This was all pretty sudden, wasn’t it? The economy was chugging along. Life was going well. We had travel plans. We had work plans. We had things we were doing. We had a sense for what we’d do next.
And then… bam. Now, here we are.
You know what that is? It’s a reminder. It’s a reminder that Seneca—a man who experienced exile, illness, financial setbacks, and all sorts of other adversity—wrote about more than 2,000 years ago. He told us “never to trust prosperity, and always take full note of fortune’s habit of behaving just as she pleases, treating her as if she were actually going to do everything it is in her power to do.” His point was that events can change quickly, and that we have to be vigilant, particularly in good times, because vigilance is the first step towards preparation. “Whatever you have been expecting,” he said, “comes as less of a shock.”
The events of the last few weeks have been an expensive and merciless reminder of the truth of that advice. We ignored it at our peril, for too long, as humans often do. Fate is fickle. Reversals happen. Black Swans are real. Nothing is stable, change is the only constant. No one is so rich, so healthy, so strong or smart that they cannot be brought low. That is obvious to anyone looking around today. Yet we are likely, as things get better (which they inevitably will), to forget this fact if we’re not careful…and that is a waste of the pain we are experiencing right now.
The world is always teaching us. The question is whether we’re open to listening. The question is whether we’re ready to hear.
P.S. This was originally sent on March 23, 2019. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.