History, Philosophy, Plain Speaking, Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day: “If Virtue is its Own Reward…

…so then is vice its own punishment,”

The first part of today’s conditional QOTD can be traced back to ancient times and (at the least) the Stoic meditations of Epictetus in which he wrote “the reward of virtue is in the acts of virtue.”

IOW–if you do something good for others (a virtuous act) there’s simply no need to write about, to carry on, or to trumpet your goodness from that point forward; and no need to beg for accolades for your actions, because you were rewarded by the act, with the act itself.

While Epictetus himself was born into slavery around AD 50 and died (having been freed when he was about 20) about 85 years later–a great age, all things considered–he doesn’t seem to have spent his life obsessing over, and determined to, make the people who’d made his life difficult pay for their actions.

In short, Matthew 6:4:

But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

Although not a Christian, Epictetus is recognized as having relatively moderate views towards Christians at a time when other Roman writers (Tacitus, Pliny, etc)  had little positive to say.  The above meditation touches upon a clearly Christian theme; another of them inverts the Golden Rule to read as follows: “What you avoid suffering yourself, seek not to impose on others.”

Epictetus the Stoic had the right idea.  That’s probably why we remember him kindly.  Those of us who remember him at all.

The second part of today’s QOTD had to wait over sixteen-hundred years, until Thomas Fuller, a seventeenth-century English cleric and physician, assembled a list of what we’d probably call–in the second decade of the 21st century–useful memes, and unleashed a publication called Gnomologica: Adages and Proverbs; Wise Sentences and Witty Sayngs.  in 1732.  Somewhere in it, he said (variable text according to sources; I suppose at some point that I must make the effort to read the original):

“As Virtue is its own Reward, so Vice is its own Punishment.”

Yeah.  You reap what you sow.  And while a man’s vices (or a woman’s for that matter) may masquerade as any number of self-proclaimed or perceived virtues for some length of time, sooner or later, what’s on the inside seeps its way out in all its ugliness, for the world to see. Look no further than your national political scene for plenty of examples of this.

One of the healthy outcomes (so I believe) of confessing the staggeringly obvious fact that none of us is perfect, is that we may find ourselves forgiven even in this world for–among others–our sins of vanity and hubris.   Once we get over those, and once we realize that we were actually put on this earth to be kind to, gentle with, and helpful to each other, then life takes on a whole new meaning, one which those who are deeply invested in the vicious, the envious, the greedy and the vengeful simply cannot will not see.

Because, actually, it is a choice, one which we are all free to make, every day of our lives.

Don’t choose poorly, or–speaking of ugliness seeping out from the inside–you’ll end up like this guy:

Be better than that.

God Bless us, every one.


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