The importance of philosophy in a post-pandemic world

NIAGARA, Wis. — Last week we took a look at some of the inconveniences in our lives that came about due to the COVID-19 pandemic — specifically, the long wait for appliances and furniture. I also addressed how the pandemic shined the light on the real life need for service workers and skilled trades people. This week I want to take a look at the increased need for what most of us will characterize as silly and impractical. More than ever before, there has been an increased interest in the study of philosophy — specifically Stoicism, which stresses delayed gratification and internal fortitude.

I subscribe to a daily newsletter offered by the New York Times. Recently it offered an article written by Peter Catapano that addressed the fact that the study of philosophy has boomed in popularity since the emergence of COVID. What?! Yes, you read that correctly. Having graduated from a small liberal arts college with a degree in English, I am no stranger to philosophy courses. They were part of the curriculum required to graduate. I thoroughly enjoyed the couple of courses I took, but soon after graduation I believed that I turned to the more “practical and necessary” pursuits of finding gainful employment.

My youngest son began his college career as a business major with a minor in philosophy. As time went by, he flipped the two around and graduated with a major in philosophy and a minor in business. I was perusing a specialty catalog right around the time I was looking for an appropriate graduation gift for him. I found a novelty T-shirt that read across the front, “Philosophy Major” and on the back it followed with, “Want fries with that?” Ouch! It made me laugh, but I knew that after all of his hard work, that would not be a very thoughtful gift. I have to add here that he has done very well for himself. He is a great problem solver and has made very wise decisions over the years. And, most important of all, he has a good heart.

It was not until I was much older — and hopefully wiser — that I realized that success in life begins with first establishing a personal philosophy and then following it. A personal philosophy is a definition of what each of us finds important in our lives. It helps us to define who we are as a person — what we hold dear and what lies in our hearts. It helps us to establish priorities and to make the most important choices in our lives. I can personally attest to the fact that it helped me choose the kind of person I wanted to marry. It obviously worked because my husband and I are coming up on our 50th anniversary this year. I would argue that it keeps us on the “straight and narrow” by first helping us define our belief system and then helping us hold fast to those beliefs through life’s many twists and turns.

Philosophy — when expanded to encompass the best ways for entire populations, indeed civilizations, to conduct themselves — does indeed affect the entire world. If every country could adopt the simple philosophy that it is for the good of all humanity to save the planet, think of what we could accomplish. How would that singular belief dictate our actions in response to climate change? If throughout history, each nation had adopted the philosophy that each and every human being had the right to live free, there never would have been such a thing as slavery or genocide. Instead, the philosophy of “individual freedoms” has been chosen over sacrifice for the common good all too often — especially in our culture with its roots in rugged individualism.

And that brings us to today. It is no coincidence that the philosophy of Stoicism has increased in popularity during a pandemic. As COVID-19 impacted every aspect of our lives, we longed for something to give us the stamina to hang on until times got better. We had to deal with the isolation of quarantine and the loss of loved ones as they succumbed to the virus. We had to learn to live with grief, isolation and loneliness, job loss, and all of the societal unrest that came along for the ride.

In short, the pandemic caused us to strip away a lot of the patterns of our daily lives to which we had grown accustomed and upon which we relied. We were left with whomever we had in our homes, but that much “togetherness” required us to pull back even further until we were simply left with ourselves. Did we like what we found? We had to deal with the monumental uncertainty of not knowing when we would be able to return to some kind of normalcy. And would the return to that normal life be what we remembered it to be or would we be having to adapt to a “new normal?”

We now live in a modern world hungry for self-improvement, inner peace and personal strength. The pandemic showed us that we needed to draw on some inner strength to see us through this battle with an enemy that was as invisible as it was persistent. That inner strength comes from a branch of philosophy termed Stoicism. Stoics were well known for exercises in self-imposed sacrifice and deprivation. They took the “wants versus needs” exercise to a higher level, systematically stripping away each desire. This action was based upon the belief that much of what people considered necessities were actually distractions that clouded the mind and kept them from understanding their true nature and where they fit into the world. It’s a philosophy designed to make us more resilient, happier, wiser, and more virtuous — and as a result, better people, better parents and better professionals. 

Explained in the simplest of terms, Stoicism is a philosophy that helps prepare the individual to survive difficult life situations, deprivations, and hard times and to guide us through life’s challenges. Its focus is certainly on the preparation of the individual to withstand life’s tumultuous twists and turns. But also of critical importance, especially as advanced by Eastern philosophers, is its guidance of man as part of a larger community, its emphasis on our flourishing as social selves, connected locally and globally. “We cannot be ‘at home in the world’ if the good is reduced to self-interest, or grit is defined as go-it-alone self-reliance,” explains Nancy Sherman, professor of philosophy at Georgetown University.

The philosophy of Stoicism provides a tool set not only for the individual’s well-being, but for how the individual relates to, and lives as a productive and beneficial member of, an entire global community. Can you see the relevance here? Yes, we have individual freedoms and the right to exercise them. But we are also responsible for the health of others and for the general well-being of our entire society. My actions do not just affect me. My actions affect my family and the entire community.

The world continues to be a complicated place, ever evolving in its complexity. Stoicism’s relevance and power for its application to today does not come as much from instilling individual strength as it does from encouraging group empowerment. It does not instruct in self-help as much as it does in group help.While we can cultivate our individual strength of character, attention to our own individual fortitude cannot be our only focus. We must broaden our vision and widen our scope of concern to include all of mankind for our world to reach its full potential and for our planet to survive.



Freeman Nursing and Rehabilitation Community


Freeman’s has resumed small group activities. Visitation is currently being allowed twice weekly with screening and COVID-19 testing required before entering the building. All precautions are still being taken to protect residents. Everyone has adjusted to this new normal; however, they are all looking forward to a great get-together when it is safe to do so.

Iron County Medical Care Facility


Sunday: No information available.

Monday: No information available.

Tuesday: Room visits, 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.; animal kingdom, 10 a.m.; garden club, 1:30 p.m.; reminisce, 2 p.m. (in pavilion).

Wednesday: Room visits, 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.; bingorama, 9 and 10 a.m.; exercise, 11 a.m.; current events, 2 p.m.

Thursday: Room visits, 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.; bowling, 9:30 a.m.; travel film, 1:30 p.m.; traveling happy hour, 2 p.m.

Friday: Room visits, 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.; crafts, 9 to 10:30 a.m.; exercise, 11 a.m.; car races 2 p.m.; activity council, 3 p.m.

Saturday: Room-to-room bingo; puzzle time, 10 a.m.; geri-gym, 11 a.m.; mandala coloring, 2 p.m.

Manor Care


Limited visitation has resumed for family and friends. Appointments must be made in advance by calling the center.

Maryhill Manor


Scheduled visits are being allowed in the facility’s living room. Call ahead to reserve. The weekly Happy Hour and bingo have resumed for residents only.

Sunday: Catholic Mass, 9 a.m.; coffee and “Family Feud,” 10:15 a.m.; whammo, 2 p.m.; Protestant service, 2:30 p.m.

Monday: Pictionary, 10:15 a.m.; courtyard social and sing-along, 2 p.m.

Tuesday: Room visits; snack cart, 2 p.m.

Wednesday: Room visits; snack cart, 2 p.m.

Thursday: Room visits; snack cart, 2 p.m.

Friday: Room visits; snack cart, 2 p.m.

Saturday: Room visits; snack cart, 2 p.m.

Golden Living Center

Florence, Wis.


Visitation is allowed in designated areas only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Each visit is limited to 30 minutes and must be scheduled in advance. All visitors will be subject to health screening before entering the facility. Residents have resumed some small group activities.

Victorian Pines


Limited visitation has resumed in resident apartments only.

Pinecrest Medical Care Facility



No information available.


Alpha-Mastodon Center


Amasa Center


Carry out only. Call ahead for Tuesdays through Thursdays. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Chop suey, rice, Oriental vegetables and lettuce salad.

Wednesday: Barbecue pork with bun, baked beans and cucumber-onion salad.

Thursday: Pasties, mixed vegetables and coleslaw.

Note: All meals include milk, bread and butter, fruit and dessert.

Breen Center


Carry-out only — call ahead. Meals are once again available on Fridays. Menu for the week —

Monday: Memorial Day, closed.

Tuesday: Spaghetti, corn and garlic bread.

Wednesday: Baked chicken, baked potato and peas.

Thursday: Ham sub sandwich, macaroni and cheese and coleslaw.

Friday: Tater tot bake and green beans

Note: All meals served with a choice of skim milk or juice and fruit.

Crystal Falls Center

Head cook: Lucy Korhonen


Crystal Lake Center

Iron Mountain


Home-delivered meals only — call to make arrangements. Menu for the week —

Monday: Barbecue chicken, spiced peaches and green beans.

Tuesday: Taco salad with salsa, sour cream and chips.

Wednesday: Beef stew, cornbread and coleslaw.

Thursday: Sloppy Joes, fries and wax beans.

Friday: Italian sub sandwich, string cheese, pickle, chips and trail mix.

Note: All meals include a choice of skim milk, juice, or no beverage.

For more information, call Christine McMahon at 906-774-2256

Felch Center


Carry-out only — call ahead. Menu for the week —

Monday: Chicken pot pie, cornbread and apples, salad.

Tuesday: Barbecue pork, chips and coleslaw.

Wednesday: Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, gravy and mixed vegetables.

Note: All meals served with skim milk or juice.

Aging and Disability Resource Center of Florence County, Wis.


Director: Tiffany White

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Memorial Day — all centers closed.

Tuesday: Chicken strips, sweet potato fries, coleslaw and fruit.

Wednesday: Cheeseburger tater tot casserole, carrots, biscuits, fruited Jell-O and cookies.

Thursday: Liver and onions or chicken breast, mashed potatoes, creamed corn and fruit.

Friday: Pork chops, black beans and rice, squash, dark green salad and fruit.

Note: All meals served with whole grain bread and butter and milk.

Fence Center/Town Hall


For meal reservations, call 855-528-2372

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Florence Community Center/Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-528-4261

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Tipler Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-674-2320

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora

For meal reservations, call 715-589-4491

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska


Iron River Center


Carry-out only — call ahead. Menu for the week —

Monday: Egg salad sandwich, chips, granola bar, raisins, fruit and milk.

Tuesday: Stuffed green peppers, wax beans, bread stick, fruit and milk.

Wednesday: Chop suey, rice, green beans, roll, fruit and milk.

Thursday: Swedish meatballs, noodles, carrots, roll, dessert and milk.

All meals include 8-ounces skim milk or juice.

Norway Center

Director: Michelle DeSimone


The center will remain closed; however, takeout meals will be prepared for pick up — must call ahead and wear a mask when picking up. Menu for the week —

Monday: Memorial Day, closed.

Tuesday: Taco salad with vegetable toppings and corn.

Wednesday: Salmon, sweet potato fries and coleslaw.

Thursday: Porcupine meatballs, mashed potatoes and gravy, carrots and onions.

All meals include milk, juice, fruit, bread and dessert.

Sagola Center


Carry-out only – call ahead. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Shrimp skewer, white rice, corn and pears.

Wednesday: Pork and gravy, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables and peaches.

Thursday: Club sandwich, chips, vegetable sticks and dip and apple slices.

All meals served with fruit and choice of skim milk or juice.


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