You Can’t Freeze Up
Where this goes and what will happen is impossible to ascertain. The only certainty over the next few months and possibly years is uncertainty. But there is one thing you can bet on for sure: There will be a lot of decisions to make. A lot of things to do.
It’s going to be essential that you don’t freeze up. You cannot become paralyzed. It is the surest way to defeat and failure.
Remember, to the Stoics, the essential virtue was courage. Courage doesn’t mean you’re not scared. Courage means you proceed despite being scared. Courage means you keep going. It means you don’t get discouraged, even when things are hard, when other people are falling down around you, when it’s been so long since you heard anything resembling good news.
Cato was there when the Roman Republic was in its death throes. Marcus lived through the plague, as we have written about. Seneca and Musonius and Epictetus were exiled… and witnessed Nero’s tyranny and insanity. The later Stoics, from George Washington to James Stockdale, experienced extreme stress and adversity.
When all this was thrown at these Stoics, they didn’t freeze. They didn’t despair. They found confidence in their training. They broke their very big and very complex problems down into smaller, more manageable pieces. They kept going. They stayed true. They fought. They thought about people other than themselves.
No one can tell you what the next few months will bring you. It could be surprisingly good news. Or it could be worse news than we can even conceive of right now. All that we can know for sure—all that is in our control—is what we bring to what life brings us. We can’t freeze up. We can’t fail our ideals. We must show up with courage. We must get serious. We must be our best selves.
History demands it. Our fellow citizens need it. Your philosophy has trained you for it.
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