Sweet uses of adversity

Re “Choosing what to do with the anger” (Op-ed, Oct. 23): The art of living is the ability to use life’s inevitable adversities in a constructive fashion, exemplified, as Roland Merullo notes in his poignant essay, by the lives of Martin Luther King Jr., Mohandas K. Gandhi, and the Dalai Lama, among others.

It is always possible. Shakespeare’s elder Duke, in “As You Like It,” who had been betrayed and exiled to the Forest of Arden by a jealous younger brother, expresses this when he says:

Sweet are the uses of adversity

Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,

Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;

And this our life, exempt from public haunt,

Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,

Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.

The jewel to which the elder Duke alludes is the authentic life that he has evolved in the forest, which he found restorative. A counterintuitive Buddhist saying compliments Shakespeare’s “sweet uses of adversity”: The obstacle is the path.

Dr. Michael A. Sperber


The writer is a psychiatric consultant at McLean Hospital.