Preetam D'Souza

A Thousand and One Virtues

What is virtue to you?

Let me tell you of the thousand virtues.

"Look at how happy I am," babbles the hedonist, intoxicated and writhing in a sea of flesh. "Pleasure is virtue."

"Look at how much I know," thinks the philosopher, brandishing his library. "Knowledge is virtue."

"Look at how much I own," advertises the capitalist, tallying his accounts. "Wealth is virtue."

"Look at how far my influence extends," argues the politician, stroking his pulpit. "Position is virtue."

"Look at how equal we all are," declares the democrat, enthusiastically leveling stacks of votes. "Equality is virtue."

"Look at how unjust the world is," screams the activist, reeling from outrage and whirring with revenge. "Justice is virtue."

"Look at how elegant my lines are," hums the artist, signing his initials with a flick of the wrist. "Beauty is virtue."

"Look at how well my machine runs," pitches the inventor, eagerly demonstrating his latest invention. "Ingenuity is virtue."

"Look at how much I can bear," croaks the Christian, bearing his cross up Golgotha. "Suffering is virtue."

"Look at how much I can sacrifice," whimpers the ascetic, sleeping naked on thorns. "Self-denial is virtue."

"Look at how ephemeral existence is," says the Buddhist, sitting peacefully under the Bodhi tree. "Non-attachment is virtue."

"Look at how easy life is!" laughs the Taoist, throwing himself into the Tao. "Wu-wei is virtue."

"Look at how meaningless life is," sighs the nihilist, staring with dead eyes into a dead world. "There is no virtue."

"Look!" shouts the Zen master, pointing to the moon.

"Look at how far my arrow flies!" cries the hero, taking aim at the moon. "Feel the weight of my spirit; feel the bite of my virtue!"

A thousand virtues flit about; a thousand virtues beckon forth—but where is the thousand and first? Where is your virtue, dear friend? Where is your dearest virtue? When will she be born? Are you fertile enough to conceive? Are you strong enough to give birth? Or will you adopt another as your own? But I tell you this: there is no stronger bond than blood.

Preetam D'Souza
December 18, 2020