This is the Areté Day message for February 23rd, 12018 HE, from the Supreme Mugwump of The Assemblage of Areté, Colin Campbell.
The New Olympians
It’s an exciting time- the Olympics are happening, and we live in an age where it’s really easy to watch the competitions at our convenience. I’ve really been enjoying watching it myself- I’ve seen some figure skating, speed skating, women and men’s snowboarding, bobsledding, and some women’s hockey; and of course, it’s impossible to not be impressed by all of the athletes competing there, though I’m also quite proud of how my home team USA is faring. Watching the Olympics is inspiring to me- it’s evidence of how incredible people can be if they set their mind to it. Similarly, I was inspired just a little more than a week ago by the launch of the Falcon Heavy by SpaceX- it was evidence of how incredible humanity as a whole could be if we set our mind to it. Moments like these are examples of what I believe our destiny as human beings are: that we are becoming a new generation of Olympians.
Last year for Areté Day I spoke about the Epic of Humanity, and how it is our destiny to become almost godlike- despite our mortality. I told the story from Greek myth of how the Titans had overthrown their Primordial Deity parents, and then how the Titans’ children- the Olympic gods- had overthrown the order imposed on them by the Titans, and finally how it was man’s place in Greek myth to fight against and eventually overcome the gods that ruled them. I argued that this fight was nearing completion as we as humans have gradually become masters of the laws of nature- reducing our need for gods and increasing our capability to construct our own wonders.
I concluded last year by suggesting that we needed to match our scientific development with growth in our wisdom if we were to truly turn the corner from “godlike” to “gods”. “To overtake the Olympian gods before us, we must not only have the ability to make our own lightning, but also know when to make it.” If we could learn to have such wisdom though, I promised that we would be able to live in “cities of Zion”- places so heavenly that it would be a paradise on Earth. How to do that is what I’d like to focus on today.
Olympians, that is, athletes who compete in the Olympics, serve as a good model for what we will need be like as a human community if we are to become this new generation of Olympian “gods”. To be the very best figure skaters in the world, or ski-jumpers, or even curlers, those athletes train constantly for years and years. They dedicate and commit themselves to their craft, making sacrifices in their lives so that they can achieve what they truly want- what they want more than the things they have sacrificed. They exercise self-discipline, as they maintain their regimens.
They also show great courage, as they throw their bodies into crazy new twists, dozens of feet in the air, that have never been done by any human before. They show patience as they gradually, almost imperceptibly improve day-by-day but over several years. They adapt to injuries and weather conditions and track conditions, and they creatively invent new ways of doing old things.
They also show great humility- despite being some of the very best (and for one of them even the best) in the whole world at their sport, they listen to the advice of older coaches who came before them and have experience and wisdom to impart. Instead of insisting that they already know everything they need to know, they remain committed to learning- reading books about their craft and watching others compete. They also cooperate with their teammates, helping to prop each other up without selfishly sabotaging each other. The very best of them play honestly, not taking advantages that would create an unequal playing field. All the while, they maintain hope for four-year stretches of time; hope that they will succeed, hope that they will do great things, hope that the Olympics themselves will be incredible for everyone.
When all is said and done, they triumph either on the medal stand or in pride at their achievement, and they experience great joy- partying like rock stars in victory.
In short, Olympians must demonstrate all 30 of The Thirty Aims of Areté.
Likewise, if we wish to become a world that has achieved that state of paradise; a world where our wisdom matches our literally stellar technological capabilities, we will need to exercise The Thirty Aims of Areté; and I do mean exercise them- we need to practice and train them over years and years to become truly great people in every sense of what it means to be a great person and to be a great community.
We will need to make sacrifices of things that we want a little in order to make sure we achieve the things we truly want most. We will need to have self-discipline to stay focused on our goal of Areté.
We will need to show great courage, as we throw our bodies and our reputations into crazy twists of fate- willing to risk it all to make the world a better place. We’ll need to be patient with ourselves, as we improve but so slowly that sometimes it might be hard to appreciate the difference between one day and the next. We’ll need to be patient with others and the world as we allow them to grow.
We must adapt to the times we live in and the curveballs that life throws at us- maintaining a visionary plan for the future but not becoming dogmatic about it. We must creatively develop the systems in our society- both technological and political- that will help us overcome any challenge to our ultimate goal.
We must show great humility as well. The Heroes of Areté are some of the most mature and wisest people I know, yet none of us should think ourselves above listening to our elders who have more experience than us, or think ourselves above listening to our youth who are less constrained by their experiences than us! We must seek teachers and tutors not only for academic matters but also for how to live our lives!
Like Olympic athletes, we must master all of our chosen crafts inside and out, taking time to remain perpetually committed to learning. We must read books and examine records, we must think hard and ask difficult questions! We must use our human capacity for reason to develop better knowledge about everything!
Our progress as humans is a team sport, and so we must cooperate! We need to see others' successes as our own successes, and their failures as ours as well. We must put off selfishness and see that helping others not only makes them better, but directly makes us better people as well. We need to play the game of life with honesty. It might seem possible to get ahead in a particular arena by being dishonest, but whatever gains you make by that method are immediately offset by the losses you take as a person, and the losses we all incur as a community due to the loss of trust dishonesty causes. Instead, we must proactively be honest- sharing with all the information that they need in order to succeed.
We must maintain our hope for a better future, even when things seem grim. The easiest way to maintain hope is to practice seeing how small acts of Areté create measurable positive change in the world- it's easy to extrapolate from this how the larger things you do should build a more enlightened world. Like Olympic athletes who must maintain their hope for long stretches of time, we must stay continually motivated- taking outside help to stay motivated if needed, so that we continually work on the things that will get us to that metaphorical podium!
Even with regard to our bodies, we must strive to be more like Olympians: we need to keep ourselves physically fit, and strive for stronger, healthier, better bodies our whole lives- becoming capable of greater heroics and improving our Areté not in spite of the difficulties, but because of the difficulties.
And of course, we must take as much joy in life as we can find along the way! For every success we have, we should celebrate and spread our joy to others so that they will desire to join our cause of turning the world into the garden it is. We will party on.
It might seem daunting to accomplish all of these things- the things that Olympic athletes do. However, as I have mentioned, every single one of these aims of ours is an improvable skill that can be developed with exercise. In the past I have spoken about how to develop a skill using the acronym RECAP, which I will recap briefly for you now.
"R" stands for Rehearsals, the process of simulating what your ultimate usage of the skill will be like in a manner that tests yourself, but with lower stress levels and lower risk of negative consequences.
"E" stands for Exercises, the process of strengthening the basic building blocks of your skill- similar to how in no sport do players do push-ups, and yet every athlete in the world does push-ups as an exercise.
"C" stands for Coaching, which means acquiring and then listening to expert, external advice, even when that advice might be highly critical. We must accept that we are not the best judge of our own skill levels, and only a coach can help you overcome your own self to rapidly rise to a level of true greatness.
"A" stands of Academics, which means taking the time to research and learn about all of the ancillary matters that relate to your skill. Theoretical knowledge improves the applicability of practical knowledge.
"P" stands for Performances, which means using your skill in real-world environments. Nothing will teach you as deeply as having to use your skill when your skill really counts; and in the process you will learn things about the skill none of the other letters can teach you.
I promise you that if you genuinely apply RECAP to The Thirty Aims of Areté, you will improve at them. You can rehearse what you'll say to a friend you are fighting with to become more graceful. You can strengthen and exercise your sense of generosity by giving loose change to people in need who ask you for it. You can ask for expert advice and coaching on how to be more equitable in your workplace. You can study for yourself the wealth of knowledge humanity has accumulated on the topic of leadership. You can utilize practical skills with excellence in real-life situations that count on your performance.
You can improve at The Thirty Aims of Areté using RECAP, and if you do you will become an even greater person than you are now. You will become an Olympian of life, and we will become the New Olympians of this world, living in a literal paradise.
Be Excellent to Each Other, and Party On!