October 30, 2019 | Dear Eric, Both joy and suffering can yield the same sweet harvest if we know how to winnow the chaff from the grain. For there is good grain in misfortune. A very sweet grain, quite wholesome to consume or to just acquire or possess, or to even see even, or to simply know that it might exist—that alone is sufficient sometimes to take in the harvest, the knowledge that misfortune may bear us good fruit. Oh, but what then could not be a blessing if all is an opportunity to gain sustenance in life? This is the paradox of the Stoic mind; that all roads may lead to good. But maybe paradox is not the right word - though it seems a paradox from the more conventional perspective of good and bad fortune. How can both be one? It's quite easy, in fact. As perceived misfortune becomes good fortune when we learn to bear it well. We are blessed to be ill when we can maintain our balance by sitting down when dizzy. We make fever into something good when we close our eyes to wait in peace while our body rages in heat towards either death or recovery, and we wait quietly to accept either end. And pain even becomes like a teacher when our outward appearance and attitude displays sameness through pulsing ache and relief.
Each downward arc of life brings us into an arena more challenging and worthy than every upward blessing combined. For what opportunity is there is good fortune, but to enjoy and become more easily content? We recline still further into our warm pillows, resting in peace behind locked doors, buttressed and safe with full bank accounts, enjoying the lively chatter of those we love who now share our goodness and make of life as though this living were forever. There is not even the howling to contemplate from such secure and wondrous living. What a place! What a blessing!
I'm in no way suggesting we should seek suffering over peace and security. I'd never wish or want that for anyone. I'm only suggesting that all is not lost when things do eventually go wrong, as we might call it. For there is resolve in rising from the pillows, and there is attendance when the door lock is removed, and the chance for determination and hard work when the bank account is emptied, and introspection and reflection on what is true and important when the lively chatter has ceased, and we must face what may be real of both life and death. And understanding when the howling draws near and we've nothing to buttress a defense and must walk or stand alone out there in the wild. Now, it's time for a blessing of another sort. Now, it's time to stop counting our vain blessings of good and to instead see the blessing of goodness.
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