Choose the Greatest

Walk after the imagination in the heart reads one of the King James versions, where to walk after said imagination is a curse. Elsewhere, we read of their imaginations turned against me - which reminds me of Polybius squashing rebellion by remarking that, "a crowd is ever easily misled ... thus a multitude is found to be what its ... counselors are". In the quack's projections, where the machination of the mind, or heart, concocts its own version of reality, distorting interpretation to will, not reading life but shouting over it.
But that is just one translation of the King James, in others, words like (δια)λογισμος (calculation, reasoning, thought, plotting, wisdom) are used instead of imagination; even "arrogance." I traced the imagination to the Hebrew יצר: apparently referring to the shaping of thought.
Which reminds me of the Aristotelian understanding of thought in De anima adopted by the Stoics, beginning with sense-perception  (αισθεσις), wherein the soul passively receives this object like a seal leaving an impression on wax, at which point the impression passes into memory, where it becomes representation (or imagination, φαντασια), leading to the formation of concepts. But thinking can be false: not every representation - shaping in the memory - is true.
One ought to be concerned with whether a thought is appearance or reality.
Whether appearance is a poor shaping or false thinking (which Aristotle was concerned with), it is a problem that has riddled those concerned with abstract if temporarily outmoded concepts like truth. Abandoned because the search for what lies behind our impulses exhibits us as shams - where our appearance gets us the job, not our qualities; abandoned because the name of moral impulses has been abused - mercy with arms, religion attacked by zealots.
Yet the curse remains. Freedom is given without the warning that appearance is also deception: of a kind that may not land one in jail but that begins to jail the heart which hardens.

To be fully alive is the uncertainty whether there will be victory or defeat - a struggle that has given way to magnificent military rhetoric, like Leonidas refusing Xerxes spare his troops lives at the cost of their handing over their arms, writing Μολών λαβέ, come and take them - and proceeding to sacrifice 300 Spartans to save the Greeks from the Persians; Nicias arguing for nothing less than a battle for life-or-death in the Sicilian Expedition; Scipio saying, "prepare for war, since you have been unable to endure a peace" and "should we not be at once the most ... foolish of mankind if we ... from a paltry clinging to life deliberately choose the worst of misfortunes? Charge the enemy then ... to conquer or to die!" as he is quoted as saying in Polybius, an echo of his enemy Hannibal's words (I think from here, 21.44).
But the fight does not harden the heart if one were to judge by those generals who are at least recorded as having expressed humility, like when Hannibal addresses Scipio: "Look at me! ... With such a reverse [of Fortune] as that before your eyes, I beg you not to entertain high thoughts, but to deliberate with a due sense of human weakness on the situation; and the way to do that is among good things to choose the greatest, among evils the least." Or when Scipio himself says afterwards at the fall of Carthage (38.V.21): "A glorious moment, Polybius; but I have a dread foreboding that some day the same doom will be pronounced on my own country."
It is difficult to be alive and to engage in the fight that is carrying through one's actions because one can never be sure that one is right; sometimes along the way one realises that one has been wrong. Therefore, many abandon the attempt. The path to truth is riddled with deception, so why try to reach it.
Except these concerns have been addressed before. In the Myth of Er in Plato's Republic, Socrates discusses the falsely-pious and pretense of virtues. Even the gods might be deceived into accepting a pious but false man of the people and persecute the man who is true but wrongly accused.
One is to seek the truth of wisdom, courage, justice, moderation - not just virtue's appearance, not just the imagination, not just the ideas, but making the attempt. Learning to listen to beyond the confines of a single person or a single age.

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