WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

A Stoic’s guide to the coronavirus crisis

Zeno of Citium, Stoicism’s daddy

When I find myself in times of trouble …

No, no Mother Mary for me. Instead, I call upon my dudes, the Stoics—Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Lucretius, et al.—and try to step back from the emotional front lines. Stoics confronted emotion with reason, preferring a “shit happens” approach rather than running around like Chicken Little. Maybe the sky is falling, but hey—we’ve had a good run, no?

Stoics are always aware that they might well die today, and they make themselves think about that. The result is that you’re goddamn happy to be alive. What a treat! And so as I sit here in my house, with the hard rain a-fallin’ just like Dylan said, I’m grateful that my wife and I are currently healthy and that we live a life that pretty much keeps us out of the viral petri dish. I’ve also made myself think about some “what-ifs” that non-Stoics might find terrifying.

Q: What if I get the virus and die?
A: I’m dead. I had a good run, no?

Q: What if the stock market crash destroys my retirement funding?
A: I won’t retire.

Q: What if there’s no toilet paper available for weeks?
A: We’ll pretend it’s 1750 and do whatever the hell they did.

Q: What did they do?
A: Per Listverse: “The rich might have had the luxury to wipe themselves with strips of linen. The poor used old rags, moss, leaves and good old trusty hand! Even the Ancient Romans fared better – they used cloth on a stick which was dipped in a bucket of water!”

So, you see, getting through the COVID-19 crisis is really just a matter of adjusting your mental attitude. Stoicism can help, especially if you have no problem constantly imagining your own death and finding your happiness (“virtue” if you want to be a Stoic stickler about it) in the smallest things, such as actually snagging the last four-pack of Cottonelle at Target.


Photo credit Paolo Monti – Available in the BEIC digital library and uploaded in partnership with BEIC Foundation.The image comes from the Fondo Paolo Monti, owned by BEIC and located in the Civico Archivio Fotografico of Milan., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48067347.

3 comments on “A Stoic’s guide to the coronavirus crisis

  1. Sha'Tara
    March 16, 2020

    My sediments exactly!

  2. pinklightsabre
    March 16, 2020

    Yeah my cat does this thing where she gets on her haunches and kind of scoots, you know.

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This entry was posted on March 16, 2020 by in Et alia and tagged , .
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