Simon Duffy

Thoughts, Bemusements & Arguments

Tag: benevolence

From Caring Comes Courage

…the most important term of Taoism: Tz’u, which can be translated “caring” or “compassion” and which is based upon the character for heart.

In the sixty-seventh chapter of the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu named it as his “first treasure,” and then wrote, “from caring comes courage.”

We might add that from it also comes wisdom. It’s rather significant, we think, that those who have no compassion have no wisdom. Knowledge, yes; cleverness, maybe; wisdom, no. A clever mind is not a heart. Knowledge doesn’t really care. Wisdom does. We also consider it significant that cor, the Latin word for “heart,” is the basis for the word courage.

 Benjamin Hoff from the Tao of Pooh

Philosophers also use the word ‘will’. Wisdom encompasses the moral understanding which is the business of understanding what we should do – what is right. And what is at the heart of the will if it is not love – or for Hoff – caring. I must care about something if I am going to stand up for something and that love or care is not produced by factual knowledge or intricate reasoning – it is a matter of the heart.

Mr Pye and Do-Goodery

Mervyn Peake’s novel Mr Pye is a wonderful fable on the perils of do-goodery. Bringing boundless wisdom and benevolence to the island of Sark he ends up, much to his own disgust, turning into a winged angel.

What is at the root of his strange fall is his own pride, his determination to not just be good – but to look good.

Several symptoms of his prideful benevolence shine though the pages of the novel:

Unlike Christ, Mr Pye never asks the person he is about to help whether he really wants his assistance. 

Power is never questioned. Confident in his own benevolence and greater wisdom he treats people as puppets – at times quite literally. 

God becomes the “Great Pal” – always smiling, always present. Only in his final reconciliation with God does he experience any fear and trembling.

Do-goodery is not good. Goodness follows the path of justice: it is always respectful, humble and mindful that any good that is done never really came from the self anyway.

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