Right now, this feels like an unprecedented crisis. Nearly a million people have died worldwide from a virus for which there may or may not be a vaccine depending on who you ask. In the midst of this pandemic, the Russians poisoned another opposition leader, the Chinese are threatening Taiwan again, Americans are at each other’s throats in the run up to what many believe is the most consequential election in American history since, well, the Civil War, and the global economy has slowed to a crawl while the stock market continues to hit new seemingly inexplicable highs. Nobody really knows what’s going on. Nobody trusts anybody. Nobody knows who to believe. And both lives and livelihoods are hanging in the balance.
It’s a nightmare. Will we ever survive this?
Well, one place to find an answer is to look to the past. Marcus Aurelius endured 15 years of the Antonine Plague. It was worse than anything we are experiencing now, and though he eventually succumbed to it, Rome survived for hundreds of years more. The greatest achievements of humankind still lay in the future. Wendell’s, the mint who manufactures the challenge coins we sell in the Daily Stoic store, opened for business in 1882. There have been difficult moments in its 130+ years in business, but it has survived two world wars, plus the Cold War, and 9/11. It stayed in business through the Spanish influenza and the 1957 flu pandemic. The building where Daily Stoic’s HQ is located, on Main Street in Bastrop, Texas, dates to roughly the same period, which means it endured through the Panic of 1907, the Great Depression, the Energy Crisis of the 1970s, the crash of 1987, the Tech Bubble and more recently, the Great Recession. It also survived a fire, bankruptcies, divorces, mistakes and disagreements.
That’s not to say any of those crises were easy. Lives were lost. Jobs were lost. Families were torn apart. There was pain, anxiety, fear, frustration. It’s sad to think about. But there is also something uplifting, even inspiring in it too: We kept going. We pushed through. We endured.
That’s what we humans do. We keep going. We survive. When Marcus looked at the past and cataloged the same things happening over and over again, he was making the same observation. He was reminding himself that life is remarkably resilient and persistent, that much of what seems overwhelming in the moment will eventually blend in with ordinary history.
The same will be true of this pandemic and these trying, divisive times. They will recede into the past. They will become a footnote in your life. Because the best days may still lay ahead… especially if we commit to making them so.