7 Thoughts on Fortitude

  1. Beowulf would not deign use his sword against the Grendel, opting instead to grapple the beast man to monster.  Achilles was pure physicality; outmatching an entire army and poor Hector outside the Walls of Troy.  We speak of the labors of Hercules as much as his famous victories.  Julius Caesar, though slightly built conditioned his body through work and exercise so that he was the match for any Centurion on the Gallic Frontier. Dr. Johnson was a physically prodigious as he was learned.  “The prime condition of the free man,” said one historian of Beethoven “is strength.”
  2. Friends who knew Abraham Lincoln when he was a young man swore he was a strong as three or four men put together; lifting Old Mrs. Robinson Chicken Coup and moving it across her yard, or carrying 600 pounds of logs by himself, 1,000 pounds of rocks, chopping down trees with just a few strokes of the ax, picking up a full barrel of whiskey up and taking a swig just to show he could do it. He tossed the three robbers that tried to waylay his flat-bottomed boat into the great Mississippi single-handed.
  3. Lincoln’s uncanny physical toughness surely augmented the power of his mind when he labored over the law and then for that fateful five years, the horrendous civil war, which was as much a product of his single will as something like that can be.  Hard labor on the frontier had made him strong from the core.
  4. I think that we are losing the value of physical work as a path to character formation.  We’re so preoccupied with the promise of the virtual we lose site of the physical. So enamored with the potential of AI that we forget how the component pieces of labor, beyond the money they get translated into, make us who we are.
  5. The labor of thought consists of the mental effort required to break things down into understandable pieces, courage in the face of confusion and error, fortitude, memory and revision. There should be as much humility in mental labor as there is in the hard drudgery of the field.
  6. A man’s labor is all that he really owns and has been in America the main path to self-betterment.
  7. The promise of martial arts, indeed of all learning, is that a man can better his condition through his own effort.