I’ve been in discussion with someone tonight about the nature of the mistakes we make and how we respond to our mistakes and other mistakes. Because there are no mistakes and everything happens for a reason in line with our own natural ability to endure. Destiny and choice are not words that come associated with each other yet the way we fall, the way we get up often is. This person I’m talking to described it as falling forward which I’d never thought of before.
It’s such a simple phrase and something that will come up in all facets of the stoic philosophy. When we trust in the universe, we fall forward and get back up with ease because we know that each misstep happens for a reason. Without a faith in the universe, we can even say we fall forward because of a faith in ourselves and our philosophies of constant self improvement. Even naturally, we are hardwired in our biology to be kept safe and learn from these trips to not do them again. Our bodies repair themselves, forming new skin over the old damaged parts. It’s all transient and we all move forward and we fall in the same direction, following the laws of time and space that bind us all.
“Whatever happens to you was being prepared for you from everlasting, and the mesh of causes was ever spinning from eternity both your own existence and the incidence of this particular happening.” – Meditations 10.3
Billy Joel famously sings that we didn’t start the fire and it’s true.
“Great men are forged in fire. It is the privilege of the lesser men to light the flame.” – The War Doctor, Doctor Who: The Day of The Doctor
It’s how we step from the fire is what defines us. How do we carry those burns forward? Or if we emerge, unscathed, how do we tread? Is it with an ashy coating on our feet or are we victorious like Apollo in the sun? Yet, it’s always forward and always in the singular direction never turning back. We will all meet the same end but we all fall and stand up a little differently.
I like to see myself as a person who walks with my hand held behind me for someone to hold on to and pull themselves up when they need it, without looking back to see or care who it is I’m helping. I needed the same help to stand up in my own time, from my very first stumbling as I was learning to walk to this morning when I needed help at a self-checkout. It’s all altruism that has been offered to me, it would be such arrogance to not think to return the same good will back to the humanity that shaped me.
For others, it’s different: a life of challenge and pain to overcome. They stand up again and again with bruised knees, a limp yet with a determined demeanour. Those are the people I admire and if called, my hand will be held out to them all the same without judgement. We walk in parallel and entwined with each other in this existence, all moving forward, stumbling, standing, and carrying on.
It is our nature. To expect not to fall forward is to expect to never learn. I carry a cactus on my journey – it incentivises being cautious when both falling and standing. What do you carry?
“Dig inside yourself. Inside there is a spring of goodness ready to gush at any moment, if you keep digging.” – Meditations 7.59
Whatever it is, with a smile; always with a smile. Keep finding your own goodness, each fall forward is a gift and a testament to your own strength. Be proud of yourself for each lesson learned and each vice overcome and every virtue met as you move forward, joined in the chorus of footsteps of the universe.