Maybe It Is, Maybe It Isn’t

More lessons from the Covid-19 days:

In Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2, Hamlet is speaking with Rosencrantz and complaining about Denmark, calling it a “prison.” Rosencrantz replies an archaic version of, basically, “if you think that way, Hamlet, the whole world is a prison.” Hamlet’s response is one of Shakepeare’s most well-known phrases, “Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.”

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

Despite Hamlet’s onset of madness, he was spot on with the assertion that our thoughts create our reality. Two people can have the same experience and see that same experience differently, all based on how they choose to think about it. Whatever that experience is, it JUST IS. It isn’t either good or bad. It is. Then each person puts his or her own spin on whether to apply a good or a bad label to it, or whether to observe what happens without making a label either way. In the Law of Relativity, everything just is. We choose to add meaning to it, as we see it in relation to something else.

An old folk tale tells of a man and his wife living in a cottage on land where the old farmer had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. ” Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. ” Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officers came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. Again the farmer responded with his philosophical wisdom. He could have viewed each of the events with fear, or anger, or outrage, or dismay. Instead he chose to allow them to be what they were. He “kept calm, and watched what happened.”

Our attitude about EVERYTHING affects whether we see something as good or bad, or neither good nor bad. With the pandemic of COVID-19 at the forefront of news today, it is enlightening to see how people respond. Some wring their hands and lament days past. Some speak wistfully of wanting to hug their neighbors and go see family that lives far away. But others make shifts in their thinking to look for what opportunities have popped up with these changed circumstances

Jeffrey R. Holland said, “things are going to ‘come right.’ They are undoubtedly on their way to ‘coming right’ already. But we owe it to our Father in Heaven to be a little more grateful, a little more thankful, and a little more inclined to remember how many problems are resolved because of God, angels, covenantal promises, and prayer.” He also likened the mandate to “shelter in place” to an enforced Sabbath, where the whole world must rest. “This is a rare time of enforced solitude when we don’t have a lot of trivia or superficial busyness distracting us from considering the truly important things in life,” said Holland. “Such times invite us to look into our soul and see if we like what we see there.”

In my personal experience, the key to making a shift in thinking is gratitude. If I am feeling that things are going against me, or I am feeling frustrated that “nothing seems to work out,” I grab hold of my thoughts and steer them in a different direction, one where I notice and express gratitude for what is going RIGHT.

A reporter asked Thomas Edison about inventing the light bulb. “How did it feel to fail 10,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 10,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 10,000 steps.” For Edison, the number of steps didn’t matter so much as the successful end result. Some have said we learn more from our failures as our successes. Well, maybe, maybe not!

Abhijit Naskar said, “Water has the potential to grow life even in the barren desert, and it also has the potential to flood an entire city destroying countless lives – fire has the potential to give heat in the freezing winter, and it also has the potential to burn an entire forest to ashes. Potential is neither good nor evil, it’s our intention that makes the distinction.”

Our son Nathaniel began a nonprofit organization in Tanzania Africa about seven years ago. Every year (except for this one because of travel restrictions), he goes to Africa and with his teams of volunteers provides training, service, and works directly with the Maasai tribes to help them accomplish their goals. They have built clinics, installed water systems, taught hygiene, and helped business owners figure out how to make and measure profit. He lives with the tribes in the African bush for many months, and for the most part lives as they live, and eats as they eat, although the volunteers’ provisions are far more luxurious than those of the tribesmen. But when he comes home, he marvels at the wealth we in America take for granted: carpet floors, hot and cold running water; shoes on our feet. In Africa, the children make their own toys from discarded plastic bags jammed into a circular shape and tied with strings to make a soccer ball. They use fences and bottle caps to fashion little cars. But they are happy. The choice o be happy is not dependent upon our circumstances relative to others’ circumstances. In fact, Nathaniel says, they are happier in many ways than we who constantly see lack where there is abundance. We might find an apartment too small or inadequate, but the reality is that people all over the word live in far worse conditions. Nothing is either bad or good, but thinking makes it so.

Richelle E. Goodrich said, “Isn’t it strange how a lamb can feel like a lion when comparing itself to a mouse, whereas a lion feels like a lamb when measuring itself against dragons?”

A hundred dollar bill and a one-dollar bill are both printed on paper the same size, with the same amount of ink, and similar designs. What makes the difference? The difference lies in the relative VALUE that society and we place on them. Otherwise they are just paper.

When I was a little girl, my older brother and sister were very cagey with me! Because nickels and pennies were bigger than dimes, they traded their smaller value coins for my dimes. I could only think, as a three year old: that bigger is better! That was the Law of Relativity in effect. Unfortunately, some of us live our whole lives thinking that is the case. We go for the bigger, the perceived better, without being grateful and content with our present circumstances. In cases like that, is it all right to want more and better? Of course! Absolutely! We are made to increase, to improve, to come up with solutions and ways to increase benefits to humanity. But is bigger really better? Maybe so, maybe not.

Albert Einstein, one of the greatest minds of all time, said: “I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.”

I have heard of people accusing others of being too much like Pollyanna. Pollyanna’s story is compelling. As a young orphan, Pollyanna adopted the personal philosophy that even the most difficult circumstances could be surmounted by choosing a positive attitude. Pollyanna was always asking herself what she could be “glad” about in her situation. She taught the ungrateful, complaining, crotchety, dour people who surrounded her how to play that “Glad game.” Her theme teaches us to be grateful, not grouchy. Even when challenges mounted, testing Pollyanna’s resolve, she kept her spirits up and found something to be glad about.

Yes, things could always be better, but they could also be worse. Life, and all that comes with it, just is.

Recently, BYU’s basketball team joined thousands of other sports teams that faced deep disappointment when, at the cusp of their success–getting their chance to shine in the NCAA tournament–their coach received a phone call telling them that the NCAA. Coach Pope had to help his team decide what to do when the NCAA season suddenly shut off. The team had already beaten Gonzaga, one of the top teams in the nation, and they were getting ready for the NCAA tournament. It was to be their first time in many years. Last year the team hadn’t done well in their much smaller tournament, and they had worked hard to too small or inadequate, but the reality is that people all over the word live in far worse conditions. Nothing is either bad or good, but thinking makes it so.

Richelle E. Goodrich said, “Isn’t it strange how a lamb can feel like a lion when comparing itself to a mouse, whereas a lion feels like a lamb when measuring itself against dragons?”

A hundred dollar bill and a one-dollar bill are both printed on paper the same size, with the same amount of ink, and similar designs. What makes the difference? The difference lies in the relative VALUE that society and we place on them. Otherwise they are just paper.

When I was a little girl, my older brother and sister were very cagey with me! Because nickels and pennies were bigger than dimes, they traded their smaller value coins for my dimes. I could only think, as a three year old: that bigger is better! That was the Law of Relativity in effect. Unfortunately, some of us live our whole lives thinking that is the case. We go for the bigger, the perceived better, without being grateful and content with our present circumstances. In cases like that, is it all right to want more and better? Of course! Absolutely! We are made to increase, to improve, to come up with solutions and ways to increase benefits to humanity. But is bigger really better? Maybe so, maybe not.

Albert Einstein, one of the greatest minds of all time, said: “I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.”

I have heard of people accusing others of being too much like Pollyanna. Pollyanna’s story is compelling. As a young orphan, Pollyanna adopted the personal philosophy that even the most difficult circumstances could be surmounted by choosing a positive attitude. Pollyanna was always asking herself what she could be “glad” about in her situation. She taught the ungrateful, complaining, crotchety, dour people who surrounded her how to play that “Glad game.” Her theme teaches us to be grateful, not grouchy. Even when challenges mounted, testing Pollyanna’s resolve, she kept her spirits up and found something to be glad about.

Yes, things could always be better, but they could also be worse. Life, and all that comes with it, just is.

BYU’s basketball team joined thousands of other sports teams that faced deep disappointment when, at the cusp of their success–getting their chance to shine in the NCAA tournament–their coach received a phone call telling them that the NCAA.  Coach Pope had to help his team decide what to do when the NCAA season suddenly shut off.  The team had already beaten Gonzaga, one of the top teams in the nation, and they were getting ready for the NCAA tournament.  It was to be their first time in many years.  Last year the team hadn’t done well in their much smaller tournament, and they had worked hard to change their record.  With success beating in their hearts, they were all at practice when the assistant coach held up his phone and said, “the NCAA tournament was just canceled.”  

While the BYU team had known they might be playing without fans to an empty stadium, or their season might be postponed, the total cancellation was a bitter blow.  It would have been easy to carry feelings of anger, disappointment, even despair.  After all, some of the players were seniors and it was their chance to get into the big leagues.  Those chances were now forever lost.

On the radio, the interviewer asked Coach Pope: “how did you and your team react to the news?”  

Coach Pope responded with an answer that we all could take to heart.  “The same way we react whether we win or lose: it’s how are we going to bounce back?   We have some bad losses, some great wins, but in each case, we have to decide how to bounce back.”

Roy T. Bennett said, “Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely. Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, shift your energy to what you can create.””

Was the news of cancellation a good thing?  Maybe, maybe not.  Was it a bad thing?  Maybe, maybe not.  

When life hits us with situations or circumstances that go against what we think should happen, or mess with our heads and convince us that we deserve better, or we don’t deserve this….well, it’s time to ask ourselves: How am I going to bounce back?

Coronavirus is keeping us all home. Is that good or bad? Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t. 

There is only one question: How are you going to bounce back?

We can be kind to ourselves and allow ourselves time to establish equilibrium when circumstances and experiences catch us unaware or unprepared.  But as my husband, Stan Gardner, M.D., says, ” We are supposed to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, not just pitch a tent and camp there.”

What are you dealing with right now?  What can you be grateful for?  and how, dear friends, are you going to bounce back?

Everything is in the way you look at it. 

____________

For more on this topic, read Hidden Treasures: Heaven’s Astonishing Help with Your Money Matters (free).

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