Silver Lining

I love hanging around with my kids because they say so many things that don’t make sense. They sound of wise crazy poets.

Yesterday while walking with my daughter she looked up at the sky and said birds are so happy, but they have sun in their eyes all day. I thought about this and smiled and she smiled at me. We were on our way to dropoff a picture she made into a neighbor’s mailbox.

Not all birds have sun in their eyes all day of course, they fly beneath the clouds down here with us, but it reminded me of the common saying every cloud has a silver lining which I often hear applied to mean: “from every bad thing, there is some small, good thing”. This is not the meaning of the phrase, although it is the common usage.

Silver lining refers to the fact that the sun is always shining above the clouds, and you can see this on the edges where it makes it shine brightly in silver. Every cloud has a silver lining means that the cloud’s days are numbered, that the heat on the other side – with the same intensity and consistency as on a sunny day – will move that cloud away and it will be sunny again to you.

If you a spiritual person, it means that He who brought the clouds promises He will take them away. The origin of the phrase speaks to this:

I see ye visibly, and now believe
That he, the Supreme Good, to whom all things ill
Are but as slavish officers of vengeance,
Would send a glistering guardian, if need were
To keep my life and honour unassailed.
Was I deceived, or did a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?
I did not err; there does a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night,
And casts a gleam over this tufted grove.

— John Milton, Comus: A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634

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