Prowess is mastery. For the chef, it may mean sharpening their knife every time it is used. For the attorney, it may mean improving the inflection in their voice so that their argument is more readily heard. For the parent, it may mean changing how they teach something so that their child can learn it better.
Probity is the quality of having strong moral principles like honesty and decency.
Both can be concentrated in a person or a profession. Fatherly prowess. Fatherly probity. Legal prowess. Legal probity.
Great people join mastery coupled with strong moral principles. Prowess with probity.
Today, at least in the United States, there is a prevailing perception that decisions are weighed out by consulting the head and the heart. The thinking and the feeling.
But many confuse feelings for appetites. Appetites make my heart beat fast, my breathing shallow. Appetites make me perspire. What they are really saying is that decisions are weighed out by consulting the head and the gut. The gut, rather than the heart, is where appetites reside.
If you consider decisionmaking to be a conversation between the head and the gut, the heart is actually left out of the conversation (the decisionmaking process) alltogether.
Affections, a type of love, reside in the heart. Affections are distinct from cravings, lusts, and hunger — all of which are appetites.
Personal decisions are made by consulting at least the head (I think …), the gut (I feel …), and the heart (I love …).
C.S. Lewis observed the heart is where affections and sentiments reside. I think one thing. I feel another. I do what I have an affection for, what I love.
How then do I prioritize what I have an affection for, what I love?
If I was going to launch a website titled fixedlaw.com, it would concentrate on attorneys (the people part of attorneys), technology, and community.
During the pandemic of 2020, the global response was some form of quarantine and social distancing. Community took a hit. Like a small plant growing out of a crack in concrete, the human need for community manifested itself first in Italy. Individuals started going out on their balconies and singing, full voiced singing. And before too long, others joined them as an individual voice became a choir. And then others brought out their instruments. Dancing followed.
The first iteration of innovative technology came in the form of strapping champagne glasses to long poles. Again, from their balconies, Italians extended their poles across narrow streets to toast.
And then people across the globe started using video conferencing platforms like Zoom to start meeting. The meetings grew in quality and quantity until just about every type of people was getting together virtually. Businesses meeting may have lead the way, but social hours, games, family reunions, weddings, and even meeting strangers led the way.
Noticing what people have done naturally is a promising roadmap for attorneys. Attorneys do not do well in isolation either. They and their clients need community. And what about the time constraints attorneys suffer because of the high demands of blending their professional and personal lives? I don’t know what the technology is that will help attorneys build a client community. Maybe it does not exist yet. But it is better to toast from the end of a long pole, than not to toast at all.
The political genius of the founders of the United States is that they juxtaposed two competing concepts in their minds at one time. One concept is that base human nature can be observed and it should be woven into the structure of government rather than rejected. The other concept is that it is possible to design a structure of government that is somewhat utopian – where people have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
There may be a form of government that better addresses those two competing concepts than a democratic republic but history has not yet revealed it.
Even so, democracy is an oppressive form of government by definition. There is always a majority that oppresses a minority. That is why the founders ultimately enumerated certain rights. The majority is quite capable of fending for itself. Certain rights are protected so that the minority can equitably fend for itself. These rights empower the minority in its opposition to the majority, especially where the majority is coercive. Consider the power of free speech, free assembly, and arms. If there is a national morality, it can be witnessed in the debate between the majority and the minority.
Morality is holding or manifesting high principles for proper conduct
Built into the design is an assumption that the relationship between the majority and minority would not just be governed by the Constitution or even law itself but by moral people. Read and hear what they said:
George Washington – The foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality.
John Adams – Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.
John Jay – No human society has ever been able to maintain both order and freedom, both cohesiveness and liberty apart from the moral precepts…
Samual Adams – … good morals are the only solid foundation …
Alexander Hamilton – When morality falters the Pandora’s box of corruption, crime, and decay set in to be followed by the demise of the nation.
And we have to let go of the myth that someone is not a moral leader because they did something immoral. There are those who would set George Washington’s contribution to zero because he was a slaveholder. Those who would set Martin Luther King, Jr.’s contribution to zero because he was unfaithful to his wife. Moral leadership is based on the totality of the person.
And the totality evidences a person who privileges empowerment over de-humanization; encourages the loud, messy moral debate between the majority and the minority, privileges truth over doublespeak, and eats only after everyone else has been fed.
Perceived omniscience. To perceive that you know everything. If you live long enough, you might just figure it out yourself. You might just know that you are right and be proven wrong in a dreadfully public way. If you live long enough, two very smart people will tell you the opposite thing and tell you how certain they are that they are 100 percent right. One of them is wrong. Or both of them.
The same thing happens with people. As long as I perceive that I know everything about a person there is no reason to question, to investigate, to explore who that person might be. So, it isn’t until I admit that I really don’t know them at all that I can begin the journey of knowing them.
That one reason couples can be married for years and not know each other. Business partners can work together for years and not know each other. Lifetime friends can not know each other. Yet, you and I, in the course of an afternoon, can know each other.
Consider that you know the person you are spending time with today. Consider that you might be wrong. Start the journey of discovering who they really are instead. To really know someone, start by admitting that you don’t.