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The Other Side of Virtue by Brendan Myers

A Review by Anne Mills

Where our virtues really come from, what they mean and where they might be taking us

The author is a doctor of philosophy living in Canada who writes for Pagan newspapers, and takes us on an internal scrutiny of the defining of Virtue. What is meant by Virtue? Is it just all that is good in us or is there more to it? How are the qualities of Virtue identified and how can we use it to help us along our spiritual path?

He outlines its derivation from examples of heroism and historical figures in the past, and the how the act of storytelling is how we pinpoint what is regarded as good. After a general outlining, he throws down a handful of pithy quotes, which he calls fragments, but in my mind, it is like the casting of rune-stones, and from the arrangement of how the fragments fall or how they catch your eye, you pick out your destiny, and recognise the facets in yourself. So Virtue is not just stuffed-shirt piety and smugness, but a fulfilment of all our potential, and a equilibrium of qualities of both good and deprecatory. My favourite of his many quotes from literature, philosophers, and folklore is from "The Instructions of Cormac of King Cormac Mac Airt from ancient Irish scripts of the 9th century

"Be not too wise, be not too foolish

Be not too conceited, be not too diffident

Be not too haughty, be not too humble

Be not too talkative, be not too silent,

Be not too harsh, be not too feeble…."

which epitomises the balance of the aspects of Virtue in my eyes.

He finishes the self-exploratory journey with a question which in short asks whether, following the path that the world has mapped out for you, could you regard yourself as a role model? If your answer is "no", now is the time to take the decision to evolve, towards that; and if the answer is "yes", you are on the way to true fulfilment.

I found the book meaty (even though I am vegetarian!); you can only digest small portions at a time, and so the book is neatly sectioned into five movements which are again broken down into small snacks, giving plentiful food for introspective thought.

Anne Mills

The Other Side of Virtue