Adages, if you abide by them, can reduce life to a binary affair.
However, some are more sweeping and one that has been integral to my life, and has served me well, comes from the ancient Roman thinker, Philo of Alexandria.
He said: ``Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
There is some debate about the actual wording and who said it, but whatever, it works for me and in these unusual and trying times it appears a philosophy with broad benefits.
Science will play a key role in the navigation of this crisis, but there is something we need beyond that; something more fundamental at a daily, moment-by-moment human level — and that’s kindness.
Yes, we all need kindness, we all need indications, either through actions or words, that others understand that each of us is fighting Philo’s `hard battle'.
Obviously that battle is different for most and for some it is not really a battle at all, just a different set of circumstances, but for many that hard battle is relentless and is only worsened by COVID-19.
And that hard battle is just anther chapter in a story, a story that is our lives.
Like all stories, our lives have a beginning, a middle, an end and so for some the COVID-19 crisis is a rather early chapter, for some it’s in the middle and for many they are in the latter pages, but wherever you are in “the book”, these are unquestionably different and most certainly challenging times.
The idea of stories is intriguing for they can either make us feel much better or, equally, much worse.
This newspaper trades in stories and it appears in recent times a particular effort has been made to write about what might be termed “good news” stories; stories about people, events and other happenings that are uplifting, positive and by implication help us see and understand that we live in a resourceful and resilient community.
Stories were deeply considered in Shepparton, and throughout Australia, recently with the final judging of the Furphy Literary Award, a short story competition that is the richest in Australia.
Such stories take us “somewhere else”, they give us relief, even momentary, from life’s hard battles, they excite us, they make us sad, happy and sometimes deliriously so, they ignite magic and often fire the idea that the impossible may just be possible.
Recently, a friend concerned that a misspelled first name suggested I was stressed, sent me a quote from the founder of the Purple Buddha Project, Forrest Curran, who said: “Tomorrow, today will be yesterday, and tomorrow will be today.”
I wasn’t stressed, rather confused by a stream of dates and events, but stress is a reality for many amid the chaos of the present COVID-19 crisis, suggesting all of us should take and apply Philo’s advice: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
● Rob McLean is a former News editor.