Where Resolve goes to Die
The order of the virtues is purposeful. Maintaining temperance helps keep the mind sharp and aware of what you’re doing. Eating too much, especially sugars in my case, make the mind flabby and prone to indulgence. My resolve dies at the bottom of the whisky glass.
One the first day of this project I outlined 3 edicts to help control my intake:
- no alcohol on an empty stomach
- no more than one, measured drink
- stop eating before feeling full
And this week I have broken those first two edicts numerous times. When I drink too much, I eat too much and when I eat too much, I don’t sleep; when I don’t sleep, I have to determination; when I have no determination, I drink too much.
It’s fitting, too, that this is happening on my week on Resolve. This is the time a per son gives up when before them all they see are broken promises and the renewed power of their bad habits. This is where the easy option is to say “fuck it” and run away from battle.
No, I’m not interested in stopping. It’s easy to fall into bad patterns. That’s what I’m trying to address with this whole project. And I knew it was going to be a struggle. This is the essence of resolve - strength in the face of failure.
Resolve’s earliest form appears as Fortitude in the Greek cardinal virtues. It is alternately defined as fortitude, strength, and endurance. In most cases, it is used as a characteristic feature for martial classes and is heavily intertwined with fearlessness in the face of hurt, harm, or death. Other ethical systems take a similar tack using these virtues as their foundation.
Bushido, for example, lists courage which is defined thus:
“The ability and willingness to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation.”
The Chivalric Code (1) includes martial courage in “Thou shalt not recoil from thine enemies”(2). Confucius had a poetic expression of “resolve” encapsulated by one who maintains their way,
“He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it.”
Nearly every other ethical system, religious or otherwise, include courage as a core virtue and while I believe Franklin was intending to skirt the martial aspects of resolve - he was a diplomat and pacifist at heart(4) - you cannot treat resolve like anything other than perseverance in war.
As with any endeavor at self improvement, be it attaining moral perfection or even just not drinking on an empty stomach, it takes courage to change. Change is scary and it’s simpler to fall into old patterns.
Maya Angelou encapsulates the interdependence of any change with the virtue of resolve:
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. “
Resolve is the hardest to keep. The intention of the order of the virtues is that each builds upon the next. Temperance in food and drink keeps the body health and the mind sharp. Silence brings us the clarity needed to find our truth. Resolve keeps us on the path even as trouble mounts.
So. Today is a new day and, though we’ve fallen off the path, it’s just over there. Why not get back on it?
1. Which is super fun to say. ChavALric Coooooode.↩︎
2. What is with Christian edicts starting with “shalt not”? Is being permissive problematic? (3) ↩︎
3. Yes. ↩︎
4. Which is interesting because Puritans were pretty rough and tumble. They were ready to fight during reformation for their principles. In part, I think shows how much more closely Franklin identified with the Quakers and Deists in Pennsylvania. ↩︎