Virtue Is A Sentinel (Podcast)

The virtues have been a force promoting social cohesion and stability for thousands of years. As a society becomes more wealthy, it tends to neglect these virtues. The consequences are deeply destructive: loss of social cohesion, indiscipline, greed and moral corruption. History suggests that such societies become ripe for disorder, even collapse.

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On The Solitary Life

The scholar Petrarch once secured an audience with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, who lived from 1316 to 1378.  His meeting with the emperor at Lombardy in 1354 is described in one of Petrarch’s luminous letters (Familiares XIX.3).  It was a charming custom of those days that kings and popes would occasionally seek out men of letters for the purpose of philosophical inquiry.  Perhaps kings preferred to talk with scholars because they were removed from the concerns of power, and could speak with a frankness that was lacking with the royal ministers and advisors.

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Why We Should Forgive The Faults Of Our Heroes

There comes a time in the life of every son or daughter when they begin to see their parents as flawed mortals.  Before this, they are still under the spell of their upbringing; they see their parents more as imposing authority figures than as anything else.  I am not sure exactly when, or how, this transition takes place; for some it may be one event, for others it may be a series of events, or an incremental process.  But it does happen, and the son begins to see the father as the human being he is, in all his definitive defects and foibles.

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Do Not Be Too Proud Of Your Generosity

I have always counted myself fortunate when receiving the generosity of another.  I have never paused to ask questions about the circumstances of the giver, or to weigh the relative merits of a gift.  To be graced with the kindness of another is enough.  Perhaps what matters more is the sincerity of the giver; for a gift wrapped in cold anonymity is valued less than a benefaction derived from proximate familiarity.  We appreciate any generosity, but are more likely to cherish that which carries this aura.

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When Embarked On A Great Enterprise, Do Not Look Back

When you have begun a great project, press forward until it is completed.  Do not look back; do not be distracted by the ambient noise of life, the doubting whispers of others, or the gnawing doubts that will inevitably bore their way into your consciousness.  Nothing great was ever accomplished by half-measures; and the failure of grand ambition is still more inspiring than the cautious steps of the timid man.  In a 1368 letter to Pope Urban V, the humanist Petrarch wrote the following words that I happened to read this morning:

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Why Worrying Is Pointless

For a good part of my life I used to worry excessively about things.  When I was in college I worried about keeping up my grade point average and being able to complete Marine Corps Officer Candidate School; when I was on active duty I worried about doing my job well; when I started my law practice many years ago I worried about all the various thing related to establishing oneself in one’s profession.  And there are other examples of worrying that I need not rattle off here.  All of this worry, all of this stress, was largely self-inflicted.

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“Italy Is Excellent In All Things”

The Roman engineer and architect Vitruvius believed that one of Italy’s special gifts was its geographical location.  The nation was so situated, he believed, to combine the positive aspects of both cool and warm climates.  In his treatise De Architectura (VI.11), he notes that

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