Philosophy Friday: Lemons To Lemonade
In August 2019, I fell off a motorbike in northern India. I had broken my collarbone and five ribs. With my arm in a sling, I could no longer ride a motorbike. The accident had put an end to my tour of the Himalayas before it had properly started. The pain from the broken ribs was intense. It didn’t help that the painkillers from the local hospital didn’t make much of a difference.
Naturally, I felt a bit sorry for myself.
Luckily I had taken a book on the trip—an account of the life of Roman philosopher-king Marcus Aurelius.
I remembered reading a quote in the book about handling misfortune. Eagerly leafing through the book, I finally found it:
“It is my bad luck that this has happened to me.’ No, you should rather say: ‘It is my good luck that, although this has happened to me, I can bear it without pain, neither crushed by the present nor fearful of the future.’ Because such a thing could have happened to any man, but not every man could have borne it without pain. So why see more misfortune in the event than good fortune in your ability to bear it?”
Isn’t this quote incredibly inspiring? What a refreshing and unusual way of thinking of supposed misfortune!
When I read this passage, I felt immediately uplifted. Things are not so bad. And Yes, I can bear this discomfort. I realised it wasn’t that bad at all—a minor and uncomfortable injury at most. Many people experience much worse in their lives.
We can all use this quote from Marcus to turn lemons into lemonade.
It’s also good this has happened to you instead of someone else. Another person affected in the same way might have despaired and fallen apart. At least you are strong, right? It’s time to prove it to yourself. You took a hit for the team. You’re holding up your end – without complaining.
Bad things happen in life – it’s part of the deal. It’s helpful to have a positive attitude towards adversity.
As for me, I continued on the trip even though I couldn’t ride a motorbike. I sat in the passenger seat of the support vehicle and got to see outstanding scenes.
Back home in New Zealand, I got my shattered collarbone fixed with a metal bar and a set of bone screws. I don’t mind; it’s a permanent reminder of a great trip.