Beauty Way: Navajo Virtue Ethics

Without appropriating, I’d like to incorporate the Navajo prayer Beauty Way into contemporary virtue ethics. If you’re unfamiliar with this prayer, it goes like this:

Walking in Beauty
(A prayer from the Navajo Nation)


Today I will walk out, today everything unnecessary will leave me, I will be as I was before, I will have a cool breeze over my body. I will have a light body, I will be forever happy, nothing will hinder me. 


I walk with Beauty below me.
I walk with Beauty above me.
I walk with Beauty all around me.
My words will be Beautiful.

In Beauty, all day long, may I walk.
Through the returning seasons, may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen, may I walk. 

With dew about my feet, may I walk.

With Beauty before me, may I walk.
With Beauty behind me, may I walk.
With Beauty below me, may I walk.
With Beauty above me, may I walk.
With Beauty all around me, may I walk.

In old age wandering a trail of Beauty,
lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering a trail of Beauty,
living again, may I walk. 

It is finished in Beauty.
It is finished in Beauty.
Aho.

It may be easy to see how this prayer–even as a prayer itself–fits into virtue ethics. As a prayer, poem or song, it is a mental action performed; a ritual or tradition. As such, the aim is to cultivate virtues–even, perhaps, the ones alluded to in the prayer.

As a selection of virtue ethics, it sits alongside Christian virtue ethics and Stoic ethics, particularly since it aims to shed unnecessary things, as the Stoics wish the shed “the passions.” Think about it: Everything unnecessary will leave and one will walk in beauty.

Even the action–walking–is a practice that lends itself to virtue. The prayer hopes for the prayer-sayer to be surrounded in beauty. But it’s not just that! One’s words will be beautiful! Because of this, the prayer hopes to bring, at the very least, the virtue of being able to speak beautifully!

I think this prayer and lifeway fits solidly within virtue ethics.

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