Monday, October 4, 2010

Geterdonitas, The Unknown Virtue

This story is an instructive morality tale; its purpose is to increase the patriotic public and private virtue. Its manner is Livy’s, but its characters bear an unfortunate resemblance to the uniquely American pair, the bastard children of feminism and self-indulgence, Carrie Bradshaw and Janey Wilcox (neither of whom are members of the Hero generation, nor have experienced a post-crises world). This story is meant to instruct those who may have the responsibility to impose the rule of law, to spare the conquered and to battle down the proud. Yes, I am talking to you, Roman.

Rome did not start out beautiful, and then became loved for its beauty, as Chesterton, and many others, have pointed out. Rather, Rome was first loved by its inhabitants, and only then became beautiful after the Romans built beautiful structures in her honor. For this reason, I wish to help you learn how to acquire beautiful things, limited edition cosmetics, to make what you love, yourself, more beautiful, and ultimately do so for the common good, and not just yourself. This stage requires work and forethought and is ultimately driven by love.

The first step, in this and many other endeavors in life, is to ignore information that  may confuse or mislead. As Mr. Blackswan, or other technical people who deal with numbers say, “ignore the noise.”

Consider this instruction from  Bergdorf Goodman’s Fashion’s Night Out, 2010 website:
5-5:30pm Estee Lauder, Beauty Level
….Thirty (30!) exclusive, limited-edition Pure Color Night by Tom Pecheux product trios, will be available for purchase in store while supplies last.

(Those unfamiliar with the situation may not realize New York is known for unnecessarily long lines. Individuals make a hobby of waiting in lines, arriving early for limited edition things, etc. Also, this event was on the second annual Fashion’s Night out, a worthwhile event with an interesting history for a future story. The fun of this event is to dress up, drink free drinks, and wait in line to buy things while watching celebrities and listening to DJs. 
100 of these product trios were sold-out months before they were available in Paris and the UK last spring).

You may or may not realize that you have a choice at this point. This is a test of “opportunity identification.” For whatever reason, it is impossible for you to be at the store in person. You also have plans to enjoy free drinks and cupcakes at another department store, later that evening. There are two types of people in the world: those who see the world as a turnip (“you can’t squeeze out blood from a turnip”) or those who see the world as an oyster (“a shell containing all the possibilities one can imagine”). It was a pair of Harvard business school economists who brought these two ideas to my attention in "Women Don’t Ask” and the companion volume “Ask for It!” More essays on those topics are to come in the future. 

Publilius Syrus sums up the key virtue in this story with the following one-liner:

Facit gradum fortuna quem nemo videt.
Luck takes the step that no one sees.

The choice is this: you can take the FNO information at face value, or you can call the counter and try to prepay for your very exclusive trio, at your convenience. It is obvious what the opportunity-identifier would do, and what the more passive, sheep-like turkey caught up in details would deliberate over, unncessarily: “should I arrive at 5pm? 430pm? If I get there at 5:15pm will I be too late?” Suffice it to say, all items were sold and accounted for before 5pm. It is unclear what an economist would say to do in this situation: is this situation like finding a $100 bill lying on the ground: why bother pick it up, since someone else already has not done so, it is probably counterfeit?

This is the chief skill through which a monument more lasting than bronze gets built: opportunity identification, more simply called, “geterdoneness” or geterdonia.  The first step in all endeavors is to identify opportunities and take appropriate action immediately.

An important caveat is the following: do not be mislead by luck, fortuna. Captain Sullenberger, an embodiment of the cornucopia of patriotic virtues these and future stories will illustrate, frowns mightily on the word “luck” and instead describes “preparation.” The sense of Publilius Syrus' maxim is not lost with this amendation:

Preparation takes the step that no one sees.


  1. Is geterdonia pronounced giterdonia?

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