Virtuosity is not something you get by doing nothing. When you are a kid and you see adults, you think that different stages of life come with a set of tools, of course, you can’t make this sort of abstract analysis when you are a kid, you haven’t yet developed that cognitive ability, but with your concrete way of perceiving the world, you manage to gather that adults have money, houses, cars, and ability to pay for cool things. Then you assume that that’s what’s going to happen to you when you grow up. What a sad day it is when you find out you have to work for it, sad day indeed.
Let’s not forget that if you add, your social-economical background, culture, IQ , time and space you were born, to the mix, you bake a different cookie each time. For fuck sake, that’s one tough cookie to bake.
But before you start playing the “I can’t help but be this way” or singing the “All of us can get everything if we make an effort and push harder”, let’s remember what we are talking about: The pursuit of a virtuous life.
“Blessed he who puts his life to protect his brothers”, it seems to be that symbolically the path to a virtuous life is filled with great sacrifices, of which self-sacrificed is king. At least it’s how our western Judeo-Christian culture views it.
All cultures have a rite of passage that involves doing something hard, a test that you’ve been preparing for your entire pre-adult life. When you do it, you will understand your place in the world, it will validate your own idea of self. You will know how you stand in the natural hierarchy of dominance. The world will know that too.
This test is hard, and it’s hard for a reason, the test separates those worthy from the unworthy, what kind of rite of passage would it be if there were no standards? Perhaps our modern societies would do well to remember about this before creating systems of equal rewards for kids, taking away the results that competition in its natural wisdom brings. Sure, tell the kids they did great, I’m positive they will know how to sort themselves out in life now that you’ve told them that, winning is nothing special, because no matter the difference in effort, preparation and individual characteristics, you all get the same thing. (Pause for smirk). We need fever to let us know that our body has an infection, as much as we need to feel bad when we failed, how can we correct our strategy otherwise? The answer to self-loathing due to failure is not pretending your strategy is awesome and blaming competition for your feelings, the answer is becoming tougher and better able to compete.
There were once two great cultures, Sparta and Greece. High in competition, different in abilities. One was a nation of soldiers, considered the best of their time, and the other was the nation of great thinkers, of philosophers. The blade and the book. Different indeed, but equally competitive. It’s not like you could say, -You know what, this mighty warrior thing is too tough, let me do something easy, I’ll just become a philosopher.- Those were the times of Socrates, not the -let me post it on social media and I’ll be celebrated as a genius.-
Socrates was Plato’s mentor, and he, Aristotle’s one. You needed to study with the great to become great. You needed to craft your abilities, earn your seat at the table.
There is one Amazonian tribe that makes their youngest men get stung by one of the most painful stings caused by an animal, and to add insult to the wound, a fucking ant gets the medal for being the mean creature who does the honors. Yep, when a young specimen goes through the ant festival he can be sure that the ladies will await for him. Those damn women and their lust for tough and worthy men.
But being virtuous is not about just being tough, although that might be part of it. You see, toughness is not just a physical quality, your mind can be tough and if you are religious, your spirit as well. In the end, body, mind and spirit are only separated for educational purposes, in reality, they have a dialectal relationship. Their existence is dependant on each other.
Picking a heavy load and enduring difficult things is something several holly books teach: The Bible, the Coran, the Tora. All of these make it a point to let men know, that sin must be resisted. No matter if you hate religion, that’s a good lesson.
It is in fighting our corrupted soul, filled with the things that make us stray from the road to redemption, that we make our spirit stronger and worthy. Fair enough, you can make the case and argue that not all temptations are to be avoided, at least not completely, something like -the 80/20 diet rule-, however, like Nietzsche said, “We must forget the path walked, because you might need to walk again through it, and knowing what you know now you won’t willingly go there unless something makes you forget”. Alright, he didn’t actually say it like that, but his book “Thus spoke Zarathustra” makes it a point to help people understand the cyclical nature of human growth, after all, all things in nature are cyclical, and so is our relationship to sins.
And lastly, your mind, that beautiful muscle and crown of evolution.
“Am I an Uberman?” That is the question. I started this essay by describing our concrete thinking and I’m now ending it with the final cognitive stage of development, your abstract thinking.
Like I said at the beginning, as kids we see things as they are in front of us. We are not able to manipulate ideas and concepts in our minds yet. We see the whole, instead of how the whole is composed. We are unable to deconstruct ideas into multiple particles to see if we can create something else with it. The sad part is, even when we are able to do it, not many people will understand. You will see in a world full of blinds. But hold your horses, you will also be blind to their perspective. You see, (see what I did there), there are 5 personality trades, that divides people not just into human beings with different points of view but also divides them into deeply different neuropsychological beings. Your brain organizes the world in ways that make you functional, and when two people have two very different personalities, it means their brains have and will continue to organize the world the same way. It means that you won’t be able to compromise with someone too different, an important thing when considering a partner. Sure, you can alter your personality a bit, but for the most part, your personality is stable through time.
Getting back to the point, your last fight, you fight it with your mind. Congrats you’ve entered the world of ideas, ideologies, morality and belief system, welcome to the underworld!
Here you will find yourself forever chasing tales that society and history will tell you about the world that you find yourself suddenly in, much like Adam and Eve when they saw their nakedness for the first time. But biblical references or not, you now must decide which side you are. As kids, there is good and evil, and as grown-ups, they seem to overlap.
The cult to domestic and norms, can make you rebel against the order imposed by a tyranny. Which tyranny? You don’t know, but thanks to your brain, which ironically tries to find order, you will start seeing patterns emerge, not because they are necessarily correlated, although sometimes they will, but most of the times your mind will play cognitive errors and bias on you.
As a teen, you will find out that your first oppressor is the family, and in it, your parents, the symbols who can’t let you move. Oddly enough you will want to obtain the advantages of adulthood without any of the responsibility. The advantages of adulthood and the privileges of the adolescent years, a Utopian dream, or so you might think.
But as I told you before, nature is cyclical; you will grow tired of your own self-indulgent way of perceiving the world, that is, If you develop any sense of self-responsibility. When that happens, you will understand that being virtuous is not as easy as to kindly stay out of a metaphorical fight. To paraphrase Dr. Peterson, “Good men are not those without the ability to do harm, but those who able to do so, choose not to.”
Soon you will find yourself fighting the battle against yourself, because, as I also told you before, the way to a virtuous life is through facing something difficult, time after time. And after you grow tired of blaming the world, you will turn to yourself. You might think that hating yourself is bad, but that is better than the other way around. This way you get to truly analyze which of your behavior actually constitutes a sacrifice and not just a cheap and glorified way to become a hero. These days we are able to manufacture everything as easily as a Barbie doll, take one easily made hero now and get the other one-half price.
I get it, it’s not easy to hear that your status of hero has nothing heroic about it, I told you that it wasn’t good for you to be told how much of a good boy you are after losing 15 to cero in a football game. Not because you are not a good boy, but because failure has a purpose. Pain has meaning, ask anyone who has undergone pain and lived to tell the story. The stories that helped me see what was my purpose in life, often contain anecdotes that caused me a lot of pain, and that I then was able to overcome. I bet it has been the same for you.
In the end, you will be killing old ladies in your head; symbols of the ugly truths which stared you can’t bear. Much like Rodia, you will have to face the lies of intellectualism. There is truth in order and lie in chaos, and the reverse is also true, or is it a lie? Your best weapon is learning to construct strong arguments and finding someone able to destroy it. When you do it, the thought of knowing that you have to abandon your ideas won’t cause you pain, because you also know you will come back to it.
Everything comes back, and now the son has become the father. For what is nature without a dark sense of humor? Is a “you are what you’ve sworn to destroy”, sort of thing. It is your turn now to provide rules and love to a dependent creature, so that he can grow healthy and strong, he won’t make it otherwise. Do you get it now?
Always remember, is not nonsensically self-sacrifice at the cost of your own self-respect or in the pursuit of the vanity that comes along with feeling morally superior without ever experimenting the hardships of true harness of abilities to compete for the difficult rewards, that brings the sense of virtue, is going after a meaningful thing that requires you to cultivate talents and bleed your own blood. No matter how high or low your IQ is, or how poor or rich you are, you can always cultivate your own virtue. And to strive for that, that’s the magic goal.
ADDENDUM: Want to take these kinds of discussions further? Join the Facebook private group and ask away. I will love to have you there. See you!