What is character?
Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men and weak men create hard times.
Character, as defined by Ralph Waldo Emerson is a reserved force that acts by presence, and without means.
There are many roads in life, the most difficult and worthy of them require a certain kind force and attitude, a spectacle of fortitude that only a few manage to comprehend and to embody.
This is character, the powerful attitude available to anyone but attained by the few.
To comprehend character we must comprehend first gravity and trees, yes, trees.
Gravity is a roman word that comes from the latin gravitas, the romans used it to describe a man with a strong personality. A man that similated an immovable force, like a strong, unshakable pillar.
You can see it in the face of a man that is dead serious about something.
Character is a superb business quality as it gives assurance to a man’s purpose, a man of gravity will stand for what he believes in and fight for what he wants, character is synonym with self-assurance and confidence.
Emerson also compares character with self-sufficingness.
Self-reliance is a core characteristic of a stoic character. Let us not forget that character must be independant, it must stand alone.
This solid foundation that is character can be comprehended and explained with the inner citadel concept in stoicism.
The Inner Citadel is a fortress around your innermost self, so that externals, meaning all the things we cannot control, are powerless against our higher sense of will and reason.
The power to do this, to put things to the test of our will and become unmovable is what constitutes a man of character. It is a virtue that must be practiced at all times.
To illustrate this idea better, Aulus Gellius describes it just perfectly.
These representations of the soul, which the philosophers call phantasiai, by which a person’s spirit is momentarily moved, at the first glimpse of the thing which presents itself to the soul: they do not depend upon the will, and are not free. Rather, by means of some kind of force which is peculiar to them, they throw themselves upon people, in order to be known. Assents, by contrast, which are called sunkatatheseis, by means of which these representations are recognized and judged, are voluntary and take place through human freedom. This is why, when a terrifying sound is heard-whether it comes from the heavens or from the collapse of some building, or whether it announces some kind of danger, or anything else of that nature it is necessary that the soul of the sage, too, be also slightly moved and constricted and terrified; not because he judges that some form of evil is present, but because of the rapid and involuntary movements, which usurp the proper task of the mind and of reason. The sage, however, does not give his assent immediately to such representations which terrify his soul; he does not approve them, but brushes them aside and rejects them, and it seems to him that there is nothing to fear from such things. This is the difference between the sage and the foolish person: the foolish person thinks that things are as they appear to the first emotion of his soul-that is to say, atrocious and frightful, and the foolish person approves by his assent these first impressions, which appear to justify his fear. But the sage, although the color of his face was briefly and rapidly altered, does not give his assent, but maintains the force and solidity of the dogma which he has always had about such representations: that they are not at all to be feared, but they terrify people by means of a false appearance and an empty terror.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said that if we are capable of fear, we will readily find terrors.
In ultimate instance, character is a decision. Is that final freedom of which Viktor Frankl writes in A man’s search for meaning. The inner freedom of choosing to face everything that happens with a stout heart. This inner freedom that is the ultimate power to choose how we are going to face life, with virtue and courage or with fear and cowardice.
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