Sunday, September 30, 2007

Bad or good?

I have long lived by my ability to separate an experience or a place from a judgment of it. That is, I don't determine that certain experiences are always bad or always good or that I can't stand this or that I always love that.

Hamlet says to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, about Denmark:

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.

Weather reporters tell us when the weather will be "good" and when it will be "bad", which irks me no end, for here is an excellent example of thinking making it so. As it happens, I can love any weather, even though I will admit I often prefer rain and gray skies. If I am in Las Vegas I can decide to go with the heat rather than against it. And when weather makes me physically uncomfortable that doesn't mean it breaks my spirit. One of the best memories of my life is of an Easter Sunday in 1978, when it rained so much it flooded a park in San Luis Obispo. I took my camera to that park and slogged around in the marsh-like grasses, loving the light and the look of the water where it sat. I was wet and cold and far from comfortable and loving every minute of it. I am a big believer in comfort and will go out of my way for it, but there are times when it takes a back seat.

There is a short story by Amy Hempel, two short pages, called Bogata. The narrator thinks about a man who was kidnapped in Bogata. A ransom was demanded. It took months to put together the million dollars demanded, and during this time the kidnappers had to keep their victim alive.

They learned that he had a heart condition. They changed his diet and made him exercise. When he was released he was in the best shape of his life. Amy's narrator ends the story with:

He wondered how we know that what happens to us isn't good.

We don't know. That's my point. It can go either way.

It is now my job to find a pithy way to make this thought into a commandment.

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