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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.

On Trump, Bannon, and Nepotism

- by Alexander Engel

If you are like most Americans, you might have found yourself thinking, “Enough of Ivanka and Jared already!”

The voters that put Mr. Trump in the White House are wondering more and more, “I voted for one name on the ballot. I didn’t vote for an entire family bloodline including in-laws. Is it me, or is something weird going on?”

With all the campaign talk about getting the most “competent” people for the job, we see Jared taking the role of Prince of Peace in the Middle East, and Ivanka being coronated as something like a Secretary of State (is she the First Lady, or is it Melania, or do they take shifts, or WTH is going on?). Out of the entire population of the United States, are we really supposed to believe that Ivanka and Jared are the most qualified for their influential positions in the world? Are they really worthy of their powerful influence over the future of a free people? It is nonsense! This is not how a republic works. This is how a monarchy operates. Damn the competency, royal blood beats through their veins, so they shall reign.

Blood is thicker than water. It is true. However, this is forgivable in private life only. In public life, the nation must trump family relation. That is “The Part of the Deal” of entering public service. Western civilization has always been excruciatingly clear on this point. For example, Romulus killed his own brother Remus, because Remus was interfering with the common good. Aeneas abandoned his lover to do what was best for civilization, even though it meant Dido would commit suicide. Noah cursed his grandson, and on and on. You seem to take literally what your base understood as hyperbole that you could shoot someone and still maintain the support of your base. It is not the case.

Allowing Ivanka to traipse around the world smiling, styling, and profiling seems eerily reminiscent of what Mr. Trump ridiculed Caroline Kennedy about, when he suggested she had no business being the ambassador to Japan. It is similar with Jared. One difference, however, is that ambassadors must go through a confirmation process. The kids were given a pass on that. Another difference is each of the kids can profit enormously from their access to the White House. Hmm … déjà vu of the Clintons too. Seriously, Mr. President? There is nobody in the entire United States that can advise you as well as or better than your kids? What’s next? Will the next vacancy on the Supreme Court be filled by Barron? You like to say how big you are, as do most teenagers, but, how about getting some Testosterone and keeping your kids in their place – out of the White House.

If Trump continues taking a back seat to his kids, and if he continues to ridicule and taunt individuals, such as Steve Bannon, he will rapidly erode his base. The only problem with doing that is that there will be hell to pay when he is out of office. The Democrats will unleash holy hell on him as soon as they can. It will make Russian collusion look like patty cake. If Mr. Trump thinks they do not have wet dreams of ruining him and his kids, he is sorely mistaken. If he believes they do not want to see him and his relations in prison, he is deluded. Think about the memes of a beheaded Trump that have gone viral. Really think about it.

Establishment Republicans are the same way. When Mr. Trump is out of office, they will not be there slapping him on the back for doing a good job, they will be there stabbing him in the back and cooperating with Democrats for his destruction, as they are doing even now.

Mr. Trump, you are making a grave mistake by mocking and disparaging Mr. Bannon. He does speak for your base. When you attack one of your base, you are cutting your own Achilles’ heel. Knock it off and grow up for America’s sake, and keep your kids in their place, which is out of the White House. You need your base for when you will eventually be out of office and you and your family will be thrown to the Democrat and Republican wolves.

A word to the wise is enough. Otherwise, good riddance.

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