Seneca elaborates on the topic of adversity, which is a challenge that must be faced in order to reach any desired goal. He also discusses how one should not avoid adversity but should instead welcome it with open arms and use it as an opportunity for growth.
“On Providence” is a novel by Seneca that discusses the topic of adversity. The book was written in the 1st century BC and it is an excellent read for anyone who wants to explore this topic.
True manliness is shown at times of tumult and war, according to the editor. Without hardship, a man becomes weak and boring. The Roman philosopher Seneca explores the relevance of misfortune in moulding a man’s life in his essay “On Providence.” According to Seneca, the Great Man can only be developed through difficulty. This was a concept that Theodore Roosevelt grasped. It was the foundation of his arduous life philosophy. My generation has seen extraordinary peace and prosperity. We must be challenged if we really want to know what we’re made of. Avoid the life of ignoble ease and embark on challenging duties if you want to be a great man.
Seneca’s book On Providence
Success comes to the average man, and even to common ability; yet, triumphing over the disasters and terrors of earthly existence is the only domain of great men. To be always joyful and to go through life without experiencing a mental anguish is to be ignorant of one half of nature. You are a brilliant guy, but how can I tell if you are denied the chance to demonstrate your value by Fortune? You have joined the Olympic games as a competitor, but no one else has; you get the crown, but not the triumph. You have my congratulations – not as a heroic man, but as a consul or praetor; you have raised your status. “I judge you unfortunate because you have never been unfortunate; you have passed through life without an antagonist; no one will know what you can do, – not even yourself,” I may say to a good man if no more difficult circumstance has presented him with the opportunity to demonstrate the strength of his mind alone. For if a man is to know himself, he must be put to the test; no one knows what he is capable of until he tries. As a result, some men have willingly exposed themselves to haphazard catastrophe, seeking a chance to demonstrate their greatness when it was just a matter of passing into obscurity. Great men, I add, often revel in misfortune, as do valiant troops in Tiberius Caesar’s day, whining about a lack of entertainment. “How fair an age has gone away!” he said.
True value seeks out risk and considers its purpose rather than what it may have to endure, since even suffering is a part of its splendor. Warriors take pride in their wounds and revel in the blood spilt by the lucky. Those who return from war unharmed may have battled as well as those who return with a wound, but the man who returns with a wound is held in more respect. God, I believe, favors people who will accomplish the greatest possible virtue whenever he provides them with the resources to do a daring and heroic act, and in order to do so, they must face some adversity in life. You get to know a pilot in a storm and a soldier on the front lines of war. How can I tell what kind of soul you’ll have if you’re surrounded by wealth? How can I know with what courage you will confront dishonor, bad renown, and public hostility if you reach old age surrounded by acclaim, – if an irresistible popularity follows you and stems from a particular leaning of men’s minds? How can I tell how well you’d handle the loss of children if I see all the children you’ve fathered all around you? I’ve overheard you providing people comfort. I may have seen your actual character if you had been presenting it to yourself, if you had been encouraging yourself not to mourn. Do not, I entreat you, be afraid of the things that the eternal gods apply to our souls like spurs, as it were. Virtue sees disaster as an opportunity. Those who are dulled by an excess of good fortune, who slumber, as it were, in dead stillness upon a tranquil sea, may well be called unhappy; whatever occurs to them will come as a change.
The inexperienced endure the brunt of fate’s wrath; the yoke is heavy on the sensitive neck. The notion of a wound makes the new recruit pale, but the veteran is unfazed by his own blood, knowing that success has frequently come at a cost of blood. God hardens, evaluates, and disciplines those whom he approves and loves in the same way. Those, on the other hand, whom he seems to favor, whom he appears to spare, he is keeping soft against future calamities. Because you are mistaken if you believe that no one is immune to illness. Even those who have flourished for a long time will get their part at some point; those who seem to have been let free have just been reprieved. Why does God punish the finest persons with sickness, sadness, or some other misfortune? For the same reason that in the army, the bravest troops are given to the most dangerous missions; a general sends a selected soldier to surprise the enemy with a night assault, reconnoitre the path, or dislodge a garrison. “My commander has done me a bad turn,” none of these guys will remark as they go, but rather, “He has given me a praise.” “God has judged us worthy instruments of his purpose to learn how much human nature can bear,” all those called to suffer what would make cowards and poltroons cry, may say.
Escape luxury, flee enfeebling good fortune, from which men’s heads get sodden, and if nothing intervenes to remind them of their common lot, they fall, as it were, into an endless drunken stupor. If he is brushed by a gentle breeze, the man who has always had glazed windows to shield him from a drought, whose feet have been kept warm by hot applications renewed from time to time, whose dining-halls have been tempered by hot air passing beneath the floor and circulating around the walls, will be in grave danger. While all excesses are harmful, unrestricted good fortune is the most deadly. It stimulates the brain, arouses irrational fantasies in the mind, and obscures the line between lie and truth in a thick fog. Wouldn’t it be preferable, with virtue’s assistance, to suffer unending poor fortune rather than be bursting at the seams with infinite and immoderate blessings? Starvation causes death slowly, whereas feasting causes men to burst.
As a result, in the case of virtuous men, the gods use the same rule that instructors apply to their students: they demand the most effort from those in whom they have the most faith. Do you think the Lacedaemonians despise their offspring when they put them to the test by publicly whipping them? Their own dads exhort them to heroically bear the whippings and to continue subjecting their damaged bodies to additional wounds, even if they are disfigured and half-dead. Why is it odd, therefore, that God punishes great spirits harshly? There is no such thing as a moderate demonstration of goodness. Let us suffer it if Fortune lashes and torns us; it is not cruelty, but a combat, and the more we participate in it, the stronger we will become. The body’s most tenacious member is the one that is constantly in use. We should give ourselves to Fortune in order to be toughened by her while we struggle with her. She’ll gradually turn us into a match for herself. When you’ve been exposed to danger before, you’ll develop a dislike for it. So a sailor’s body is tough from the sea, a farmer’s hands are calloused, a soldier’s muscles are strong enough to throw weapons, and a runner’s legs are quick. His most devoted member in each is the one he has exercised. The mind acquires disdain for the endurance of misfortunes by enduring them; you will see what this may do in our own situation if you notice how much the poor and, as a result of their want, more strong, secure by toil.
Stoics.org is the source for this information.
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Seneca is a philosopher and author who wrote on topics such as the nature of good, virtue, and happiness. He believed that adversity can be an opportunity for growth. Cicero was a Roman statesman and orator who lived during the time of the Roman Empire. Reference: cicero and seneca.
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