Three reasons the quote ‘This too shall pass’ should be used with care
Hope you like this soundtrack – Sinclair’s This Too Shall Pass – she doesn’t really get the intrinsic meaning behind the quote, but it sounds kinda nice.
Back in my old office, Colleague J used to write this quote on her whiteboard. We were a bunch of expressive individuals and in my angriest moment, the quote I placed on my whiteboard was ‘Balls’.
I supposed Colleague J meant it as a quote to be used in the face of the stresses and anxieties that came with work. The quote was meant as a consolation, with the hope that the vagaries of life will soon be over.
So when Colleague W started wearing a ring with that quote etched onto it, I assumed that he was feeling the heat from the stresses of work. I also informed him that the ring looked alittle ‘beng’ (slightly gangsta-ish), which stood out from formal work attire.
Here are three reasons the quote ‘This too shall pass’ should be used with care:
1. The quote seems to suggest that while your worries and troubles may fade away, happiness is fleeting too.
In response to my opposition to the ring, I was told that the ring had deeper significance. Based on a Jewish fable, there was once a king who challenged his wise men to create a sentence which ‘will be true and appropriate in all times and situations’. And they presented him with the words, “And this, too, shall pass away.”
I didn’t have much of a reaction then, but upon deeper reflection, I found the quote oozing with pessimism and resignation. It seemed to suggest that one’s life was constantly in flux, and no matter how much you tried, long-term happiness was out of your grasp. It also gave the impression that one was resigned that happiness will never be long-lasting.
2. It represents the full circle of life
I thought of this quote again while looking back at some pictures of the Cherry Blossom Tree I had taken during Sabbath. It was day after my grandfather had passed away, and looking at the tree – I knew its beauty and elegance was fleeting. Soon, this beautiful moment would have come to pass, and soon, after a harsh winter, the flowers would bloom again. It was part of a cycle of life. It offered some consolation, and yet at the same time, it was a bittersweet moment
3. But it’s all about treasuring the moment
After some vehement opposition to the quote ‘this too shall pass’, Colleague W explained that this quote resonated because it was all about treasuring the moment. And I suppose that’s true in a way. The knowledge that each moment you have with your loved ones or a bunch of friends will always be rare and hard to come by, makes you look beyond all the minor annoyances, and treasure their company even more. And I suppose, it’s the reason why I have visited Thai Discos on several occasions, despite having a much comfortable option of sipping wine while watching Netflix at home. It’s also the reason why I have never regretted going on a grad trip to Taiwan with my friends, or visiting Bali on a last-minute trip despite having been there several times.
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Before I go, I’ll leave you with a couple of lines, taken from Abraham Lincoln’s address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in Milwaukee:
It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction! “…
And I was glad that Abraham Lincoln provided some consolation in a subsequent paragraph:
And yet let us hope it is not quite true. Let us hope, rather, that by the best cultivation of the physical world, beneath and around us; and the intellectual and moral world within us, we shall secure an individual, social, and political prosperity and happiness, whose course shall be onward and upward, and which, while the earth endures, shall not pass away.
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As Abraham Lincoln aptly puts it, it is my belief that we should work towards securing happiness that endures. We will eventually lose everything when we die, because death is inevitable. But until we get there, happiness is always worth an effort : )