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WRITE TEAM: Ancient Roman wisdom for the age of the coronavirus

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

This quote from Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher, is relevant now more than ever. Despite living almost 2,000 years ago, Marcus Aurelius provides insight into living better lives by seeing the power we naturally possess in governing ourselves.

The current global situation appears quite bleak. With continuous news on our televisions, computers, and phones, we are constantly bombarded with doom and gloom from the coronavirus epidemic. This quote can provide solace. These outside events on our television screens are mostly out of our control, so it is useless to worry about them. Instead, worry about what you CAN control – your mind, which is your own actions. During these stressful times it can be easy to take on the depressing atmosphere of the current global climate. Doing this is counterproductive because it hinders anything positive or good being generated. Gloom begets only more gloom. Marcus Aurelius suggests an alternative route.

Realize that you can change yourself, that you have power over your actions. Outside events are not in your power and therefore should not warrant the amount of worrying that is generally given to them. Instead, it is time to take advantage of this coronavirus situation as a time to self-reflect and work on yourself and your family. Many of us have been given extra free time due to not being able to go to work or the countless public events that have been canceled. Make this respite in our normally busy lives a blessing. The power over your mind can help you start a garden, make masks (which so many lovely people have been doing), or spend more time with the family in your homes (which can seem like a curse but is generally a blessing). Whatever goal you wished to accomplish, now is the time to start accomplishing it. You now have time.

Perhaps you always wanted to learn about a certain period in history or you always wanted to learn a new language, now you have the time and means to do it. In our internet age, anything can be learned online. At the same time, you can help a cause. Whether it be donating to the Community Food Basket of Ottawa or simply buying from a local restaurant, the power over your mind can do a lot of good for you and your community. So, in these strange times of the coronavirus, remember this Aurelian quote well. You have power, real power, over your mind. Stop worrying about outside events and focus on what you can control, which is yourself. I promise that you will find wonderfully productive things to do that will make you, your family, and your community better. Start searching and get to work. You are sovereign over your mind.

JAMES DURDAN works on the family farm in Grand Ridge, and enjoys writing about history's philosophers and how their enigmatic quotations relate to today's world. He can be reached at

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