Fortitude – Week 11

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 backlogs and focus.

Extremely tired after a bad night on the plane and a big week in China, I lie down in bed, and rest, rather than blindly commit to my exercise routine. By Monday, still feeling a bit sick, I have to push ahead nonetheless. I’m not alone in the office, there is a lunch and a dinner to be had – and I leave aside my exercise routine again.

By Tuesday, there is a backlog, and a decision to make: it’s been four days, will I give up entirely. I decide that fortitude is also, when the ball dropped, as soon as possible, to pick it back up, resume, and when possible, catch up. I do more than 150 reps of each exercise, and by 7h30pm, feel gently tired out.


There is a dark side to fortitude. I push ahead with blind determination, but the bigger picture disappears. Why again am I doing those exercises, or this project even? I only write a few lines every day, the brain is blank, focused on work and push ups. I’ve adopted a certain military logic: here is the mission, let’s do the mission – not, why this mission, and how to get it done best? Maybe this is precisely why I feel so torn apart by multiple commitments. The very fact that I turned an entire 11 weeks, originally conceived as a long reflection on death, into no more than a gigantic work out, shows the limitation of the virtue, or my understanding of it. In the books I read, including Aquinas, fortitude has no more than a few pages. What is there to understand?

By the end of the week, I have caught up on my backlog of purely physical exercise, though meditation slipped off. I have finished, also, the Story of the Stone, and am on track to finishing my entire backlog of books. I don’t know that my room is in order, but my files and shelves are, kind of. I’m planning for a fortieth birthday next year on the theme of death. I have no more back pain, and I notice that I seem to be doing things faster. Maybe, during this time, I have achieved something after all?

Exercise tally

Over the season, I will systematically train mind and body. For this, I will do a daily set of 6 physical exercises, with particular focus on core muscles, adding 1 rep/day for each, execute a daily qi-gong routine based on the 5 elements, adding 1 rep/element every week, and practice meditation, adding 1 session of 30’ every week. 

Exercise tally

Push-ups: 381

Sit-ups: 381

Squats: 381

Dog-cows: 381

Bird-dogs: 381

Back twists: 381

Qi-gong – 5-elements: 5 x 11 reps for each element

Meditation: 8 sessions



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