The Stewardship Creed: My Values, Ethics and Legacy

Patrick McCorkle
7 min readOct 12, 2023

I used to believe life was a movie, a highlight reel of big moments that you grinded towards through most of your days and nights.

When I was a young adult, eager to make the world my oyster, I kept living in the future, in an unguaranteed world. It was about the destination, and not the journey. Since I was so certain that I would become a politician, or a statesman, as my grandfather liked to gently correct, I spent time contemplating massive problems, such as electoral representation, political corruption, foreign relations and the like.

Well, my life has not turned out the way I thought it would. I’ve gone into detail in other posts, and won’t repeat them here.

Rather, I want to focus on how my perspective has shifted. Now, I regard life as a stream of little moments, with waterfalls, the former big highlights, in-between. The majority of our existence is spent day to day, trying to survive. Many of us have jobs we don’t like. We often interact and spend time with individuals who are not our friends and family.

Great influence is hard to come by. There aren’t tons of famous politicians, celebrities, athletes or entrepreneurs. There are many ordinary people, including myself. Our actions matter greatly to our world.

Over the past decade and a half, I’ve abandoned my earlier societal questions for personal ones:

What are my passions?

What are my ethics and values?

What do I want my legacy to be?

The answer to the first is not hard to figure out. This blog and my other works indicate my main pursuit: writing, which kicked into high gear with my grandfather’s passing and his last words to me:

“Do. Not. Ever. Stop. Writing.”

As for ethics and values, I’ve taken a bit longer on those. I went to a Catholic school from first grade until I graduated high school. I am grateful for the exposure to Catholic doctrine and history. I still think of the Bible, most often the Book of Job, the Parables of Jesus and the Christian Golden Rule, as general life guidelines.

In a story common to the millennial generation, I’ve drifted away from the Catholic Church and organized religion. Others more gifted than me have elaborated upon the drawbacks of these institutions. I won’t belabor the point here. Suffice it to say I am a “spiritual but not religious” person, more or less.

Still, my upbringing around Catholicism has made me codify my beliefs. My upcoming fantasy saga about the realm of Anformaria contains much of my values and ethics. As of late, I’ve been rediscovering some aspects of Catholic doctrine in my review of ancient Roman history, the loose basis for Anformaria.

In particular, the Apostles’ Creed speaks to me because of its brevity and thoroughness. It’s a statement of belief in 109 words! You don’t need a great deal of time or wherewithal to understand it.

Thus, I made my own creed for Anformaria. I asked myself: What would peasants, commoners, merchants, nobles and the religious all state, embodying their beliefs, and by extension, mine?

I came up with “The Stewardship Creed.” The version here is slightly modified to remove some in-universe jargon. I will provide an explanation after each stanza.

The first stanza:

I do not forget

Storm, Fire and Lightning grant me life.

Air and Wind fill my lungs.

Water and Fluid comprise my blood.

Earth, Rock and Stone support my frame.

Flora and Fauna nourish me.

Sapience enhances me.

Those familiar with the four classical elements of Earth, Water, Wind and Fire can probably tell where I am going. I re-classify Fire into Storm, which includes Lightning and all of electricity. The point is that these forces, often perceived as destructive, are necessary for life. The Sun, the original Firestorm, makes all life on Earth possible.

The same goes for the other elements. I cannot breathe without Air. I need Water to function. I need Earth to stand upon. Plants and Animals provide me nourishment and shelter. Other Humans and sapient creatures create a society, as one person cannot be an island unto themselves. The point of this stanza is to emphasize how Humanity cannot exist without all that came before it.

The second stanza:

I do not forget

To be wise is to regard oneself as all and all as oneself.

To be just is to be impartial under every condition.

To be sane is to be content through good or ill.

To be healthy is to abandon torrid passions.

Survival is peace.

Strife is death.

I tried to think of some “cardinal virtues” of my outlook, again influenced by the Catholic Church. The first line about wisdom makes a conclusion from the first stanza. Because I need Storm, Air, Water, Earth, Flora and Fauna to survive, and other Humans for meaning, I should regard them as myself and myself as them in order to reduce suffering and maintain an equilibrium between all that is living and all that is still. In other words, organic and non-organic components of the universe.

Whenever I think of justice, I always remember the Greco-Roman concept of Lady Justice, who is blindfolded before her scales. We cannot allow biases or exceptions if we want to be just. Everyone is equal under the law, no matter their power, wealth or influence.

My initial, gut reaction when to the word ‘justice’ is the judicial system. That is certainly an important aspect. Nevertheless, many of us may not have to use the judicial much or at all in our lives. Instead, justice applies to the treatment of friends, family and acquaintances. Am I able to judge everyone fairly, based on their individual actions, not their past or their relationship with me? Am I fair in my day to day treatment with others? Naturally, there is much more to it, as the philosopher Plato spent an entire book defining this elusive concept, but hopefully I’ve provided a decent start.

My conception of sanity is influenced by Daoism and other philosophies. I recall a story of the philosopher Zhuangzi once his wife died. Naturally, the passing of a loved one is traumatic and can leave scares for years afterward. But the afternoon after she passed, Zhuangzi was in high spirits. He preferred to recall all the joyous memories with her- sort of like Dr. Suess’s famous misquote: ‘don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.’ Since Zhuangzi believed in the cyclical nature of life, his wife passed to the next stage, following the natural order of the seasons and other phenomenon. What initially appears like misfortune is something else.

As the great website Straight Bamboo explains it:

“Zhuang Zi knew that his wife did not just vanish but had simply returned back to nature, back to the Dao. She made the return trip that is really the same trip that brought us here in reverse. Why should we attach excessive emotions to it?”

My ‘torrid passions’ have some overlap with the Seven Deadly Sins as well as the Greek idea of the Golden Mean. When something challenges, saddens delights us, or any other emotion, we should try to react in a measured way, rather than become too positive or negative. Give the incident the respect it deserves without giving it too much, referencing Zhuang Zi’s reaction to his wife’s death.

Abandoning torrid passions does not mean I rid myself of every passion. I wouldn’t continue this blog if I didn’t have passion for it. I am certainly not becoming rich because of it, the same with the rest of my writings. When the moment to write arrives, I focus on it, pour my passion into it, then leave it be. So it goes for the rest of my interests, hobbies and relationships with others.

At this point in my life, a conclusion follows these statements. Survival is peace, and strife is death. Strife, conflict and challenges are necessary to grow and thrive. Yet too much strife leads to ruin, warped perceptions and broken relationships. Life throws enough strife at us without us inventing any more.

I try to remain calm and centered, repairing as many relationships and situations as I can. To me, that is peace.

The final stanza:

I shall remember

To do unto All as I would have All do unto me.

That is the Way.

Nothing more.

Nothing less.

The inspiration for this statement is a comment by Jewish theologian Hillel the Elder:

“That is hateful to you, do not unto another. This is the whole Torah. The rest is explanation, and now go study.”

The fundamental principle of my values/ethics is to do unto All, living or not, as I would have them do unto me. Naturally, that is a very complicated topic which requires elaboration and study. All creatures must consume, and therefore injure or kill, to survive. That is a topic for another day.

The point is if I forget or distort this fundamental principle, then my subsequent efforts are for naught. I must keep the idea of doing unto others as I would have them do unto me at the forefront of my mind.

To return to the final question, what would I like my legacy to be? Ideally, I would enjoy being a writer of some repute, either of non-fiction or fiction. I might start a family. I want a meaningful career that allows me a decent middle class lifestyle and contributes to my community.

Whether those desires come true or not, I hope to be someone who followed his own ethics. Who treated All, humans, animals, plants (organic) and the still (inorganic) as I’d like to be treated.

That would not be such a bad legacy.

Here is The Stewardship Creed in full. I’d love to hear your thoughts or critiques.

I do not forget

Storm, Fire and Lightning grant me life.

Air and Wind fill my lungs.

Water and Fluid comprise my blood.

Earth, Rock and Stone support my frame.

Flora and Fauna nourish me.

Sapience enhances me.

I do not forget

To be wise is to regard oneself as all and all as oneself.

To be just to be impartial under every condition.

To be sane is to be content through good or ill.

To be healthy is to abandon torrid passions.

Survival is peace.

Strife is death.

I shall remember

To do unto All as I would have All do unto me.

That is the Way.

Nothing more.

Nothing less.

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Patrick McCorkle

I am a young professional with keen interests in politics, history, foreign languages and the arts.