This year, I will reflect on the four cardinal virtues through daily practice and meditation, intentionally focusing on one per season. After starting the year with prudence, temperance, and justice – I now reflect on fortitude, or the deliberate exercise of strength and courage in the face of evil.
In this third week, I reflected on the relationship between fortitude, strength and confidence.
After two weeks of gradual build-up, I feel physically more able to go through the set of exercises I imposed on myself daily. I can better control their execution, both because the muscles have grown, and because my brain is more in tune with my body.
As I become more aware of my own capacity, I no longer think of those exercises as a chore, but a means to an end. On Monday, I did all of them first thing in the morning, so that I could benefit from the rush of creativity that follows physical exertion. As I did, I reflected on that very decision as a mark of fortitude. Rather than jump into the day mindlessly, guided by a sneaky sense of anxiety that if I didn’t start right there and then, I would never get everything done that I must, I took my time to prepare myself, which – in turn – would allow me to better execute, and faster. Thus, physical exercise became preparation for work – and delaying direct engagement with the task a form of patience and courage.
Training has a cumulative effect, and brings a sense of ease. On Tuesday, then again on Wednesday, I did all exercises in a row, right after waking up, fifteen then sixteen push ups in a sequence, followed by sit-ups, dog-birds, cow-dogs, back twists and squats. This brought a deep sense of pleasure: not only was I able to do that much, but I could save time and effort. Each decision we make has a cost, including each time we start something new. Three small work-out sessions therefore, at three different times in the day, is more demanding on the brain than a single chunk. If I know that I can tackle a larger task, I can mentally bundle smaller ones into the one, and save energy for more.
Part of my approach to fortitude is envisaging my own mortality by reflecting on my own sense of time – and the first step I chose to take for this was to clear my personal archives. I took a day off on Thursday, after submitting the final chapter draft for my coming PhD milestone. In the morning, I headed off to South Melbourne for a café stroll. I came back home in the mid-afternoon, and dived into the photographs on my computer. While sitting under the metal awnings on York Street, I read about courage as belief in your own strength. The prospect of sorting through the jpegs on my Mac exceeded my sense of possibility, but then I thought – at least I can start. I ordered ‘all my files’ by type, and calmly went through the pictures, from the beginning, clearing doubles and ordering them in folders – meanwhile playing a backlog of podcasts. After five hours, I was two thirds of the way through. I had an early start on Friday, finished work around 5, and by 6h30pm, I was done. In less than seven hours, I completed an impossible task.
Exercise tally for the week
Back twists: 93
Meditation: 3 sessions of 30’