How to Be Happy Despite Fate’s Fickle Ways.

I received some pretty rough news. I have a herniated disc and a possible fractured vertebra. The degenerated discs in my lower back are likely due to years of training, competing, and rough-housing with big boys on the mat. The fractured vertebra came from a recent “Hey, y’all, watch this,” moments.

I don’t know how long I will be out of training, but I am trying to focus on the positive. This may be a time to reflect on my martial arts journey and to give my body a rest.

In situations like mine, where it seems the hand of fate has dealt us a bad draw, we have two choices: Get mad, quibble, and lose sight of the big picture; or embrace the event as something we can’t control and move on with what is in our power.

Doing so might mean we let go of our emotional responses to such events, whether happy or sad.

I was first exposed to Boethius in a college English class when I had to read A Confederacy of Dunces. The book was funny and made for a good story, but I was more interested in getting to know the philosopher better.

Boethius was a 6th-century philosopher who wrote his masterpiece, The Consolation of Philosophy, while in prison awaiting execution for a false accusation.

As a way to cope, he engaged in an inner dialogue between himself and Philosophy, personified as a woman in his story. Initially, Boethius is beside himself over his situation until Philosophy explains that Fortune (the lady who controls the wheel of fate) is just exhibiting her normal behavior: constant change.

Later in the dialogue, Philosophy convinces Boethius that the wise person disregards Fortune’s fickle ways and focuses on things that don’t change, such as justice, temperance, moderation, and courage.

Let go of the things you can’t change or that don’t matter.

The Consolation of Philosophy states, “…If you wish to see the truth in undimmed light, choose the straight road, forsake joys and fear alike, put to flight vain hopes, and grant no place to grief. Where these distractions reign, the mind is clouded over and bound in chains.”

When we think all is lost, or circumstances inevitably change our lives, that is the time to remember that we can be happy despite it all.

Remember Viktor Frankl’s telling of his time in the concentration camps? He found meaning in the suffering by focusing on his dignity and his mortality.

Philosophy gave Boethius this great advice: “…Why, O Mortal men,” she said, “do you seek happiness, which lies within yourselves, outside of yourselves?”

According to this concept, you have the power to be happy if you choose to be.

It’s not what happens to us that matters, but how we react to it.

Boethius’s Philosophy said, “the gifts of Fortune by their instability cannot ever lead to happiness.”

I will be back on the mat in the future, healthier, and with a focus on taking better care of my body. Until then, remember to be happy in your circumstances.

A wise friend of mine said, “Just because you have a bad day, doesn’t mean you can’t have a good life.”

Photo Credit: Coëtivy Master (Henri de Vulcop?) (French, active about 1450 – 1485)
Philosophy Consoling Boethius and Fortune Turning the Wheel, about 1460–1470, Tempera colors, gold leaf, and gold paint on parchment
Leaf: 7.3 × 17 cm (2 7/8 × 6 11/16 in.), Ms. 42, leaf 1v (91.MS.11.1.verso)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. 42, leaf 1v

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5 thoughts on “How to Be Happy Despite Fate’s Fickle Ways.

  1. Pingback: Why Complicate Teaching?: What I Learned from my Students. | The Philosophical Fighter

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