Vincent van Gogh once said that ‘Conscience is a Man’s Compass.’ Perhaps in his time, 150 years ago, that was enough.
The world has changed. Pure conscience is not enough and the maps handed down to us are no longer accurate. The roles we used to play have lost value and the ones that became important we haven’t been taught.
People are quick to criticise us and tell us how not to be, but when we ask how to be, they are silent.
We have lost our direction, our values, our purpose.
We need to find our place in the changing world. And we need to make it work for us, but also for others and for the world.
This is no easy quest and we cannot set out on it blind. We need a compass to guide us through the lands unknown, to show us direction amongst confusing paths, and to turn us back when we’re lost.
A Man’s Compass.
A compass of values each one of us can aspire to follow. A compass of virtues we can all develop. With it, it doesn’t matter where you are in the ever-changing world. You will always find your way.
The Compass has four main directions which represent four Values.
In the North is Happiness
It is ahead of us since it is what we all want in the end. Some paths to it lead through the satisfaction from great achievements, others through contentment with a peaceful simplicity, but this is where we all go.
In the East is Justice
It is on our right, reminding us what’s right. It guides us back on our way when we wander off towards that which profits us but is unfair, that which we want even though it would not be just to have it.
In the West is Truth
We always keep an eye on it, ready to learn something new. It also keeps us from wandering astray, pointing out that which is pleasant but unwise and unmasking the lies that are so convenient to believe in.
In the South is Change
It is behind us because we rarely expect it. It brings challenges, but also opportunities. It inspires us to improve so that we can stand against anything the world will throw at us. It reminds us that we can be wrong and go backwards, but also that we can always return to the right path.
Between the Four Values is a wind rose of 9 Virtues that help direct us
The Four Directions are out there in the world: the poles are where they are and the sun rises and sets where it does. Likewise the Values: what’s just and true is independent of what you say, change will happen whether you want it or not, and you can’t just decide to be happy if you’re not.
But you can control your Virtues. They are not out there in the world. They are in us and they help direct us. We can’t decide that something is true or just, but we can decide to be kind, courageous, wise, or honourable.
The Virtues are related to the Values they border with.
In the Northeast are Kindness and Compassion
They stand between Happiness and Justice, guiding us in sharing what we have with others, understanding what they need, providing for our community, and using our strengths to make everybody’s lives better.
In the Southeast are Courage and Respect
They help us fight for and defend what is right, but, standing between justice and change, they are also open to revision if it turns out that the things and people we aligned ourselves with are not what they seemed to be.
In the Southwest are Wisdom and Humility
Standing between Change and Truth, they help us work out what to believe in and why, but also how to adjust our beliefs to changing evidence, admit what we don’t know, and wait until we know enough to act.
In the Northwest are Honour and Confidence
They stand between Truth and Happiness, helping us stick to our word, know our worth, and avoid using tricks and lies to reach for the excesses that are likely to end in our and other people’s misery.
In the centre is Strength
This Ninth Virtue is what allows us to do everything else. We need strength to remain honest even though lying would benefit us. We need it to stay kind to those whom others bully and to courageously defend what is just. To keep pursuing wisdom and to admit when we’re wrong.
The modern world is messed up, there is no question to that. It is chaotic, extremely complex, and any moment you think you have got it, it changes again. That is why we need something very robust to navigate it: a set of clear Values to follow and Virtues to develop.
The Man’s Compass offers you exactly that. Together, they will guide you and help you find your direction and regain your purpose.
In the Man’s Compass, you will find information about each of the Values and Virtues, and examples showing how they play out in practice.
This is a developing resource and, true to the Value of Change, I accept that much of what I write can be questioned and improved. I invite you to offer suggestions in the comments and thus contribute to the development of the Man’s Compass. Refer to the Mission Statement for discussion guidelines.