What Can Values & Virtues Do in Dark Times?

Values are those things we hold most dear—which make life most worth living. They are different for each of us, but there are common threads that one can trace back to ancient civilizations, The Enlightenment, the Renaissance, and so on.

 

Some people find inspiration and consolation in religion; others believe that secular philosophy holds the key to knowledge and wisdom; and some are confident that science and rationality are the most important developments in the history of Homo sapiens. Wisdom is a broad, integrative, multi-faceted concept, and different people can discover beautiful nuances when they spend time focusing on their personal growth, their mental/emotional and spiritual development. Some people are ignorant of wisdom, though, and kind of bumble through life making mistakes and having misperceptions and end up far short of their potential when the sand finally runs through the hourglass of their lives….

 

Virtues and character are indispensable for those who are seeking personal growth, happiness, contentment, respect, and loving relationships. These are humanity’s highest aspirations, and they and of incalculable value—but can’t be bought with money. How we grow them within ourselves is the project of a lifetime, and has been for every wisdom seeker since time immemorial. For the person who works hard at personal growth and psychospiritual development, the end goal can reasonably be the kind of flourishing that Aristotle and many others held up as the best kind of life.

 

There is a lot of crazy stuff going on around us all; both American society and “Western Civilization” in general have experienced astonishing changes, witnessed the advent of remarkable scientific and technological advancements, and undergone marvelous and unsettling changes. We now find ourselves in a “brave new world,” perhaps on the brink of very disburbing societal and environmental changes. Perhaps changes that forever alter the very fabric of America.

 

Biologist E. O. Wilson has said, “The real problem of humanity is the following: We have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology.” And Martin Luther Kind, Jr. famously noted that “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”

Guided missiles and misguided men

 

Some of us are kind of lost, reactive, and scared. Others are bad actors who care more about feathering their own nests than the democratic Republic, good values, or living up to their so-called Christian morals. It is a pretty dark time. No less an expert on the tumultuous path America has walked in its fast and furious development, documentary film maker Ken Burns, believes that since Trump took office and the pandemic hit, “America is facing the greatest threat it ever has—period, full stop.” He goes on to point out that “COVID and the unique set of political problems we are dealing with have made it the fourth great crisis. The others are the Civil War, the Depression, and World War II.”

 

In my new, unique book, I’ve assembled an impressive and diverse array of helpful research findings, philosophical principles, hundreds of relevant and useful quotations, and personal reflections. Wisdom: A Very Valuable Virtue That Cannot Be Bought synthesizes psychology, philosophy, and personal growth. Though it speaks in a full-throated manner about modern problems that have become very worrisome to many Americans who pay attention to reputable sources of information, the style of the book is in general, a soft touch.

 

Why are the best thoughts from some of the smartest people who have ever lived important? What can philosophy do for one? Why study old ideas such as justice, truth, love and courage—often found in insightful poetry, “great books,” and to some degree now, online? Knowing about the whole panorama when it comes to wisdom, and really thinking about insightful words by many of history’s smartest and most dynamic individuals, comprise two of the best ways to gain insight and find inspiration for living “a good life.”

 

And in the end, how one lived, the people they touched, and which values they “lived” tend to seem much more important and valuable than how much money they made, how popular they were, or how many followers they had.

 

Maurice Riseling said, “Sooner or later, life makes a philosopher out of us all.” It’s wisest to think of these important matters while the sun is still high in the sky.

 

I’ve been working on myself, learning about wonderful ideas, and developing a very deep and broad website that is free and ad-free for many years. My four books are pretty rich and don’t overpromise and underdeliver. The wise have much to teach, and I am driven to try to understand the great ideas and communicate about them.

 

I hope I have been of service, and I wish us all well during the storm and stress that may very well become worse than it has been.

 

No civilization is destined to last forever, and societies do have stages of development (and inevitably, decline). It is in all our best interests to sideline those who are mostly self-interested or malevolent in their intentions, and to access our full potential as a society—and as a world.

 

There is still some sand left in the hourglass of America, and arguably, the planet. Let’s do the best we can, and really bring our A-game. Now is our time.