Do You Know How To Wait?

In the ancient world, as you can imagine, there was so much waiting. It took weeks or months for mail to arrive. It took weeks or months to travel, even relatively short distances. Imagine you’re Seneca and you come down with tuberculosis. Your doctor tells you that you have to travel to Egypt to recuperate in a different climate. He’s not talking about a few days… Seneca was gone for up to 10 years. 10 years of waiting, not in control, of patience and powerlessness. 

History is full of moments like that, moments just like the one we’re in now. Shakespeare waited out a plague. So did Isaac Newton. The poet John Keats spent 10 days in a harbor, waiting out a typhus epidemic. Think of the soldiers who spent years being posted overseas. Think about the ones who spent years recovering from their wounds.

Life is full of waiting. It’s filled with moments of forced stillness. We’re delusional to think we’ll be exempted from this—that things are going to happen at our pace and on our terms. So these few months we’ve spent feel like an eternity. Yeah, so? Are you so incapable of that Stoic virtue of self-discipline and temperance that you’re going to make it worse by rushing into things? Sure, you need to work, you need to go to the doctor—and there’s a way to do those things intelligently. But do you really need to go golfing? You can’t cook for yourself? You can’t go without crowding into a public movie theater with a bunch of idiots and endanger yourself, them, and everyone else?

C’mon. We don’t control what happens, we control how we respond. That’s what this philosophy is. Courage, yes that’s a virtue, but sometimes it takes courage to not do things. Wisdom is virtue too. And justice and moderation. We need those things from you, today and always. We need you to figure out how to wait. How to be patient. How to be smart. 

…how to be still.

P.S. This was originally sent on May 21, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism. 

Get Your Free DAILY STOIC Starter Pack

Includes an introduction to Stoicism, best books to start with, Stoic exercises and much more!

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.