This material was first presented as a series of lectures in Estel Sidhevair beginning on Nov. 5, 2008. These lectures weregeared to online community members of the “Fantasy Archipelago” in the Old Virtual grid and in particular to the Elf Circle Guardians who include the ethics of the Nine Virtues in their training to act as mentors and first responders to online trouble for the approximately 1500 members of Elf Circle (EC). Please note that the material is also presented with a distinct mythopoeic approach, basically written by and for creatures of fantasy. The original lecture transcript has been modified for a more general audience.
While the Nine Noble Virtues are drawn from Norse religious perspectives, this introduction and the nine lectures which follow also draw from other ethical and religious constructs from around the world including Celtic, Hellenic, and East Indian perspectives.
The original lectures were presented online on Wednesday nights at 8 PM with some breaks for various holidays. They were facilitated by the direct avatar interactions made possible via digital worlds. The lectures were all presented in the main conference area of the community center (Enedh Gwaith) on the virtual island of Estel Sidhevair.In some cases there were guest speakers, where appropriate their remarks are included with the main lectures. Each lecture was followed by a discussion section. These talks at times lasted far into the night, sometimes growing rather heated.
Please read the about the virtue of Industriousness below and then follow the links in this section to read about the other virtues that comprise the Nine Noble Virtues.
The Nine Noble Virtues are Courage, Truth, Honor, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Industriousness, Self-Reliance, and Perseverance.
The 9 Virtues
About the Original Lecture Series
The seventh virtue
Elf Circle lists this virtue of Industriousness as “Hardwork”.
The Elf Circle definition reads:
“Also known as Industriousness, Hardwork is the willingness to provide for ones self, and ones family, by labor and effort.”
The word “industrious” emerges almost unchanged from the Latin “industrius” which means diligent, industriousness”.
Industry involves productivity and the making of some sort of good or service. Basically, regardless of the product, industry involves working to accomplish some sort of goal. Associated with this is an implication that this means more than doing the very least you can get by with. There is a pride in one’s work that is associated with industriousness that implies that this effort is contributed regardless of whether others notice how much one puts into the task.
Industriousness is associated also with responsibility.
To the ancient Celts, responsibility was not so much about a “quality” of being responsible, but rather referred to the realm of things one agrees to be responsible for. Modern Celtic languages use a word for responsible that translates the original Anglo-French “responsible”, from “respuns”, and means “answering to”.
The modern Irish, for example, is “freagrach” and the Welsh is “atebol”. Both words mean “answer to”. The earlier Celtic word referred more to a concept involving what one cared for. For example, the Gaelic word “cú ram” which is translated literally as “to care (for something)”.
The distinction between “answerability” and “caring for” in an understanding of responsibility has bearing upon how we see industriousness. When we accept responsibility for our work, employers expect us to complete it on time, and to meet the standards they have set for us.
Industriousness is expressed in how well we work. It is both qualitative and quantitative, and is also often very subjective.
Industriousness involves a productive engagement in our lives, an avoidance of laziness, and a striving to accomplish some form of excellence in our endeavors.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
“If a man is called a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and Earth will pause to say, Here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well.”
There is an emphasis in many definitions of this Virtue, including Elf Circle’s, that there must be some difficulty associated with tasks accomplished by industriousness.
The word “hard” is actually blended with work for Elf Circle (although this may be a typo, lol).
Regardless of whether it was intended to merge hard with work, the concept is significant. An endeavor is often defined by exertion, by striving, by strenuous attempts.
George Bernard Shaw wrote: “When I was young, I observed that nine out of ten things I did were failures. So I did ten times more work.”
One of the things we have been looking at over these lectures is the “Shadow Side” of the Virtues. In this case, I think we can find the shadow of industriousness in slavish adherence to a work ethic. I would argue that industriousness does not always have to involve hard labor.
I think of Mary Poppins cleaning the nursery here:
“A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”
It is possible to have fun while working. We practice industriousness not only by how well we work but also by how well we play. It is in play that we renew our energies, discover new ideas and discern new ways to live our lives.
We Faelf have faery ancestry…and it can be hard to see the capricious, willful, chaotic and mischievous fae as a “hard worker”. This may enter into my belief about this.
In the same way that we try to get as much as we can done for the amount of time and effort we put into our work, so we should also play in such a way as to have as much fun as possible and as much joy as we can in our lives.
Inherent in the virtue of industriousness is a sense of wholehearted approach to whatever we do, so that we extract as much as we can from the time and effort we expend.
And so it is that the industrious elf…(who sneaks into the ancient and exhausted shoemaker’s house at night to mend shoes)… is simultaneously acknowledging and rewarding a life of industriousness and having a damn good time doing so.
So it is that the well fed and grateful Faery will sneak into the home of a hardworking generous person to sweep the floors at night. And you can bet we have a good laugh at the surprise the next morning. Work can be fun.
There is another sense of Work.
There is the Work of art—creativity in an art object, a musical or literary piece, a performance or a film, or some pixilated piece that is valued for its artistic contribution. Then again, Emile Zola noted that “the artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.”
While there is the significant emphasis on diligence in industriousness, where one is zealous and careful in action and effort, there is the equal importance of creativity. Diligent effort implies a decisive work ethic. There is the nose to the grindstone, full concentration, time budgeting, self-monitoring against laziness approach to work. Here, as I said earlier, is one place where the shadow of industriousness can dwell.
Now, a work ethic may be based upon moral virtues such as industriousness and diligence. It may also involve prioritizing the moral benefit hard work has upon character—initiative, responsibility, reliability and similar social assets.
As Plutarch said: “No man ever wetted clay and then left it, as if there would be bricks by chance and fortune.”
At the same time, I question the assumption that work must be “hard”—that industriousness must be difficult.
It is telling that the word “hard labor” is a legal euphemism for prison work, in which while work may be productive, it can also be intrinsically senseless with the only purpose being punishment of the convict.
The Victorians took this sort of punitive approach so far that they commonly forced inmates to work a Treadmill even when it did not serve the useful purpose of grinding grain, but served no good use at all.
Similar work punishments included turning a crank that served no purpose but to push paddles through sand in a drum; or the shot drill, when prisoners carried cannon balls back and forth for no reason but punishment. Work need not be punitive to be valuable.
One can define industriousness also by “heart” “ability” and “good will.”
Swami Sivananda said:
“Put your heart, mind, intellect and soul even to your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.”
And, Edward Gibbon, in the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire wrote:
“The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.”
There is a striking difference between ability and slavery. While the effort inherent in industriousness may involve great physical or mental exertion, or earnestness and strenuousness, it can also be an artistic achievement derived from joyful diligence.
There is another approach to understanding work that involves concepts derived from physics. In physics, and similar sciences, energy (from the Greek ?????e?a - energeia, “activity, operation”) is often defined by the ability to do work.
There are a variety of forms of energy including kinetic, potential, gravitational, light, chemical, thermal, electromagnetic which have been put forth to explain not just work, but all known natural phenomena. In physics, while one form of energy may be transformed to another, the total energy remains the same. This is the principle of the conservation of energy.
The Nobel Laureate, Richard Feynman said about energy that:
“ There is a fact, or if you wish, a law, governing natural phenomena that are known to date. There is no known exception to this law; it is exact, so far we know. The law is called conservation of energy; it states that there is a certain quantity, which we call energy, that does not change in manifold changes which nature undergoes. That is a most abstract idea, because it is a mathematical principle; it says that there is a numerical quantity, which does not change when something happens. It is not a description of a mechanism, or anything concrete; it is just a strange fact that we can calculate some number, and when we finish watching nature go through her tricks and calculate the number again, it is the same.”
This is hard to conceive at the end of a hard day’s labor when we have put out a whole lot of our “energy”. At the same time, it could be seen as part of a certain abundance inherent in Nature and the Universe.
Failure to appreciate that abundance and celebrate it is often another major factor in the shadow-side of industriousness.
It is certainly true, that we can’t simply stand around and expect to be provided for. A Chinese saying notes that:
"A man stands for a long time with his mouth open before a roast duck flies in."
At the same time, returning again to the subject of adherence to a “Hardwork” ethic, this can be seen as an excess fueled by addictive behavior that often results in other forms of addiction. For example excessive work schedules can result in abuse of crystal methedrine to keep up, or alcoholism to escape.
At other times the shadow side of industriousness results in a delusional (from my Faelf perspective) separation and divide between work and play, a neglecting of recreation, volunteerism, creativity, time with family, relaxation, and the other behaviors symptomatic of the “workaholic”.
The French philosopher André Gorz wrote:
“The work ethic has become obsolete. It is no longer true that producing more means working more, or that producing more will lead to a better way of life. The connection between more and better has been broken; our needs for many products and services are already more than adequately met, and many of our as-yet- unsatisfied needs will be met not by producing more, but by producing differently, producing other things, or even producing less. This is especially true as regards our needs for air, water, space, silence, beauty, time and human contact.”
As I have said, the shadow of the virtue of industriousness is not found simply in its opposite: sloth. But it is certainly true that the slacker can be really annoying!
This makes me think of Catch-22 where Joseph Heller wrote: “He was a self-made man who owed his lack of success to nobody.”
Excessive adherents to hard work somehow feel that all work must be unpleasant to be valuable. This emerges from an idea that work is a curse, that we are supposed to suffer on this earth, if we wish to earn our place in the next.
I would like to suggest that there is no reason in the world why an industrious approach to life cannot involve a way to organize things so that work and play interweave.
Turning briefly to the ways in which industriousness is depicted in fantasy, there is of course the almost universal tendency to portray the Periannath (Hobbits) as “industrious”.
At the same time, it is clear that Hobbits have found a way to balance their amazing agricultural work in the Shire with ample time for bucolic celebrations, frequent eating, joy and pleasure. Perhaps it is from the Periannath that we can learn the elusive work-life balance.
The Dwarves portray a somewhat grimmer and mechanical approach to industriousness, and our Elven relatives find a way to almost magically produce the perfect weapon or mithril coat.
Of course, the orcs of Mordor and Isengard are in a sense industrious, but one sees there the sort of slavish and brutish approach to work that is another aspect of the shadowy side of the virtue.
Speaking of magic and work, it is interesting to consider the approach to industriousness in the tales of Harry Potter.
Harry, after a fairly awful childhood characterized by abuse and neglect and devoid of any meaningful relationships, does not begin to uncover his true identity and significance until he is invited to Hogwarts. Of far more importance than the magic he learns there is his opportunity to form new relationships with those who love him: his friends, the gregarious gamewarden Hagrid, his teachers;
And to learn to deal with those who seem to despise him and wish him ill: The Malfoys, Professor Snape, and ultimately Lord Voldemort.
In the relationships Harry forms he learns to know and love himself, and to fight for himself and his loved ones. As he undergoes this process, the values he learns are far more significant than the magic itself.
Harry learns as a wizardling that magic is not some playful game, his wand is not enough as a magical problem solver, but that he must discipline himself, he must be industrious to learn the art of magic.
In the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, this is made clear when Harry questions Hagrid asking, “But what does a Ministry of Magic do?”
Hagrid replies: “Well, their main job is to keep it from the Muggles that there are still witches and wizards up and down the country.”
Harry replies, “Why?” and Hagrid responds:
“Why? Harry, because everyone would want magic solutions to their problems”
Elsewhere the same book notes:
“There is a lot more to magic, Harry quickly found out, than waving your wand and saying a few funny words.”
This is also true when undertaking something like preparing for these lectures! Before I close I want to touch upon one interesting aspect of this journey exploring the 9 Virtues.
As I have working on each virtue, I have found that aspects of their characteristics and meanings impact my life.
Issues around fear came up for me while working on Courage.
Issues around blind loyalty made themselves known as I worked on Fidelity.
While working on this talk, I had a computer crash that simultaneously destroyed my notes for all three of the final talks and trashed the USB memory stick I was using for back up!
I was frustrated, demoralized, tired, and annoyed. I could not seem to bring myself to reinvent the wheel and rewrite all the material. It was no longer fresh, and I felt overwhelmed.
Now this might have been a lesson in self-reliance, or in perseverance, (the other two talks I lost) but it was primarily an issue of energy and effort—i.e. industriousness.
I found that discouragement made me want to quit working. I then watched as other work intervened and I found myself struggling to find the time to work on one project while another competed for my attention. I wanted to give up a number of times. This is another way that the virtues intersect.
I think this is telling.
I learned that industriousness requires diligence, patience, effort and energy, and that I had to consider the responsibility I had undertaken even if I wanted to give up.
I also had to realize that some rest and balance was in order, and that I could not continue to work so hard that I made myself sick, or unable to participate in any of the things I value outside of work.
Finally, I learned that taking some distance from working on a project can allow one to return renewed.
Ultimately though, this was hard work. :-D I had to push myself, I had to remain focused, I had to exert some significant energy. No talk on industriousness should be offered without consideration of the Little Red Hen. Many of us grew up with her as our first model of industriousness.
Here is a bit of her tale (not her tail and not all of it, lol):
A Little Red Hen lived in a barnyard.
She spent almost all of her time walking about the barnyard in her picketty-pecketty fashion, scratching everywhere for worms.
She dearly loved fat, delicious worms and felt they were absolutely necessary to the health of her children.
As often as she found a worm she would call "Chuck-chuck-chuck!" to her chickies.
When they were gathered about her, she would distribute choice morsels of her tid-bit.
A busy little body was she!
A cat usually napped lazily in the barn door, not even bothering herself to scare the rat who ran here and there as he pleased.
And as for the pig who lived in the sty--he did not care what happened so long as he could eat and grow fat.
One day the Little Red Hen found a Seed.
It was a Wheat Seed, but the Little Red Hen was so accustomed to bugs and worms that she supposed this to be some new and perhaps very delicious kind of meat.
She bit it gently and found that it resembled a worm in no way whatsoever as to taste although because it was long and slender, a Little Red Hen might easily be fooled by its appearance.
Carrying it about, she made many inquiries as to what it might be.
She found it was a Wheat Seed and that, if planted, it would grow up and when ripe it could be made into flour and then into bread.
When she discovered that, she knew it ought to be planted.
She was so busy hunting food for herself and her family that, naturally, she thought she ought not to take time to plant it.
So she thought of the Pig--upon whom time must hang heavily and of the Cat who had nothing to do, and of the great fat Rat with his idle hours, and she called loudly:
"Who will plant the Seed?"
But the Pig said, "Not I," and the Cat said, "Not I," and the Rat said, "Not I."
"Well, then," said the Little Red Hen, "I will."
And she did.
(And the story continues with a series of lazy creatures who ultimately do not share in the bounty that grows from the seed. The Little Red Hen reserves that bounty for her babies and for herself, as she worked for it.)
I hope that this talk and all the virtues lectures, as seen through the mythopoeic veil of living fantasy, plant a seed that yields bounty for us all.
While I realize we get very dense and “in our heads” here in the Sidhevairs, I hope that all of this visual, ethical, and mythopoeic energy also bears fruit.
As the Indigo Girls sing:
Now I know, a refuge never grows from a chin in the hand and a thoughtful pose--Gotta tend the earth if you want a rose.
Speaking of a Rose, I would like to introduce tonight’s guest speaker, the Sidhevair Ranger Lady Jeanette Villiers, who is one of the more industrious Faelf I have encountered.
She will tell you more about herself, but I will first tell you this about her: she brings effort, industriousness, responsibility and energy to all her Workings in the Lands of the Fantasy Continent.
As she is one of the most central and beloved residents of the Sidhevairs, I am very honored to introduce her to you tonight.
Jeanette Villiers Talk
Thank you all for coming, and I would like to thank Lady Maerian for your excellent introduction into the Virtue of Industriousness, and for your huge contributions to us all in doing this work.
I am, IRL one of those people who does not do well with empty hands.
I need work, need to be and feel useful, to be happy. That need crosses over into my Secondlife very clearly.
When I joined, about a year and a half ago, one of the first places I went was the Elf Circle.
And one of my first goals there, was to become a Greeter.
From there, I expanded into the Faery Crossing, becoming a Merry Meeter; the Sidhevair, where I am a Ranger; and the Port of Birka, in the Viking Lands, where I am in effect the only Guardian of the Port.
My joy in all these jobs is what I can give, what I can share, with my fellows.
The gift of Industry, of having work to my hands, and of fulfilling a need in my community, enriches me, and everyone I touch thereby. For me, Industry is not hard, is not wrung from me by sad effort.
It is the joy of giving, sharing what I have and what I am, that is my gift of Industriousness to my community here.
I know I am not alone in this.
I see so many of you, my fellow Elves and Fae, who are never so happy as when you are working for the good of whichever community you have given your heart.
We are, by nature, and Industrious lot, and a fine example of this truly Noble Virtue.
The 9 Virtues lecture series was presented originally by the Faelf who comprise the members and avatars of Westernesste and the Sidhevairs. The Sidhevairs are a non-profit arts and educational association which share a group tax exemption under 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code as a chartered coordinating subordinate organization of Westernesste. Donations to us are tax deductible. You can learn learn more about our parent organization by visiting the Westernesste site. You can learn more about the organization of The Sidhevairs, see our EIN letter, our DUNS information, our charter, and our articles of association by clicking here.