In a twist, I went to a real dictionary site for a definition today. Mirriam-Webster defines Prudence this way:
- Main Entry: pru·dence
- Function: noun
- Etymology:Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin prudentia, alteration of providentia — more at providence
- Date:14th century
- 1 : the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason
- 2 : sagacity or shrewdness in the management of affairs
- 3 : skill and good judgment in the use of resources
- 4 : caution or circumspection as to danger or risk
No clue. I have an addictive personality. I have never had a handle on the concept of self discipline or moderation. Reason does not enter into the equation. Shrewd? Isn't that a little mouse-like rodent thing? The one with the pointy nose? No? Well, damn.
I know there are people out there who can be wise and temperate and moderate and rational and forward-thinking. Me? Well, let's just say I prefer other adjectives to describe myself. At least if you want to be accurate, anyway.
I have always held as my personal motto that anything worth doing is worth overdoing. That comes to all things that are usually not good for us - eating, drinking, sex, everything that stimulates that happy part in the central cortex.
RARELY have I thought ahead and considered what might result from my actions. Take this for an example: A couple weeks ago, I got a note from a friend who was looking for stories of gratitude for something she was working on. Sure, says I. I've got a great story or two about why I am grateful and some of the wonderful people in my life for whom I am grateful, so I wrote a little piece. It was published today in a story on the front page of the state's largest newspaper. My bit was not on page one, but on the jump inside.
Now the reason this woman is my friend is because were are former colleagues, competitors, actually. We spent many a dull (or exciting) evening sitting through town council meetings (those were dull) and board of selectmen meetings (usually more exciting). We were both REPORTERS. We wrote stuff and it got published. Me for one paper, she for another. We commiserated often about people who opened up to us, told us all kinds of things, and then were shocked, shocked! I say! to see their words in print.
And so this morning, there I was, full name and town in bold face, in the paper. Whoopsie. Oh well. Nothing I said there has not been said over and over in front of various other audiences. It just surprised me a little to see it. I had to read through real quick to make sure I hadn't gone overboard on the in-laws. (I hadn't.)
I spoke with my friend this morning and she told me that I was brave for being so honest and opening up like that. (I had said in the piece that I was a lesbian, that I did not speak with my family, that I left the church of my childhood and that my partner is Wiccan. I suppose that qualifies as opening up, particularly when it is done in the newspaper.)
See, this is one of those times when I opened my mouth and said my piece, not caring about who might listen, and who might be offended. I spoke my truth, from the heart, and with honesty. Yes, I do not have any contact with my family of origin, save one relative. No, my partner doesn't speak much to her family either. Yes, we are lesbians, yes I left the Catholic Church, yes I felt unwelcome and un-valued there, so I left, and yet, I have a really awesome aunt, who works for that same church, who loves me for me and ain't that grand? Well, it is all true, including the part about the aunt, who is indeed grand.
And the funniest part about this whole thing? I wrote to my friend who asked for stories, knowing she is a reporter, knowing that she was collecting stories from people to work into a larger story, knowing that it would be published, probably on Thanksgiving, and it never occurred to me that my story might be interesting enough to make it in the paper. I figured I might get some kind of anonymous reference along the lines of "estranged from her family" or something like that. I was completely unreasonable and completely naive in my thinking. ESPECIALLY for a former reporter. This is the stuff I used to do. How dumb was that? Oh well. I had a good laugh at my own expense and my aunt was thrilled that I had written such nice things about her in the paper.
So the best I have to offer is a perfect example of what prudence isn't. What I did with that little piece was not bravery in the baring of my soul to the world. It was dumb shit that turned out OK. Much of what I did as an activist was the same way. It was not bravery that motivated me to hold demonstrations in college or march on things - it just seemed like the right thing to do at the time and I never thought too awfully much about the consequences or the hazards. As often happens in my life, I suddenly find myself out at the end of a limb, surrounded by nothing but air and very far from the ground. Was it bravery that got me so far from the ground? Heavens, no. Focus on a goal, perhaps, if one wanted to be generous, but mostly it was not paying attention to the other stuff in the world.
As with most things in my life, sometimes they work out, and sometimes they don't.
What is prudence? I can give you the dictionary definition listed above. As for the practical application of the last of the seven virtues in this series, I haven't the foggiest idea. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!