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Virtue is Strength

If you had to define virtue in one word it would be “strength.” In English we use the same root word when we say virility. Virility means a special kind of power. So does virtue.

The Stoic School teaches that strength is a good thing. This is basic to human nature and Nature in general. Nature rewards the strongest in a species with survival and progeny. Nature is a place of struggle. The earth is a place where all animals must exert constant activity to live and must exercise great strength to get ahead. Those who lose their energy fall behind and perish. 

Human society also rewards athletes of great strength or speed. You don’t find yourself wishing you were weaker, do you? 

But, the Stoic School teaches about a strength more powerful than muscles.

First, think about an army. History shows that the most athletic soldiers do not always win. A smaller army with better strategy and equipment often defeats a larger force. Why? Second, a runner or boxer who has beaten a certain opponent previously might lose to him during the Olympics because the opponent trained harder and kept a stricter diet. Third, a weaker army can rout a greater one when the stronger flees the battle field.  Fourth, The ancient play The Suppliants by Euripides illustrates a special kind of power. In the play, the women have no physical power to retrieve the bodies of their dead loved ones who were killed in a battle, because the victors wanted them to rot in the open and be eaten by animals, so what mysterious strength empowered the mothers, wives, and daughters to win?

Our cultural grandparents called the first kind of strength “Wisdom,” the second “Temperance,” the third “Courage,” and the fourth “Justice.”

1) Wisdom is “being smart,” “thinking things through,” “making good decisions.” 

2) Temperance is self-control, self-discipline, and the ability to choose the difficult path that is good rather than the easy paths that are bad.

3) Courage means fortitude, bravery in the face of danger and pain, and risking personal safety, wealth, and reputation in the interest of something more noble.

4) Justice is doing the right thing, recognizing a higher morality than even human laws, and successfully harmonizing with Nature rather than only reading and talking about it.

The Stoic School teaches that the purpose of human life is Virtue. 

Even in human society, Nature requires constant energy to live, to be healthy, to be wise, to control yourself, to be brave, and to be fair to all.

An evidence that Nature intends mankind to be virtuous is that Nature gave humanity the potential for all these strengths. We know of no other creatures with the potential to develop the four Cardinal Virtues as we mean them here. Nature has attributes that can only be understood by those who practice wisdom, temperance, courage, and justice. We live in Nature more and more only as we grow in Virtue more and more. 

Another indication that Virtue is our purpose in life is that virtues bind us in stronger friendship with our fellow citizens, our friends, and our family. We are political animals. Nature provides no other species with a social structure anything like human society. There are no other species with commerce, technology, musical instruments, clothing, conversations, etc. anything like human society. But, along with our need to socialize in our uniquely human way, we see that virtue is what binds us together in the bonds of good faith necessary to produce thriving human societies. Individuals who practice Virtue are bound with their friends in stronger bonds of friendship and are praiseworthy among their countrymen. Those who practice vice suffer in their public and private relationships.

We call Wisdom, Temperance, Courage, and Justice the Cardinal Virtues. They remind us of the cardinal directions North, South, East, and West. With only four directions you can get from wherever you are to wherever you need to be in two-dimensional space.  In life, you need a different dimension of directions – virtues.

With the Cardinal Virtues, you can get from any circumstance you are in to where you need to be. The four virtues form a coordinate system that surely navigates you through your entire life, with “magnetic north” being the Good. Whatever crisis or reversal befalls you, the way to maintain happiness and to get where you need to be is always a combination of these four virtues.

The mother of all the virtues is Gratitude. All virtues are a combination of Wisdom, Temperance, Courage, and Justice, and those Cardinal Virtues come from Gratitude. Wisdom, Temperance, Courage, and Justice are the natural response to gratitude for what Nature has done for us, what our friends have done for us, and what our country has done for us.

What is the Essence of Western Civilization? (1 of 6)

    - by Kelly Kinkade   

       What is Western Civilization? People commit their lives to damaging Western Civilization, and many of them don’t even know what it is. Some fall in love with Eastern cultures and then think the West is inferior, when in reality, they are rejecting something they never really got to know in the first place. Others give their lives protecting the West – like soldiers – or give their lives trying to reach the West – like some refugees. So what is it?

       Can you say what the West is in one word? Soon, you will know that word. But, first think about this: doesn’t it strike you as strange that, on the one hand, many soldiers love the West so much that they will surrender their life that it may continue and they can’t put what it is into words, and on the other hand, many people hate the West so much that they give their lives trying to destroy it, and they can’t say what it is either? Doesn’t your mind wonder how one thing can cause mortal hatred and sacrificial love among the same species?

       Maybe it’s even more amazing to see teenagers and recent teenagers devote their energy and idealism to causes out of harmony with Western civilization – the very thing that gave them so many advantages in life. What is so powerful that it can extinguish even gratitude from a human heart? Ignorance. Ignorance of the essence of Western Civilization does this. So what is it?

       One word describes Western Civilization and distinguishes it from every other culture. The Stoic School knows this word, because the School knows what the West always is and never is not. The Stoic School reaches way back to the beginning of Western Civilization. We were formally organized in 300BC, so we have been building Western Civilization for 23 centuries and counting. We are the oldest continuous organization in history.

       The Stoic School is dedicated to protecting Western civilization so that it grows strong and stays healthy. This is because we have seen that pure Western civilization is a blessing to all people who deal with it whether they are part of the West or not. But even more importantly, we protect Western Civilization because we were there at its birth, and we have been its tutor and chaperone ever since.

       You will find that knowing the West is necessary to follow the advice “know yourself.” This expression comes from the conception of Western civilization. Over 3,400 years ago in Greece there was some form of an Oracle at Delphi. An Oracle is what you might call a prophet. The people that went to her for personalized advice included King Solon, Croesus, Socrates, Alexander the Great, even Cicero. But, amazingly all visitors to Delphi, in addition to their personalized advice, received one piece of advice that was the same. Whoever approached the Oracle would see two words set in stone above the door. The engraved words were, “Know Thyself.”

       You will see that the key to knowing yourself and the essence of Western civilization is the same one word. The next article will share that word with you. Until then, try to think of what it is, and prepare to know yourself and your civilization accurately. 

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