Where are We on Fortune’s Wheel?

Boethius, born in 477 B.C. was a Roman senator. He is known in our era chiefly for the literary work he left behind. Most notable among those is The Consolation of Philosophy. One of the things Boethius discusses as he sadly observes the fall of the Roman Empire is the symbolic construct he refers to as “the wheel of fortune”. The idea is that fortunes change, and are never constant. The one constant thing about Lady Fortune is her inconstancy.

It’s my belief that history is a wheel. ‘Inconstancy is my very essence,’ says the wheel. ‘Rise up on my spokes if you like but don’t complain when you’re cast back down into the depths. Good time pass away, but then so do the bad. Mutability is our tragedy, but it’s also our hope. The worst of time, like the best, are always passing away.

As Boethius’ fortunes turn for the worst and he laments his fate, Lady Philosophy challenges him:

But Lady Philosophy stayed my tongue and would not let me slander she who turns the Wheel. Was it not my choice to make Lady Fortune my mistress? Did I not surrender my calm peace of mind to her flattering ways? Who exactly did I think I was taking as my companion and guide?

“Know this,” Philosophy spoke and sang, “that Lady Fortune shows her constancy by being inconstant. Were she ever to stop the spinning of her Wheel, she would no longer be Fortune. Indeed, she can only be constant by being perpetually inconstant. That is her nature and her end. Those who make her their mistress must turn with each turn of her Wheel.”

In other words, to attach our affections to the temporal pleasures of life is to make Lady Fortune our mistress, and when the wheel of fortune turns, as it always does, we will be ill-equipped to handle it. But even the bottom of Fortune’s wheel serves a purpose:

All fortune is good fortune; for it either rewards, disciplines, amends, or punishes, and so is either useful or just.

Empires rise and fall, and as I consider the words of Boethius I wonder how close our civilization is to the bottom of Lady Fortune’s wheel.

4 thoughts on “Where are We on Fortune’s Wheel?

  1. professorGBFMtm2021 says:

    ELSPETH
    This is a very informative post , you even taught myself things, I did’nt know like
    who is boethius?,as I was thinking!You know its true I have a michael landon -type of the ”highway to heaven” thing going with myself age-wise &looks-wise right?Also speaking of wheel of fortune,I don’t think vana white looks very good for 64 years old?She looked better than most 24 year olds at 54,ten years ago too!But thats not the point as usual.I also know about the fickle nature of events,35 years ago I was a happy 8 year old boy!Now I’m just starting to get happy again as a 43 year old man after talking to all my virtual friends from ole’ dal’!P.S.Its 71 degrees today in miami vice city as I cruise by in a red lamborghini!SANDRAP.S.Hear about sandra from 227 JACKEE harry, coming back to NBC by joining ”days of our lives” as paulina?I hav’nt watched it since the whole will marrying a guy thing happened& bo dying from cancer.Shes only 64 too,but shes still beautiful,just not a knockout like a certain woman is/was right?ELSPETHP.S.I had never heard of BOETHIUS before so you taught the professor something,thats hard for most to do you know that right?

    Like

  2. Elspeth says:

    No opinion on Vanna White, professor, but I can fill you in on Boethius.

    Here’s a good link, but I’ll tell you what I know of him briefly:

    He was a Roman senator who rose within the ranks of the Roman government circa 500 B.C. He was a Christian, and being a part of the Roman elite was in his blood.

    At some point there was a schism and Boethius found himself at odds with the Roman emperor, accused of treason, and imprisoned. It was while he languished there, awaiting what as his eventual execution, when he wrote the famed Consolation of Philosophy

    It is totally worth the read, so you should check it out. The conclusions he draws are not novel, but the journey he takes to get there is absolutely beautiful.

    It’s kind of thing that puts you in a contemplative space, makes you think about what is really important.

    Like

  3. nellperkins says:

    Fortune is real, and all is vanity as the Preacher preached, but an awful lot of what’s happening in the USA right now is natural consequences of our many serious sins as a nation. And I’m not talking about things that happened centuries ago. I’m talking about abortion, going to war over lies, pretending our own Constitution doesn’t apply to us when we don’t feel like it. We recently learned that in the 1970s the State of Tennessee amended our constitution to reform the way our bail system worked. Ever since then, our judges have been ignoring our that law and requiring bail from extremely poor people for extremely petty offenses and it’s against the law. It’s happened anyway and it continues to happen.

    That’s just one way we are unjust, unjust, and unjust some more and we don’t care. And that’s why we’re circling the toilet. Although maybe Fortune does have a bit to do with it, just not the biggest part. I could go on all night about this, but I’m trying to stop writing books in people’s comments sections!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Elspeth says:

    @ Nellperkins:

    You’re right that we are as much reaping what we’ve sown as experiencing the natural turns of fortune’s wheel.

    I completely agree.,

    Like

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