Kiado-Ryu Karate

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Jun 22, 2020 - Feature of the Week

Mental Fortitude in the Modern Day

The year 2020 has been interesting, to say the least. We have seen a pandemic, a recession, and social tensions—long simmering under the surface—rise to the forefront of the world’s psyche.

Many have lost their livelihood. Too many have lost their lives. All of us have had our lives altered in ways we did not foresee only a few short months ago. Still, I consider myself exceptionally fortunate. While all of this has happened, I have kept my job, have been able to provide for my family, and I do not know anyone who has been sick.

As these trying times drag on, there is a quote on which I find myself reflecting. Two thousand years ago, Seneca wrote these words,

I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent—no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.

Seneca understood adversity. He was exiled to the island of Corsica under emperor Claudius. Later allowed to return to Rome, he became a tutor to the future emperor Nero. Seneca advised Nero during a reign fraught with corruption and depravity. Finally, Seneca was forced to take his own life for a crime he likely did not commit.

Most people understand that physical exercise is necessary to stay healthy and to thrive. Unfortunately, few seem to grasp that mental exercise is equally important. Ancient cultures understood this. From classical Greece and Rome to the ancient empires of India, China, and Japan, the most esteemed warriors were also scholars. The development of mental toughness was deemed equally important as physical vigor.

Based on my own observation of the world around me, I don’t feel that people today fully accept this. I see that mental health is being taken more seriously, but as with so many physical ailments, we place a disproportionate focus on treating the symptoms. As physical exercise can prevent a wide range of maladies, so too can mental exercise.

There is a simple Stoic exercise that I like to practice: premeditatio malorum. Put simply, it is the premeditation of the evils or troubles that might lie ahead.

What if I were one of the many unfortunate people in this economy to lose my job?

What if I, or a member of my family, becomes deathly ill?

We often think of physical strength as preparing us for the toils of life. We use it for mundane tasks such as gardening, tests of endurance such as marathons, or even defending ourselves if it comes to that.

Mental strength is equally important. We perhaps don’t give it much credence, toiling away at monotonous jobs or mindlessly consuming television, but it is necessary to be resilient in the face of adversity.

I hope and I pray that nothing befalls me, my family, or my friends. However, should anything happen, I want to be prepared for it. Contemplating ahead of time what troubles may come and how they can be handled may be the difference between pushing through and falling into despair.

Copyright © Christopher “Growler” Grau, 4th Dan, Kiado-Ryu Martial Arts