“You have to do everything you can, you have to work your hardest, and if you do, if you stay positive, you have a shot at a silver lining.” Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
I’ve always loved the term “silver lining.” I was never quite sure of its’ origins, though, so I did some research to learn more about it.
The term “silver lining” originates from Victorian literature. The author John Milton coined the term in 1634 in his novel Comus: A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle. In this novel, the term is associated with a Supreme God. My interpretation of the passage is this:
My God will send me a guardian angel to save my life. Was this an illusion or is there really a silver lining? I am not mistaken, there is a silver lining.
From there, the term morphed into the commonly-used phrase “every cloud has a silver lining”. This is a phrase we see fairly often, most recently in the movie Silver Linings Playbook, quoted above.
The movie is about a man Pat, played by Bradley Cooper, who suffers from Bi-polar Disorder. At the start of the movie, Pat is ending his stay at a mental hospital early. He and another patient hop into his mother’s car and frantically begin chatting up a storm while the mother drives them home.
Throughout the movie, we are witness to the highs and lows of Pat’s Bi-polar disorder, the affect it has on his family, his jobs, and his relationships. We root for Pat to follow the doctor’s orders, take his medication, stay away from alcohol, and keep his therapy appointments. We root for him and Jennifer Lawrence’s burgeoning love story, too.
Pat has this obsession with “finding the silver lining.” It’s a concept he learned while staying at the mental institution. It’s also a concept he returns to time and again throughout his highs and lows, and the gaps that fall between.
What this character teaches me is far more than a simple phrase. What this character teaches me is that, despite the cards we are dealt in life, we all have the opportunity to find a seed of hope. Each and every one of us– including those with mental illness, physical disability, physical illness, chronic disease– has the opportunity to make the best of what we have.
It’s a lesson that many spend their whole lives trying to learn: Play the cards you are dealt. It means: accept the circumstances out of your control and do your best to find something hopeful in them.
I know that sounds naive– what do I know about all of those things? I’ve never suffered from a physical disability or a chronic disease. I don’t know what either of those things are like. I imagine they are extremely difficult, extremely trying. But I do not know what’s is like to walk in those shoes.
But I do know this- without hope, without a silver lining, it’s just a gray cloud.