Simply beautiful. If you are not familiar with this wonderful speech of Margaret Atwood on Attitude, which was given to a group of graduates of University of Toronto during commencement ceremony in 1983, you should read it here now. Do know that the reading of or listening to her speech is not required for you to read (or skim) the rest of this blog post. I merely recommend it just so I would like you all to feel as inspired and motivated like I get each and every time I read or skim through it.
Here is a quote that represents the essence of Margaret Atwood’s speech:
You may not be able to alter reality, but you can alter your attitude towards it, and this, paradoxically, alters reality. Try it and see. – Margaret Atwood during commencement ceremony for graduates of University of Toronto in 1983
How do people come up with such inspiring and motivating sentences? What goes on their mind when they pen them? What were they thinking? Where were they at the time? Do they just come to them as naturally as one breathes or takes days to get them down to that level of perfection?
Her words are true. No matter how bad life gets, it is up to us as to how we choose to react to those uncomfortable and painful moments. As Margaret Atwood says in her speech, every single matter has two sides, positive and negative. It is entirely dependent upon our goals, values, experiences, and attitude to either side with the negative side or the positive side of the issue we might be dealing with now or later in the future. I am not sure whether the following saying is universal; however, in India, we have a saying somewhat as follows: “Everything happens for our own good.” Is any one of you familiar with this? I was listening to this spiritual discourse given by a religious leader the other day and the person giving the discourse told us about a moral story that illustrates both Atwood’s speech and the aforementioned saying. The story is as follows:
There were once a king and his advisor. They used to have long discussions over various topics. The advisor is such an optimistic guy as he always manages to find positivity in everything. Even if he were to encounter an accident, he would undoubtedly find some bright side to it. He would always find one way or another to bring up the idea of divine providence into every conversation he engages in with anyone. He connects every event, be it small or significant, to God. As the king likes outings, he invited the advisor for hunting in a forest. The advisor was given a rifle for hunting. Do keep in mind that our sweet advisor never before handled a rife up until that moment! And so, he fumbled and fumbled with the rifle to get used to the weight of it in his hands. At some point during all that fumbling, he, inadvertently, shot the rifle, which was pointing at the king at that precise moment. The king screamed in pain! The rifle shot one of the king’s fingers off! Event then, the advisor kept saying that it all happened for our own good to the king at which point the king became frustrated and said, “You stupid person! Are you blind? Can’t you see that I am injured and bleeding? Can’t you feel my pain? How can you say that this all happened for my own good when ,obviously, I am in excruciating pain? How can you expect me to forgive you? You are rejoicing my agony and suffering, aren’t you?” Without even wanting to listen to the advisor’s apologies, he put our dear advisor in prison with an indefinite sentence.The king slowly, but surely, recovered from the injury. One day, as usual, he went for an outing to an unknown place, where he met a hideous giant. This particular giant that the king came across likes to eat human beings. The king became panic-stricken at such an encounter!! The giant has this habit of inspecting his “merchandise” before feasting on them. He asked the king, “Oh human being, are you whole? Any body parts missing?” To this, the frightened king was not able to form any words. But the giant was impatient and growled, “Oh you, are you deaf or what? Didn’t you hear me asking you a question?” This time, our poor king said, “N-n–no sir! I have a finger missing due to an uneventful hunting experience. The giant then said, “How sad for me!! I do not eat men that have their body parts missing. I will have to find another human being.” With that, the giant left. The king then thought of the advisor that he put in the jail. Now he realizes the value of being optimistic. He hastily returned to his village and proceeded to release the advisor. The king, upon releasing the advisor, apologized to him, relayed his encounter with the giant, and happily shared his enlightenment. The advisor then said, “Oh king! I am so happy for you! See? I kept telling you that everything happens for our own good. Everything has a positive side if you choose to look at it. And, being in jail also did some good for me.” At this point, the perplexed king asked, “Oh intelligent one, how can you think of your time spent in jail as pleasant? Please explain you reasoning.” The advisor said, “Oh king, so simple. If I was not in jail, you would have asked me to accompany you on that outing of yours. Then we both would have encountered that giant. After learning that you have a finger missing, he would have moved on to me. He would have devoured me right then and there as all my body parts are intact.” After hearing this, the king was amazed by the ever unrelenting optimism of his advisor. Since then, the king learned to accept everything in his life with optimism and enjoyed the rest of his tranquil life.
As you can see, the attitude that we choose to be in is entirely dependent upon us. You can either choose to see the glass as half empty or half full. If it is the latter that you choose, then you will have no issues with anything that you might encounter in life. If you cannot change an inevitable event, then it is better to accept it and work around it rather than waste your energy over being sad and depressed about it. You are the only person that has control over your feelings and attitude. No one else but you can initiate the necessary change to live your life as happily and blissfully as possible. You are in charge of your life. Take control. It is your life so make it work for you. If you happen to run into troubles, do not choose to escape them but rather face them with determination and self confidence. There is nothing that you cannot do as a human being. Other creatures living alongside us on this Earth are incapable of reasoning, unlike us. Do not let some bad events define the way you choose to live or face problems for the rest of your life. That is not you. You are much stronger and courageous than that sort of life. Let us not let problems scar our lives but rather wear them as proud accessories on us. Make them add meaning to your life, not make your life a meaningless one on this Earth.
Let us all try Atwood’s tip and see how it goes for us.