Esse Quam Videri

Esse quam videri is North Carolina’s state motto, translated as “To be, rather than to seem.” (I guess the translation of the motto into “Southern-speak” would be something along the lines of, “Don’t y’all be two-faced now, ya hear!”) I never really knew what it meant when I was learning about the state’s history in school, and I never bothered to seriously think about it until just recently, when it popped into my head for no apparent reason.

I was also thinking of utility, and how in today’s society, people are often valued for what they can do rather than for who they are (e.g., elderly people no longer being valued because they can no longer “do” anything of value to society). At the same time, the world admires people who are “themselves” and countless self-help books encourage people to be the “best version of themselves.” It is about being rather than doing or seeming.

One can do every great thing in the world and still not know how to just be or to appreciate himself for who he is rather than for what he has done. One can seem to be a good person, but his being or doing may show a different side of him that he may not wish others to see. Or one can just be and not worry about how one’s being may be interpreted.

Necessary, Possible, Impossible

Start by doing what is necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. —St. Francis of Assisi

This reminds me of a quote by Woody Allen: “Eighty percent of life is showing up.” It also reminds me of part of the code of conduct at my high school, which was drilled so deeply in my head that I still remember it to this day: “Be where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there.”

In other words… do the minimum and the necessary. Eat, sleep, breathe, get up, go to work, git ‘er dun, go home, relax, then get up and do it all again the next day. Then you get settled in your routine, and once you’re settled, you can begin to think outside the box and see what you can create within your routine. What is possible to achieve within the constraints of your life, your personality, your talents, and the people with whom you surround yourself?

Then once you achieve the possible, you get used to operating at that level, and you begin to think of what else you can do. You think of all the things you considered impossible and how they could realistically be achieved. You set a goal. You figure out the steps. You aim high but not so high that you’ll overshoot your mark. Then slowly, by degrees, what you previously thought impossible becomes possible.

And that, my friends, is how self-esteem is built.

The Imposition of Our Beliefs

Claiming that “we don’t want to impose our beliefs on society” is not merely politically convenient; it is morally incoherent and irresponsible. —Archbishop Charles Chaput

The first thing I thought about when I saw this quote was the freedom of speech. We Americans live in a country where we can pretty much say whatever we want to, yet at the same time, we still feel as though we have to censor ourselves unless we want to be dubbed bigots or hypocrites.

To me, hypocrisy is not being outwardly aligned with your inner beliefs. So the only way you can be a hypocrite is if you say you are X, yet you do not act like X. If you truly value your inner beliefs, you tend to live them regardless of what society thinks. You impose your beliefs on society whether you’re consciously aware of it or not.

I suppose the error lies in when a person deliberately conceals his beliefs from the world, to “hide light under a bushel,” so to speak. Doing so would create a schism in the person’s heart, a rift that could grow wider and deeper with time. Perhaps Archbishop Chaput is reminding us to reconsider what we truly believe and how integrated our beliefs are with our outer lives.