Bad Weather

Teles of Megara, a third century BCE cynic philosopher, said that life is like the weather: you cannot control it; you just have to be prepared to deal with it.

Look at sailors. They do not try to change the wind and sea; they learn to cope with them in their various moods. The weather is fair, the sea is calm: they bring the oars into service. The wind is with them; now they hoist full sail. The wind is against them; the sails are reefed and allowed to go slack. You should be just as attentive to conditions, just as ready to adjust. You’ve grown old, bid farewell to the things of your youth. And if you are sick, don’t try to lift and shoulder loads that only a person in their prime could handle. (Teles, On Self-Sufficiency 10, trans. Dobbin 2012:113)

One day, while I was busy complaining about the wet and cold, a friend said to me, “You know, James, there is no such thing as ‘bad weather’ — there is only a failure to dress appropriately.” Teles would surely agree with this advice: seeing as I have zero capacity to control things like axial tilt and atmospheric pressure, my malcontent is only indicative of my inability to accept my situation for what it is. Only a fool bewails the coldness of their feet while choosing to tromp shoeless in the snow.

Adapt as you would to the weather: when it’s fair you dress lightly, in the cold you bundle up. (Teles, On Self-Sufficiency 11, trans. Dobbin 2012:114)

Family life is like the weather. Business life is like the weather. Social life is life the weather. In all these domains, variables far beyond our purview coalesce into patterns, systems, and conditions we can barely predict, let alone regulate. Despite our best efforts to wish them away, storms emerge and wreak havoc on our nicely arranged power grids and infrastructure. To ignore them is to be like a meteorologist on the evening news who declares, “Good news, everyone: there is never going to be a hurricane or tornado ever again!” This is not optimism, it is insanity.

Bad weather is not bad — it is simply weather we have failed to adjust for.

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