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Book review: 'The Year of Living Virtuously (Weekends Off)' reflects on virtue, vice

POSTED: February 9, 2015 5:20 p.m.
Michael Strickland/

"The Year of Living Virtuously (Weekends Off): One Woman's Search for Meaning in an Ordinary Life" is by Teresa Jordan.

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"THE YEAR OF LIVING VIRTUOUSLY (WEEKENDS OFF): One Woman's Search for Meaning in an Ordinary Life," by Teresa Jordan, Counterpoint Press, $23, 224 pages (nf)

In 1726, Benjamin Franklin defined 13 virtues of human character: temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity and humility.

Author Teresa Jordan decided to experiment with focusing on virtues for a week (and taking the weekends off), and then writing about each one in online journal posts. Later, she and her husband, folklorist and radio producer Hal Cannon, were asked as part of an online survey to define virtue and sin, which also prompted reflection.

Her book "The Year of Living Virtuously (Weekends Off)" is a compliation of the essays that came from these journal entries and provides a modern examination of these qualities and their opposing vices. With philosophical dexterity, she explores, searches and scrutinizes commonplace notions of right and wrong.

Delving into what E.B. White deemed "man's fantastic battle with himself," the book weaves story and neurocognitive science together. Jordan writes personal experiences, magic, verse and science, and includes connections drawn from stories by Franklin, Marcel Proust, Queen Victoria, Victor Frankl and others.

This compelling set of reflections is poetic in its scope, and Jordan's meditations are thought-provoking and insightful. She starts with New Year's Day and works through the year in the four dozen or so essays that vary in length from a few pages to nearly a dozen pages.

Jordan, a writer and visual artist who lives in southern Utah who grew up in Wyoming, does a masterful job of juxtaposing and analyzing the light and darkness that exist in everyone.

The book is free of profanity, violence and descriptive sexual references.

The author calls the inclusion of art, story and other abstractions a necessity as decades of self improvement research and activity run by scientific experts have failed to yield measurable results in the enhancement of human happiness.

"The Year of Living Virtuously (Weekends Off)" also features Jordan's sketchbook illustrations she created through papercutting, which are part of a series in progress titled "From the Garden of Darkness and Light," according to her website at teresajordan.com.
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