Even in the best of times, there is still uncertainty. The things we take for granted go away. The health we once enjoyed could take a turn for the worse. Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, was once a wealthy merchant until one day all that wealth was lost at sea. He was ruined financially. How many people would be able to recover from such a catastrophe? How many have jumped out of a skyscraper window or taken their lives because they lost it all? What did Zeno do? He went on to build one of the most influential philosophies the world has ever known.
The world goes through cycles. We, with the attitudes of gods, think we can stop it. Really? We cannot even stop our fellow humans from setting events into motion whose waves sweep across generations and through the centuries. Good or bad, the bad being the ones we remember the most, these changes illicit a response from us. How do you respond when the winds of change begin to blow?
When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, others build windmills.
The Walls. Some will hunker down. They will put up the shutters and try their best to ride out the storm. They will prep for the doom to come going into their fallout shelters with their stockpiles of food. These are the ones that will isolate themselves from the rest of the world. The walls keep them protected on the inside but blinds them to what is on the outside.
The Windmills. By building a windmill, you look at the opportunities that the change brings. Humans are resilient. They can adapt. They can learn to operate within the parameters. Whether the change comes from a broken government or an angry Mother called Nature, they bravely face the obstacles ahead. There may no longer be any rainbows and sunshine in their near future, but they will keep forging ahead with the hope of a better tomorrow for them and the ones to come after them.
Everything involves a choice. Zeno could have said that life no longer held any meaning. He could have built a wall separating himself from the rest of humanity. But he chose something else. He chose to rebuild his life and along the way created a legacy spanning across the millennia. And like him, we choose whether to adapt to the changes before us or to isolate behind the walls. One results in a future for the generations to come. And the other, well, it just ends.
One of my closest friends told me once to break down the barriers that are preventing me from walking my path.
A boss, who I despised and thought incompetent, once told me to control only what is in my control. The rest is out of my hands.
A dear aunt stated that a person’s energy can be seen only if I took the time to look for it.
Through the years there have been those moments when a slice of wisdom passed through another’s lips and took hold within me. Moments that were collected over a lifetime causing me to stop what I was doing and allow the words to be written upon my soul. Moments that molded me into who I am today and who I want to be tomorrow.
It is those moments I seek out, that my very soul longs for. To be blessed by another person freely sharing their wisdom is a gift. It is those gifts that elevates an individual to new heights. As Emerson said, “The best effect of fine persons is felt after we leave their presence.” Long after the conversation has ended, the wisdom remains.
I have read countless books and articles, enjoyed many lectures and podcasts, and viewed numerous instructional videos. The time slips by in study as progress inches along. But can any of them compare to the one-on-one conversations that bring about a greater understanding and a deeper sense of knowledge? In an instant the third eye opens and one wakes to a new light. In an instant, clarity, whereas before only confusion from merely scratching the surface.
A single conversation with a wise man is better than ten years of study. –Chinese Proverb
Consider this Chinese proverb and how relates to all the virtues.
Prudence: Solomon said if you walk with the wise, you become wise (Proverbs 13:20). There is a power in having a mentor.
Temperance: We can make it a practice of having more meaningful conversations. We can spend less time talking about the weather and trivialities of current events.
Justice: This is the path of righteousness. Here we become better individuals and in turn improve the society around us.
Courage: To actively enter these conversations, we have to be bold. Not arrogant, but willing to expose our own inadequacies and learn from those farther along the path.
Faith: Can you see it? The destination up ahead? Visualize it and realize that you too can have this wisdom?
Hope: Dreams become reality, only if we pursue them and put in the work.
Charity: Freely they impart their knowledge to us. Freely we should do the same in return.
We can win in life through these virtues, and it starts with wisdom.