It is the Stoics that showed me most clearly the wealth of material that each of us is given for production. The Stoics are rising in popularity again, and this is predictable given the failure of the cesspool of chaos being served at the trough of the local feed-the-addiction saloon that I generally call screen-time. It takes the form of “news” or “social media” or “advertisement” or “entertainment”. They are indistinguishable at this point. The underlying addictive substance is feel good, which is something like synonymous with distracted from duty to develop.
The evil one (to metaphorically personify, which aids the imagination) is laughing his way to the metaphorical bank. The more he who escapes from duty to develop consumes that which distracts him from his undeveloped self, the more painful being with his undevelopment becomes, and the more he will pay anything to avoid the pain of being with his self. The more dependent he becomes the more command-able he becomes. The more command-able, the more the military metaphor is made available. It is an army of slaves, an army of drones, an army that can be incited by withholding that which distracts and that can be easily directed at the scapegoat who is not paying his fair share to keep the drug of distraction flowing.
The Puritanical Libertarian proclaims the freedom of each to the drug of his choice. The Puritanical Libertarian loves how the sage Jesus says to be addicted to righteousness: “Blessed is he who hungers and thirst for righteousness”. But there is much more that the Puritanical Libertarian would wish to consistently follow from the freedom of addiction–especially the freedom of association. But the latter the evil one cannot allow. Who would pay for the care of the addicts if individuals were literally free to associate which includes the freedom to disassociate? The Puritanical Libertarian would make it a condition of association with any other that he could be verified to be growing in addiction to righteousness and not much else. He calls such a club of addicts the church of good will (Kant). He longs to be a member and hopes such a club will receive him. He applies for membership and knows that in freedom he may be accepted or rejected. It is not his to demand.
How to live in a condition of earthly oppression where a coercive enforcer requires association regardless of soul-status? How to produce under such exploitative conditions? It is less easy materially (gold), but never easier morally (virtue). This is call for rejoicing.
He who wakes up to the ever-present production facility provided for virtue finds himself rich beyond compare. The world, and especially the time and place of it that he inhabits, is his for the taking. And, if he will take it well, and do well with it, he will produce that which is best. Most decisively, and this is terrifying, he is the cause of all production or lack of production of virtue.
Again–the setting bears repeating until it has become intuitive and certain. Take, as an example, the dialogue Meno by Plato, where the young man Meno makes the treacherous choice to interact voluntarily with Socrates (the sage). The dialogue is beautiful for its portrayal of the head-on collision of the undeveloped Meno with the developed Socrates.
The dialogue begins with such an innocent and seemingly praiseworthy question from the young (in time and development) Meno: “Socrates, how does one acquire virtue? Where can it be found?” Socrates’ fateful response: “Meno, we must not go hunting for that which we do not understand since we won’t know when we arrive upon it. So, let us first settle not where but what virtue is.”
Think about Meno. I am Meno in so many moments. Meno does not realize that virtue is here and everywhere. It is a matter of engaging this here and now. There is no soul that I could encounter (and you should imagine me encountering my own soul FIRST!) that is in a situation where virtue cannot be produced. Meno seems to think there is something else he needs to do, there is some other question that needs answering, there is a trick that Socrates can provide. No.
Think about it! Virtue sits embodied before Meno and he asks where it is! Argh! Oh Meno!
Do you want temperance or courage or justice or prudence? There are distinctions to make. There is order in importance: first prudence, then justice, then temperance and courage. There is order in time: first temperance and courage, then justice, then prudence. In time, start with attraction (desire for pleasure) and repulsion (fear of trouble).
Look around and into the near future. Do you find that which you could abstain from to be better that you are attracted to? Do you find that which you could pursue to be better that you are repulsed by? You find yourself in the production facility of virtue.
The good news (gospel)? You will never find yourself not in the production facility of virtue.
An objection: “This all sounds so tiring. Is it wrong to rest? Goodness, Puritanical Libertarian, it can’t be wrong to relax.” Who said it was? If you want to produce well you MUST rest well. But the trick is in the meaning of resting well. Screen time is likely rarely resting well. Training the body to recuperate when it is naturally dwindling in strength and rising early is likely often resting well. But note what disciplined good rest requires: temperance and courage. Even resting well involves the production of virtue. So, do not balk at being over-worked. The lie from the evil one is actually in the claim that sloth and laziness are rest or that there is more rest in vice than in virtue. Oh the lies.
In the Crito by Plato you will find the sage Socrates asleep peacefully in his jail cell awaiting death. That is virtuous rest. The sage Jesus says that his burden (the burden of righteousness) is easy and light. There is insight there. The most rest is in the most virtue. The most hurried and tiresome existence is in undevelopment.