I was talking to my Intro class yesterday about Plato’s Republic…specifically about the criteria required for one to become a Philosopher-King in Plato’s ideal state- yes, I know, it’s a veritable carnival of fun in Prof. Obscura’s classroom! In any case, one of the criteria Plato identifies is an ideal age…40-ish, young enough to still be physically strong, and mature enough to employ reason. The 18-20 year olds in the crowd are skeptical that the “olds” would make better kings, but I point out that, with age, comes experience which theoretically assists in the process. One of the natural offshoots of this is the increased capacity for personal responsibility – accountability if you will. Not only must the philosopher king be a good and just ruler, but as such, he must be able to accept responsibility for his decisions.
This is something that a lot of people, especially young people struggle with. It is a daily parenting challenge for me…a pet peeve even. Case in point. Last summer, I won an iPad3…yes won – free to me – yay!!! All was rosy for about two weeks until I asked my then 13 year old son to carry it to the car for me. He did, and as I was coming out the door, I watched him accidentally drop it. It landed on one corner on the concrete driveway. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Did you just drop the iPad?
Me: I watched you do it. Is it broken? (I could plainly see that the display was severely cracked)
Him: No – You should have put it in a case. (true, but not the central point here)
Me: Just admit that you dropped it and apologize – I know it was an accident
Him: *insert cricket sound effect*
I wanted nothing more than for him to take responsibility for his actions – well, I wanted an unbroken iPad, but accidents do happen – however, he is incredibly stubborn about this kind of stuff to this day. It is something that will almost certainly incite future battles between us.
This notion of personal responsibility and accountability is summed up in the Roman virtue of RESPONSIBILITAS… What? OK, OK – you caught me wordsmiths! Responsibilitas is not actually a Latin word…the concepts related to responsibility really fall under the Virtutes Romanae of GRAVITAS, but I already talked about that one here, and this topic has been weighing on my mind. Richard Armitage certainly embodies the qualities of GRAVITAS, and I’ve seen very little behavior in his public life that would suggest that he has any lingering adolescent tendency to avoid taking responsibility for his actions. In fact, his professional reputation suggests exactly the opposite. It is something to which we all could aspire.
There is no one who is infallible – we all make mistakes from time….we misspeak, we mishear, we misunderstand, we overreact. Mistakes are a part of life, but how we choose to deal with them can define us. Mistakes can be embarrassing, but attempts to wriggle out of them even more so, especially if we insinuate someone else’s culpability to excuse our own. Perhaps the best, most responsible reaction is to say from the start, “Mea culpa – (Latin for “my bad”) I goofed, I misspoke, I misunderstood, I overreacted..boy is my face red!” I’m challenging myself to do this as a matter of course – no matter how much toner I need to balance out my complexion. You can hold me to it!