Feb. 2 Flashback: Today is tomorrow

Feb. 2 Flashback: Today is tomorrow February 2, 2022

This blog is so old people used to find it through AltaVista.

From February 2, 2012, “Groundhog Day and the 10,000-hour montage“:

When I first encountered this idea of virtue as craft, I found it exciting and even liberating because it was so different from the idea of virtue I had learned growing up in American fundamentalist Christianity. I had been taught to think of virtue as mainly a matter of avoiding sin — of abstaining from a long list of bad things. Virtue wasn’t something to do, but something you had because of all the things you didn’t do. It wasn’t a craft to be learned, developed and practiced, but a stockpile to be safeguarded and hoarded. It was as though we had each been given an initial supply when we were born again as innocents, and that finite supply had to be preserved, clasped tightly, and kept pure from a dangerous and poisonous world.

The best that one could hope for, in such a view, was that 10,000 hours later one might have vigilantly defended and retained most of one’s original purity so that one wasn’t any worse after all that time. But this view didn’t allow much hope for the possibility of becoming a better person.

So the idea of virtue as a craft gave me hope. And not just a vague, impractical kind of hope. This is the kind of hope that comes with an agenda, a curriculum, a course of study and a course of action and a regimen to practice.*

Groundhog Day is a helpful reminder of that hope. It points me toward an antidote to the negative notion of virtue as abstinence — of goodness as a stockpile of innate purity to be safeguarded. “Just because we’re born-again as SOBs doesn’t mean we have to live that way.”

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* I can see the phrase “works righteousness” rising to the lips of my very Reformed friends. They are eager to remind me of Augustine’s warning that work is not sufficient for redemption. OK, but we’re not talking about Augustine here, we’re talking about Aquinas, who reached back to Aristotle to remind us that work and practice are necessary. Regarding the particular story we’re discussing here, one could argue that Groundhog Day shows the necessity of grace in that Phil’s redemption only occurs in the context of a magical or miraculous intervention, but that’s still probably way too Arminian-sounding to my very Reformed friends, as most things tend to be.

Read the whole post here. Or just go watch the movie again.

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