This is not the worst-case scenario.
The lesson then is that this is not the worst. You can think. You can do. You are not without agency here.
A hundred years after the colony of Lyons first came together, a fire burned it down in a matter of hours. We know now that Lyons recovered and is still purring along some two thousand years later - but when it burned it shook the world. It ended-up a topic about which Seneca wrote, because such a calamity hit a friend of his to the core.
The burning of Lyons is not unlike the situation we find ourselves today in the pandemic: it seemed sudden, it was unexpected, and the ripple effect of exponential damage is breathtaking.
It’s okay to honor the holy-shit of this moment, and allow yourself the kind of awe it deserves. As much as we may have seen or worried about this coming, it is different to be in it. “Strangeness adds to the weight of calamities, and every mortal feels the greater pain as a result of that which also brings surprise,” our boy reminds Lucilius.
Nothing, whether public or private, is stable; the destinies of men, no less than those of cities, are in a whirl. Amid the great-est calm terror arises, and though no external agencies stir up commotion, yet evils burst forth from sources whence they were least expected. Thrones which have stood the shock of civil and foreign wars crash to the ground though no one sets them tottering. How few the states which have carried their good fortune through to the end!
We should therefore reflect upon all contingencies, and should fortify our minds against the evils which may possibly come.
The “lesson” is admittedly bleak: what is it we expected? Everything ends. People, products, services, economies. But while preparing for the worst is pragmatic, experiencing the worst still sucks - right?
The lesson then is that this is not the worst. You can think. You can do. You are not without agency here. There is, in fact, opportunity here.
Perhaps its destruction has been brought about only that it may be raised up again to a better destiny. Oftentimes a reverse has but made room for more prosperous fortune. Many structures have fallen only to rise to a greater height. Timagenes, who had a grudge against Rome and her prosperity, used to say that the only reason he was grieved when conflagrations occurred in Rome was his knowledge that better buildings would arise than those which had gone down in the flames.
As much change as the pandemic may have forced on you, whether you’re now at home with kids, or you can’t work, or you’re working harder, revert to the mean and remember that Deliberate Practice Rewires the Brain and train your perspective.
Are you dead? No. Are you dying? Probably not. Will you die tomorrow? Probably not. Do you have to crunch at work? Good. This is an opportunity to shine. Are you stuck with the kids? Good. Show them a good example of glowing under pressure. Is your startup going to crumble after too many weeks of economic crisis? Good. Go out with a bang, there will be other jobs.
Practice gratitude. Practice perspective. Craft virtuously.
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