When one ceases from conflict, whether
because he has won, because he has lost, or because he cares no more for the
game, the virtue passes out of him.” — Charles Horton Cooley
There are three concepts here that represent an unusual
juxtaposition: conflict, the game, and virtue. Robert Lynd said, No
doubt there are other important things in life besides conflict, but there are
not many other things so inevitably interesting. The very saints interest us
most when we think of them as engaged in a conflict with the Devil.”
Conflict can certainly be interesting either as a participant or as an
observer; but the game and its relationship to virtue may be even more
The game must first offer real and present, win/lose
possibilities. If it doesnt, the virtue passes out of you. More to the point,
an immediate possibility of losing is the key to virtue. Here, virtue is
doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong.
The virtuous person pursues winning while doing only what is
right. Conflict is, then, not the tension between winning and losing. Rather,
its the responsibility of right vs. the risk of wrong. The truly fatal
risk is not losing. Its succumbing to the temptation to sacrifice ones virtue
on the altar of success.
Its tempting to put forth a few moral pronouncements about
right and wrong; but its your call. The take home point is simply that, if you
are a virtuous person, you know whats right and understand whats wrong. The
game, for you, is doing whats right and avoiding whats wrong, while playing
to win, every time. To do otherwise is to let the virtue pass out of you.