Lacking unity of purpose, self-control, and prudence, the Athenians had flung away everything they had gained since Solon had restored justice in the commonwealth.
Certainly I could use that quote to take a shot at American society right now, but that would hardly be productive. What if, instead, I put it this way:
Lacking unity of purpose, self-control, and prudence, the mother had flung away everything she had gained since committing to her plan.
Of course often plans –even good plans — need to be set aside; it is something that requires wisdom. But about 80% of my own plan-failure has been due to losing motivation, indulging my appetites and excusing my distractions rather than resolving to do the right thing, and ignoring that such little moments add up quickly to a “flinging away” of my momentum, resolve, and effectiveness.
Justice — Good Order — takes maintenance after it is established. It is one thing to set up orderliness (it is something I’m fairly good at), but it is quite another thing altogether to maintain order (it is something I constantly fail at). Then I get a perverse incentive, because destroying my order means I get a chance at recreating it again, which is the part I enjoy.
Maintaining order is not about label-makers, filing cabinets, and rigid schedules, but about unity of purpose, self-control, and prudence.
- Unity of purpose: Knowing why you are doing what you are doing, so the daily does not become meaningless monotony.
Self-Control: Saying no to yourself when you’d rather check email than call everyone for Circle Time, pick up the book than start the dishes, or browse the internet so you can avoid the laundry.
Prudence: Maintaining order doesn’t mean keeping rigid schedules. Order and plans still need to flex for the needs of ourselves and others, but all too often I flex ours based on my whims, desires, and laziness rather than on legitimate needs. Swinging to the opposite end can turn us to dictators and tyrants rather than reasonable, wise guides.
[Let us] commence our social reform thus by reforming one individual, one’s own soul.