The Season on Cultivation
In order to make ourselves and our world better, we need to develop our skill at the art of living. During these ten weeks, we think about the concepts and competencies which help us live well – primarily in terms of virtue. We seek to build up our characters and cultivate habits which over time produce human flourishing.
In thinking about virtue, we follow the research of (among others) two modern psychologists, Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman. We take our structure from their classification of the virtues and many of our resources from the VIA Institute on Character which continues that work. Peterson and Seligman enumerate six main virtues – wisdom, courage, justice, humanity, temperance, and transcendence – with multiple sub-virtues belonging to each one (they call these character strengths).
You can test your own character strengths on the VIA website.
Week 3 – Justice
In Peterson and Seligman’s classification, justice is excellence in community life. It involves being part of a team, whether that be at work, among friends, or within an entire nation. Cultivating justice entails developing our social responsibility, our fairness, and our capacity for leadership. We will explore each of these aspects as we return to this week year after year.
This year we focus our observance on the character strength of teamwork and cultivate a sense of belonging to the larger groups of which we are but a part. We think about the obligations we have to each other and try to put the needs of the whole above our own. We also pay attention to the excesses of teamwork. We chart a middle course between not contributing to the common good and not being able to critique what our groups are doing. In addition, we engage this week with some concrete aspects of justice. We celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and civil rights. We also think about the state of the criminal justice system in the United States.
[Peterson, Christopher, and Martin E. P. Seligman. Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2004. Print.]
● Watch one of the most popular series of lectures on justice – the one taught by Harvard’s Michael Sandel.
● Unfortunately, one cannot speak of criminal justice in the united states without speaking about race. Read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, a recent, definitive book on the problems with our criminal justice system.
● Learn about one way in which some of the problems with our current criminal justice system can be addressed – community policing. Read Don’t Shoot by David Kennedy and check out this interview with the author.
● Work together with people to accomplish some goal – build something, cook something, play a cooperative game.
● Throughout the week (and into the year), pay attention to your sense of teamwork and civic obligation…think about yourself as part of a team and put the community’s goals above (or perhaps equal to) your own. Pay attention to how your behavior affects others and to what you all could accomplish if you truly worked together.
● Try one of these fantastic activities, including movies to watch and ideas for ways to cultivate your teamwork.
● Listen to or read Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
● Go see the new movie about the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches, Selma.
● Encourage others to develop their own ability to work as part of a team. Use the same list of activities, but think about how you could facilitate those experiences for others.
● Participate in the MLK Day of Service.