Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong – these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.
Winston Churchill, Speech, House of Commons, May 2, 1935
Churchill was looking at the patterns of history and making a point about his own times. He could have been commenting on modern crises such as global warming, ocean acidification, over-use of pesticides, plastic pollution, Brexit, Palestine and on and on. It seems to be in the nature of humanity that only extreme crisis forces the needed change. We are not (yet), in that sense, a collectively rational species.
Picture of dark storm clouds rolling in at the Pawnee Buttes National Grasslands, Wyoming, by MichaelKirsh via Wikimedia Commons
These wise words are by Roman Emperor/ philosopher Marcus Aurelius. We have a natural inclination to reject the emergence of difficult circumstances or events that do not appear to be amenable, but there is usually a lesson and opportunity for growth.
“True understanding is to see the events of life in this way:
‘You are here for my benefit, though rumour paints you otherwise.’
And everything is turned to one’s advantage when he greets a situation like this:
You are the very thing I was looking for.
Truly whatever arises in life is the right material to bring about your growth and the growth of those around you.
This, in a word, is art — and this art called ‘life’ is a practice suitable to both men and gods.
Everything contains some special purpose and a hidden blessing;
what then could be strange or arduous when all of life is here to greet you like an old and faithful friend?”
Quoted by Arianna Huffington in her book Thrive.
Statue of young Marcus Aurelius from Capitoline Museums, via Wikimedia Commons.