2. A Jesuit Priest, Virginia Woolf and a dachshund…

Pru and I go for a walk. The walks mid-January come as a challenge to a Floridian and her miniature Dachshund puppy, whose heart hovers just above the frozen ground here in England. The length of our walk is quite short, just to the corner. With Pru it stretches into a veritable twenty minute adventure. On my own it would take five minutes. Pru stops often. Oncoming strollers give her pause. If there is a noisy baby or toddler she freezes until the rolling noise passes by. When I walk with Pru people are friendlier. Passersby comment on her size or how hard she is working. Such tiny legs. Pru looks up for friendly scratches and kind words. She often gets both. When we walk together I inevitably have conversations with strangers. People seem drawn to Pru’s cuteness. Her tiny stature and cheerful tartan jumper are an invitation to conversation. Walks without Pru include few kind words, except for a fleeting hello.

Pru and I return home. The house is warm and the tea is too. We climb the stairs to the office. Pru sits under the desk this morning on her much loved and chewed on bed. I have given her a treat. She devours her treat and begins to chew on her bed. I wonder about Prudence as cloud like stuffing appears on the floor.

While Pru digs for imaginary badgers in her bed, I think of an article written by James F Keenan about Prudence. Professor Keenan is a Jesuit Priest, Bioethicist and author. He kindly points me in the direction of Prudence.

I am not Catholic. I have never heard of virtues or cardinal virtues and am intrigued. I once owned a business called Perfect Order. Hierarchy and order are words that sing my analytic language. I read Professor Keenan’s articles about Prudence. It is illuminating and serious.

Pru has flipped her dog bed over and it is on top of her. A dog bed floats around like hovercraft at my feet. I think of Keenan’s words, “prudence always carries the connation of timorous, small minded self-preservation, of a rather selfish concern about oneself…Certainly the common mind regards prudence and fortitude as virtually contradictory ideas.”

Today the word Prudence conjures up the idea of a puppy hiding under her bed, cautious and small minded. But the collective idea we hold of Prudence has not always been so. Once Prudence stood shoulder to shoulder with Justice. Her form was as familiar to people as the image of the Statue of Liberty or Justice is today. Liberty shining her light. Justice holding her scales. We know them so well. Their names and figures are embedded in the fabric of our social order and our minds. We hope to see ourselves in them. So why is it that most people don’t know what the allegorical figure of Prudence looks like? Why has she been cast to the shadows of modern times versus being sewn into the fabric of our modern world? And how can she help us to make wise decisions more easily?

I think of the conflicted character and great writer Virginia Woolf. She said that words were the wildest and most free things. That they have been out and about in the streets and fields, and on people’s lips for so many centuries. She said you can catch them and and place them in dictionaries but that words don’t LIVE in dictionaries they live in the mind.

We need to know more about Prudence, the cause and measure of all choices made for good. It seems giving us the tools to help make wise decisions more easily is a worthwhile endeavour. Because I am not Catholic, and don’t know my saints from my sinners, I shall chose Prudence as my patron saint. She will guide me, but first I want to see her in person. The cupola of the Temple of the Gesu in Rome seems a good place to start.

Pru is now on my lap, nosing the keyboard keys. Letting my know that our time in the office is almost done. A couple lines later she falls asleep in my arms and softly snores. I type with one hand. The clock tells me it is time to start today’s tasks. Meals must be planned and groceries collected. I will ponder Prudence and what’s for dinner as a meander the grocery shop aisles. Pru will wait for me at home snuggled in our laundry room. Though I imagine she would look quite cute in the shopping cart.

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