2020 has been quite the year, so far. More disruptive than many of us imagined things could get. And it's not over. Next year will start in the same place where this one ends. All years do.
So I've been thinking about where we ought to go, in the future. What virtues I think are most undervalued, most valuable at all possible margins, or most important to the human soul. And I think those are scholarship, trustworthiness, and courage, respectively.
By scholarship I only refer to the ability to tell the truth of a matter from fiction, and the patience to consider all possible options and treat the ideas carefully. If you would have asked me, in 2013, if there was something more fundamental than this, I would have insisted it wasn't possible. Without knowing what's happening around you, how can any other statement of fact or values be coherent? And yet today, I see look around and see a world concerned less than ever with scholarship. Laziness has been elevated beyond an art-form into a ritual, and even basic ethical steps to prevent yourself from lying are being ignored by many trusted to tell the truth. I cannot think of a virtue as undervalued as this, because I do not see many people behaving as though scholarship is something they even notice in others. In 2021, let's learn stuff — whatever floats your boat, and make sure to add in the questions at the end of the chapter, real life doesn't provide them, and they're pretty important.
I'm not sure I have anything to say about trustworthiness that hasn't been said before. There is no level of trustworthiness where you don't benefit from having even more. You'd be shocked at the power a kept promise can have, and you can just deliver more and more hammerblows of absolute certitude on every promise you make. Being reliable on all possible matters is the most devastating tool I can think of in almost all domains. Find new ways to be even most trustworthy, wherever you are on this journey.
And courage. So simple. I'll avoid adding to the cacophony of advice here and merely say: failures of scholarship are trivial, and easily forgiven. Failures of trustworthiness are, alas, far too routine in this world. But failures of courage, still, make me furious at people I otherwise respect, and are the least likely to receive my forgiveness.
Particularly when they are my own failures.
2021 will be a new year. Let's make it better than this one.