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Pandemic Patience: What we can learn from a POW and a Roman slave-turned-philosopher

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Epicteti Enchiridion Latinis versibus adumbratum %28Oxford 1715%29 frontispiece.
Epicteti Enchiridion Latinis versibus adumbratum %28Oxford 1715%29 frontispiece.
(Image by (From Wikimedia) Frontispiece drawn by “Sonnem.” or “Sonnern.” (?, left bottom corner) and engraved by “MB” (bottom right corner). The engraver is Michael Burghers ([1]). Image scanned by the John Adams Library at the Boston Public Library. I, Author: See Source)
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After being shot down, Navy Pilot Stockdale parachuted down to North Vietnam whispering to himself, “5 years down there, leaving the world of technology and entering the world of Epictetus,' a 1st century crippled Roman-slave-turned-Stoic-philosopher who taught that we have separate files in our mind — 1 file for “things that are within his power” and a 2nd file for “things that are beyond his power,” which things will doom him to “fear and anxiety” if he worries about them, Stockdale said in a speech in 1993. This is the key of Stoicism, the philosophy associated with Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus and Seneca — and the life force that kept Stockdale alive and sane as POW.

Our happiness lies in focusing on what we can control and taking the rest as it comes, said Massimo Pigliucci, a philosophy professor at the City College of New York, author of “How To Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.”

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