Being Stoic In The Time Of Covid-19
For days, my world was still. Time seemed slow, the streets were empty, and there were no traces of the frenzy of my modern-day life. What’s more, the skies were crispy blue and clear in the morning and were filled with twinkling stars at night. Mother Earth was healing herself, and these past few days reminded me of the yesteryear and my days of innocence. But, behind the stillness, nostalgia, and zen, the threat of Covid-19 continues to terrorize the hearts of millions of people worldwide.
Truthfully, I thought that the world was going on a downward spiral.
Death, after all, lurked in every corner, and humanity seems to be on the edge of extinction.
Every day, hundreds or even thousands of people have been infected by Covid-19.
Even worse, the pandemic isn’t just a health issue, but it has become a massive pain in the ass for everyone.
Economies are crashing.
People everywhere are panicking.
Supermarkets had been ransacked.
Companies are shutting down.
Thousands are losing their jobs.
Yet, even with all the fiasco and puzzling crisis, I choose to remain calm and still.
After studying different philosophies and religions, I’ve discovered immunity to the adversities of life.
And, I’m using this immunity in our battle against Covid-19.
The real threat of Covid-19
Covid-19 is a weapon.
It’s a faceless and invisible enemy set to paralyzed the world in a variety of ways.
And, it’s a modern form of terrorism designed to instill fear in the hearts of millions of people across the world.
And, so far, Covid-19 is winning the battle.
Eventually, we will find a remedy to this ongoing onslaught, and the thousands will be cured. But, it has already done its damage and has accomplished its mission: to spread fear.
Everywhere I go, I smell fear and anxiety.
Gone are the harmonious neighborhoods and Filipino hospitality. The warm smiles are now covered in surgical masks. And the once-lively shops, restaurants, and malls have turned into empty spots.
Furthermore, people are racing or fighting one another to get their hands on masks and other sanitation supplies.
Covid-19 is exposing us.
Through fear, this global crisis is breaking down our facade and unmasking who we really are.
From crooked politicians to local officials, Covid-19 has revealed the true colors, motives, and traits of almost everyone.
Even worse, people are spiraling into anxiety because of this virus outbreak. As I’ve said, Covid-19 is winning the battle and is breaking us down physically and mentally.
The best solution to the Covid-19 pandemic
It’s natural and human-like to feel isolated and scared of Covid-19. I admit. I almost lost it when I heard the alarming news of the pandemic and the Manila lockdown.
Slowly, fear was entering the halls of my mind. Fortunately, though, I had an antidote and a support group who didn’t give the keys to each room.
In times of crisis, I always turn to the teachings to the dead, ancient Stoic philosophers, whom I call my support group.
And, these wise men have taught me the best philosophy when facing adversities: Stoicism.
You might be wondering what Stoicism is all about.
Well, Stoicism is essentially an ancient tool or practice for remaining calm in every crisis.
Founded in Athens by Zeno in the 3rd century BC, it is a deep framework of philosophy, useful in giving an ethical scaffold in adversities and everyday life.
Unlike us, practitioners and philosophers embraced the hard times.
Stoics saw their lives as training for tough moments and crises like Covid-19, where courage, resilience, and character are tested.
Valuable Stoic lessons that we can apply in the time of Covid-19
Fear is a lethal poison created by the mind, and Stoicism is the antidote that we all need in these dark moments. Even though I have just studied Stoicism, I have learned a few crucial Stoic lessons that can help us in these tough times.
Focus on what you can control and accept what you can’t
Stoicism, at its core, is all about separating what you can’t control from what you can.
The main goal of the Stoics is to pull their exertions, emotions, and energies on where they have a real impact.
There are tons of wondrous Stoic concepts, beneficial attitudes to learn, and zen habits to practice.
But, in the end, Stoics follow this commitment.
I have been practicing this Stoic lesson for the past 12 months. And, it has done wonders for my life.
It has let me savor the good moments as they last without having to forget that they will pass. Plus, negative feelings, thoughts, and events won’t disturb my inner peace, thanks to this Stoic practice.
As we battle Covid-19, having a calm and relaxed mind has become more vital than ever. Here are some of the things you can’t control in the time of Covid-19.
- Protective measures that the government, be it local or national, will take
- How many people will be infected by Covid-19
- Whether your company allows you to work at home or not
- If your city or town imposes a curfew
- Which items and goods are available in grocery stores when you shop
Unless you’re a politician or a global leader, there’s not much you can do or say in these things. I know it’s scary, but you shouldn’t panic if you can’t control these things. Instead, let these things give you some comfort as well as focus on what you really can control, like:
- Staying at home to prevent the disease from spreading
- Washing your hands thoroughly and often
- Avoiding face-to-face contact and handshakes
- Buying essentials at store, but not hogging items that others can use
- Advocating for a new work-from-policy for your company
- Spread positivity on social media
- Social distancing
For stoics, the character of a person is key. Stoics believe that at any time, fame, money, and health can be taken away from you, but there’s nothing that can take away your character.
That’s why you need to nurture your character.
And, a good and positive character is highly essential during a global crisis where everyone needs to pull it together.
That means you should not hoard scarce goods, like alcohol, soap, and masks.
And, it means not taking all the rice and food for yourself, leaving nothing for others.
Likewise, it means isolating yourself not only for your own good but to also protect others.
In Stoicism, humans are deemed as social animals created to support one another.
And guess what?
No one person can save the world from this pandemic. We are all instruments and links to one another’s salvation.
Practitioners and philosophers strive for peace and tranquility. They believe human minds are not only powerful but can create their own hell or heaven.
Marcus Aurelius – a Roman emperor and a Stoic – lived through a pandemic wiping out over half of the population.
Playwright and philosopher Seneca also dealt with a plethora of headaches and problems.
Even so, they remained courageous, focused, and calm in the face of adversity and carnage.
“We are often frightened than hurt, and we suffer more in the imagination than reality”, said Seneca.
Stoics also think rationally. They act on credible information and contemplate on the situation instead of rashly acting from a place of anxiety and panic.
As a practitioner of Stoicism, I’m also urging you to be extra careful of what opinions from the media you take in during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“ Other people’s views and troubles can be contagious. Don’t sabotage yourself by unwittingly adopting negative, unproductive attitudes through your associations with others”, said Epictetus.
Memento mori (Remember you must die)
We all get through life. Not everyone finishes this journey or “adventure” in the same condition. Some, along the way, lose their eyes, legs in altercations, or accidents.
And, others breeze through life without anything to worry about, except some bad-hair days.
But, we face the same eventuality: death.
Kings, peasants, presidents, stupid, rich, and poor – everyone dies.
As a matter of fact, we start dying from the moment we were born.
No one is exempted from this rule.
There’s no fountain of youth or elixir that can save you from the clutches of death.
We, modern people, don’t like the idea of death. For some, death is too morbid and depressing.
Our modern-day culture continues to brainwash us, suggesting that we can live and stay young forever.
In modern times, self-indulgence, instead of self-sacrifice, are our foundations for heroic myths.
But, for Stoics, death isn’t seen from a negative light. Instead, we view death as a motivator to live a virtuous and meaningful life.
And I have been living a fruitful and beautiful life.
Don’t get me wrong. The world is a beautiful place, and it would be an absolute downer if I die due to Covid-19.
But, I’m not afraid to face death.
I have lived my life to the fullest and have no regrets.
Amor fati (Love of fate)
“Do not seek for things to happen the way you want them to; rather, wish that what happens happen the way it happens: then you will be happy” – Epictetus.
The path to happiness may seem a nasty son of a bitch. Along the way, there are stumbling blocks and trials that will block your path to the land of bliss.
And, sometimes, we might not even reach our target destination.
But, in the end, you’ll find out that everything happens for a reason.
The Universe is an intricate and puzzling novel. And, sometimes, I feel like I’m the story’s lead character. But, like everyone on earth, I’m just one of the billion supporting players in one of its innumerable subplots.
And, if something sh*tty happens to me due to the Covid-19 outbreak, then there must be a purpose to it.
I have faced death 3 times, and I have survived every encounter.
I often wonder how on earth did I survive those moments.
Is there a reason why I made it?
Whenever I look at my daughter and the people I have inspired, I realize why death has yet to get his hands on me.
And, there’s a reason why this pandemic is happening.
Maybe, it is to give Mother Nature ample time to heal and recuperate.
Maybe, the outbreak and lockdown will remind us of the importance of our family.
Perhaps, it’s a reminder that our life on earth is short, and we have to savor every moment of it.
The world will never be the same after the Covid-19 pandemic. But, I believe there’s a silver lining to it, and soon the Universe will reveal his grand plan to us.
And, by the way, this Stoic lesson mirrors some of the teachings from other philosophies and religions.
In Islamic culture, Amor Fati is similar to the concept of Inshallah (if God wills).
And, for Christians, Amori Fati echoes the meaning of the song “Jesus, Take The Wheel”.
So, don’t let the Covid-19 pandemic destroy your morale! Even in the bleakest and darkest times, light exists if you trust the Universe, and have faith to find it.
That’s why I remain Stoic in the time of Covid-19. So, stay the f*ck home and be stoic.