A One-Minute History Lesson You Can Use for the Rest of Your Life

Pericles, fear, and the power of perspective

Photo by Good Free Photos on Unsplash

In the Peloponnesian War, general Pericles led 100 ships into battle. Charging towards the enemy, a solar eclipse shrouded the world in darkness. Unaware of the science behind the event, panic broke out among the soldiers.

Pericles walked to the navigator, held his coat around his head, and asked: “Are you afraid of what you see?” “Of course not,” the navigator said, “it’s just a piece of black cloth!” Pericles smiled: “Then what does it matter if the cause of darkness is a different one?”

When we don’t understand life, we create worst-case scenarios. The result is fear, and fear leads to bad decisions. Instead, we must change our perspective.

Perspective is everything, and we’re free to change it at any second.

We can judge any situation from many angles. We can break it down into its parts. We can look at it, past it, into it, around it, or even through it. However many perspectives we must try, eventually, we will find one that allows us to move forward — and that’s the whole point of living.

The purpose of thought experiments isn’t to provide you with answers to individual perspective problems, it is to give you the courage to pause when facing the unknown. It only takes a minute to find this courage, and you can use a single story to trigger this habit of calming yourself down.

Don’t let your imagination spiral into fear. Take a breath, be curious, and flip through different points of view until you find one that works. Explain the fear away and realize: The cause of darkness doesn’t matter. What matters is that we go on.

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