I hope I’m not beating a dead horse here, but I find the notion of The Attack to be an incredibly powerful way to process and respond to the suffering we experience in our lives when we make the bold and necessary move to better our selves and consequently, the world. As I continue reading Letters from a Stoic, I continue to find more thoughts from Seneca that expand on and support the idea of The Attack. Specifically, this quote from the chapter entitled “On the Healing Power of the Mind,”
“Just as an enemy is more dangerous to a retreating army, so every trouble that fortune brings attacks us all the harder if we yield and turn our backs.”
This quote is loaded with nuggets about the attack. The most obvious being the way that Seneca also refers to it as an attack. There is no question that the way we experience pushback from our attempts at good is indeed metaphorically equivalent to an attack. Seneca even goes so far to say that the attack comes from fortune herself. The word fortune comes from the Latin word fortuna, meaning “fate” or “luck.” The plural form fortunae means “possessions,” which gives the word its other connotation of riches. This could be interpreted as the attack being apart of our fate, as well as our success.
So, in a sense, we are meant to experience the attack, and overcoming it is a key aspect of our success. Furthermore, if we don’t overcome it, we will be attacked even harder. If we yield to the first sign of trouble on our path to enlightenment, then we create more problems for our selves. Seneca compares this to an army that is being attacked. If an army decides to retreat from an attacker, that puts them in a worse position than if they just attacked back. When you’re retreating, your back is turned to the enemy, making you weaker and more vulnerable to deadlier attack than if you’re facing the enemy.
When fortune brings you an attack, you can either choose to face it head on, and in the process become a stronger warrior, or retreat back into the darkness and regress even further. Sometimes this darkness doesn’t even look like darkness. Sometimes it looks like a nice warm bed. And the call to action, facing the enemy head-on, can be really scary. We might not feel prepared or capable or worthy to take on such a task. But I believe that what you face, you become.
The more days you spend lounging and escaping, doing essentially nothing, you become nothing. You have nothing of worth to show for yourself and your life, and others as well as yourself begin to think very little of you (after all, we do indeed watch and judge our selves the way another person does). The more days you spend facing the base of a mountain, a seemingly impossible problem that a solution could potentially bring light to in this dark world, you become the mountain — unflappable and strong, a pillar in the world.
So I ask you, reader, are you going to retreat from the attack or are you going to be the attack?