Look at all the stuff that happens around you. The neighbor whose house burns down. The friend who comes down with a rare disorder. The actor whose career suddenly ends. The rock solid marriage that ends in divorce. Your competitor who is bankrupted by a patent lawsuit. The previously peaceful country that descends into civil war, its desperate citizens pouring over its borders as refugees. No, don’t turn your head from these everyday tragedies. Look at them. Really look at them.
In one of his essays, Seneca lists the many misfortunes that he has observed over time: The wailing of his neighbors in mourning, friends who were killed in battle, ascendant political careers that ended in ignominy or exile. All these fates, he writes, were paraded in front of him, in the course of life. “Should I be surprised,” he said, “if the dangers that always have wandered about me should at some time reach me?”
The answer is no. What can happen to someone else can happen to you. Today. Tomorrow. In twenty years. Are you ready for that? Have you faced that possibility? Or are you still pretending that you’re special and exempt from Fortune?
Indeed, many of those same tragedies did happen to Seneca. He was exiled. He lost his child. He was accused of conspiring against the Emperor. And for the most part, he responded to these misfortunes with bravery and courage. Because he had prepared for them. Because he didn’t think he was being singled out. Because he’d watched the parade and knew it would demand he joins it eventually.
The same is true for you. Be ready.
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