Daily Touch of Inspirations

September 24th: It could happen to you

Ryan Holiday, The 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living

Being unexpected adds to the weight of a disaster, and being a surprise has never failed to increase a person's pain. For that reason, nothing should ever be unexpected by us. Our minds should be sent out in advance to all things and we shouldn't just consider the normal course of things, but what could actually happen. For is there anything in life that Fortune won't knock off its high horse if it pleases her? — Seneca, Moral Letters, 91.3a-4

In the year 64, during the reign of Nero, a fire tore through the city of Rome. The French city of Lyons sent a large sum of money to aid the victims. The next year the citizens of Lyons were suddenly struck by a tragic fire of their own, prompting Nero to send an equal sum to its victims. As Seneca wrote about the event to a friend in one of his letters, he must have been struck by the poetry — one city helping another, only to be struck by similar disaster not long after.

How often does that happen to us? We comfort a friend during a breakup, only to be surprised when our own relationship ends. We must prepare in our minds for the possibility of extreme reversals of fate. The next time you make a donation to charity, don't just think about the good turn you're doing, but take a moment to consider that one day you may need to receive charity yourself.

As far as we know, Seneca truly lived these words. Just a year or so after writing this letter, he was falsely accused of plotting against Nero. The price? Seneca was sentenced to commit suicide. As the historian Tacitus relates the scene, Seneca's closest friends wept and protested the verdict. "Where," Seneca asked them repeatedly, "are your maxims of philosophy, or the preparations of so many years' study against evils to come? Who knew not Nero's cruelty?" That is: he knew it could happen to him too, and so he was prepared for it.

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom Perseverance and Art of Living

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