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March 4, 2020

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Spirit of stillness in time of adversity

Of the many coronavirus patients who have been cured and released from hospital, a young man stands out for his spirit of stillness and sharing amid adversity.

Call him “the book-reading brother,” as many netizens have come to dub him since early February, when a photo showing him reading quietly in a makeshift modular hospital in Wuhan went viral on the Internet.

Aged 39, this man identified by his family name Fu was later found to be reading “The Origins of Political Order” written by the political scientist Francis Fukuyama.

The Paper, a leading news portal in China, thus said of Fu last month: “His calmness contrasted with the bustling hospital and showed the power of civilization.”

Fukuyama retwitted the Paper’s message.

What the Paper called “the power of civilization” boils down to the power of stillness. American author and strategist Ryan Holiday defined “stillness” as the ability to find equanimity amid the turbulence of life.

He called it a virtue exalted in most ancient philosophical traditions and shared by history’s greatest thinkers from the East to the West.

Calmness can be contagious

Fu was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus pneumonia on February 1 and was among the first batch of patients relocated to a modular hospital in Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic.

Panic certainly gripped many patients, but his spirit of stillness calmed not just himself, but many around him and across the nation. He actually made good friends with a family of three treated in the same module of the makeshift hospital.

Now Fu has been cured and released, Shanghai Observer reported on Sunday. Also released was the 15-year-old boy from the family of three — the boy’s mother and grandfather were still in hospital.

But who will take care of the little boy? His mother was worried. Fu said to her: “Don’t worry, your son and I will be released from hospital at the same time. I will take good care of him.”

According to quarantine regulations, the boy and Fu will be subject to health observation in isolation for some time.

Luckily they have been arranged to live in the same room for observation, and Fu assured the mother through text messages that he will make sure that her son will not be distracted by digital devices like a mobile phone and will spend more time on his school work.

This is an ordinary story about common people. But if more of us follow Fu’s model and learn to calm ourselves in the face of an unprecedented disease, we will emerge stronger both as an individual and as a nation.


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