Friday, March 20, 2020

Manual Therapy

It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. 

— Epictetus

Nothing separates the cowardly and strong like a good pandemic.

In a pinch like today's pinch, we all want to be pillars of strengthto embody Ernest Hemingway's famous formula, "courage is grace under pressure." 

But it takes a strong foundation.

While you're home—if you're home—you can work on your foundation by reading a manual by the first century Stoic Epictetus.

It's aptly titled Manual.

Manual is a short book that's had a long life among resilient people.

And deservedly so. 

Its author was a mensch.

The son of a slave, Epictetus understood suffering. His sadistic master once purposely broke his leg, leaving him crippled for the rest of his life. When he became a freedman in his late teens, he taught philosophy on street corners in Rome, but was banished for his troubles.

Undaunted, Epictetus moved to Greece, where he founded a school that would eventually attract students from all corners of the empire. 

One of those students took shorthand notes during Epictetus' lecturesnotes that became Manual.

Epictetus welcomed adversity as training for moments like ours, when courage and resilience are tested. His philosophy gave students the wisdom to "keep calm and carry on" throughout plagues, wars, fires and earthquakes. 

It also taught them to remember we're all interconnected.

It's no coincidence that when the Chinese consumer electronics manufacturer Xiaomi shipped face masks to Italy last week, all the crates were stamped with a Stoic saying:

We are waves of the same sea, leaves of the same tree, flowers of the same garden.
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