Roman Calendar

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"Adversity and Self-Possession" (from "Everything Has Two Handles")

"Adversity and Self-Possession" (from Chapter 4 of Everything Has Two Handles by Ronald Pies)

"'A wise man ought not to regret his struggles with fortune any more than a brave soldier should be intimidated by the noise of battle.'
~ Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy (Trans. Richard Green 1962, 99)

As Boethius also noted, 'The only true joy is self-possession in the face of adversity' (27) . . .

'The art of living resembles wrestling more than dancing . . .'
~ Marcus Aurelius (Farquharson, 50)

Why wrestling? Marcus explains that in life, as in wrestling, we must stand 'prepared and unshaken' to meet whatever comes our way."

     The idea is common across many, if not most, cultures that life consists of struggle and adversity (for whom is this not our experience?), although the Stoics would say that this is not an evil or bad thing. The Stoic expects this adversity, anticipates it, even welcomes it as something of a whetstone upon which to hone skills and philosophy.

"Be Prepared

There is a reason for ensuring that nothing ever takes us by surprise. We should project our thoughts ahead of us at every turn and have in mind every possible eventuality instead of only the usual course of events . . . we should be anticipating not merely all that commonly happens but all that is conceivably capable of happening, if we do not want to be overwhelmed and struck numb by rare events . . .
~ Seneca, Letter XCI (Campbell, 178-9)"

     Life is not fair, and rarely is it kind. Those expecting it to be either are frequently to be disappointed. The Stoic expects and prepares for both, and accepts graciously when life does offer some gentle kindness.

"Good fortune deceives, adverse fortune teaches.
~ Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy

Reckon on everything, expect everything.
~ Seneca"

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