The Philosophy of a Coronavirus

It didn’t take long, did it? Coronavirus is now officially a very big deal.

Well, I’m not going to come at you with my normal stoic quotes about how if we just get on with our normal lives it can’t affect us… because that’s not true. It would be trite. This thing can affect you, and it well might. It’s just something to be accepted at this point. The disruption that has already begun is going to get worse before it gets better.

But I’ll be damned if I’m not going to try and offer a positive perspective. And as I walked home from getting my hair cut earlier I found one. No, it doesn’t make the virus or the disruption go away, and no, it doesn’t replace the need for pro-active steps to prevent the spread and minimise fallout. But it might help.

What the immensity and seriousness of the coronavirus situation goes to show is how piddly and of zero consequence everything we ordinarily worry about is. Because how often do things of this size happen – things that cause this much global disruption? Almost never. And yet how often do we fear that they are about to? Constantly.

We are conditioned – by the media, by the state, by one another – to live in fear of what could be around the corner. To panic when the wind changes. To sweat when the phone rings. This chronic, fueled-by-cortisol state is the regular mode of existence for most of the world’s population. And yet we’re almost always completely wrong in our predictions of doom.

Panic and worry can accomplish nothing that rational thought cannot accomplish both more safely and more effectively.

But sometimes, it takes a global pandemic to make you wake up to that reality and appreciate just how fine almost everything is almost all the time.

“The pragmatist can’t worry about every possible outcome in advance. Think about it. Best case scenario — if the news turns out to be better than expected, all this time was wasted with needless fear. Worst case scenario — we were miserable for extra time, by choice. And what better use could you make of that time? A day that could be your last — you want to spend it in worry? In what other area could you make some progress while others might be sitting on the edges of their seat, passively awaiting some fate? Let the news come when it does. Be too busy to care.” 

Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman – “The Daily Stoic”

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