Thursday, August 22, 2019

So you want to live an ideal life? Consider this guide.

Sitting in church on a Sunday not long ago, and the pastor commented about the perfect life. He said, “If anyone can say they live the perfect life, then they may be allowed to preach the perfect life.” I cannot share the perfect life with you, but I can share my ideal life and achieve this life of obtaining perfectiveness with a simple guide. I will present this simple guide to you in just a moment. One may be surprised when this journey may begin, yet one will not be surprised at where this journey will end. Please bear with me as I lead you to the ideal life.

In Plato's Republic, Plato writes about the idea of happiness. Plato contends that one who is moral is the only one who can be truly happy. To be happy, one must understand the cardinal virtues. To be happy is but one of many parts of the perfect life, but I think it is important.

A person's life experiences dictate a person's reality of life. No two lives lived are the same, nor will ever be the same. What is true to you may not be true to me. What is true to another is true to another, and in the end, each person will have lived their own truths. Each life can be perfect if, in the persons' reality, it is perfect for them. While others may look on and judge your life, it is your life that you can make perfect for you. If we live a life worrying about what others think of us, we will live a life of pure disappointment. God and only God will judge each individual's life based on the experiences God has allowed that person to live, whether preordained or through free will. In conclusion, and if you agree, each person's happiness is dictated by the individual, or we could say what is happy to you may not be happy to another. What this means is, we are all unique and special to God.

When Plato wrote about the cardinal virtues, many of you may not know that these same virtues are found in the bible. As an avid reader of the bible and Greek philosophy, I find it remarkable how much Greek philosophy is found in the bible. Plato brought four cardinal virtues to us through Aristotle: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. God gave us three cardinal virtues. Let us examine these virtues on our way to the ideal life.

1.    Prudence: "right reason applied to practice." Prudence is a virtue that allows us to judge correctly what is right and what is wrong. When we mistake good for evil, we are showing our lack of prudence. Disregarding others' advice or warnings whose judgment does not coincide with ours is a sign of imprudence. The next time you get into an argument of politics, remember this virtue, as our leaders, and I mean all of our leaders have failed miserably for decades in this regard.  

2.    Justice: "the constant and permeant determination to give everyone his or her rightful due." It should not matter what we think of anyone, yet injustice occurs when we as individuals or by law deprive someone of the rights to be innocent until proven guilty. I am reminded of the Kavanaugh hearings and our politicians exclaiming that this man is guilty and should show his innocence. Legal rights can never outweigh natural rights.

3.    Fortitude: We all face obstacles as we gather our life's experiences for evaluation under prudence and justice. Fortitude applied correctly is reasoned and reasonable in our quest to overcome fear or complete what needs to be done. Fortitude gives us the strength to carry on and the strength to do what is prudent and justice.

4.    Temperance: Restraint or the idea of seeking virtue in all that we do. There is passion, there is vice, and there is the happy middle road of virtue. Virtue is the middle road, where passion and vice are dangerously traveled if selected. A glass of wine with dinner can be virtuous, yet a bottle of wine can be a vice. Temperance is the "golden mean." If you are a math wizard, think of it as statistics and the mean of an equation. We should want to strive for the mean in all of our desires.

There are three theological virtues. In Corinthians 13:13, "And now abide faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love." In original Greek, the word "agape" is used throughout. This word was translated into English as charity, but the word "love" is preferred by most translations. One might consider the highest form of love is charity. Note that Corinthians' correlation can be tricky to translate but originally written in Greek as our first four virtues.

1.    Faith: Without faith, every virtue we talk about today is unattainable. I am not here to preach to you how to believe in God, as God has allowed you to live your life as to what is true to you. However, as a follower of Jesus, what I will say is this, and note I did not say, worshiper, if you put your faith in Jesus and follow his teachings, your quest for Temperance, Fortitude, Justice, and Prudence can be obtainable.

2.    Hope: Without hope, we can live our lives as an unbeliever in God. I am not here to tell you how to believe in God, as God has allowed you to live your life as to what is true to you. There will be many who pass through the pearly gates of heaven, and each will have lived a unique individual life. We hope for union with God when our days on this earth are over, and we will be delivered into heaven as long as we practice faith, temperance, fortitude, justice, and prudence.

3.    Love: The most important of all virtues, in my opinion. Without love, our time on earth will be spent lonely and afraid of what may come. Our attention to love starts with family. The family unit should be bestowed, unconditional love. As parents, we should have a positive impact on our children's lives, we sacrifice so that others within our family may succeed, and we sacrifice unselfishly. Children hear me today; love your parents as they sacrifice much for you so that you have the opportunity to succeed. Be kind to one another, compassionate, caring, thoughtful, and render acts of kindness. When we practice this love within our home, others' love and charity will be evident outside the home.  We will be delivered into heaven if we practice love with faith, hope, temperance, fortitude, justice, prudence, and follow the 10 commandments.

I am not a perfect man, but I live an ideal life. Life is lived by risk and reward decisions every day. I have practiced justice, temperance, fortitude, and prudence in assessing the risk and reward decisions I make every day and in my interactions with others. I practice these virtues with faith, hope, and love in mind. I practice "my faith" in God, following the 10-commandments. It is the 10-commandments that bind our virtues and dictate a way to live ideally. My ideal of faith may be different than yours. Yet, it goes without saying, "I am a Christian, that is to say, a follower of Christ."

I am very blessed to be in love with my life partner. My wife is God’s gift to me as without her in my life, I would have floundered in eternal failure, a less than ideal life. Our family has been blessed, but not without the fortitude to practice the seven virtues and the 10-commandments. I say practice because we are not all perfect in our practice; that is why we need God's forgiveness. I have overcome many obstacles in life, I am sure there will be many more, but in the end, when all is said and done, I can say that being a part of this family has pretty much been a perfect life. I can only hope that each of you is a part of a family that loves you. When each family member lives by the guide I have set forth for you today, your odds are great that you will live an ideal life within your reality.

"Everyone has untold stories of pain and sadness that make them love and live a little differently than you do.  Instead of judging with malice, be mindful of practicing the seven virtues and the 10-commandments. I think the 7-virtues combined with the 10-commandments make for a simple guide to the ideal life. Try to understand, God gave you this life to live, and you are the sum of your experiences, good and bad. You can lead as perfect of a life as your reality dictates when you are mindful of the seven virtues and the 10-commandments.  

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