What I want those around me to do is more for others while aiming higher. That, to me, is nobility. But there are at least two traps to this goal, and I want to elaborate on them a bit.
First, there are the students who don’t seem to realize there is a big difference between doing more because some authority told you to do more and because that’s what you want to do. Weirdly enough, I’ve been running into an awful lot of pious people who can’t naturally give without counting something invisible in return. They’re not focusing on who they want to be as much as results, what they’re getting (in some cases, they have a very specific idea of “grace”), etc. I don’t want to promote selflessness as a goal in itself. I think people who give have to be prudent, because you can’t give everything and there are things that are essential to you giving more. Those things can’t be compromised; one of those things is a principle, the principle that benefaction is not the highest virtue.
I know what I’m running into: people dominated not so much by piety, but their parents. Again, they’re not thinking in the least about who they want to be. They’re only focusing on what they’ve been told and what they can get, even in giving. It’s a very strange combination that makes perfect sense when you consider parents today (“fearful” is just the beginning).
The second group I’m running into is just straight-up self-absorbed. I can’t say they’re absolutely selfish because they do give. But they aren’t looking to give for any serious reason and it is impossible to get them to see beyond their petty concerns. They’re just taking for granted that people will listen and care for them. I suppose lots of kids are like this, but it just amazes me how they don’t realize what others are doing for them. And I don’t know what to do. They’ve got a bunch of games where they make themselves hard to reach or act awkwardly or hostile when you reach out. They’ve got ways of making even more pleasant moments difficult. And I can’t say that they’re a waste of time – though some of them more than likely are – because at the very least I want to learn how to deal with difficult personalities.
I’m ever more grateful for having created the blog. A good teacher probably has to find ways to draw students to him. Authority, knowledge, even personal attention can only go so far. It probably doesn’t surprise you that both groups of people I’ve described don’t learn much from me and are the dominant presence among the students I encounter.