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You Can Use This, You Know.

Daily Stoic Emails

No one would have chosen this. No one is that crazy. To have your life disrupted. To be out of work. To lose money or people you love. To see institutions taxed beyond their capacities. To see people scared or frustrated. 

But this pandemic is a classic “there it is” situation. It’s here. It happened. Now what?

We should think about the advice from the writer Jorge Luis Borges:

A writer — and, I believe, generally all persons — must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.

You have the power to do this. We all do. We don’t have the power to start the v-shaped economic recovery. We don’t have the power to create more ventilators or to magically fix the regulatory and government agencies that failed to stop or respond properly to this crisis. We lack, tragically, the power to resuscitate the victims who this virus has claimed. 

To decide to use this as raw material? To learn from it? To transform it? To find an opportunity within it? Yes, that remains in our power. Everything is material. We can use it all. Just as issues we had with our parents become lessons that we teach our children, or an injury that lays us up in bed becomes a reason to reflect on where our life is going, or a problem at work inspires us to invent a new product and strike out on our own, so too can this crisis be something that allows us to move forward or grow. 

A great artist uses what happens to them, Borges said. A strong stomach, Marcus Aurelius said, digests what it eats. A blazing fire makes flame and brightness out of everything that is thrown into it. That can happen here too, if you choose, if you seize the power that you have. Be the painter of your own picture, the sculptor of your own life.

It’s the only way forward. It’s the only thing you can do.

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