Cultivate Your Own Virtues, Including Conflict Resolution

Created October 14, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

In these dangerous times, the one thing you can do to help the world is to help yourself, by bringing out the best in yourself.

Imagine for a moment that the worst-case scenario actually happens. Say battlefield nukes are used by a person who only cares about himself, and then the use of nukes by capable parties escalates until numerous cities are wiped out and this continues until one day, you and your family come up from the basement and risk the radioactivity. And find yourself in an anarchistic society of survivors trying to pull together self-sufficient pockets built around local farms. What skills will you have to contribute?

If you’re a carpenter, plumber, electrician, doctor or dentist, farmer, or can repair machines, you will be very important to the community. Today many of us are knowledge workers and our abilities might not be immediately perceived as essential to survival. What can we do to help besides babysit, teach children to read, write and calculate?

There will always be a need for people who can help resolve conflicts through dialogue, who can serve as the voice of reason when others are locked in opposition. These are people who have processed their own internal divisions and can be objective and compassionate, who have conquered their own egos.

The value of becoming such a person – or becoming even more of such a person – is not dependent on the downside scenario. By uplifting ourselves we stand a better chance of bypassing the downside scenario. My main ongoing point is that the root causes of today’s horrifying threat vector salad are within ourselves, and that only by assimilating ancient knowhow can we transcend our racial immaturity and bootstrap ourselves to a society where leaders and citizens are profoundly converted into a state of enlightened self-interest. This is what the Founders, especially Jefferson, held as the ultimate vision for the USA and then the world.

This is not to expect spiritual enlightenment as being as close at hand for we eight billion human beings on Earth, that will surely take longer to accomplish. Enlightened self-interest is the same as pragmatism, the fully embodied predisposition to create win/win situations as being the ones that will be sustainable and most beneficial to everybody.

By contrast, the ego seeks only the satisfaction of the one self, obtusely blind to the inevitable backfire effects of winning so much personally as to force others to lose.

What we call ethics is the body of work that seeks to contain the damaging tendencies of the egos who have taken us over, much like the puppet masters in Heinlein’s novel and motion picture of that name.

What are your virtues? What are things that are best about who you are? What are your shortcomings? How can you overcome them? This is a contemplation well worth having some beautiful autumn day, perhaps today, sitting in nature where the human psyche is automatically uplifted. Bring a means of recording your revelations e.g., a notepad and pen.

The virtue of a metal is its strength. The word comes from the Latin vir, meaning man. The original application of the word was to a man’s valor, and the meaning expanded to cover honor, morality, goodness, kindness, fairness, charity, hope, spiritual faith in the goodness of the universe itself and/or of its Creator, taking care of others, and many other virtues.

In a conversation with his son, as reported by his students, Gautama Buddha taught that honesty is the primary virtue, because if a person would lie, then that person could be deceiving in other ways, such as pretending all of the other virtues.

Winston Churchill may or may not have been aware of the Buddha’s statement when Churchill proclaimed courage to be the foundational virtue, because all of the other virtues rest upon it, even honesty. It requires great courage to be honest, and great understanding to know when to not take honesty too far.

Greek philosophy assimilated earlier Eastern philosophies in esteeming balance as the most bedrock virtue, because in order to do right in a specific situation, one would need to balance all of the virtues together. This reflects a deep insight into the importance of situational (context) factors, an awareness of the complexity of things, and how such variation mandates a decision-making process which transcends black and white abstractions.

Today’s situation definitely escalates the importance of the virtue of courage, the ability to conquer one’s own fears. It’s much harder for a materialist to achieve the level of detachment which is possible for a person whose intuition is strongly supportive of the idea of a benevolent universe. However the Stoic philosophers did not depend upon spirituality to help individuals become resigned to outcomes beyond their control to prevent. Stoicism teaches that nothing is gained by fear, that in fact fear undermines the ability to overcome whatever situation is causing the fear. This was pragmatism appearing much earlier than Charles Sanders Peirce, and in subtler form.

Accepting what is and working on the controllable parts of the situation are strong plays regardless of one’s view of reality.

The Virtue of Dialogue

Socrates and Plato were great believers in the value of dialogue, which they saw as leading to truth and deeper understanding than hortatory one-way writing. Plato explained this in relation to the value of inner dialogue as a means to reaching deep intuitional understanding of oneself and of external situations.

Dialogue was important to the Founders who believed that people elected to represent the people could talk things out reasonably and reach right decisions. Being elevated beings themselves, they may have over-estimated their fellow Americans a bit. I’ve always loved the Lorenz Hart line in the song “I Wish I Were In Love Again”: “the conversation with the flying plates”. That image seems to fit the conversations going on nowadays in the legislature, and among the three branches of US government. It would be good if we could get back to actual dialogue instead of performative anger mismanagement.

The importance and strength of dialogue can be seen if one looks carefully enough, even in current day events. In the recent UN dialogue and voting on human rights, although the many smaller countries of the world are keeping their options open and trying to play the superpowers off one another, the voting went against Russia because of the open military aggression against the Ukraine. China was not censured despite evident of flagrant human rights violations, because China is not currently invading anybody. The germ of good news I see in that is that (a) China is smart enough to read the signs and the likelihood of their invading Taiwan is now reduced a notch as a result of that vote (b) the Russian people are smart enough to see that invasions are out of style in the new world order (c) other nations who might be tempted to invade someone have relevant new data to include in their calculus.

Make yourself stronger, help others do the same, encourage people to do the right thing, do not vote for people who are concerned only about themselves no matter what they say (what they say is calculated to get your vote, do not be manipulated by your ego and your old inner rhetoric). Be prepared to deal constructively with whatever situation you find yourself in. Open your mind to all possibilities about the benevolence or indifference of the universe. Quantum physics has proven the existence of teleportation. The universe is a lot stranger thing than suspected by the anti-spiritualism movement within science in the last few hundred years. Science itself is in the slow process of changing its mind. Keep a good thought and good feelings. Live out each day with gusto and love. What’s the point of life if you’re always postponing enjoyment for some future state, as if you won’t allow yourself to smile until conditions are met. Heaven is right here in the present moment if you let it in.

Love to all,



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