Saturday, July 14, 2012


  ~~ “Fortitude is the guard and support of the other virtues.” --John Locke ~~

How to go on?

How can any of us possibly persevere in this hopeless world?  What makes us press forward in our lives?  How can we choose the right path when there are so many wrong ones being presented to us?  Is there some force within us all that can be tapped in troubling and difficult times? 

Of course there is.  It is called many things, but none so descriptive as "Fortitude"-- that force that protects us from the negative friction caused by doubt, fear, and adversity so that we can press on and do the right thing.  It does this by enabling us to move forward in a positive way, in spite of adversity, conducting life's many and varied activities in an upright and virtuous way. 

We call Fortitude a virtue because it is a higher thing-- something we have to invoke and work on practicing.  I can feel Fortitude inside and around me, but I cannot claim it as something I "found" or created within myself.  I know in my heart that it is a supernatural gift that I must use properly.  However, before I can do that successfully and consistently, I have to know exactly what it is and how it works (as with every other philosophical question). 

~~ “Fortitude is the marshal of thought, the armor of the will, and the fort of reason.” 
--Francis Bacon ~~

Taking it from the basics, I can begin by seeing what thinkers in the past came up with on the subject.  Many of the great philosophers spent considerable time on Fortitude-- including Plato, Aristotle, and St Thomas Aquinas-- and they all wrote of Fortitude as a virtue.  Plato called Fortitude the "principle of not flying danger, but meeting it."  Aristotle did not specifically write that Fortitude is the highest virtue, but he covers it first when he covers the moral virtues.  St Thomas was specific and wrote that fortitude ranks third among the Cardinal Virtues after Prudence and Justice.  Whatever his "ranking" of Fortitude, St Thomas knew its vital nature in the scheme of things: that it must ensure the stability of all the virtues.

 ~~  "Virtues in general must act with that firmness which fortitude bestows."  ~~  St Thomas Aquinas

The Greek masters and St Thomas differed in other specifics.  The Greeks saw the great example of Fortitude as "facing death in a noble way"-- with much emphasis on battle and physical courage.  St Thomas, on the other hand, believed that true Fortitude involves moral courage to withstand all things which threaten our immortal soul-- and that courage fails us with every act of vice.  In order to really be a virtue-- rather than simply our fighting "animal" spirit the Greeks wrote of-- Fortitude has to be guided by our rational soul that St Thomas described.

I agree strongly that Fortitude is much more than physical courage.  A brave and courageous warrior can excel on the battlefield, but still succumb to worldy tempations and moral failures.  In fact, it seems clear that what makes Fortitude a virtue is the fact that we need it in times that are not extraordinary at all.  We need it in quiet times when we are trying to make it through the day.  We need it when temptation is all around and the right choice is not the easy one.  I often find Fortitude necessary in what are seemingly easy times-- when our guard is down and we can fall prey to sins and vices; perhaps because they seem fun and innocuous, or we are simply not paying due attention. This is when I find myself needing Fortitude-- at the times when my guard can be down.  To me, this makes it more of a consciously applied trait-- a form of watchfulness, or "Condition Yellow," as we say in my profession.

~~ "Gird your hearts with silent fortitude, suffering yet hoping all things." 
--Felicia Hemans ~~

The interesting thing to me about Fortitude is that you need it in order to practice the other virtues-- especially during trying times-- but you also need... something in order to practice Fortitude.  Reason tells me that while Fortitude is the motive power of all the virtues, it still needs a power of its own to function.  The Christian will attest that the driving force behind Fortitude is God Himself. The secularist will give credit to a good conscience and solid values from the individual (we'll leave for now the troubling question of how a secularist would recognize those things).

Without opening an age-old argument, I will say that I believe the force has to come from something outside of ourselves.  It is too logically fallacious for me to believe that my own self can protect me-- single-handed-- from myself.  Certainly, I can feel myself responding with Fortitude and using it to strengthen me... but I cannot bring myself to claim it as a force that I created inside myself.  Each time I fail, I can feel an outside power helping me-- if I choose to call upon it.  "Doing the right thing" becomes a way of choosing and a way of conducting the day to day business of life.  Ups and downs begin to look the same, with the same basic plan:  never quit, never do what you know to be wrong, and if you fail, get right back to trying.  That is the force of Fortitude.

 ~~ “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.” --Proverbs 24:16 ~~

Finally, there is the ultimate struggle for which we will need Fortitude.  At some point in our lives, we will be confronted with the truth of our mortality.  Having considered this for some time, I have come to the conclusion that we ultimately have but three choices in this area.
First, there is the choice of denial.  We have all spent time there and will again at some point.  Younger people tend to live in denial of mortality, as the power and essence of youth seems to repel the notion just as negative often repels positive.  There are many older people, though, who also embrace denial and its anesthesia-like siren song.

Second is the choice of despair.  Just as with denial, we have all experienced this one at times.  Despair can be a very, very strong force-- as evidenced throughout history, even for biblical persons up to and including Jesus Christ Himself.  Despair would have us abandon all of our virtues, including Hope, and surrender to the abyss. 

The third and final choice is acceptance of our true self which leads to a pursuit of our Creator and the right path.  People make this choice every day, because it is ostensibly an easy one to make.  The difficulty, of course, comes when we try to stay on the path that we thought we wanted.  Illustrative of this point is a quote from one of the giants of the early Christian forefathers, Saint Augustine, who famously said, "Lord, make me chaste, but not yet."  Deep inside, we recognize what is the right path, but at times it is so incredibly difficult to follow it.

St Augustine's sentiment seems to be hard-wired into all of us, and I contend that only Fortitude can see us through it.  Only a force that transcends our mortal selves can help us save our immortal souls.  We cannot shoot straight at the target of morality without a fortress to protect us from the slings and arrows of sin and vice that always seek to throw off our aim. 

~~ "Patience and fortitude conquer all things." --Ralph Waldo Emerson ~~

Fortitude, seen as a Cardinal Virtue and as the "enforcer" of the other Cardinal Virtues, is our ticket to the "straight and narrow" called out in the Gospel of Matthew (7:14).  The Bible, in fact, speaks to Fortitude's importance many times.  Regardless of your personal Faith or lack thereof, the wisdom is undeniable.  Here are a few of my favorites.

~~ “...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” --Hebrews 12:1 ~~

~~ “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” --Galatians 6:9 ~~

For those who choose the third way (acceptance and seeking), the Bible is our guide and is absolutely filled with fuel that inspires and empowers the Fortitude we need.

~~ "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." --Philippians 4:13 ~~

~~ "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him."
--James 1:12 ~~

I close by positing that Fortitude is, literally, the gift that keeps on giving.  Once we have left behind us the despair and denial that choked our path, and once we begin to use Fortitude properly and successfully, we will find our way... our right way.



Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Independence Day Motivation!

If this doesn't stir your patriot blood... nothing ever will.

That last sentence is one of the most inspiring things ever written.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3
John Hancock
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5
New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

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