So, you say, what good do I get [from virtue]? But what more good do you want than this? Instead of being a shameless man you will become a dignified man, instead of chaotic you will become organized, from being untrustworthy you will become trustworthy, instead of being out of control you will become sane. If you want anything more than this, keep on doing what you are already doing: not even a God can now help you. (Discourses, 4.9) Marcus Aurelius
Strange times we’re living in. We admire and aspire the banal, the unimportant.
Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine a reward that does not present itself as money, fame or otherworldly form.
Like, little kids, we live as if we needed to have the attention of the grown-ups always on us, totally dependent on being acknowledged by others we live in a constant race to get attention all the time, forgetting to live for ourselves in the process, we keep buying stuff for the sake of buying stuff or even living experiences for the sake of the validation and being seen doing what is “hip”. Forgetting to actually live.
They say the best things in the world are free, virtue is one of them, and virtue cannot be sold, maybe that is why nobody seems to care for it.
Marcus Aurelius often describes evil people and acts to be made by the ignorant, for they don’t know what is truly valuable, which is, simply, living a virtuous life.
Virtue is seen today, paradoxically as enslaving, full of rules, full of “no’s”.
But in reality, virtue is what liberates a man from a normal and boring life. Virtue is everything but boring. Eric Greitens writes in his book resilience:
The virtues were exactly what was required to live a full and exciting life. Someone who had the virtues had energy and exuberance. He or she could fight with courage, love with passion, seek adventure with spirit— could know what it takes to create beauty and to live fully. The “wicked” were “those who haven’t developed the knack of fine living— those who botch the business.” Put most simply, to be virtuous meant that you were brilliant at being human. Greitens, Eric. Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life
Brilliant at being human.
Virtue is its own reward because every time you choose to be virtuous you are choosing to live life by your own rules. A virtuous man is not played into thinking that liberty means a number in the bank account or a yacht at the port, in all cases these are by-products of living a virtuous life, but they are certainly not the end in itself, the end is virtue, the end is freedom and personal power.
It can be easy to forget this is in the material world we live in but bear in mind that what Ralph Waldo Emerson coined with perfection.
A political victory, a rise of rents,
the recovery of your sick, or the return of your absent friend, or some other
favorable event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for
you. Do not believe it. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing
can bring you peace but the triumph of principles (virtue). Ralph Waldo Emerson
Virtue is its own reward.
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