It’s unfortunate that this has happened. No. It’s fortunate that this has happened and I’ve remained unharmed by it – not shattered by the present or frightened of the future. It could have happened to anyone. But not everyone could have remained unharmed by it. Why treat one as a misfortune rather than the other as fortunate? Can you really call something a misfortune that doesn’t violate human nature? Or do you think something that’s not against nature’s will can violate it? But you know what its will is. Does what’s happened keep you from acting with justice, generosity, self-control, sanity, prudence, honesty, humility, straightforwardness, and all the other qualities that allow a person’s nature to fulfil itself?
So remember this principle when something threatens to cause you pain: the thing itself was no misfortune at all; to endure it and prevail is great good fortune.
I’ve been re-reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (the Gregory Hays transcription) and was completely blown away by this paragraph. Book 4, 49a. “Holy shit” I wrote in the margin (this is called a marginalia by the way.)
The entire book is about how to live a full life (a philosophy for life you could say……) It’s a problem solving guide to circumstance. This particular paragraph is dealing with events that we may see as unfavourable. You get cancer, you lose your job, your partner cheats on you and rips apart your family. These can all be catastrophic events. One issue with philosophy is that it can be seen as an oversimplification, especially when in the heat of the moment. When the spiritual uncle of consciousness, Ram Dass, had a severe stroke he said it allowed him to go further within and concentrate on what was inside of him. “The stroke was giving me lessons.” What’s your alternative? To wallow in misery and curse fate?
You may have read this and thought “but what if I can’t deal with it?” You will face nothing in your lifetime that you cannot deal with, apart from your death, and even that you will deal with. Will you struggle? Will it be painful? Will it cause you to lose sleep and think why me? Of course but you will be able to deal with it and get through.
I love the idea of treating one as misfortune and not treating the other as misfortune. How often do we think of the other side of the coin? Even when something good happens. If we get promoted, do we think about those who didn’t get promoted and the effect it has on their lives? This is all about remaining neutral at all times. Not seeing things as good or bad but as simply being what they are. As my good friend Aneeqe would say “It is what it is!”
The final point about how “negative” circumstances shouldn’t have an impact on how we interact with the world is critical. How often do we deal with people who take their frustrations out on us because of events that have happened to them? This reminder that unfortunate events cannot prevent us from acting with justice, generosity, self-control, sanity, prudence, honesty, humility, straightforwardness. A really important reminder that we are not the centre of the universe. We are all interconnected.