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098 - On Counting On Chance - Moral Letters for Modern Times

The external world provides the canvas on which our lives play out, but we provide both color and picture.
098 - On Counting On Chance - Moral Letters for Modern Times

The only thing you can count on is that you cannot count on chance. For once, Deuteros, I have delivered to you the conclusion at the start of my missive. I take a chance that you will read further, for you can learn nothing more profound beyond what I have just written. But if you decide to stay with me for a little while, perhaps I can explain why I think this and, equally as important, what it means for you.

If you build your peace of mind on the foundation of your mind, then it is yours for so long as you have your wits about you. The gifts of nature and of Fortune are not ours to command. This we know from cool intellect and hot experience. If you stake your happiness on external things, you are tying it to matters outside your control. This does not mean that you cannot take happiness from external things, but only if your happiness does not depend on them.

Furthermore, we make errors in judgment about external things. The external world provides the canvas on which our lives play out, but we provide both color and picture. A foolish person determined to make themselves unhappy can sulk amidst splendor and cry bitter tears of deprivation though they lack no material thing. They can take good Fortune unremarked and curse their luck for not getting more.

A wise person takes what is given and builds it into the greatest good: in privation they find endurance, in abundance they find moderation; when confronted with obstacles, they see opportunities to overcome. Though the future is uncertain, they are not uncertain in their minds, for they know they will deal with all that comes. And bad luck is no bad thing, because they have prepared themselves for worse. “Is this all I have to contend with?” they will say with a smile, “I was expecting much worse.”

Left unchecked, our natures turn to worry about the unknown. But does it make any sense to make yourself unhappy now because you may be unhappy in the future? Channel your natural uncertainty by guiding your thoughts to the worst that can happen, so you are ready for whatever happens. You need not disturb your peace by contemplating all the ways your luck can turn for the worse. Rather, build your confidence in your own resilience and by remembering that you can endure and overcome any situation. Your well-ordered mind cannot be taken from you against your will.

All that we value: property, relationships, life itself, is of a temporary nature. We may lose a friend or lose a treasured possession, but we need not lose them from memory. We enjoyed them for only moments it seems. Let us enjoy them permanently in our minds. We can lose what we have, but we can never lose what we have had. Regret is the thief of appreciation, my dear Deuteros. Protect your mind from it as carefully as you would guard your password vault!

If you doubt that you can overcome any obstacle, take comfort not only from all that you have already achieved but also the good examples you can see around us. The courageous acts in the face of great danger. The generous gifts of time and money given freely by others to ease the burdens of many. The patient teacher who never stops trying to light the spark in eager young minds. Do you think these ordinary heroes never knew doubt? Do you think they sprang from different stock than the rest of the human race?

The seeds of greatness are within us at all times. In fact they are never more than a single deed away from springing into being. For all that chance toys with us and seems to thwart our plans, it also gives us unexpected moments to rise above the ordinary. It is our circumstances that provide us the opportunities, and it is our choice to do great things. I have no doubt that you will choose wisely when your opportunities arise.

Be well.

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