Worse than war is the very fear of war.
Human history has never been free from adversity.
Events like war, the outbreak of plagues, and natural disasters
have caused dark times tainted by suffering and death.
Without a doubt, the ancient Stoics had their fair share of hardship.
And the difficulties of life are the core of their philosophies.
In hard times of great uncertainty,
many people start worrying about their stable, comfortable lives falling apart,
which is not only realistic; sometimes it’s inevitable.
The prospect of undergoing significant changes by the hands of misfortune,
not knowing where this change leads to, can be nerve-racking.
The Stoics had some profound things to say about dealing with external circumstances,
and how to live peacefully in the face of hardship and a troubled future.
Living in a society in which mass consumption is the norm,
and companies brainwash us into believing that we need their products to feel complete,
the distinction between what we truly need and what’s obsolete has become invisible.
In wealthy countries, people rarely concern themselves with their basic needs,
because these are a given.
But when hard times are knocking on our door, it’s time to create clarity,
decide what our priorities are, and learn to deal with uncertainty.
First of all, it’s essential to remember the dichotomy of control and
to be constantly aware of the fact that we only control our own actions.
According to Epictetus, things like our body, property, and reputation are not up to us.
埃皮克提图说 我们的身体 财产和名誉不由我们掌控
When the economy declines, for example, there isn’t much we can do about it.
We could lose a lot of money in the stock market, our jobs
and, thus, our income.
But from a Stoic point of view, by tying our happiness to these things in the first place,
we have already set ourselves up for disappointment.
As Epictetus stated and I quote:
The things in our control are by nature free, unrestrained, unhindered;
but those not in our control are weak, slavish, restrained, belonging to others.
而不能掌控虚弱 奴性 受限的和他人的所有物
Remember, then, that if you suppose that things which are slavish by nature are also free,
and that what belongs to others is your own,
then you will be hindered.
Now, the Stoics make a distinction between virtue, vice, and indifferents.
Virtue and vice correspond with our own actions.
For example: doing something for the benefit of the community,
like providing food to the poor and elderly, can be considered virtuous.
And trying to sell necessary goods for exorbitant prices can be considered a vice.
But indifferents are neither good or bad.
Examples of these are wealth, health, disease, weakness, and poverty.
例如财富 健康 疾病 虚弱和贫穷等都是中立因素
In short: indifferents are external circumstances that are beyond our control.
Now, why is this important?
Well, what characterizes difficult times is that these indifferences are threatened,
but not our ability to act.
Does that mean that we shouldn’t care about these external things at all?
Not necessarily, as we need at least some of them to survive.
However, when we are facing hard times, we might want to reconsider what we truly need
(basic needs like food and shelter for example)
so we can let go of the rest and stop worrying about them.
On the verge of economic collapse: how important is it really to possess all kinds of luxurious goods?
And to what extent does social status bring food to the table,
and protect us from an illness that doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor?
The more we are attached to these externals,
the more we are disturbed by the prospect of losing them.
The truth is that one can be perfectly happy and content without them.
Another essential Stoic lesson concerns death and suffering.
This may sound blunt, but, at the end of the day, death and suffering are part of nature.
听起来可能很直接 但日暮 死亡和磨难都只是自然的一部分
In the West, this is kind of taboo.
Death is seen as something negative, something tragic, and needs to be avoided at all costs.
And our comfortable lives minimize the amount of pain and suffering as much as possible.
But in hard times, we may want to consider that no one is entitled to a long and healthy life.
The history of our planet is a bloody one.
Animals and humans kill each other every day, children die at birth,
and the Black Death killed half of Europe’s population.
Why should we, modern humans, have the right to be spared by the ways of nature?
Memento mori means the remembrance of death.
By reminding ourselves that death and suffering are inescapable and inherent parts of life,
we might find some tranquility in the idea that
the worst things that can happen to us are actually quite natural.
Like Socrates, Seneca died peacefully.
Moreover, he saw relief in death.
Death is a release from and an end of all pains: beyond it our sufferings cannot extend:
it restores us to the peaceful rest in which we lay before we were born.
If anyone pities the dead, he ought also to pity those who have not been born.
A final piece of Stoic advice for finding a sense of calm in adversity
is to remind ourselves that we do not control our destiny.
We can influence the future by our actions in the present,
but the results are so dependent on external circumstances
that it’s impossible to guarantee a certain outcome.
The economy may fall apart, we may lose our jobs,
mass poverty may kick in, and huge numbers of people may pass away,
and no single worry can change that.
So why don’t we allow ourselves to just let go of the burden of the future,
knowing that whatever happens, we are in full control of the most powerful weapon available:
our own faculty.
If we can cope with death, we can also cope with life.
The good news is that everything is in flux, and born out of change,
like night and day, and fall and spring.
So, this too shall pass.
History has shown us that people have endured the hardest of times and that
this experience often made them more humble, more humane, and more grateful for life.
那些经历让他们更谦虚 更仁慈 对生活更加感恩
Thus, every outcome has its positive sides.
And regardless of what the future brings, no one takes away your power to make the best of it.
Thank you for watching.
Worse than war is the very fear of war.