Uncertainty

 

The comedian Rowan Atkinson wrote a speech some years ago, perhaps on a par with his “father of the bride” speech, given by a Member of Parliament about “uncertainty”, which may be apt to adapt or paraphrase:

“The future is uncertain.
What will happen is uncertain.
How we react will be uncertain.
How other people cope will be uncertain.
What the outcome will be is uncertain.
When we know what the outcome will be is uncertain.
Indeed it could be said there is certainly a certain degree of
uncertainty…
And of that we can be quite …..
… Sure!!!”

In times of uncertainty, one thing is certain: kindness always prevails over all forms of unkindness.

As challenging times can bring out the best in the best and the worst in the worst, perhaps during life’s difficulties the advice of the Dalai Lama may be most apt:

BE KIND!

“THERE COMES A TIME WHEN WE MUST ALL STAND UP AND BE COUNTED”

Sir Marcus Browning aka Rowan Atkinson: “Life is uncertain”:

“My Lord Mayor, my Lady Mayoress. My lords, ladies and gentlemen. There comes a time when we must all stand up and be counted. I am therefore standing up now and can be counted.

One. To each of you I say you are a one. And ones are about to become singularly important. Because Britain is facing the gravest economic crisis since 1380. And you know many of us still remember that day. The eternal torment, worry, exasperation and all manner of strife. And if we are to let the lights go out on our lives once more, we must ask ourselves crucial questions.

Where are we? How did we get here? Why did we come? Where do we want to go? How do we want to get to where we want to go? How far do we have to go before we get to where we want to be? How would we know where we were when we got there? Have we got a map? Why did we leave places to get to where we are? Where were we before that we had to leave to get to where we were before we knew we were going to go to where we want to be?

Where would we end up if we had the choice? Where would we end up if we didn’t have the choice? What would we choose given the choice? Do we have that choice to choose? Or indeed can we be choosy about the choice choosings? What are the choosings? Choices! Do we want to stop now? (Rhetorical?)

Or do we want to go right back to the beginning and start all over again. Perhaps not.

But surely you can see my point. Because what I’m talking about is life. Because life is one of those things that most of us find it very difficult to avoid. In the words of Esther Rantzen [presenter of a BBC TV programme called “That’s Life”]:

“Life is uncertain.” My life certainly has a certain uncertainty about it. And I’m certain yours does too. So with your uncertainty and my uncertainty there’s certainly a certain degree of uncertainty about, of that we can be…

… quite sure.

So let’s buckle down, shall we? Purpose is what we’re striving for. We must have purpose. We mustn’t be purposeless. We must not exhibit purposelessness. We must be purposelessnessless.  

Because we don’t want to end up, do we? Like the blind man in the dark room looking for the black cat…

That isn’t there???”

By Rowan Atkinson

KSNMW [Keep Smiling No Matter What]

In times of crisis everyone needs to show a great deal of consideration for the interests and needs of others, as well as being careful ourselves, but nevertheless striving to be more selfless and less self-centred. We certainly must be selfless. We certainly mustn’t exhibit self-centredness. We certainly must be self-centrednessless. We certainly must be selflessnesslessful. Of that we can be…

… quite sure.

With Abraham Lincoln saying:

“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be” 

it is within the power of our own minds whether we choose to be happy or not, almost irrespective of the situation.

At the end of the day what does worrying about something beyond our control achieve? Nada!

Is it things – or other people – which contribute to our greatest happiness?

And how we decide to behave towards them which contributes not just to their happiness, but our own too?

Surely the easiest way to bring ourselves happiness, no matter the circumstances and our own “mood”, is to say or do something which brings a smile to the face of another person?

Maybe the corollary is also true?

Perhaps the easiest way to bring ourselves unhappiness, no matter the circumstances and our own “mood”, is to say or do something which removes a smile from the face of another person? So why bother doing that? 

Maybe some people are just naturally more pessimistic by nature – who make difficulties of their opportunities?

So perhaps if we are mindful of both our own wellbeing and that of others, we  should instead only choose to associate with optimists – those who make opportunities from their difficulties??!!

Martin EP Seligman, professor of psychology, past president of the American Psychological Association and one of the pioneers of the uplifting field of research entitled “Positive Psychology”, says in his wonderful book “Authentic Happiness”:

“Optimistic people tend to interpret their troubles as transient, controllable and specific to one situation.

Pessimistic people, in contrast, believe that their troubles last forever, undermine everything that they do and are uncontrollable”.

Irrespective of our personal demeanour or “dispositional attribution”, do we not ALL have a responsibility, even the quite self-centred, to try to be positive and kind, especially during life’s challenges?

This was well recognised by the Dalai Lama:

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

One of life’s most remarkable lessons, a surprise or even secret to some, is that being kind to someone else can bring us deep happiness too!

Indeed what Prof Seligman says about kindness is fascinating:

“The students in one of my classes wondered if happiness comes from the exercise of kindness more readily than it does from having fun. After a heated dispute, we each undertook an assignment for the next class: to engage in one pleasurable activity and one philanthropic activity, and write about both.

The results were life-changing. The afterglow of the “pleasurable”activity (hanging out with friends, or watching a movie, or eating a hot fudge sundae) paled in comparison with the effects of the kind action.

When our philanthropic acts were spontaneous and called upon personal strengths, the whole day went better…

The exercise of kindness is a gratification, in contrast to a pleasure. As a gratification, it calls on your strengths to rise to an occasion and meet a challenge.

Kindness is not accompanied by a separate stream of positive emotion like joy; rather it consists in total engagement and in the loss of self-consciousness. Time stops. 

One of the business students volunteered that he had come to the University of Pennsylvania to learn how to make a lot of money in order to be happy, but that he was floored to find that he liked helping other people more than spending his money shopping.” (p9)

“The virtue of humanity can be achieved by kindness, philanthropy,the capacity to love and be loved, sacrifice or compassion.
The virtue of temperance can be exhibited by modesty and humility,disciplined self-control or prudence and caution.” (p133)

“Strengths, such as integrity, valour, originality and kindness, are not the same thing as talents…[though] can be built on even frail foundations, and I believe that with enough practice, persistence, good teaching and dedication, they can take root and flourish.” (p134)

from Martin EP Seligman, “Authentic Happiness”
Simon & Schuster, 2002

This may be come as a shock for some of life’s “TAKERS” – “more interested in themselves than others” – although Seligman’s words could perhaps have been written by many of life’s “GIVERS” – “those more interested in others (as much or even more) than themselves”.

Which people of “INTEGRITY”, like a maths integer – whole, undivided people – well appreciate, as did Mahatma Gandhi:

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do
are in harmony.” 

So perhaps we should be more aware of the simple but powerful advice offered by comedian  Groucho Marx, who brought happiness to many:

“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today.
I can choose which it shall be.
Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet.
I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”

We also need to be tactful and very careful with our use of words in the moment, as these clips from the multi-BAFTA winning BBC sit-com “Yes Minister” and then “Yes Prime Minister”  suggest the power of appropriate and well-chosen words.

The government minister has rings run around him by the verbal prowess of his most senior public servants, bamboozling him into agreement with what they want by way of using a preponderance of many sentences of profusely preposterous, elaborately ebullient, excessively extravagant and exuberantly luxuriant looooooong words, when only a few may have been as apt, but less uproariously hilarious and certainly less seriously serious, of that we can be quite… sure:

Yes Minister & Yes Prime Minister Clips (filmed by the BBC in front of live audiences)

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