“Why then, ‘Tis nothing to you, for there is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes is so.” This insightful proverb was coined and written by none other than the brilliant playwright William Shakespeare, a man of uncommon genius and creativity.
His main character, Hamlet, in the play named after him, says this particular line in the second scene of the second act. And although his context differs from the context we understand it in, the words still resonate with us for some time.
There was once a young man named John. John was a very hardworking dedicated man who worked in a corporate office. He had a pretty wife and a beautiful daughter. One morning, he was running slightly late for work and in a great hurry to finish his breakfast.
Just then, his daughter came up to him. “Daddy, daddy, look? I painted a picture!” While John would and could have spared a second to glance at it, he was more worried and scolded her. “I don’t have time right now. Get me my coffee please.” He replied gruffly.
Frowning slightly, his daughter attempted to carry the hot cup of coffee to the table, and was about to set it down when it slipped from her hands and dripped all over his newly pressed shirt. John’s first instinct was to curse loudly. Angrier than ever, he ignored his daughter, pressed his lips into a thin line and changed his shirt, then immediately left the house, without even bidding his family goodbye.
The time that he had taken to change clothes had delayed him by almost half an hour. As he reached office, the manager was waiting for him, and frowned at his creased shirt. “Meet me in my office.” He growled at John.
“Great! Things just got a lot worse!” John thought to himself, giving up and shrugging his shoulders as he let out a sigh. He went into the office, proceeded to hear out a long talk about punctuality, which ruined his mood further, did not attempt to say anything in his own defence and then left.
He snapped and growled at everyone who approached him, and worsened everybody’s day. Now let us hear the story of James. James also worked with John, and he too was in the same situation. But that morning, when his daughter brought to him an essay she had written, he took out a minute to read it and genuinely complimented and corrected her when he was done.
Happily, she skipped to the counter and brought him his coffee. Seeing as she was not worried or upset, her hands did not shake and she was able to bring it gracefully. James was not more than a few minutes late, and was also able to bid his family goodbye happily, which left them all in a good mood.
When his manager called him, James jovially told the manager about the wonderful essay his daughter had written, and on seeing his smile, the manager relaxed too and related a story of his own son.
Life is 10% what happens and 90% how you think and react to it
Let us now understand the symbolism of this story, as a story is never told without a point to establish. Both John and James were running slightly late. Both were met with a similar set of circumstances. But John reacted by thinking badly. He assumed the worst.
This, in the process, scared his daughter, who dropped coffee on him due to her shivering hands. Once again, he made the worst of the situation and left. His mind being foul, his whole day went badly.
On the other hand, James reacted nicely, because he thought it was a good thing that his daughter had written something. This just his whole reaction to the event, and in the long run, his entire day went differently, because of the different frame of mind he was in.
Here is another example. When a drop of rain falls while you are in the garden you could react with a smile and say, “Oh good, the garden needs some water.”
On the other hand, you could respond with, “Oh no! It’s raining and I wanted to go to the shop.” The act of the rain falling on the ground is neither good nor bad. Only our response to the action can decide whether we like or dislike the event, which then changes the entire outcome of the event.
Life is 10 % what happens and 90% how we think and react to it. The sooner we realise that, the faster we can implement it. And soon, our rainy days can turn into rainbow filled skies!
The Sixth Sense: To Think and To Understand
God has gifted us humans with the special feature of sixth sense. It is our thinking and perception that paves way to our life. It is the one that makes us superior to all the other organisms in this universe. This is the feature that makes us decide the positives and negatives of life, the good and the bad, the niceties and the evilness. The decisive power in humans is both a boon and curse, which gets regulated the way we use the same.
It is we who direct our life. Our will power and our cognitive behaviour decide whether we want to move ahead cheerfully or get stuck in a gloomy state in our life. The positive is the energy and the negatives are the chains that drag us towards the darkness of the past.
Please note that this article is in no manner or way relating to rightness or wrongness of crimes. No murder, rape, or criminal activity can be justified by thinking that it was good or bad, either of the cases. It is important to realise that the whole concept is subjective in nature.
What is considered good for one person can be bad for another. Our interpretations of events are based on our cultural backgrounds and upbringing, which shape our thinking. Since there is such a variety of cultures, especially in India, there is a vast difference in the thoughts that go on in differing individual minds.
Role of Society in Understanding Good or Bad
There is no universal standard as to what is good or bad. We were not born with laws inscribed on our body. In fact, many people in the psychology and scientific research department believe that babies are born as blank slates, popularly called “Tabula Rasa” in Latin. This is however, not a proven fact, but it is widely proclaimed and upheld. This would indicate that what we think is right or wrong is all in our head, and it enters our head in the first place because of what society teaches us.
Many things that were considered taboo in the past are not necessarily bad today. In modern India, we see an increase in the number of inter caste marriages, a change in the dressing sense of women and a change in people’s lifestyles in general for what I think is the better.
How so? If it was bad back then, how can it be acceptable now? This is because no event or occurrence is bad or good. It is only based on our thinking, which is fluid in nature, shaped by the forces of society. We have become progressive, our minds and thinking styles have developed, and so have our standards in understanding what is good or bad.
The absence of complete information leads us to believe that “things” are either good or bad when we try to think about something. In reality, the universe is “beyond good and evil”, to steal from the great psychologist Friedrich Nietzsche.
To conclude this essay, it is probably advisable to keep our mind on the radar. The moral we derive from this is that the power to turn around the events in our life lie solely with us. We cannot change the events. It is only our thinking that we can change.