i was reading the “Lives” by Plutarch last night, Life of Cato, and became quickly aware: the joy of participating in one’s community, in passionately engaging with it… to be able to interact with a system that–though it suffers from corruption and greed from time to time (Rome)–is rooted in vertical growth and nurtures human industry, creativity. Plutarch brings to light wonderful details surrounding the subjects of his lives, he presents LIVES in fact, as opposed to dry histories. one great anecdote of Cato’s life is that he was known for staying up late philosophizing and drinking wine and would many times be seen in the morning after one of these late nights of thought carefully tending his garden up on a hill, pruning his bushes, in just his under-tunic, which was fairly transparent in the early morning light. Cato was also known for not ever missing a senate meeting, a rare accomplishment because of the tedium of some sessions and the sheer number of them in the year. he was known to show up early and to leave last, often sitting there in his robe reading quietly before the session; his acumen with the laws of the senate was unparalleled and he became known for his ferocious honesty and assiduity in following through with an argument. at one of the senate breaks, Cato decided to explore the empire a little, to travel around with several servants and not announce himself, in other words, to show up as a common citizen… not the soon-to-be censor of Rome. he wanted to see about how hoi poloi would receive just another member of the republic: to ascertain the state of his nation as a provincial guest, traveling. he comes into a region where he finds that people are not particularly polite to visitors. Plutarch states that he upbraided them:
“Foolish people, lay aside this inhospitality. All your visitors will not be Catos. Use your courtesy to take off the sharp edge of power. There are men enough who desire but a pretense to take from you by force what you give with such reluctance.”
Mhhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmm. the power of courtesy. disarming courtesy.
let us think of that in this time of such misused power: disarming coursesy.
and that a guest in our homes, in our villages, could be anyone, a god, cato, a beggar, a beggar-god. so receive them with courtesy, generosity, and an open heart.