As I have previously mentioned, I have been reading into the philosophy of stoicism, primarily through the works of Seneca, one of the leading proponents of this thought, and the commentary of contemporary philosopher Luc Ferry. Now I have crossed paths with a new book by Eric Weiner, “The Socrates Express: In Search of Life Lessons from Dead Philosophers”, just out this week. I admit I haven’t yet read it, and plan to do so, but I have read the author’s essay of commentary on its major themes revolving around how thinkers over the years have thought about and asked how we should respond when adversity turns our lives upside down. Example: as with a major pandemic.
Based on his comments, stoicism has had a major role to play in this thought play, having been given birth by Zeno in 301 BC after he was shipwrecked near Athens. Later, certain concepts were added by the teacher and former slave, Epictetus, and one in particular was of interest to me: “Change what you can, accept what you cannot”, a motto that has resonated with me during this critical time in our history because I have often leaned on it for peace of mind in its Christian adaptation in the 1930s by Reinhold Niebuhr, which we have come to know as the Serenity Prayer—“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things that should be changed, and wisdom to know the difference”. Lots to unpack here, and I look forward to Weiner’s book.