If there is anything redeeming about tragedies and natural disasters, it’s the good they reveal in people. Whether it’s the Cajun Navy rushing to rescue people in floods, firemen running into a burning building, or a brave person putting themselves in the line of fire to stop a mass shooting, the worst events also bring out the best in us. We still take care of our own, these events show us. Courage isn’t dead yet.
Marcus Aurelius reminded himself, and us, two thousand years ago that we are all made for each other. The Stoics talked repeatedly about the idea of the common good. To leave someone hanging, turning your heart to stone because there is so much pain and suffering in this world? That is to betray this philosophy.
Much of what happens in this world is outside of our control. We can’t stop a hurricane, obviously. But we do have the power to help our neighbor in the middle of one. We can’t help being scared, but we can decide to push through it—to speak up and defend someone who doesn’t look like us, to say, “Hey, not in my name” to policies that discriminate or persecute.
We take care of our own because we are all one. We are all part of the same sympatheia, as the Stoics called it—an interconnected cosmos. We are all our own part of the same large whole. We are cut from the same cloth, and breathe and think and live the same, no matter what superficial differences may appear to exist. Every one of the four Stoic virtues teaches us this, and demands we act accordingly.
Starting right now.