Smooth Seas Do Not Make Skilled Sailors


I’d like to dedicate this post to one of the most skilled sailors I know: my cousin, Dennis Parker, the elder of the Moriarty clan, a friend to many, and my first hero.


In the opening act of Shakespeare’s Henry VI, the King appears in a forest, disguised and carrying a prayer book.

Thinking he is alone, he speaks aloud while trying to figure out his next steps in recovering his kingdom.

Henry directly addresses “Adversity” as if it were a person, rather than confronting it as an adversary.

He treats the enemy as his intimate friend.

The king has happened upon an unavoidable truth — to get somewhere you must have come from somewhere.

And there’s the rub.

As an old proverb says: “Every flower must grow through dirt.

And yet isn’t it difficult to get beyond the sourness of adversity and dirtiness of dirt?

Some people, when faced with adversity, respond:

  • with an open mind, a humble heart and a spirit brimming with compassion,
  • others, with a closed mind, pompous heart and a spirit dripping with resentment.

Some view adversity as an adversary  — others as an ally.

In the early days of the last century, my Grandpa Pat and his brother Mike landed in America.

  • Both had been raised on the same small farm,
  • Both had the same sixth grade education, and
  • Both landed with the same empty pockets.

Pat made it, Mike did not. Their response to adversity was completely different.

Pat laid down roots and toiled to build a life for himself and his family. Mike gave up early and drank himself into oblivion. 

One saw adversity as a bridge to the future, the other as a bridge too far.

Hard times elicited from my grandfather talents which, in more prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant. 

The old king was right that the best course is to embrace adversity as a friend.

Witness the extraordinary life of Franklin Roosevelt.

FDR was born into a life of privilege and never had to deal with the kind of adversity common to most people.

Many described the young Roosevelt as a “self-absorbed gadfly.”

Most of the consequential political people of the day did not take him seriously, particularly after his loss in the 1920 presidential election in which he ran as vice president.

As it turned out, that would be but the beginning of a tidal wave of adversity that would wash over his life.

  • His wife Eleanor learned of his affair and banished him from her heart.
  • His mother threatened to disinherit him if he divorced.
  • He was crippled with polio at age 37.
  • He would never walk again.

The once tall, strapping, 6’3” man who was used to looking down on others would spend the rest of his life looking up from a wheelchair.

Adversity had forever changed his perspective on life.

He embraced his affliction…

…and went on to remarkable triumph over adversity:

  • elected Governor of New York in 1928
  • elected President 1932, ’36, ’40, and ’44
  • led the Allied war effort in World War II

All because he chose the course of embracing his sour adversity.

Henry Morgenthau, his neighbor and later Secretary of Treasury, said I am convinced that the Roosevelt that came out of the illness…was a completely new person, nothing short of a resurrected man.”

Francis Perkins, the social worker who later became his Secretary of Labor, observed:

“Pain and suffering, purged from him his arrogant attitude. He’d become tempered. He had become warmhearted, conscious of other people and with a spirit of humility. A complete spiritual transformation.“

Eleanor went further and said the polio affliction was:

“A blessing in disguise. The disease had given him a strength and courage he had not had before. He had to think out the fundamentals of living and learn the greatest of all lessons, infinite patience and never-ending persistence.”

FDR embraced his adversity. He chose wisely.

On any number of fronts adversity now appears headed full-force in our direction.

We, too, will be forced choose. Choose wisely.

Just a thought…


Copyright © 2024 Patrick J. Moriarty. All Rights Reserved.