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\”Morality\” – Word of the Week

Definition of the word of the week (MORALITY): 1) The quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct. 2) Virtuous conduct

Genius physicist Albert Einstein once wrote, “The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life.”

About 15 years ago, I lived at Fort Leavenworth—as a student, not as an inmate. And, although it is a little embarrassing, I must confess to doing something really dumb. We had grilled dinner on our barbeque and afterwards I thought the ashes were sufficiently cool to throw them away into a nearby dumpster. Well, as chance would have it, there was at least one spark left in those ashes and the dumpster was soon smoking pretty badly. I then ran a water hose to the dumpster and proceeded to put out the fire. Meanwhile, I could hear sirens in the distance getting closer. Obviously, one of the neighbors had noticed the smoke and assumed that someone had set the dumpster on fire as a prank. After the fire was out and after I had suffered the ill-humored looks from the firemen, a military police officer questioned me about what had happened. Blushing a deep red from embarrassment, I confessed my blunder. A few wisecracks followed and the case was closed.

About a week later, I heard of another person doing a similar thing. Realizing that other people could make the same mistake made me feel better because stupidity likes company. However, the other person lied about what happened. After an investigation, he was kicked out of the Army. That may sound like a severe punishment but the military holds morality in high regard. As British author, Thomas Huxley, once wrote, “The foundation of morality is to have done, once and for all, with lying.”

However, better examples of morality show themselves everyday. Just this morning, a young cadet turned in a five-dollar bill that someone had dropped on campus. This is not uncommon here, but how many people would have done that? Examples like that cadet make it clear that we are doing something right. Russian political theorist, Mikhail Bakunin, once wrote, “Freedom, morality and the human dignity of the individual consists precisely in this; that he does good not because he is forced to do so, but because he freely conceives it, wants it and loves it.” So, let us all choose to do the right thing and do it for the right reason.

The following quotations are intended to assist in explaining and exemplifying the word of the week:

Honor is simply the morality of superior men. Henry Louis Mencken

The roots of violence: wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, politics without principles. Mahatma Gandhi

Where beauty is worshipped for beauty’s sake as a goddess, independent of and superior to morality and philosophy, the most horrible putrefaction is apt to set in. Aldous Huxley

The aim of morality is to give people a standard of action and a motive to work by which, they will not intensify each person’s selfishness, but raise them up above it. Cecil Sharpe

Respect for the truth comes close to being the basis for all morality. Frank Herbert

Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere. Gilbert Chesterton

Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something. Henry David Thoreau

Morality without religion is only a kind of dead reckoning – an endeavor to find our place on a cloudy sea by measuring the distance we have run, but without any observation of the heavenly bodies. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Morality is not the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness. Immanuel Kant.

A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers – and this is the basis of all human morality. John F. Kennedy

Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Civilization depends on morality. Ralph Waldo Emerson

The acceptance that all that is solid has melted into the air, that reality and morality are not givens but imperfect human constructs, is the point from which fiction begins. Salman Rushdie

LTC Patrick Beer, the Dean of Students and Commandant of Cadets at Georgia Military College, prepares this study guide each week as part of the institution’s character education program. He welcomes comments and suggestions from readers. He can be contacted by phone, 478-445-2710 or by email, pbeer@gmc.cc.ga.us