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.
This week, I reflected on the connection between time and effort.
Reading through my backlog of books does not only take time. I stopped reading them for a reason. Over the week-end, I finish Khadra’s Algerian Quartett, Kadare’s autobiography, and life of Marco Polo, then start Simon Tay’s City of Small Wonders. I explore life under despotic regimes, travel along the silk road, and return to Singapore after a failed attempt at migration to Canada. By then, I’m down to 98 hours of reading: it is a lot for a task I experience as a drudge. I cynically calculate that if I spent that much time working, I would make thousands of dollars.
I experience a similar tension with my exercise routine. It’s only 15 to 20 minutes a day, but the cognitive and emotional burden is heavy. It feels as if most of my days are nothing for fortitude training. Yet – and here is the paradox – I appreciate my own time better. On Monday evening, I was tired, yet rather than stream a random movie, I read through my books, because if I didn’t, it would still be there the following day, and I finished my collection of Chinese ghost stories.
By Tuesday night, I was down to ten books, and could finally see the time when it was only three, then a time when it was finished. Sure, I am leaving the meatiest aside: 60 chapters of Dream in the Red Pavilion, and three quarters of Musil’s Man without Qualities. Still, better two tabs open than twenty. And as I look forward to this time, in a few months, when the backlog is dealt with, I do consider it as precious, but also, oddly, experience it as infinite.
Exercise is supposed to lift us up. I don’t know that it’s doing this for me. I am stretching my physical limits, and feel my body changing. There is a mild despair, but also visible change. Maybe, what I am doing is build pressure, to test my commitment, and see what will give.
Should social courage, and facing the fear of ridicule, be considered part of fortitude? I will not give up on my exercise routine, but on Thursday, had not time to finish it in the morning. So, at about 7pm, I did 12 reps of each exercise by the water in docklands, lifting arm and leg in my suit pant, after an all-day conference and before heading to dinner with a friend.
On Friday, I wasn’t able to do any morning exercise: I had a lunchtime flight to Adelaide, I wanted a computer-free long week-end, and so, chose to close all my online tasks in the morning. Once I landed, tiredness kicked in, so rather than push-ups in a park, I went for cakes at the market. I started thinking, maybe this is when I take a day off. But there was an evening opportunity: back home early, routines on the balcony, while my partner patiently sipped on a beer. I’m up to 30 reps now, I haven’t skipped a day. This is not impossible.
Back twists: 165
Qi-gong – 5-elements: 5 x 5 reps for each element
Meditation: 5 sessions of 30’