Despise all the gifts of chance

The old Stoic writer Seneca was very concerned with making sure noble young men (well it was men in that society) understood that the best thing you could do was accept whatever happens. He also pointed out that everything comes to an end, and if you were to die before the end of everything, well so what? You’ve only stolen a march on the inevitable death of everything by a small measure.

Your privilege and power, such as it is, comes from chance. You may have been awake enough to grasp opportunities, or work to get entrance to places where there were such opportunities, but a slightly different fall of the dice could have changed things a great deal. This is one of the reasons the massively rich were so keen to pretend they’d earned their wealth. The internet billionaire who had the funds to create something obvious right at the beginning of buying and selling sold his company and became fabulously rich. But what was special about him? There could have been, indeed there were, several companies doing the same thing. It just happened that his organisation was picked to be bought by the people with deep pockets because of the series of accidents that led to it being in the right place at the right time.

Being in the right place at the right time is pure luck. You might have worked extremely hard to create something that was viable, but being at the forefront of whatever zeitgeist was compelling is luck. You might be clever, but lots of people are clever, you might have built something that was really effective, but lots of people have done that and failed to catch the wave and been wiped out by change. The truly grounded person understands this and shares what they can whenever they can. A truly compassionate person knows how little they have was under their control. The idea of a grand narrative that is tied to some quasi-religious destiny is so much horse shit. As one of the more humble billionaires said, there’s only a story when you look backwards.

The person in the wheelchair that can’t get up the stairs. The person who needs state assistance just to have any kind of a decent life. The person with the mental health problem that stops them doing as much as they could. You are all these people, and they are you. These are the other gifts of chance, conditions that blind you with pain and put you in need of care and love. Without compassion, without this understanding, we are all lost.

There is no they, there is only us.

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