The Nine Virtues

London Park 1

Wisdom

Definition: “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment.”

I would say wisdom is ‘good judgement’ in the sense that you must judge situations and people rightly. What I mean by that is that people are imperfect — it’s part of our nature. When we use wisdom to discern how to move forward from a bad situation, we need to remember that people are imperfect beings. Wisdom is also used to assess an imminent situation rightly — from preparing for cold weather by bringing a jacket to understanding not to blame the driver when your bus comes late. In a way, this is foresight or thoughtfulness.

Wisdom also comes from knowledge and experience — having gone through something once and understanding the process makes you more measured and calm the next time around. However, life experience cannot be given or bought; it can only come through time. And since each person has different experiences in life, from large things (surviving illness) to small things (playing the piano), everyone has some wisdom that you might not have, and you can learn from others.

So, while wisdom is good judgement, it is also knowledge and skills gained through experience. It is our understanding of reality and the ‘life points’ we

Piety

Piety: “the quality of being religious or reverent.”

Piety encompasses an obligation towards spirituality. Social piety is one of multiple ways to be pious, but it has the added benefit of community bonding and a sense of belonging. So much of a culture is kept through social traditions and religious ceremonies; and I would say that social piety is integral to the development of a religious group like ADF.

However, I feel that personal piety is also important. Personal piety is often sought out by fulfilling the calling of a religion or of supernatural beings. Every religion has a calling (or multiple), and a pious person must strive to fulfill that calling. Our agreements with our gods can be seen as a calling. The nine virtues can be seen as a calling. Followers of the Abrahamic religions are called to read their holy scripts and give alms.

An important part of piety is coming together as a community to celebrate. The communal aspect calls to the gods as a practicing, living community. And a personal relationship with the gods or spirits simply shows this virtue on a different level. Both are important.

Vision

Vision: “being able to see; experiencing something during a dream; imagination”

Vision is about knowing where you’ve been to figure out where you’re going. Unlike wisdom, vision does not necessarily entail a judgement or an action. It is simply sight and understanding. For example, you might need vision to judge a situation wisely. Vision is an understanding of things larger than yourself.

But vision doesn’t just require knowledge; it requires imagination. You must imagine multiple futures based on the present or the past. Whoever invented Styrofoam, for instance, was not thinking about its biodegradability. Perhaps, if the inventors had thought about its possible effects on nature, they might have realized a potential consequence of Styrofoam.

In a way, vision is like divination. If you have knowledge of the past and if you can give an educated guess (or guesses) of a future outcome, you can understand the present much better than you could without vision. As a virtue, vision asks us to think, remember, and assess.

Courage

Courage: “strength in the face of pain or grief.”

Courage can be an action or a non-action. But it is a choice made with a negative outcome, an unknown outcome, or in a negative situation. There must be some risk for you to have courage. For instance, it’s easy to ‘die’ a lot in a video game trying to save the world, but it’s courageous to help others in an actual crisis where your actual life might be in danger. Or, if you don’t drink, it can be courageous to respectfully decline alcohol at a party and defend your choice if someone tries to force you (I’m thinking of college parties).

In this vein, courage requires vulnerability. The risk and danger involved doesn’t have to be physical but can be social or emotional. But allowing yourself to be vulnerable is a prerequisite for courage. Not drinking at college parties could outcast you. And falling in love could be difficult if you’ve been hurt in the past.

I would also say courage requires a certain amount of strength or determination. To be fully courageous, you must see something through. So, you can’t give up and decide to drink at the college party when someone insists for the billionth time. Courage is continuous.

Integrity

Integrity: “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; the state of being whole and undivided.”

Integrity also requires a certain amount of determination, but it is generally attached to morality and oaths, and not so much negative consequences. Your trustworthiness depends on your word, on your integrity. I feel like this virtue is something our society has lost over time, but in ancient times it was vastly important. So, integrity is based on your word and the oaths you give, as well as your determination to fulfill an oath.

I also like the second part of the definition for integrity: to be whole. If you are a person of integrity, you are not indecisive and you don’t doubt yourself in excess. You must have a certain amount of confidence to make choices, or give your word, and stick to it. Being decisive generally requires you to know yourself and to be aware of your boundaries. You can make a promise decisively if you have a healthy dose of self-respect and self-knowledge.

Perseverance

Perseverance: “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.”

Perseverance is about continuing through some difficulty and often reaching a goal or achievement. It often has a purpose. I might have the perseverance to finish a list of errands, for instance. Generally, the reward of perseverance is finally reaching that goal.
But sometimes the end goal is very far away, or perhaps unknown, and only small achievements must be the reward. I’m thinking of recovering from a surgery or finishing the DP. For these long-term goals, it is necessary to have a realistic outlook and finish each piece with a steady pace.

Perseverance is the ability to keep on going. You only persevere when something is difficult and takes time. Once you heal, you are no longer struggling through a sickness. Once you master a sports move or trick, you don’t work nearly as hard to replicate it. Perseverance requires struggle and/or learning.

Hospitality

Hospitality: “The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.”

Hospitality is essentially reciprocity. You give as you have received, which ideally builds trust and bonds between people. Being a gracious host begets a gracious guest, and being a gracious guest begets a gracious host. This also represents our relationship with the gods and is part of why we must be respectful and give good offerings.

However, hospitality is also positive by definition. It must be friendly and attempt to create positive relationships. Even when a guest is not very gracious, you should still strive to be friendly. So, by being courteous to those who aren’t, you can hopefully influence them to be more courteous. Therefore, I would also add that hospitality is meant to influence a situation for the better. If hospitality is always seen as reciprocity through graciousness and fraternal bonds of community, there is no place for the ‘eye for an eye’ approach to righting wrongs.

Moderation

Moderation: “the avoidance of excess or extremes, particularly in one’s behavior or political opinions.”

Moderation requires discipline. In the balancing act of life, you must keep yourself centered. You should not do too much of, or waste a lot of time on, something like the internet. And you should not skimp on things that are necessary: like vegetables or time with friends and family. Something I struggle with is stressing too much. Moderation is a balance that keeps you in good company, good health, and a good state of mind.

Now that I think of it, this virtue can also be applied to sustainability practice. The phrase ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ comes to mind. We cannot only consume for our planet to stay in balance. We must consider what materials we use, how we use them, and how often. If we are more conscious of the effects we have on nature, we can take a more moderate and sustainable approach. So, moderation is not just an introspective virtue, but it also includes how our actions affect others and the world.

Fertility

Fertility: “Bounty of mind, body and spirit, involving creativity, production of objects, food, works of art, etc., an appreciation of the physical, sensual, nurturing.”

To be fertile means to be able to create. Creation is integral to humanity. We must put our energy actively into something, whether it is a job or hobby. Fertility also requires a lot of work to evolve or finish a project. This is not the same as perseverance, because I mean the energy necessary for creation and not the struggle to reach a goal. Whenever I start a creative project, I must decide how it will look or compare ideas. It’s not a struggle so much as a thought process since you have power over something from start to finish.

Fertility can also be important between people for different kinds of projects. Starting a family is obviously a project, but also completing a quarterly report with your team or working with others on a movie are examples of group projects that require fertility. On a more basic level, people have always relied on each other in groups to survive, using group creativity to improve quality of life.

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