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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.

Stoicism Alone is a Complete World View

- by Cicero

The Stoic School has always taught a complete world view. It teaches the best way to face any circumstance in human life.

Individuals practicing Stoicism can know themselves completely, they can understand the world and society around them, they can tap into the very forces of Nature, and they become able to change the world around them in lasting and spectacular ways. For centuries, the Stoic School has summarized this process with a phrase that is best translated into English as, “Turn on. Tune in. Grow strong. Make change.”

Stoicism teaches that all lessons for life are clearly seen from Nature. The laws of Nature are omnipotent. They are also impartial, so when a person goes against a law of Nature they damage themselves whether the person acted intentionally or by mistake. This is the meaning of our phrase, “natura non contristatur,” which means, “nature is not saddened.”

Being a complete world view, Stoicism answers why there is so much division in the Western world of politics today. Stoicism is very different than any political party. No political organization gives a harmonious approach to social justice, racism, health, economics, foreign policy, education, gender issues, religious devotion, and all other areas of human life.

A byproduct of learning a complete world view is that, whatever a person’s background, everyone learning Stoicism will be shocked by many things. A wise person will continue learning and will soon see the truth that all we teach fits together in an obvious way. All students of the Stoic School reach this “aha!” moment. It is like scientists learning new truths that upset what they believed before. Nevertheless, scientists accept new truths such as the theory of relativity, calculus, the movement of the earth, and everything else. Similarly, a person considering Stoicism is best served by looking at the proof of each piece and how each piece unmistakably fits together with all the other pieces to form a truthful mosaic of the whole of human life.

Stoicism is keenly needed today in the West. The turmoil in politics produces riots, murders, tears, hatred, and anguish. The Stoic School trains all how to turn negative emotions into serenity and strength. It does not teach emotionlessness. It teaches emotional thriving.

Regarding political life, Stoicism is not Republican or Democrat or Libertarian or Green. It is not Left or Right or in the middle. Stoicism is on a different axis all together that transcends Western politics as they exist today. Therefore, Stoicism is the answer today. The current parties and system have produced gangrene in the Western body politic; the Stoic School alone reveals what is necessary for all parts of society to unite in healthy bonds of friendship where each part helps each other part and is itself helped by all the other parts.

The Stoic School has always been the chaperone, mentor, and champion of the West. It will always be the chaperone, mentor, and champion of Western Civilization.

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