i have been doing a little light reading of aristotle. NERD ALERT. NERD ALERT. 


i like aristotle. this isn't a valentine's day confession. but as far as dead philosopher's go, he is one of my favorites.

i have been reading about the four cardinal ("cardo" means "hinge" in latin) virtues espoused by aristotle (and his teacher, plato). and by "reading about" i really mean "bemoaning over the lack of these in my life"...

and for those of you who aren't reading aristotle (or weren't even aware that he was a dead philosopher) the four cardinal virtues are...

prudence- able to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time, this one is the BIGGIE! knowing what to do... then the other virtues help you to carry out what you know to be wise actions. 

justice - the perpetual and constant will of rendering to each one what they deserve. this virtue is the only one directed specifically at others. it is the perfect mediation between selfishness and selflessness.

temperance or restraint - practicing self-control, abstention, and moderation; tempering the appetite. this virtue is directed inward.

fortitude or courage - forbearance, endurance, and ability to confront fear, uncertainty and intimidation, the "mean" (middle area) between rashness and cowardice. the "sweet spot" as you will. this virtue is directed toward difficult situations

aristotle's big thing (if i am interpreting him correctly) is that a virtue becomes TRULY virtuous when we have done it so much that it is a habit. when we do it without thinking about why we are doing, or if it is the right thing, or what we will gain, or lose, or how hard it is... but when we just do it. over and over and over.


c.s. lewis has a lot to say about virtue in the screwtape letters. and i thought of this quote by him when i was reading about courage...

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. ” {c.s. lewis, the screwtape letters}

and i was thinking about that today when i saw this quote as my quote of the day in my inbox (see this is all going somewhere...)

“Optimism is true moral courage.” {ernest shackleton}

b.t.w. ernest shackleton was one of the great antarctic explorers. i knew this because rosie had to do a research paper on antarctic explorers once and we rented a movie about matthew henson, a great and unsung african american arctic explorer. the movie, glory and honor, was a fantastic and riveting true tale of exploration and courage and dsicovery and freezing temperatures until this one SEX SCENE stuck in there right smack dab in the middle of all that exploration and discovery. so i am fully versed on antarctic exploration. and fast forwarding rapidly through surprise sex scenes. thank you.

when i read that quote from ernest (who knew a thing or two about courage)  i thought about aristotle and i thought about cs lewis and i thought about virtue... because i have not been optimistic as of late. i have been pessimistic. a paragon of pessimism, if you like alliteration. which i definitely do like. a lot.

you should all be glad that i didn't blog last week whilst hopelessly adrift in this "blue fog of pessimism." it would have gone like this...

whine whine. we are all going to die. whine whine. especially me. whine whine. and maybe you too.

perhaps i should avoid blogging (or you should avoid reading my blog) during one week every month. not so veiled euphemism there...

any way. i have decided that i need to be more courageous. aristotle would want that of me. c.s. lewis will want that in a neighbor (of course i do understand that by the time i am his neighbor i will be perfectly virtuous. but it won't hurt to practice it now.)

optimism is true moral courage. to choose it first. automatically. not to travel down the road of "what if's". 

i have always loved this quote by carolyn mahaney...

A woman came up to me at a party last week, and after we chatted for a minute, she said: “My friend told me about something she heard you say once, and I wondered if it was true.”

I knew where she was going. I get this question with curious regularity.

“Did you say that your biggest regret as a mother was that you didn’t trust God more?”

Yes, I told her, it’s true. I wish I had trusted God more.

As I wrote in our book Girl Talk:

“For every fearful peek into the future, I wish I had looked to Christ instead. For each imaginary trouble conjured up, I wish I had recalled the specific, unfailing faithfulness of God. In place of dismay and dread, I wish I had exhibited hope and joy. I wish I had approached mothering like the preacher Charles Spurgeon approached his job: ‘forecasting victory, not foreboding defeat.”

{a mother's trust by carolyn mahaney}

so i walk on with hope. forecasting victory. courageous.


and in the words of aristotle...

“well done is half begun.”

and if you think aristotle was a genius... he also had this to offer as wisdom...


and in case you need to learn more about great arctic explorers and courage and you don't mind fast forwarding through a racy scene...