It was just a quote. A mere quote I had posted on my facebook profile that lead to some great thought for me today. It started with a smart friend of mine confronting my support of this quote. The friend posted this on my facebook wall today:
do you truly believe the quote you have listed from hamlet? very curious! :) have a fabulous monday!
The quote in which the friend was referencing, which I have on my facebook profile says this:
"There is nothing either good or bad, but the thinking makes it so." ~Hamlet
Upon rereading the quote I thought to myself. “Hmm…you know, I don’t know. Do I really believe that?”
I recalled the time when I posted it and then I was in much agreement with it because it was amidst a time of a lot of debate concerning homosexuality. In my opinion, this quote is true when considering the topic of homosexuality. Depending on how you think, you’ll view homosexuality as either “good” or “bad.” So yes, at that time I was in strong belief that this quote had justification. But for some reason today, I found myself questioning it…
I began to try the quote to topics other than homosexuality. So, what does everyone think of first? Murder, of course. So I debated that one in my head. Thought about a couple other topics I think, then responded back to my friends facebook wall with this…
You would go throw one of my quotes in my face...HA!
Okay, with the "nothing" part of it, it tends to make me want to discredit it based on the absolutivity of the term; however, I can't help but to debate in my head that possibly it IS correct.
At the time when I first heard it, and liked it, it was a time when debating homosexuality was big, so in those terms, I thought it really applied. As of right now, now that I've been "forced" to look at it again, I am having to play some examples out in my head.
I'll tell you what, you help me since you brought this up...HA! I have a feeling you don't believe the quote, so you give me an example of something that is "bad" and not "bad" simply because of the thinking.
This is the response I got back from the friend on my wall:
murder. redrum. however you want to spell it.
Yeah, I was pretty sure that was the response I was going to get, but I thought, might as well let her call the shots…HA! So I responded like this…
You know, that was the response I was expecting to get. And first, I must say, it is probably a good thing you do not want to be a criminal lawyer, otherwise, you might be a big fan of this Hamlet quote.
So I've given good ol' redrum some thought and even after going to dictionary.com to look up the EXACT definition of "murder" I still think you can argue that murder comes down to how we view the situation in which the "killing" took place (our "thinking") as to whether the killing was "bad" or not.
Animals kill other animals and we don't think of it as "bad."
Probably the best argument can come from war. There is killing there, and no one is going to be tried in our country's court of law for killing on the battlefield. By definition that is murder, second or first degree, probably depends on the situation, but I'm sure when that guy is aiming his riffle his intent is to kill--murder.
Less than an hour later I found myself signing back on to facebook to leave yet another response:
My deepest apologies. The more I've thought about what I wrote earlier, I realized I was arguing "right" vs. "wrong" and not "bad" vs. "good." Two TOTALLY different things.
Good thing I wasn't trying to argue that point in a law class...I would have SOOO been caught on that one!
I'll get back to my argument of "bad" vs. "good" later...I have it already in my mind, but gotta work, my co-worker that sits next to me just showed up! HA!
And that brings me to what I want to talk about in this entry, as well as to end with my answer to “do you truly believe the quote you have listed from hamlet”
So is there a difference between right/wrong and good/bad?
I believe there is.
If you think about it, typically right/wrong is in reference to laws or rules or morals—something that clarifies one from the other. “This is right and this is wrong.” Do these have to be written rules? No. Typically morals are not written, but they still help to frame a person’s thought patterns around what is right and what is wrong behaviorally. Religiously speaking, many people gain their thought patterns about what is right and what is wrong from their biblical code.
So is right and wrong always clearly defined? No. Is what I believe to be right going to be what you believe to be right? Not necessarily. However, when discussing what’s “right” versus what’s “wrong” typically people will base their arguments off of laws or rules or morals or traditions—these sorts of backings.
When I think about good/bad I do not think of laws or rules or morals. When I think of how “good” and “bad” are used in our everyday conversations I see a reference to one’s opinions, or one’s judgments.
Good/bad are typically referenced to the situation at hand based on how the specific person interprets it at the time. Yes, many times one’s interpretations could be swayed one way or another by his/her beliefs of right versus wrong, but at the same time, their terming a situation or a behavior as “good” or “bad” is a judgment call. Let me give an example…
How about we use the great example of murder. Murder—many would argue it is “wrong.” There are many laws/rules/morals to back murder as “wrong.” So let’s look at it from “good” versus “bad.”
You woke up. You’re sipping your Saturday morning coffee while reading the newspaper only to read that your favorite corner gas station was robbed at gun point last night and the cashier was murdered in the monetary exchange with the thief. You think to yourself—that is “bad.” Murder—“bad.”
You are late on your rent once again. You electric got turned off this morning and you have no money. You are driving around in your car trying to decide what to do. You see the 7-11 on the corner. It’s 1 AM. The streets are dead. You go in with intent of getting money to pay your bills. You get the money and knock off the cashier in the process so you can get away. You will get to pay your bills now! This is “good.” Murder—“good” because otherwise you might not have gotten out of the store with the money.
See how the same situation can be viewed differently depending on which perspective you are taking? In the same situation, one can see the murder as “good” while another sees it as “bad.” It’s a matter of one’s judgment and opinion which is influenced by how one looks at it.
Okay. That’s just one example. And I know many probably read that and thought to their selves, “murder is always ‘wrong.’ I just can’t follow you there.” So let’s try another example, one that the action taken is not necessarily “right” or “wrong” based on any written rules.
Your grocery shopping. Just about finished—thank goodness—when you happen down the cereal aisle to pick up a box of Raisin Bran when your 4 year old son spots the box of “Opps! All Berries Captain Crunch” that includes a free Buzzlightyear action figure! What 4-year-old in his right mind can pass that up?!?! Junior asks mom if he can have it, too which mom responds “no”—planning to grab the box of Raisin Bran and hit the registers with just enough time to get home to catch Oprah. Junior could careless about Oprah, and the next thing mom knows, he is kicking and screaming bloody-murder on the floor because he wants his action figure…OPPS…I mean healthy Captain Crunch, of course! ;) To save herself from excruciating embarrassment, as well as to see what new outfit Oprah will have on today, mom gives in: Buzzlightyear, Captain, berries and all.
To mom—the situation was “bad” because not only did her son embarrass her in public with his outlandish outcry, but mom also “gave in” to Junior once again without setting her boundaries. Dang kids! HA! ;)
To Junior—the situation was “good.” He got his way. Not only did he get his extreme sugar-rush box of flavored corn crap, but he also got the Buzzlightyear figurine that he will play with for one day before he breaks it and never looks at it again. Well worth the, what does cereal cost again nowadays--$5 a box! ;)
Okay, so maybe I’ve taken both of my examples to the extremes, but they were sure fun in sharing them! Extremes or not, I think they help to show my point that in the situations “good” or “bad” is determined by how you look at the situation. Even when an action that is considered “wrong” is performed, it can still be viewed as “good” if the person judges the situations as beneficial.
Murder = wrong.
Murder allows one to benefit = get money to pay one’s bills = “good”
Throwing a temper tantrum = wrong.
Throwing a temper tantrum = gets one his/her way = “good”
One’s judgment comes down to how one thinks.
So after giving it my day’s worth of thought…
I guess I do still stand behind my posted Hamlet quote…
"There is nothing either good or bad, but the thinking makes it so." ~Hamlet
…or at least until the next person questions me about it! ;)