Resilience, or the ability to carry on under less than favorable conditions, will always matter. It is the grounds for which great literature and the seeds of heroes emerge from.
Today’s culture, however, has cheated our youth into believing that suffering and injustices are unfair rather than a part of the human condition.
But injustices and circumstances aren’t just a part of the human condition that can be eradicated with the right government policies, but rather opportunities for us to learn to overcome ourselves and to do what is called, “rising to the occasion.”
Why this should matter is important. Consider the staff of the period drama “Downton Abbey.” One of the most fascinating aspects of the class drama is the absolute pride and care that all of the staff have in their positions.
Rather than dwelling on the fact that they are not the Lord or Lady of the estate, they take pride in the parts they play, no matter how lowly, and the importance of their role in making the whole work.
They view with great seriousness their ability to be a part of a team where excellency is the end result through the mastery of daily vocational duties.
To be sure, there were some characters who chaffed at their circumstances, but it still did not diminish the pride they took in their work. And we could all learn a lesson from them.
There was also some surprising truths to emerge in the characters of the elite family and the staff for which they were responsible.
First, the family of the estate felt an overarching duty to the health and well being of the servants they employed. They didn’t view their privilege as an excuse to not care for those who made the running of the estate a success.
They also understood that their decisions were not made in a vacuum but affected the livelihood and lives of those dependent on them for employment. With power, came great responsibility.
Second, the period drama perfectly illustrates that people of privilege are not immune to difficulties. Class does not protect against the brevity of life.
In circumstance after circumstance, we root for each family member to rise to the occasion set before them and to exhibit the characteristics of resilience: enduring grief, pain, circumstances and disappointments.
We are reminded that life cares little for how much money one has in the bank or what one’s title is, the privileged are not immune from the pain of life.
Myths and great literature all spring from different cultures, but they all share similar archetypes and meta-narratives.
Professor Jordan Peterson, who has made it his life career to study overarching stories and is the author of the wildly successful book Twelve Rules for Life: An antidote to Chaos, believes that accepting and even welcoming struggle are the building blocks of a flourishing life.
In the new unfolding century portrayed in Downton Abbey, we see both the family of the estate and the servants struggle with a changing post-war world. Where mechanization, electricity, autonomy and other cultural and social norms are breaking down barriers but creating new social and economic problems to overcome.
In an article by Brett and Kate McKay at The Art of Manliness, the authors discuss the wry rules for navigating a flawed universe.
“When we think about the principles which govern the universe, we typically think of laws which concern the realms of science and mathematics. Yet we also intuitively feel that there are equally universal laws unrelated to physics or calculus that explain the dynamics of social interactions, work, and the ordinary vicissitudes of daily life. Writer Paul Dickson has been compiling such principles for forty years.”
Dickson’s book, The Official Rules: 5,427 Laws, Principles, and Axioms to Help You Cope with Crises, Deadlines, Bad Luck, Rude Behavior, Red Tape, and Attacks by Inanimate Objects isn’t just a collection of an assortment of curmudgeonly philosophies designed to inculcate a contemptuous and derisive view of life say the McKays.
“Rather, these observations on the realities of living in a frail, frustrating world amongst flawed human beings are meant to function as coping mechanisms, helping the reader set reasonable expectations for navigating this crazy life and laugh at the setbacks inherent to inhabiting a universe headed towards entropy.”
The results of exercising resilience is that it raises our happiness factor. Considering again the characters of Downton Abbey, those who appear to be the most happy are the ones who have accepted their role in life, built upon their talents and understood their place in the world around them—all the while taking pride in their achievements and their fidelity to those around them.
And it wasn’t just the staff. We see through the evolution of the drama that sister Mary accepts with aplomb that she is a strong willed and beautiful woman. She doesn’t allow those who seek to clip her wings or criticize her outspokenness, to reduce her opinion of herself.
In sister Edith, we see her struggle to accept that she may never be married or find the love that both of her sisters have. To her credit, she manages to put being jilted at the altar behind her and seeks to find something to occupy herself with that nurtures her soul and affords her with purpose.
Our resilience in the face of life’s obstacles and circumstances is part of our own mega story. To attempt to eradicate pain and disappointment, is to chase folly. Resilience is a virtue we must bring back if we are ever to save our society from the brink of narcissism and debauchery. It is also what we require if we are to survive the current political and cultural climate of our own day. #Reignwell