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Four One One

How can we flourish as human beings?

As a human being, you are reason or intellect, you are will, and you are also emotions/passions/desires. To find happiness in this life, we must seek a harmonious unity of these three components. Your intellect should match your will, and your emotions.

As a human being, you are also born a certain way; we  talk of temperaments. Some of you are melancholic, others are choleric, and some sanguines. You cannot do much about this natural disposition. For example, as a melancholic choleric, I naturally seek a certain perfection in what I do and I have a need for achievement. Sanguines on the other hand, you will find them always in high spirits, they light up rooms.

That then leads us to the role of our lives. The role of our lives is to carry out the hardest job, that of cultivating character, in order to build a second person out of ourselves. It is the duty of transformation.

Cultivation of character is extremely hard, because it requires us to practice virtue. The Ancients spoke of the four cardinal virtues:


  1. First virtue is prudence. It is the virtue of practical wisdom. It is the virtue that perfects our intellect. Practical wisdom is the ability to choose what is good in any given context. Prudence gives you the ability to make the right decision in situations.


  1. Second virtue is courage or fortitude. It is the ability to stay the course. Once you have chosen what is good, are you able to keep through with it even when it gets tough? Courage speaks to our will. It perfects our will.


  1. Third virtue is self control/temperance. This is the virtue that perfects our emotions. We should feel all our emotions, but these should always be moderated. Self control is the virtue that signifies self-love. It is the ability to know that two beers are better than a crate of beer in one sitting. Self control is you choosing to not hurt yourself.


  1. Fourth virtue is justice. Justice is giving everyone what is due to them. In addition to us being intellect, will and emotions, we are also relational/social beings. Justice is the virtue that enables us to operate in relation to others.

It takes time to cultivate all these virtues, it is a never ending journey. You could find that you have achieved self control yet fail on prudence. The goal is to harmoniously grow each of these virtues through practice. Once you achieve a unity of these virtues, we can then say, you are whole or you are integrated. This is actually where integrity comes from. Integrity is not a virtue of its own, it comes from this harmony of the four.

Once I learnt this, I stopped using the word integrity lightly, it is such a hard thing to achieve.

I can gladly confirm that once a person is prudent in life, courageous, has self control and is just, human flourishing will come to them. The greatest gift you can give yourself in this life is character. The fruits of character are endless.

Thus our duty in this life is that of character formation. It is the journey we ought to pursue.

Finally, for those that seek to lead, there are two more virtues that build on the cardinal four.

The first is magnanimity. It is thinking yourself worthy of doing great things. It is the virtue that seeks contribution in a great way. Although ambition is about doing great things, magnanimity is doing great things in a great way. Magnanimity is not just about what you do, but also how you do it.

The second is humility. Humility comes from humus, aka earth. It is the recognition that you are part of this whole. You are part of this universe. It is the virtue that calls us to service.

Thus leadership is greatness in service.

If you asked me, what is the role of each of us here? It is simple – transformation of the self.

We have been created with a body, with a mind, with emotions, with will. And the challenge is, what is the best we can do with the ingredients we have been given? That my friends is the job before us, the job of self-transformation. It is not an easy job.

But human flourishing is when we are able to come close to doing a good job of self transformation.

That is the message, go out light the fire of self transformation through a continuous cultivation of virtue.

And together we can create some collective magic!

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