People want only special revolutions, in externals, in politics, and so on. But that’s just tinkering. What really is called for is a revolution of the human mind.”― Hendrik Ibsen
The Magic 8-Ball is a plastic sphere, made to look like an eight-ball, that is used for fortune-telling or seeking advice. The concept first appeared in a Three Stooges movie in 1940 and was manufactured by Mattel in 1950, the year I was born. When I was a kid, we could barely sit still waiting for the answer to all sorts of serious questions like, “Will the ice cream truck drive by today,” “Will we have fried chicken for dinner,” and “Does that girl with the ponytail like me?”
We still have a Magic 8-Ball for when our grandkids visit. However, even as a supposed grown-up, I’m still intrigued with unusual toys. For fun, I queried the Magic 8-Ball with timely questions about the nature of greed. The answer that kept slowly floating to the surface reminded me what my wife at 16 years old said when I first asked if she loved me, “Better not tell you now.” Anyway, I changed tactics and searched the web for someone who had previously explored this matter. Enter Henrik Ibsen.
Henrik Johan Ibsen (1828-1906) was a Norwegian playwright and theatre director. As one of the founders of modernism in theatre, Ibsen is often referred to as the father of “realism” and one of the most influential playwrights of his time. His major works include A Doll’s House, An Enemy of the People, Hedda Gabler,Ghosts and Master Builder.
Here is an amazing fact: Ibsen is the most frequently performed dramatist in the world after Shakespeare and A Doll’s House one of the most performed plays.
I have vague memories of reading A Doll’s House and Hedda Gabler for a European literature class in between napping in the old Royce Hall at U.C.L.A. Not an easy read for an 18-year-old. But, some things about him stuck. For instance, his plays were considered scandalous at a time when theatre was supposed to model “moral” behavior. As a rebellious teenager of the sixties, I found this quite appealing!
Regarding greed, I believe one of Ibsen’s major contributions to society, that we could all benefit from during these tumultuous times, is that he openly explored the relationship people have with “status and objects.” Most important, he shared a deep insight into the dangers of excess that also applies today, opining: “Money may be the husk of many things but not the kernel. It brings you food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; acquaintance, but not friends…”
This quote is a wonderfully concise justification for why it is important to do what Buddhist teacher, Josei Toda, described as our human revolution. Having desires is intrinsic to being human. What matters is whether we can develop sufficient wisdom and compassion to transform these desires in ways that create value for both ourselves and others. Taken one step further, if we want to alter what we see around us — our immediate circumstances or even broader societal issues — we first need to make internal changes. While I realize this can be tough for some to swallow, I have found it to be the most empowering and hopeful attitude to embrace during difficult times.
As we work together to manage this pandemic and restore our economy, I find it helpful to acknowledge that there will be always be new problems to overcome. And as trite as it may sound, lasting happiness only comes from within (and a little help from a Magic 8-Ball never hurts).
Thanks for reading and stay safe out there!
Other titles by Mike during Covid-19:
A Remarkable Mender & the Coronavirus
Julie Andrews and the Coronavirus
Most Lucky One & the Coronavirus
Lily Tomlin & the Coronavirus
Herbie Hancock & the Coronavirus
Leo Tolstoy & the Coronavirus
Most Beautiful One & the Coronavirus
Grandma Moses & the Coronavirus
Leonardo da Vinci & the Coronavirus
Lean on Bill Withers and Defeat the Coronavirus
Gandhi, King, Ikeda & the Coronavirus
Tagore and the Coronavirus
Annie Leibovitz and the Coronavirus
Ansel Adams and the Coronavirus
Louise Penny and the Coronavirus
Harry Manx and the Coronavirus
Keb’ Mo’ and the Coronavirus
Davy Jones and the Coronavirus
Prince Hamlet and the Coronavirus
Helen Keller and the Coronavirus
Pema Chodron and the Coronavirus
ABOUT MIKE LISAGOR – Mike Lisagor plays harmonica and sings in Good Karma Blues. He has written hundreds of magazine articles and blogs on a variety of business and Buddhist related topics. He is the author of “Romancing the Buddha,” which he adapted into a successful one-man show that he performed at Bainbridge Performing Arts and in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. His nature photographs have appeared in the Boston Globe, Bainbridge Island Magazine, Living Buddhism as well as in several local galleries. His latest graphic art project, “Reimagined Nature”, is in the lobby of New Motion Physical Therapy.