Appearance is in some sense everything. But appearances change. So, appearances are unstable. Reality often refers to either what is causing the changes in appearances or that which appearances come to rest in. Such reality can be broken into two categories: not-essence and essence. Anything changing is changing both because of what it is fundamentally and because of the things that it is not, that it is being determined or influenced by. The essence is both an always present determination on the thing itself, and it is an indication of something else–what the thing can become in its fulfillment.
Change is caught up in and entangle by time. Because we are changing beings and have experience of a “once was” it is not hard to forecast a “will be”. What we have to remember about the “will be” though is that a part of it is determined by freedom. This is only possible for the rational being (potentially rational, not necessarily actually rational) who has something of a prime mover status (potentially, but not actually). The potential/actual distinction has to be constantly repeated in order to remind he who is potentially rational to not rest on his laurels. If he wants to be actually rational, he will have to employ choice and constancy of aim in this materially changing world. Because he chooses to remain constant in aim in an ever-changing material environment, his choice and constancy of aim requires much work and resistance. It is the work that must be emphasized. The animal part of the rational being is a being that like all other material beings seeks rest. The stone will fall until stopped by something else. Then it will rest. The tendency of the material is to rest. Fire is the exception. And it is fire’s unwillingness to rest, until its conditions are removed from it that has made it so analogous to the spiritual/free/moral/rational side of the rational animal.
Back to appearances. We live in a time, those of us at the end of the greatest productive acceleration in the history of the world, of relative comfort and ease. Oh the appearances! Right now, procuring transportation and procuring calories, two items of significant value in the past, I cannot distinguish the relatively independent, frugal hard worker from the relatively dependent welfare queen. The children sired in either environment have access to similar education, similar health care, similar shelter, similar clothing, similar calories.
There are several points to make here:
First, we live in a time that is almost unable to disincentivize sloth or intemperance and that requires little courage for survival. Thus the tendency to rest. This is called the Samaritan’s Dilemma in economic theory, but it has not been widely appreciated. The relative and temporary increase in efficiency of material production has made it feel like such (effort, temperance) are unnecessary. And this extends beyond the welfare queen. Even the upper classes are infected with excess calories, opioids, addiction to screens, and wasteful and profligate spending.
Second, this moment of excess production is likely temporary. China and India have already done significant work to increase their competitiveness economically on the world stage. There are various reasons to think that the days of USA comfort and ease are both numbered and maybe already slipping from us. There are also reasons to complicate the rise of two recently socialist leaning economies (burdening the free spirit), but there has been unburdening of the free spirit in recent years. It is to be seen to what degree the free spirit will be ultimately unlocked in either nation.
Third, the hard-working, climbing out of poverty, aiming at frugality, restraint is in some sense in the most difficult position. He must relax the least, be appreciate the least for it, and immediately at least, have the least to show for his efforts. Never has there been more opportunity to lie around. And yet he is constantly turning down the opportunity. Never has then been more opportunity to spend. And yet he is constantly saying no. Never has there been such confiscation from those who have in order to support those who have not. Precisely he who is barely climbing away from poverty will notice the least difference in his immediate comparison with those still impoverished. So he will face the greatest temptation to the thought that it is not worth it!
BUT, and it is a big BUT, everything is in the BUT, appearances are deceiving. The question cannot be, what is life like TODAY, or for a week or even a year, for the hard working and temperate versus the slothful and intemperate. That cannot be the question especially during these times. The question is, what is life like for a life, or generationally, for the different categories? And though the reality is harder to see (both the cause and effect of changing appearances), and there are certainly forces which can ruin the on-average tendency for an individual in particular, the reality is that over time the cause of freely chosen hard-work (effort), dependability (virtue) and saving (sacrifice) produce significantly different results than sloth, undependability and spending. Here I will not try to prove. Look into the average data for an American–preparedness for retirement, debt, spending relative to saving. Look at what happens to the not married or the not staying married on average compared to those who do (it is an interesting case of effort, virtue and sacrifice). Look next at what happens generationally to the lives of the next generation who grow up with no example of effort, virtue and sacrifice. They have no model in their minds to fall back on when such are needed. The data point that the fatherless have a higher rate of teen pregnancy than those raised by fathers is instructive to he who would look.
The reality, could we see it, is that what looks stable and similar is some shooting off to heaven and others to hell. Some are on an upward trend and others are on a downward trend. How do you know which is which when you pull up next to so and so at a red light or pass by so and so on a grocery aisle. No clue. But it is happening. What looks fixed and similar is volatile and dissimilar. Only time will tell.
The good news is that you have utter complete knowledge about the status of the trajectory of one part of the world, and control over the tendency of one essence. You are the shaper. You are the molder. You are he who by choice can shape character and send it to the heavens of hard work, temperance and sacrifice or the hell of sloth, addiction and gluttony.
Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be open unto you.