No one is untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the tragic loss of life around the world, economic collapse and shortages of food and supplies, everyone is experiencing constant uncertainty and fear. While social distancing has quarantined millions in their homes, the lines between work and family life are blurred. Many feel that there is no escape or point of release.
As part of my daily discipline, I reach out to five people each day to discuss their perspective. One of these friends shared with me that they had taken a course on ethics years ago and, as part of the class, former prisoners of war shared their experiences and what helped them survive. World politics has changed dramatically since the 1960s, and one of the lecturers was Vice Admiral James Stockdale, who spent seven years as a prisoner of war. In his paper, “COURAGE UNDER FIRE: Testing Epictetus’s Doctrines in a Laboratory of Human Behavior,” Admiral Stockdale credits Stoic philosophy to his survival in prison. Stockdale says, “I think it was obvious to my close friends, and certainly to me, that I was a changed man and, I have to say, a better man for my introduction to philosophy and especially to Epictetus.” Prior to his imprisonment, Stockdale had studied the Greek philosopher Epictetus under Philip Rhinelander, who was then dean of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University.
Suffering is not new. As Admiral Stockdale points out in his paper, Epictetus shared his remarks to his students in Necropolis, Greece 2,000 years ago. Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, it may be worth reviewing some of the basic tenets of the Stoic philosophy.
At the center of the Stoic philosophy is the need to objectively understand what you have control of and what you do not. The idea is to do your best to apply all your abilities to things which are under your control and accept that which you have no control over. As Stockdale says, “Work with what you have control of and you’ll have your hands full.” There is much more to the philosophy, and this YouTube video from Philosophies for Life provides a good overview in 15 minutes.
In this COVID pandemic, many are certainly overwhelmed by what they do not have control over. Stoic philosophy would advocate that we love and support each other, we share our energy and our material items with others, and we use our time to improve ourselves morally, mentally and physically.
Cambium Networks as a company has many great strengths that we are sharing. High-speed wireless connectivity does make a dramatic difference for aid agencies, first responders, people working from home and people in need. We are glad to partner with disaster relief organizations like Disaster Tech Lab, Information Technology Disaster Resource Center (ITDRC) and many others who have been recognized with our Connectivity Hero Awards. These actions are under our control, and we choose to use our strengths to provide wireless connectivity solutions that work reliably and improve life for others. Regardless of things we cannot control, like COVID, we will persist in our work. It is who we are.