November 15, 2007

This Too Shall Pass


Hebrew for "This Too Shall Pass," read, of course, from right to left.

The quote, in itself, is simple. The true wisdom to be found in its meaning is revealed in the story from which the quote originates. I have no idea if you know where this quote came from, but I shall tell the story here. I think you will find it incredibly wise, whether it serves as a reminder or this is the first time you hear it....

King Solomon, feeling blue, asked his advisors to find him a ring he had once seen in a dream.

"When I feel satisfied I’m afraid that it won’t last. And when I don’t, I am afraid my sorrow will go on forever. Find me the ring that will ease my suffering." he demanded.

Solomon sent out all of his advisors, and eventually one of them met an old jeweler who carved into a simple gold band the inscription, "this too shall pass." When the king received his ring and read the inscription, his sorrows turned to joy and his joy to sorrows, and then both gave way to equanimity.

You see, the great King found himself unable to be content.

He felt sorrow when he was happy, and sorrow when he was not, because he was unable to see his way forward. The ring served to cancel out his sorrow. By constantly having something to look forward to, he found himself content. What he previously thought was satisfaction was only a superficial feeling that was brought on by his great wealth, which was only temporary, thus his satisfaction could not last forever. True satisfaction could only be found when he recognized his wealth for what it was.

The preceding story is a condensed version, and there are other origins attributed to the phrase.

Abraham Lincoln said, in an address to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in Milwaukee, WI, on September 30, 1859:

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!

(The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, "Address Before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, Milwaukee, Wisconsin" (September 30, 1859), pp. 481-482.)

Another version of the story from The Way of the Sufi by Idries Shah:

A powerful king, ruler of many domains, was in a position of such magnificence that wise men were his mere employees. And yet one day he felt himself confused and called the sages to him. He said: 'I do not know the cause, but something impels me to seek a certain ring, one that will enable me to stabilize my state. 'I must have such a ring. And this ring must be one which, when I am unhappy, will make me joyful. At the same time, if I am happy and look upon it, I must be made sad.' The wise men consulted one another, and threw themselves into deep contemplation, and finally they came to a decision as to the character of this ring which would suit their king. The ring which they devised was one upon which was inscribed the legend: This, too, will pass.

Another origin of the phrase is the story of a Middle Eastern potentate and his sons.

Once there was a Middle Eastern potentate who wanted his two sons to become the most intelligent people in the world. In order to do this he called a meeting of all the wise men in the Kingdom and ordered them to gather all the world's knowledge together in one place so his sons could read it. The wise men returned in a year with twenty-five volumes of knowledge. The potentate told them that it was far too long and asked them to condense it. The wise men left and returned a year later, but this time with only a single volume. The potentate told them that it was still too long for his sons and ordered them to condense it further. The wise men left for another year and returned and gave the potentate a piece of paper with a single sentence on it. That sentence was "This too shall pass."

"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need."
Phillipians 4:11-12 KJV

I'll just sum it all up by saying this: "Life has its ups and downs."

10 comments:

GUYK said...

Yep, without sorrow there can be no happiness and with out happiness there can be no sorrow. May be a good thing..life would be pretty damn boring without the ups and downs..

The Hermit said...

That's a well written posting there, Jan. It was interesting and I learned some things I didn't know. My mom used to say that and I picked it up from her but I thought it came out of the bible.

Jan said...

guyk..and we all have our ups and downs, don't we? :)

Jan said...

hermit..thanks!

I think that a lot of people assume that the saying comes from the bible..it's been around a long time, obviously.

sue said...

How can you know you've been happy if you've never been sad?

rockync said...

Yes, life does have its ups and downs. Whenever something bad befalls us, it is a great comfort to know "this, too shall pass."
Whenever life has been rich and full and perhaps a little too easy, it's humbling to remember that "this too shall pass" so enjoy it well while you can.

Jan said...

sue..I don't know if you could know. I have known some people who, it seemed, had never known any sadness, and some quite the opposite, too

Jan said...

rockync..yes, the good, as well as the bad, can come and go, so it is wise to appreciate the good times, and try to prepare for the bad ones.

Vin De Vine said...

If I remember my bible schoolin' I think that those words are found in 1st Corinthians by the Apostle Paul but obviously it is merely another use of the phrase.

More recently the phrase has been seen in Southern California newspaper Headlines regarding the devastating fires. Once again a valid use for those words.

Jan said...

vin..the fires in California were devastating for so many, I know.

As far as the phrase being in the bible, I don't believe it is, per se. There are many sayings that we assume are in the bible, but aren't, actually, like for instance, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness."

I've heard that one all my life, but it is not in the bible. :)

I always appreciate your comments.