By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What is Missing: Virtuous Exuberance

FDR and Fala side by sideImage via WikipediaWe find it lacking at all levels of leadership. In daily life, exuberance--especially in industrialized, affluent nations--is actually viewed with suspicion. You can see the difference in exuberance levels within the United States between different ethnic cultures and regions of the country.

In a recent book, psychiatrist Kay Jamison writes about exuberance on the level of national leadership as seen in the cases of FDR and Winston Churchill:

To meet Roosevelt, said Churchill, "with all his buoyant sparkle, his iridescence," was like "opening a bottle of champagne." Churchill, who knew both Champagne and human nature, recognized ebullient leadership when he saw it. Roosevelt had utter faith in himself and in the course of his country. "At a time of weakness and mounting despair in the democratic world," said [philosopher] Isaiah Berlin, Roosevelt stood out "by his astonishing appetite for life and by his apparently complete freedom from fear of the future; as a man who welcomed the future eagerly as such, and conveyed the feeling that whatever the times might bring, all would be grist to his mill, nothing would be too formidable or crushing to be subdued."

Kay Redfield Jamison, Exuberance: The Passion for Life (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), p. 151.


I have met people who dislike FDR--none of the ones I met were either exuberant   or ebullient in any shape or form. It may be that differing temperaments make for political dislike. Although it has been many years since I have been a member of the party of FDR, I still consider him the greatest of any twentieth-century president.

What the psychiatrist-author calls "exuberance" is something that I prefer to call
by the old-fashioned term "magnanimity" (Latin: "magnanimitas") as pointing
to a virtuous exuberance. Aquinas speaks of magnanimity as follows:

Article IV.

§ 1. Magnanimity fixes not on any manner of honour, but on 
great honour. But great honour is due to a great work of 
virtue. Hence the magnanimous man aims at great works in 
every line of virtue, making it his aim to do things worthy of 
great honour.

Source link: Summa Theologica, Secunda Secundae, Question 129 on Magnanimity.

Literally, being magnanimous is being "great-souled." To be great-souled and not a petty pursuer of vanity and egotism and greed is the mark of genuine exuberance--the exuberance we need. Don Quixote had it. We need it.
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