Right, Wrong or Nothing

“There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – William Shakespeare

As human beings we add meaning to our experience and then become attached to that meaning as if it is real. 

I’m sure you have seen scenarios where two people interpreted the exact same event in two completely different and opposing ways.  If you are casually observing such a scenario you can likely add several alternative interpretations yourself.   There is always an infinite number of possible explanations or meanings available.  None of these can be deemed the objective truth, since there is no such thing.  At best we can hope for some subjective truth but even that is extremely hard to get at or understand.  

This becomes problematic when we try to interpret others actions or behaviors and apply the moral label of right or wrong/good or bad.  Since the truth is unknowable how can we deem others actions as good or bad.  Furthermore can good or bad even exist?  I don’t think so, and even if it did exist I certainly could not identify it.  I believe things are the way they are and that is it.  We may not like something that is happening but that does not make it wrong.  We always have the choice to remove ourselves from any situation we don’t like, independent of blame or judgement 

Say some man cuts you off on the freeway and almost causes an accident.  The natural reaction is to label that driver’s actions as bad.  What if inside that car is his father who is having a heart attack and the driving is an attempt to get him to the hospital in time to save his life?  Would that extra piece of information change the label you place on his driving?  

There is a great Taoist story of an old farmer that illustrates this point perfectly.

There was an old farmer who worked his fields 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 bad, maybe good,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe good, maybe bad,” 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 bad, maybe good,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials 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.

“Maybe good, maybe bad,” said the farmer.

Things are the way they are independent of any moral judgement or label we place on it.  Right now many people label the financial crisis as bad and are feverishly looking for someone to blame.  But what if this is precisely what we all need?  What if this crisis brings the world closer together?  Well then we would still have to say, “maybe good, maybe bad.”  

Perhaps most importantly, we must learn to forgive ourselves.  If we continue to make ourselves wrong we will project that onto others making them wrong as well, for the external reflects the internal – ALWAYS.

Comments welcomed…