I teach philosophy and the classics so I tend to go back to the Greeks for inspiration. In the Greek myth of Pandora, the woes of the world are unleashed by Pandora's curiosity in opening a forbidden box. (Note: women get the blame a lot for the world's problems in myths.) She wonders what might be in the beautifully decorated wedding gift and decides to take a peek. Out fly illness, sorrow, death, all the problems that plague humankind to this day. She slams the top closed and only one thing remains inside: Hope. So we humans always have hope in the face of life's series of adversities — so goes the punch line of this myth.

What activates hope is resilience. Again and again we find ourselves battling the "slings and woes of outrageous fortune," but what motivates us is the conviction that things will get better and we can do something to make it so. We can pick ourselves up off the floor after the bad grade, failed relationship, poor job review … and try again. Like Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, we think to ourselves "Tomorrow is another day." Resilience helps us work with the challenges we face in our personal and professional lives where we recognize that we did not succeed at this relationship/job/recipe, but we brush off our wounded egos and turn towards the future.

Matthew Lipman, a philosopher who developed a creative approach to introducing philosophical thinking to children and young people, wrote in one of his stories about the cable and the chain. A young girl complains to her grandfather that she does not excel at anything and that she feels like a nobody, a failure. But he responds by asking her to consider the difference between a cable and a chain. The chain may be made up of gold links and each one is precious and amazing, but if one link breaks, the chain is gone. A cable has thin strands, none of which is particularly noteworthy, woven together such that if a strand tears, the cable can still hold strong. So, how does this connect to the theme of resilience? 

Sure, I would love to be a brilliant genius, a world-renown author, the perfect mother, but I am none of those things. So how should we cope in these dark moments where we falter and find ourselves lacking?

When I fail — which I do a lot — I find hope, reflect, and try again with a sense of my limits and my possibilities. "Know thyself" was the advice above the temple to Apollo at Delphi in ancient Greece. I realize that a failure or the experience of uncertain doubt in my abilities is like a strand of the cable snapping. But I, the cable, am still holding strong. I am a human being essentially imperfect but full of hope with the resilience to try again.

To know yourself is to recognize resilience as the power to change, the power to continue to hope and act in the world.

Resilence is:
… making up after a fight.

…Applying again to graduate school after five rejections.

…Rewriting that entire document that you lost when Microsoft Word froze.

…continuing to play the sport you love even if you did not make the top team.

…getting another pet after your beloved one has died.

…admitting you were wrong and asking for help.

After all, tomorrow is another day.



Wendy C. Turgeon teaches philosophy at St. Joseph's College-NY and is interested in philosophy of childhood, fairy tales, and aesthetics. She finds inspiration in Greek literature and philosophy almost every day. She make at least two mistakes everyday and hopes to improve next time.

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