living virtuously is possible for everyone, but takes practice27 Dec 2016
“And there is a world of difference between, on the one hand, choosing not to do what is wrong and, on the other, not knowing how to do it in the first place… virtue only comes to a character which has been thoroughly schooled and trained and brought to a pitch of perfection by unremitting practice. We are born for it, but not with it. And even in the best of people, until you cultivate it there is on the material for virtue, not virtue itself.” —seneca, letter xc (90)
this quote stuck out to me because i appreciate the emphasis it puts on effort. i know that effort isn’t equally valuable in all circumstances, but virtue is one area where i think it is. i believe goodness is an inherent capacity, but that doesn’t mean that everyone cultivates it. and when you see it in someone, that generally means that they’ve put in the effort to cultivate it.
i actually do think it’s easier to be wicked. i’m not totally sure why, but one way i’ve thought about it is the second law of thermodynamics. since the universe tends towards chaos, it makes sense that it’s easier to do the thing that leads to more chaos as opposed to more order.
that said, i think ability to defy the nature of the individual for the good of the collective is one of the things that makes intelligent life special. there are all sorts of intelligence in life so i’m not just talking about humans here, but i digress. putting in the time and effort to practice being a virtuous person is a difficult, but worthy endeavor. the signs of someone who has put in that work show up in their everyday life, their speech, and their work, too.
it’s tremendously hopeful to remember (or at least believe) that all people have capacity for virtue, whether or not they live into it. in fact, i think if i didn’t believe that, i’d have a much more difficult understanding humanity as a whole.
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