Culture | Stoicism

Carrying The Weight of a Black Swan

It seems I don’t meet the criteria for high risk with COVID-19.  That’s a blessing isn’t it?  Or is it a curse?  Depends on how you feel I suppose.  Personally I feel fine, outside of some lung irritation that’s either allergies flaring up or the virus that dominates our lives.  Who knows?  Maybe if our country had taken the opportunity to stockpile tests I’d know.  Finger-pointing won’t help anything right now, but I’ll remember with my vote in November as those previously elected either step up or stumble through this.

That said, beyond the tragedies that are unfolding around the world, I believe that in ways we won’t recognize for a long time this pandemic is going to strengthen us as a society. Collectively we become more resilient through adversity.  And boy, we’re wading deep into it now.  We collectively have an opportunity for growth.

When the world feels a bit more challenging than usual, revisiting some old books seems appropriate. One book I’d recommend is The Obstacle Is The Way, by Ryan Holiday. I’ve re-read this a couple of times, and credit Holiday along with Tim Ferriss for pointing me towards the stoic philosophers. Stoicism, history and poetry have been the core of my reading for some time now, pushing fiction and business books further to the side. And this quote jumped out at me as I scanned previously highlighted insights from his book:

“It’s almost a cliché at this point, but the observation that the way to strengthen an arch is to put weight on it—because it binds the stones together, and only with tension does it hold weight—is a great metaphor. The path of least resistance is a terrible teacher. We can’t afford to shy away from the things that intimidate us. We don’t need to take our weaknesses for granted.” – Ryan Holiday, The Obstacles Is The Way

 As a society we’ve had a massive viral weight dumped on us. This is the very definition of a black swan event. How shall we remember this time? With the vast majority of people rising to the occasion or for the toilet paper hoarders and people stocking up on ammunition should things reach a level of madness none of us are imagining now. I’m in the “rise to the occasion” camp, and I hope you are too. We get to choose how we react to the events around us. History will remember the hero’s, fanatics and fools. I know which group I aspire to be in.

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