The Black Dog
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from The Wild Man's Journey by Richard Rohr & Joseph Martos

from chapter 18

The Yin and Yang of things

... Some of the virtues I would place in this category are self-possesion, leadership, truthfulness,decisiveness, responsibility, closure, intelligence, inner authority,challenge,courage and risk taking. We have never heard very much about virtues such as these. Many of the saints had these virtues, but that is why they were usually canonised several centuries later, after the dust had settled and they had become domesticated.

By self possession I mean the ability to be in touch with your clear centre, your feelings and your motives. A self-possessed man is one who knows what his values are and acts on them. He has self-knowledge, self-awareness. He knows where he's coming from, and he acts on the basis of freely chosen values rather than reacting to situations or to demands that other people place on him. He is his own man, he hasn't been bought. He isn't trying to please people.He is just trying to do what he believes in his own heart to be right. He seeks the will of God, even against his self-interest.

One down to earth example of this is something that I saw people doing in the New Jerusalem community. In recent years many of them came to the realisation that they were caught up in a consumerism that continually spiraled upwards- the more they made the more they spent on themselves. They felt that it was not right for them to keep buying more luxeries, especially when there were so many other people in the world. In Cincinnati and even in their own neighbourhood who did not have the necessities of life. So husbands and wives sat down together, figured out what their families needed to live on and decided to give the rest away. They planned to give it away and they followed through on their plans ...

A good example of the opposite is something that M Scott Peck talks about in People of the LIe. At one point in that book he talks about the people who live and work in corporate America, never doing what they believe is right because they do not even know what they themselves believe in. They have been told early in life what success means, and they live their entire lives living up to society's definition of success. They marry the right kind of wife, live in the right kind of neighbourhood in the right kind of house with the right kind of dog, drive the right kind of car and have the right number of children.

But the "right" thing is never something that they themselves deeply believe in If the right thing to do were changed tomorrow,they would change what they do just as quickly as tehy change makes of cars and styles of clothing. Instead of being self possessed, they are possessed.

If self-possession is the virtue of self-knowledge, truthfulness is the virtue of reality knowledge ....

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