January 16th: Divine Providence and the Greatest “Devil” of Them All.
Sometimes I am amazed at “divine” serendipity. Today, when I opened The Daily Stoic, I came by happenstance to the reading for February 7th. The topic was fear.
In terms of things going on in life right now — particularly at the national level — it really hit the nail on the head. I’ll share with you both the quote and the authors’ comments since they are so good. I hope you’ll enjoy them and find advice in them that I often find quite difficult to take.
“Many are harmed by fear itself, and many may have come to their fate by dreading fate.” — Seneca, Oedipus, 992
“‘Only the paranoid survive,’ Andy Grove, a former CEO of Intel, famously said. It might be true. But we also know that the paranoid often destroy themselves quicker and more spectacularly than any enemy. Seneca, with his access and insight into the most powerful elite in Rome, would have seen this dynamic play out quite vividly. The emperor Nero, the student whose excesses Seneca tried to curb, was a fine example of this simple but devastating truth.
The combination of power and fear can be deadly. A leader, convinced that he might be betrayed, acts first and betrays others first. Afraid that he’s not well liked, he works so hard to get others to like him that he has the opposite effect. Convinced of mismanagement, he micromanages and becomes the source of the mismanagement. And on and on — the things we fear or dread, we blindly inflict on ourselves.
The next time you are afraid of some supposedly disastrous outcome, remember that if you don’t control your impulses, if you lose your self-control, you may be the very source of the disaster you so fear. It has happened to smarter and more powerful and more successful people. It can happen to us, too.” — Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman in The Daily Stoic.
As much as I’d like to deny it, this fault has manifested itself in my life with disturbing frequency. I perceive, I worry, I imagine, I project into the future. Then to ward off what seems like a certain and devastating event, I misjudge and act foolishly, undermining myself and hurting others. Afterward, I look back and tear my hair out as I search for the causes of my downfall, expecting that the violation of some magnificent or abstruse principle has brought me to my knees. All too often the cause is quite simple: that old “devil,” fear.
FDR said during in 1933: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” But it was in that very year that fear brought to power one of the most devilish and destructive men of all time: Adolf Hitler. When you vote with fear — in the ballot box or with your actions — you vote for the Devil himself.
Questions for the day:
- How do you think fear has contributed to the present political difficulties in the US?
- How has fear impacted your life personally?
- And what have to done to successfully limit the influence of fear in your own life?
Happy writing. And down with fear!