2021 Will Be As Uncertain as 2020 or 1928
Probably the most recurring word combinations of this last year was “uncertain times”. The truth is, time has never been certain. We’ve never been in control.
Good Thing, Bad Thing, Who Knows?
There’s a Chinese parable which I keep running into, ever since I began reading Jay Shetty’s Think Like a Monk, about a farmer whose horse runs away.
“How unlucky” — said the brother.
“Good thing, bad thing, who knows” — replied the farmer.
The next day, the horse comes back to the farm, along with a beautiful mare.
“That’s amazing!” — said the brother, admiring the beautiful young mare.
“Good thing, bad thing, who knows” — the farmer shrugs and replies.
A few days later the farmer’s son falls off the mare while trying to tame her, breaking his leg in the accident.
“How unlucky!” — the brother says.
“Good thing, bad thing, who knows” — the farmer replies.
The next day, the young men of the village are called into military service. When the farmer’s son appears with his leg broken, he is excused from the draft. His brother turns to the farmer and says that this surely has to be the best of luck.
“Good thing, bad thing, who knows”.
Things Aren’t Good or Bad. They Just Are.
It was a strange year. Some of us lost family members or friends, some of us lost our jobs or partners. However difficult things may have been, avoiding to label them as good or bad allows us to appreciate the learnings and blessings that come within them.
June for me was super special. My grandfather passed away on a Thursday night. His funeral was arranged for Saturday evening. My girlfriend at the time, who was living with me at that moment, caught COVID and we couldn’t attend.
At the funeral, my grandmother saw her husband in the casket and collapsed by a thrombosis. This led my dad to drinking. Due to his cirrhosis, he began throwing up blood. He was then interned at the same hospital as my grandmother for a few days. All I could do was panic for I wasn’t allowed to leave the house.
Regardless of the series of events, I could not be more thankful for them. The struggle to overcome life’s challenges gets the best out of you. These “uncertain times” allowed me to deeply reconnect with my family, strengthen old and new friendships, and truly love life as it comes.
Stoicism calls this amor fati: love of fate.
We Are Never in Control
It’s 1928, Doctor Alexander Fleming is coming back from vacation, finding a mess in his lab. He’d been growing some bacteria and one of his petri dishes had grown mold all around it.
Curiously, the “mold juice” was killing off many of the bacteria. This mold became the first sample of what today we know as penicillin: the world’s first antibiotic.
Before this time, there was no effective treatment for infections such as pneumonia or rheumatic fever. People would arrive at the hospital with cuts or scratches and recovery was left to fait. Penicillin proved its’ vast effects shortly after in WWII. Around 20% of all fallen soldiers in WWI came from bacterial pneumonia. Thanks to penicillin, that number dropped to 1% in WWII.
Being locked up, losing your partner or arriving at your office to find your work space is all messed up, might seem like a pain at first, but we really don’t know what will come out of it. These times are as uncertain as they’ve always been and as they’ll always be.
Don’t judge life’s petri dish — accept it.
Good thing, bad thing, who knows.