimes we get off course by choices that evolve into things unplanned. When it happens, we need someone or something that can wake us and realign us with our purpose.

Copyright © 2013 J.M. Cortés 

What is the Greater Good?


There is a tale of a drawbridge keeper who operated a drawbridge which extended out over a deep chasm. Each day a train carrying travelers would pass over this chasm and he was there to ensure the drawbridge was lowered for their safe passage. One day the drawbridge keeper asked his son to accompany him to the drawbridge so that they might spend the day together. That day there were 3 trains that would pass over the chasm and the first 2 passed by as scheduled. Both times the father was able to demonstrate the working of the drawbridge for his son and they would watch the travelers pass by. “Oh father, how their safety depends on you.” said the son as he peered over into the deep chasm. “Yes, my son” the drawbridge keeper replied, “it is my duty to remain here to lower this drawbridge for them or they would surely plummet into the chasm and perish”.

The day passed on and soon the sound of the final train was heard in the near distance. The drawbridge keeper quickly made his way to his station to lower the drawbridge. As he prepared to lower the drawbridge he heard the cries of his son. The boy had climbed down to the area where the mechanical gears turned to lower the drawbridge. Somehow his foot had become lodged in one of the gears and he could not free himself. He began to call out to his father to help free him. As the drawbridge keeper realized where his son was, his soul filled with terror. To continue with lowering the drawbridge would cause his son to be pulled in by the gears crushing him to death. If he climbed down to free his son from the gears he would not be able to lower the drawbridge. This would guarantee the death of all the travelers for any moment they would plunge in the chasm. The fate of his son as well as that of hundreds of unsuspecting travelers rested upon this drawbridge keeper. Regardless of his decision, as a father or as a drawbridge keeper he would be the harbinger of death this day.

Whether through philosophy or religion, it is likely you have heard this tale before. In a religious context it serves as an allegory to the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus Christ (though there is noticeable theological discrepancy). In a philosophical context, this tale is used to demonstrate a position (or positions) and the corresponding affects that result from a particular ideology. Specifically, this tale serves as a fitting catalyst for the discussion of Deontology. Deontology is a philosophy of viewing actions based on how they fit within the boundaries of rules that determine if the actions are right or wrong. Restated, Deontology is submission to a system of rules which are enforced by an individual’s duty and obligation. The etymology for this philosophy’s name is found in 2 Greek words: Deon (Duty) and Logos (Science/Study). A central figure to this philosophy is Immanuel Kant, who maintained that people have an obligation to always obey rules of duty and obligation. It is never acceptable, regardless of any positive outcome that might result, to venture beyond these established rules.

Immanuel Kant declared that the moral codes of a duty or obligation must be obeyed without any thought. For example, lying that could result in the saving  of someone’s life would be absolutely forbidden. The lie must be avoided and the life must be lost. Obviously that is an extreme example but it literally conveys the essence of Deontology. In direct opposition to Deontology is a philosophy known as Consequentialism; this set of ethics establishes the morality of actions based on the results they can produce. Simply put Deontology is about adherence to Duty and Consequentialism is about adherence to doing what some consider Right (or the Greater Good). During the Holocaust, a family lying to prevent Nazis from arresting the Jews they secretly hid would be acceptable in light of Consequentialism. The preservation of the Jew’s lives would be considered the greater good; it would be valued higher than the moral failure of lying.

In consideration of the tale found at the beginning of this commentary, what influence could Deontology or Consequentialism have on its outcome? There are always exceptions, but what parent would sacrifice their child for the lives of strangers? Its possible those without children would not identify with this as strongly as those who are parents – but what is right? Kant’s position would say his duty was to his role as a drawbridge keeper – but the drawbridge keeper also had a duty as a father. How can the greater good be extracted from such a horrible situation? What if we replace the drawbridge keeper’s son with an individual of ‘less importance’? What if a person unknown to the drawbridge keeper had wondered down into the area and become trapped in the mechanical gears? Does the paradigm shift?

Only a fool would take pleasure in the chance to stand as judge, jury, and executioner in things pertaining to the greater good. In closing, I invite your response to this commentary.  What duty does the drawbridge keeper have? What is the greater good? What would you do?

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

The Vice Grip of Vanity

Vanity is a self-destructive trait. There are those controlled by it with understandable cause; their beauty, money, possessions, and status of life are considerable. Then there are those filled with vanity but for reasons that are far less discernible. When held captive by the grip of vanity, what is taken exceeds what is given. What does vanity give? Self-affirmation, feelings of accomplishment, and a sense of greatness. In moderation these concepts are not inherently wrong. But what does vanity take away? It takes away far more than it gives.

To be manipulated by vanity surely means to be set on a never ending path. Vanity has an appetite and therefore it will need to fill that void.  The all seeing eye of vanity is never satisfied. When that hunger is filled something comes along and provokes a greater appetite. Some people are never satisfied with what they have because all they see is what they do not have. Their line of sight is on things beyond their possession so what they have is no longer within their focus. Vanity takes away contentment; someone said the greatest enemy of contentment is comparison and I believe it.

When a person is controlled by vanity, it causes them to lose the respect of those around them. It doesn’t mean that people will not admire their ‘things’ or who they are. But when a truly vain person is in action, they turn off those around them. Placing themselves or their things on display creates distaste in those observing with a discerning eye. When a vain person becomes aware they are turning people off, a straw man argument such as accusing them of envy or hating is available. But that informal fallacy is easy to disregard. A person’s true nature always manifests, no matter how much they attempt to suppress it.

I do not think that the only prevention to vanity is to be unattractive, poor, or unmotivated to accomplish anything in life. A person who parks their vehicle in a highly visible area so all can see it and the person who parks theirs where no one can both have an issue with vanity. The assertion I make is control your spirit and outlook instead of allowing external things to manipulate you. Be you and be the best you. I believe a person can attain any level of success, be attractive, and accumulate possessions without being a prisoner to vanity. A proper perspective is acknowledging nothing lasts forever. External beauty fades, physical abilities end, and possessions cannot be taken to the grave.

We are not defined by ‘things’ we are defined by who we are. If our identify is reduced to what we have or a status in life, we turn ourselves over to a world of illusion. Possessions only derive their significance from the imaginary importance we attach to them. Refuse to be a prisoner held by the grip of materialism, lust for position, and vanity.

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

If you want to see Success come before Work…

…then look in the dictionary because that’s the only place you will see that.

Success is, as someone said, when preparation connects with opportunity. To achieve success we must position ourselves for it. Success in any endeavor is rarely an accident but rather the result of intentional design. To a certain extent success is subjective; the standard we set for our definition of success is basically right. Inspiration is the driving factor behind how high or low we set our standard for success. Some are more inspired, more driven, and more aggressive than others. The inspiration that establishes the level of success sought after overlaps into another subject. Zeal can be tempered with wisdom but if a lethargic disposition is the norm, it is nearly terminal. Success will not be served to you, it is only self served.

Success to some is defined by accumulation, to others it is defined by accomplishment. Success is like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder. Even attaining success through means some might consider dishonorable is still success to the one who achieves what they want. There is always a cost associated with exchanging our ideals for what we want but that’s usually a lesson learned later rather than beforehand. I believe in the idea of aggressively pursuing goals. I believe in the idea of challenging others if they stand in between you and your goals. But if in the end you have everything you want but it was attained at the expense of others or your own ideals, what do you really have?

Joe Paterno was the head coach at Penn State for many years once, he was quoted as saying “Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good.”. Go after your goals, work hard to achieve them. But do it right.

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés