Nobility

Published: June 18, 2024

By Jim Lichtman
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In the 1942 classic Casablanca, Rick Blane is a man who unapologetically schemes, lies, cheats and does whatever it takes to survive in Nazi-controlled French Morocco. Moments before he persuades Ilsa—the lost love of his life—to fly off with Nazi resistance fighter Victor Lazlo, he gives one of the most well-known lines in movie history.

“Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

And it’s at that moment that we see that he is good at being noble. He stops thinking of himself and thinks instead of others.

The first ethics talk I gave was before an audience of about 500 teachers. “Values, Ethics, and The Lone Ranger” examined ethics through the lens of the fictional, legendary champion of justice. At one point, I would tell the audience, “Whenever you’re faced with a difficult decision, ask yourself: What would the Lone Ranger do?”

However, for the teachers I wanted to end my talk with something inspirational, something that I hoped they had not heard before. Finding that something proved difficult considering an audience as well-read as educators. Ultimately, I found a poem by Alice Cary on the box of Celestial Seasonings tea, and her words could not be more appropriate for the craziness in the world today.

Cary titled the piece Nobility: doing rightly despite the consequences, performing selfless acts that demonstrate that there’s more to life than what’s-in-it-for-me-ism. People with nobility role-model traits of character to which we aspire, such as honesty, integrity, respect, and responsibility, and through their example, raise the bar of virtue for all of us, and Cary’s poem sums it up well.

True worth is in being, not seeming—
In doing, each day that goes by,
Some little good—not in dreaming
Of great things to do by and by.
For whatever men say in their blindness,
And spite of the fancies of youth,

There’s nothing so kingly as kindness,
And nothing so royal as truth.
We get back our mete as we measure—
We cannot do wrong and feel right,
Nor can we give pain and gain pleasure,
For justice avenges each slight.

We cannot make bargains for blisses,
Nor catch them like fishes in nets;
And sometimes the thing our life misses
Helps more than the thing which it gets.
For good lieth not in pursuing,
Nor gaining of great nor of small,
But just in the doing, and doing
As we would be done by, is all.

Comments

  1. Yes Jim, that is a good one.
    Lets get past “what’s-in-it-for-me-ism.”

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