FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Loyalty & the Agency

It is always with repetitive lack of creativity and imagination that one refers back to an animal generically identified as “the dog” when speaking about loyalty and fidelity.  Dogs have an innate capacity for adhering to that virtue, if indeed it is a virtue, to remain loyal despite adversity and mistreatment and maltreatment.  And even when they exhibit a flash of anger or rebelliousness, they quickly feel regret and sorrow for their actions.

Such statements, of course, are generalized and not universally true; for there are some dogs which become vicious or exhibit traits of remorseless aggression; but that characterization fails to fit the human paradigm.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there is often a dog-like quality with Federal and Postal employees in refusing to proceed with a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Loyalty, fidelity — all in the face of maltreatment by one’s agency — seems to remain a psychological obstacle; as if conceding that one’s medical condition  prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job somehow diminishes the loyalty one has sacrificed for an agency which ultimately could care less than farthing about one’s health, future or well-being of the Federal or Postal employee.

Strike a dog and it will likely look to its master to find out what it did wrong; mistreat the Federal or Postal employee who suffers from a health issue, and [you may fill in the blank] …

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Second Parable: The Dream of a Butterfly

In life, the rarity of humanity arises once, if at all, in the lifetime of a life.  And so it was that Taburo walked his customary walk along a green and lush riverbank.  It had rained for many days before, and the swift and dangerous roar of the rising floodwaters dumping into the Kozuichi River reverberated with an echo of serenity, as the life of a river mirrors the calm and turbulence of a soul.  Taburo walked in meditation as he did each morning.

Morning was the calm of one’s soul; walking was the exercise of the mind; the world around was the dream of a butterfly; the silence of his body the wakefulness of the moment. And the whimper was heard; had Taburo not paused to reach with a finger to stroke the side of a common green river lizard which had momentarily frozen upon its way up a birch tree, he might not have heard the whimper, and perhaps his life would not have given rise to that rarity of humanity, and the test of life in the humanity of his very own life.

Taburo heard the whimper, and looked down.  There, down below, clinging to an overhanging tree branch, was a boy of nine, perhaps ten, his feet partly submerged as the riverwaters were rising; wet through and through, whimpering, too weak to do much more.  Thought was a robber of time when action was required, and Taburo did not think.  He did.  He was a strong swimmer.  The river was rising rapidly.  Time was not on the side of thought. He ran swiftly, as the samurai ancestor’s blood had trained him, tearing off his robe and shedding his sandals, and in a graceful singularity of movement, as an acrobat from a trapeze swing, he dove and cut through the waters.

The undercurrents were overpowering, but Taburo was a mighty warrior; his arms slashed through the currents, and within moments he was with the boy.  The branch which provided the lifeline for the young lad snapped just as he reached the shivering body, and as the rushing waters were about to sweep the lad under, Taburo grabbed him by the scruff of his shirt and pulled him tightly towards his chest, wrapping a powerful arm from behind, around the boy’s chest, under each arm.  With his free arm, he slashed through the battling rapids.

Taburo was the son of a warrior, the grandson of the Ishido Clan, known for the ferocity of their skill in swordsmanship, and with this same triumvirate of virtues:  fearlessness, courage, and kindness, he slashed at the enemy.  Yes, as he swam and as he neared the riverbank, the serenity of exhaustion and fatigue was slowly, imperceptibly overtaking him; and he knew that the river was no enemy.  It was not a warrior to be feared; not an opponent to have courage against; not a worthy adversary to feel kindness towards.  It was, instead, the dream of a butterfly.

These thoughts flashed quickly in his mind, like the silent fluttering of the butterfly, and Taburo laughed in silence.   The rocky banks passed swiftly by; in his doing, he knew that he would have only one chance, as his strength was waning.  He timed it well; for a warrior and a master swordsman, the three elements of a battle ensured victory:  swiftness, accuracy, and timing.  Such virtues, of course, were merely for the physical battle; missing was the fourth virtue, that of wisdom; but in this battle where the opponent was merely the dream of the butterfly, wisdom was not called for; only the agility of the first three virtues.  Of the three, the latter was the most important.

He used the current to his advantage, and positioned himself; as it carried him towards the rocky embankment, he knew that he would hit a jutting boulder or tree root.   At the precise moment, he  slashed both feet towards the embankment, pointing like waiting spears…and as his toes touched surface, he felt the moment, and with the force and agility gained through years of swordsmanship, he pushed fiercely upward, lifting himself momentarily into the air, as he would with a sword about to slash his opponent; but this was a different battle, a different opponent, and in one movement, suspended above the roaring riverwaters, he threw the young lad high into the air.

Taburo slashed back into the dirty waters; at the same time, the lad landed on all fours onto an overhanging boulder several feet above, in the safety and calm of dry land.  The eyes of the lad met the eyes of Taburo.  With the serenity of a butterfly’s dream, Taburo became submerged, and disappeared into the timelessness of nature.

Virtue and Being

What does it mean to define something? At a minimum, it means to set it apart from others; for if x is to be defined, it must be defined as distinguished from y; otherwise, it remains subsumed and indistinguishable; for if in discussing x, you are unable to make heads or tails out of whether I am discussing either x or y, I have failed to set a boundary around the word, the subject, or concept about which I am discussing. I have failed to define my terms.

When taking on a partner in a business venture; accepting employment with a company or firm; interviewing a potential job candidate; considering a friendship; considering marriage; do we ever ask the question, Does he/she possess virtue? Or, What virtues (pluralizing the concept) does he/she possess? Is he/she virtuous (i.e., does that person’s essence or personhood contain the characteristics of virtue)? Are such questions so culturally irrelevant and anachronistic that they are no longer considered (is it similar to asking, how far must I travel before I fall off the edge of the earth?) Culturally, of course, it is interesting in this Post-modern Age that our language is dominated by purely emotive-injected adrenaline. Do I like him/do I love him/does he excite me/does he care for me? Virtue is without meaning; not because it cannot be defined, for certainly anyone can turn to a dictionary and verbalize the definition; rather, it has no meaning because it has no cultural relevance; it is a vacuous concept; it has fallen off the edge of the earth.

But can a truth exist without a mind to embrace it? Can virtue escape the historical relativity to which it has been relegated? And, moreover, how does one attain virtue? How can virtue retain a significance when the concept itself has been subsumed into relative vacuity? In Book II, Chapter 1, (1103b 21, following), Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle provides the key:

After noting that “moral virtue comes about as a result of habit,” he states: Thus, in one word, states of character arise out of like activities. This is why the activities we exhibit must be of a certain kind; it is because the states of character correspond to the differences between these. It makes no small difference, then, whether we form habits of one kind or of another from our very youth; it makes a very great difference, or rather all the difference.

Thus, the conceptual vacuity of a concept like virtue need not remain so; truth unembraced and unacknowledged need not be perennially forgotten in the temple of meaninglessness; Aristotle’s point is that virtue, properly understood, has nothing to do with conceptual existence or non-existence; it has to do with the habit of acting in such manner as the consistency of actions brings about a state of character – of being virtuous. Just as one becomes a murderer by murdering; one is dishonest by acting dishonestly; so, one becomes virtuous by acting in a virtuous manner. Simplicity is often the subtle voice of profundity, and Aristotle is the master craftsman. In the cultural void of modern day; where chivalry, manners, being a ‘gentleman’; indignation at moral inappropriateness; embarrassment at lewd conduct; one may still define virtue, simply by being virtuous. And that is certainly how it should be – for words are cheap; a man can claim to be virtuous but act in ways which clearly define him differently; yet, consider the opposite: a man who acts virtuous, remains virtuous despite private thoughts to the contrary, for virtue is not defined by thoughts; it is defined by actions.

And so it is; we may recapture virtue, by being so. Let those who speak meaninglessness sound the hollow sounds of vacuity; those of substance, let his actions reveal the true Being of Virtue.