Consolation in defeat: or how to keep calm when all seems lost
It has been a difficult weekend so far. On weekend days off from working at the Gillespie Road University I attend each and every home game at Ashburnham Grove with my fellow doctors of philosophy. I admit that trying to make sense of what happened between 3 and 4.50 pm on the Saturday last has strained even my massive brain, but here again I trust we might (as Professor de Botton would say) find our consolation in the teachings of the ancients.
Our lesson today is in the work of the Stoics.
Stoicism developed in Greece in days when they still had some money and all their artworks hadn’t been filched by perfidious Albion*. During an impromptu keepy-uppy session by the Stoa poikile (or ‘Painted Porch’) in Athens, Zeno (inside forward of the Corithian Casuals) and two teammates from the Greek national side, Cleanthes and Chrysippus, came up with a theory of ethics** to help explain the recent heavy defeat of the Spartans at Thermopylae in the Graco-Persian League South.
Let me give you a scenario that helps to explain Stoic ethics:
A wise man sees that his son is in danger of drowning whilst swimming in a lake, so he tries to save him, but fails. The boy drowns. The man needs feel neither pity nor distress because, by attempting to save his son he has done the right thing and it is divine providence that has determined that the poor lad should die. There is, therefore, no point in him holding himself to account or wallowing in grief, as there was nothing he could do to alter the course of events. The Stoic position is therefore something like – what matters is our attempt to do what is right.
This is not the same as fatalism however, because in the above scenario the father would have left his son to sink or swim. Fatalism is, of course, more closely linked with the notion of destiny; that we have little or no control over our fate – our future is already mapped out for us. Perhaps it was the boy’s destiny to drown or indeed, to survive.
So how, in Stoical terms, should football fans approach the onset of a new season and the many disappointments and occasional highs that it might bring? I’m sure you have worked this out for yourselves.
We support our team, we cheer and applaud, we urge them forward and perform our own little personal rituals to ensure victory. If they win we salute them and congratulate ourselves on our own efforts on their behalf; if they lose we can console ourselves with the thought that we did our best and that there is little we can do about the intervention of the Gods of Football***. Frankly folks, what other path is there?
After all, as the man says, we are Arsenal fans
Watch Arsenal Live Streams With StreamFootball.tv
the Blacksheep, BA (Hons),PhD, FrHS, AST, AISA, RSVP
* That is, Old England NOT West Bromwich
** not to be confused with that sprawling suburb of east London, so beloved of the spray tanned and feckless
** aka the PGMO