The 4 Virtues.
Welcome to Self-Mastery—a timeless signal to become the architect of your mind and use strength, accountability and an open mind to create yourself, starting from the inside.
“The man who has virtue is in need of nothing whatever for the purpose of living well.”
I might be wrong.
But, the essence of our incessant lives is a wonderful thing.
We are here to have meaning. Create our purpose. Understand and capitalise on the whole point of why we evolved with a conscious and logical brain with empathy and emotions.
And in everything we do, our aim is, deep down, to get better in one of these areas:
In other words, we seek virtue.
Everything we face in our lives is an opportunity to act with virtue or respond with virtue. And honestly, no other quality should be more sought.
Virtue. What is it, really?
Believed to be made up of four powers, I’d like to share light on them with you here.
“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which externals are not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own”
Wisdom encompasses so much. So it’s not easy to define. We know, though, that it represents just judgement of yourself and others and the world around you. It is the integration of knowledge, experience, and deep understanding that bolsters the power of tolerance.
Wisdom informs action; to grow knowledge of what is good and evil and nor good nor evil, what we choose or ignore, and what we ought to be aware of aside our indifferences.
There is a space between what happens and our response to it. In that space, is our power to decide on that response. Wisdom’s opportunity. Knowing this is step 1. Taking the lessons from our experiences and applying it is step 2. Throwing it out the window and acting impulsively and irrationally is no step at all. Most people never take the second step.
To grow in wisdom, you harness what philosophy teaches you, to then wield it into the real world. “Works not words”, as Seneca would put it.
“The couragous man wisthands and fears those things which it is necessary [to fear and withstand] and on account of the right reason, and how and when it is necessary [to fear and withstand] them, and likewise in the case of being bold.”
A man of courage acts as such in a qualified way: at the right time, in the right manner, and with the right motivation.
More than ever is courage and strength in mind a potent quality to have; To act in spite of fear or insecurity or doubt. And to be there for yourself and others when it's needed.
Seneca used two words to describe what a person needed to thrive, "Persist and resist”, he stated.
Courage is a timeless symbol of Stoicism—like fighting a war that cannot be won, but fighting bravely and honourably nonetheless, as Marcus Aurelius did when he struggled against the corruption and decline of Ancient Rome.
Courage commands what you go on to achieve and attain. Build your courage to face misfortune, to face ill health or even death, to face risk, and to hold your principles—even when others get away with or are rewarded for disregarding theirs. Seek the courage to speak your mind and insist on truth, and thrive.
If you seek tranqulity, do less. Or (more accurately) do what’s essential… Which brings a double satisfaction: to do less, better. Because most of what we say is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranqulity. Ask yourself at every moment, ‘is this necessary?’”.
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.24.
My absolute favourite. Aristotle labels this the “golden mean”. Temperance, by definition, firmly presses itself in the middle of excess and deficiency. And excess desires are synonymous with discontent and dissatisfaction.
We, as individuals, overstress the need to have so much going on in our lives. “Curb your desire”, Epictetus says, "don’t set your heart on so many things and you will get what you need.”
Temperance is knowing that abundance means having what is essential. It’s often used interchangeably with self-control. Not only should you seek temperance towards material goods, but with harmony too—and in good discipline, no matter if you experience pleasure or pain, admiration or contempt, failure or triumph.
It is the failsafe to personal self-destruction. It keeps your mind free and calm. It’s also the virtue that helped change me the most.
And a commitment to justice in your own acts. Which means: thought and action resulting in the common good. What you were born to do.”
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 9.31
Marcus Aurelius found justice to be the most important to him, suggesting it was “the source of all other virtues”.
After all, what is courage if it’s immoral? Or what use is wisdom if you do not put it to use for the whole world?
Cicero fulfilled the duty of committing to Summum Bonum, or, the highest good.
It is important, then, for you and I to consider first what it means to act unjustly. It is anything that inflicts injury or harm on another being. “Seeking the very best in ourselves means actively caring for the wellbeing and welfare of other human beings”
In all the four virtues, we have the summary:
Do no harm to another, through thought, speech or act.
We are not born for ourselves alone.
Follow nature as a guide, to contribute your part to the common good
Have good faith, steadfastness, and truth.
Virtue is how we live happy and free and full of meaning.
So, today’s read leaves you with this,
“If at some point in your life, you should come across anything better than justice, prudence, self-control, courage—than a mind satisfied that it has succeeded in enabling you to act rationally, and satisfied to accept what’s beyond its control—if you find anything better than that, embrace it without reservations—it must be an extraordinary thing indeed—and enjoy it to the full.
But if nothing presents itself that’s superior to the spirit that lives within—the one that has subordinated individual desires to itself, that discriminates among impressions, that has broken free of physical temptations, and subordinated itself to the gods, and looks out for human beings’ welfare—if you find that there’s nothing more important or valuable than that, then don’t make room for anything but it.”
What’s on My Mind
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