Lessons In Stoicism From COVID-19

So use all that is called Fortune. Most men gamble with her, and gain all, and lose all, as her wheel rolls. But do thou leave as unlawful these winnings, and deal with Cause and Effect, the chancellors of God. In the Will work and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance, and shalt sit hereafter out of fear from her rotations. A political victory, a rise of rents, the recovery of your sick, or the return of your absent friend, or some other favorable event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for you. Do not believe it. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

The most important lesson you can learn from Coronavirus is to realize where are you placing your trust. What do you rely on? On the government solving everything? On your money? On your good looks? On your supposed “fortune”? Or maybe on things just getting better? None of this will bring you peace. 

If you’re looking for peace and effectiveness in your life, so you can live it as best as it can be lived. You need to rely on yourself

What do I mean by this?

“Ne te quaesiveris extra.” (Do not seek for things outside of yourself)”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I began this post with the last paragraph from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s self-reliance (A must-read recommended by Stoic Answers) because of the succinct, short, and just plainly perfect answer he gives for the best way you can live your life. 

His language can be a bit complicated so I’ll try to explain it as best as I can. 

Fortune

He begins talking about fortune. How man gambles with her and how they may win all or lose all as her wheel rolls. Fortune has no favorites. Tom Hanks has the Coronavirus just like so many other poor people from Wuhan China. Do not believe that you are exempt from misery or from glory. 

Do not trust in fortune. Fortune will do whatever it pleases and it is completely and irremediably outside of your control. 

So First. Again, do not trust fortune, do not rely on her, rely on yourself.

For good fortune, act in this way: 

“Remember that you ought to behave in life as you would at a banquet. As something is being passed around it comes to you; stretch out your hand, take a portion of it politely. It passes on; do not detain it. Or it has not come to you yet; do not project your desire to meet it, but wait until it comes in front of you. So act toward children, so toward a wife, so toward office, so toward wealth.” — Marcus Aurelius

Self-ownership first and foremost always. You’ll enjoy the delights of life infinitely more if you do not become possessed by them.

For bad fortune, act in this way: 

“What would have become of Hercules do you think if there had been no lion, hydra, stag or boar — and no savage criminals to rid the world of? What would he have done in the absence of such challenges?

Obviously he would have just rolled over in bed and gone back to sleep. So by snoring his life away in luxury and comfort he never would have developed into the mighty Hercules.

And even if he had, what good would it have done him? What would have been the use of those arms, that physique, and that noble soul, without crises or conditions to stir into him action?”

― Epictetus

Don’t let misfortune wear you down, use it as fuel instead. 

“Misfortune nobly born is good fortune.”
Marcus Aurelius

Cause and Effect

“But do thou leave as unlawful these winnings, and deal with Cause and Effect, the chancellors of God. In the Will work and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance, and shalt sit hereafter out of fear from her rotations.” 

Kindly reminder, please don’t smoke right now

But if you turn away from fortune, and from expectation, and instead you begin to work with cause and effect. Put here beautifully “The Chancellors of God”. And work on your will (that is, on the sole thing you have control of), you shall be able to live without the fear of fortune’s rotations, for you’re not relying on fortune, but on yourself and your own hands. If you stop hoping for things to go your way, if you stop expecting people to be as you want them to be, if you’re hoping that the virus is going to magically vanish. You will never be free. 

On the contrary, if you get back to do your work and to focus on what you do can control. You’ll be free from fortune’s chains. 

“If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.”
Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Rely on yourself

“A political victory, a rise of rents, the recovery of your sick, or the return of your absent friend, or some other favorable event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for you. Do not believe it. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”

Stoicism is usually looked upon when everything’s going to shit, and you need a moral pillar to rely on. Then Stoicism goes and tells you that the pillar is not the philosophy itself, but you. Stoicism is just a reminder of the power you have to smile back at death and your fate, no matter how fucked up it might be. You are strong because of you. 

When things go well, you need to be careful not to become dependent upon them, for you’ll depend less on you. With self-reliance, you’ll be the pillar of your life and you’ll know that you will deal effectively with whatever fortune throws at you, be it a virus, or be it fame, or be it death. You will do your duty, which is to live and love as best as you can while you are still here. 

Stoics are men and women of action. If you’re stuck in your house because you cannot go out. Get better at something, whining isn’t going to accomplish anything. If you need to go outside to work because you don’t have enough money or work that allows you to stay at home. Then go outside and work while taking all the precaution measures. Life is not always rose-colored, regardless it has to be dealt with. 

Trust yourself and your reason. Don’t trust panic or fear. 

Now with the Coronavirus, it’s time to put into practice what you’ve read so far about Stoicism. But not just now, really, but forever until the day that you die. 

I’m happy to be alive with you my friend, 

Ricardo Guaderrama 

Thanks for reading,

Ricardo Guaderrama

Special thanks to my Patreons:
Edward Hackett
Michael Thelen
Melville Alexander

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