Is there a more common trait in men of virtue than poverty? Most have either been reared in poverty and stayed there or escaped from it and held its values. This is not to say that righteousness can not exist in wealth but it would be a far cry from truth to say it is easy to have it cultivated there. In the eyes of a Good man you will see: wisdom, justice, courage, and restraint. These characteristics cut through the haze of his imperfection like a beacon in the distance of a foggy night.
How might these virtues be cultivated in wealth if the climate of wealth is power, and this, unchecked by the experience of powerlessness, yields no wisdom? The wise are a people gestated in learning, whom have fought against their ignorance and suffered its opposition. Through this battle with blissful unknowing we face a pain that we would no sooner endure than unanesthetized surgery, but do so pit against death or a greater pain. It is the lack of freedom to flee, that forces us to fight. Our wins, reinforce courage, and our losses teach us justice. No one would know mercy whom had never it granted to them.
It is the unforgiving coals that train our feet to fire walk upon them. It is the cruelty of life, not of man that reveal our strength. The human experience is but that of a block of wood under the world’s chisel. We must be retrained, mounted, and struck to take form. Like that of the smooth pebble on lakeshore we are tumbled against the waves and each other until coming to rest.
In history we see so many men of virtue that have come from strife. Be they clergy, soldier, musician, or salesman. The integrity and fortitude they bestow on the world serves as a constant. It undermines the fickle nature of the sky and wrath of the sea. These men and women stand tall rooted in their values, however stubborn. In the face of bribery, fear, and the seduction of power they do not see their reflection. Perhaps because they had only these virtues to lean on in their youth. In the absence of control, one must have courage, in the absence of strength one must have restraint. For every gift bestowed on the privileged, is an alternate gift bestowed on the misfortunate. Just as a baby sheltered in a white room must later face the fear of the dark, so to must the swarthy child must learn to navigate in the light.
So why then do we glorify the rich if our gifts and curses come in equal measure? It must be that the rich, knowing they can not survive the harsh realities of an unsheltered world, cling to the artificiality they have crafted to protect them. They are both exalted and imprisoned by their mountain tops. We envy their position, but these fortunate sons of the Gods are no more free than the peasants who squander below them. It is a caste that serves no one.
Creativity antagonizes knowledge, and wealth tempts poverty, but new life, just as culture, can only grow from the dirt. It is the product of germs and bacteria, that innovate in nature, the sustenance of chemically developed strains are incumbent on their creators. While organic life thrives even in the pit of volcanoes and arctic permafrost.
Strife breeds resilience, patience, and mercy. It is these characteristics that steady our course when our compass has failed. Upon virtues we plot our path toward fulfillment and peace, like the ancient sailors of the past. We must learn them and cherish them for they are the true wealth, nonexpendable and infinitely replicable.