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Joseph walked among the Paragons of Virtue. A steam whistle blew in the distance, and he heard the faint, distant grinding of steel wheels on steel track, but he ignored it. The Paragons were tall and white and marble. They towered over him on either side, arcing toward each other as if reaching for one another over his head.

"I am not worthy of this place," said Joseph.

You are not, the Paragons silently agreed. You are not virtuous. You are not selfless. We are paragons of all that you are not.

"How can that be true?" asked Joseph. "There are many things that I am not. And many of those things are in direct contradiction to virtue, which you epitomize. I am not a murderer. I am not a gambler. I am not a trafficker in illegal contraband."

You've got us there, the Paragons admitted, silently. We got carried away in our attempt to make you feel inferior.

"How exactly," inquired Joseph, "is a superior attitude the least bit virtuous?"

It is not, was the silent answer of the Paragons, however, neither is it wicked. We remain what we are. You cannot challenge us successfully.

"Well, it certainly isn't very nice, having a superior attitude. It isn't pleasant to put on airs."

It is not necessary to be pleasant to be virtuous.

"It helps," retorted Joseph.

There was no answer.

"A sincere belief in one's own superiority," began Joseph, "is a road to wickedness. If you place yourself ahead of all others, you will inevitably behave in a manner counter to virtue. One can not excel morally, or be righteous, when one believes one's self to hold priority over all others."

To have a superior attitude, answered the silent Paragons, is not to hold a sincere belief in one's superiority. One can feign superiority, behaving in a superior manner without believing one's self to be superior.

"Isn't that dishonest?"

Honesty is not required for virtue. To withhold a truth that might be harmful if revealed is virtuous. To spare those who would suffer injury as a direct result of truth is not wicked.

"Who will be harmed, if it is learned that you are not superior?" asked Joseph.

Those who would seek our wisdom will come to harm. They will pay us less credence, and therefore feel less confident in our instructions. Loss of confidence is damaging to men. They are creatures of ego.

"So it is your assertion that men are in need of being led by those more qualified than they. And so, needing guidance, they seek it from their superiors, which is the only way in which they can feel confident in their decisions," reasoned Joseph.

It is.

"And so you offer men false confidence, predicated upon the notion that you are superior, which you do not even believe, yourselves," Joseph said, accusingly.


"Knowing, as you claim to know, that confidence is of paramount importance to men, being creatures of ego."

That is not…

"And so, even while you fashion yourselves shepherds of men, you deny them that which you believe they desperately need, by offering them a false shadow of it. You willfully provide to men a parody of their life's blood, which you say is confidence. Is this virtue?"

Joseph fled as the Paragons crumbled. Great chunks of white marble crashed upon the ground where he had stood.

A pile of debris marked the Grave of the Virtuous.

"What a bullshit name," desponded Joseph.

"No kidding," answered the archangel Pedro.

"I think I have a rock in my shoe," said Joseph.

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