It’s fitting that the story of Stoicism began with a catastrophe. On a merchant voyage between Phoenicia and Piraeus in the 3rd century BC, Zeno’s ship and all its cargo sank. Was it a terrible storm? Did jagged rocks tear their boat to pieces? Was it pirates or human error? No one knows. All we know is that by the end of it, Zeno was stranded somewhere in Athens, while his ship sat at the bottom of the sea.
And now, whether he wanted to or not, he had to start over. He could have resented this. He could have been bitter. Instead, he got to work. He assented to the reality, as the Stoics would say. You wouldn’t be reading this email if he hadn’t, because without it, Stoicism would not exist.
It’s not fun to have to start over. Nobody wants to rebuild. Or to come home to a house with two feet of standing water in it. Or a bankruptcy to dig themselves out of. But we don’t have a choice. Nor do we know where it will lead. Who knows, it could be for the best.
“Well done,” Zeno would later say to Fortune, “to drive me thus to philosophy!” “I made a prosperous voyage when I suffered a shipwreck,” he said.
You didn’t choose this. You didn’t want this. It’s not your fault. And yet, here it is. Congratulations. Get to work.