Radiance in the key of graceful action
by Andrew Taggart
I define radiance as virtue manifested in the ‘keys’ of natural eloquence, a gentle demeanor, and graceful action and resonating throughout the entirety of one’s being (Episode 1. Manifestation Thesis). Dissonance is the name I use to designate the lack of harmony evinced when one has become naturally eloquent but lacks of gentle demeanor, etc.
Each ‘key’ is in need of definition. Today I define graceful action. By ‘graceful action,’ I shall mean that an act exemplifies (i) the appropriate virtues in (ii) a beautiful manner with (iii) a sense of self-surrender construed as second nature (Episode 12. Self-Abandonment as Second Nature).
(i) The exercise of the appropriate virtue (or virtues) is necessary but not sufficient. We say that a pianist is ‘good at’ playing the piano or is ‘excellent’ or ‘proficient,’ but it does not follow from this that his performance exhibits a sense of grace. For it may lack fluidity or flowingness and hence fail to satisfy the condition of being completed in a beautiful manner.
(ii) A beautiful manner is likewise necessary but not sufficient. One could achieve lightness in his movement but be deficient in respect of power or control (hence fail to meet condition i).
Meeting conditions (i) and (ii) can make for the performance of a virtuosity, but it still lacks that ‘extra something’–namely, its actually being graceful.
(iii) Lastly, a sense of self-abandon as second nature is necessary but not sufficient. One could drink too much wine, get out on the dance floor, move about freely, and forget oneself. Regardless, this style of dancing may be far from excellent and may strike the percipient observer as clumsy. Thus, it fails to satisfy conditions i and ii.
Therefore, graceful action will achieve its status as being graceful only when the virtues have been ‘raised up’ to the point of beauty (Episode 2. Education Thesis) and only after one has passed beyond ‘virtuosity’ and into a state of self-abandonment. Then, as the Daodejing says, ‘The highest goodness flows like water’ (my emphasis).
One need only think of the example of sex in order to grasp the difference between ineptitude and excellence (condition i), and between virtuosity–the person who performs admirably but is, from first to last, self-aware (conditions i and ii)–and gracefulness (conditions i-iii). There is no reason why what goes for sex should not also go for yoga, compassion, gratitude, walking, and so on.
Graceful action requires right practice in order for one to be a master in the art of living well.