“Thus we see the fundamental features of goodness,” writes Dietrich von Hildebrand in The Art of Living. “Luminous harmony, inner freedom and serenity, the victorious superiority of love–which is the secret of eager and ready service–openness to the life of other men, warmth, ardour, meekness and mildness, all-embracing breath, awakedness, and the capacity to grasp values.”
More and more, I am finding this little gem of a book by von Hildebrand to be a sort of examination of conscience. Throughout it, he is continually juxtaposing what it is for a person to cultivate the particular virtue under examination with what it is for a person to disregard the value of it altogether.
For example, he suggests that there are “three types of men who embody a specific antithesis to goodness: the indifferent or cold man, the hardhearted one, and the wicked one.” He proceeds to give brief character descriptions of each.
In a time where I am listening to political platitudes and slogans, it is refreshing to contemplate goodness as both “the queen of all virtues” and the “fruit of moral life.”
Even though his language can seem a bit abstract, any self-examining person can ask him or herself questions about how he or she is living or failing to live the virtues Hildebrand discusses.