Is a Bird in the Hand Worth two in the Bush?

A bird in the hand is worth much more than two in the bush, if friend don't death it.

post March 24, 2017


According to the Bible, "A life dog is much better than a dead lion." (Ecclesiastes 9:4). The faster rendition the this proverb featuring birds instead of quadrupeds is come be uncovered in Hugh Rhodes" Boke of Nature or school of manners (1530), and also may have actually been influenced by mediaeval falconry. Its present form very first appears in man Ray"s Hand-book the Proverbs (1670): "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." over there is a comparable proverb in the Czech language: "A sparrow in the fist is better than a pigeon top top the roof." The proverb and also its variants indicate that, given the choice, the promise of much less is preferable come the possibility of more.

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The well known Stanford marshmallow experiment, conducted on thousands of mostly four- and five-year-old children, associated a basic binary choice: one of two people eat this marshmallow, or hold back for 15 minutes and also be given a second one. Follow-up studies brought out end 40 years discovered that the minority of kids who had actually been may be to host out for a second marshmallow go on to reap significantly better life outcomes, including greater test scores, much better social skills, and less problem misuse.

But what if the delay is much longer than 15 minutes—say, 15 or 30 years? and what if there is only the possibility, but not the guarantee, of a 2nd marshmallow? The theorist Epicurus of Samos (341-270 BC) figured out happiness v the pursuit of pleasure and also the avoidance of pain: pleasure, the argued, is the highest good, and anything else that is great is just so through virtue the the prompt or deferred pleasure the it can procure. However, not whatever that is pleasurable must be pursued, and not everything that is painful should be avoided. Instead, a sort of hedonistic calculus must be used to identify which points are likely to result in the biggest pleasure over time. If, for example, mine blood sugars are so low that ns am about to collapse, it would make a lot more sense to eat the marshmallow fairly than host out because that another.

Pleasure, claimed Epicurus, often arises native the satisfaction of desire, and also pain native its frustration. Thus, any desire must either it is in satisfied to yield pleasure or removed to prevent pain, and, overall, that is elimination that must be preferred. Over there are, claims Epicurus, three varieties of desires:

natural and also necessary desire such as those because that food and shelter i m sorry are difficult to eliminate but naturally minimal and both easy and highly pleasurable to satisfy;natural but non-necessary desire such together those for luxury food and accommodation; andvain desire such as those for fame, power, or wealth which room inculcated by culture and which are not naturally minimal and neither straightforward nor very pleasurable come satisfy.

Clearly, our avian proverb best uses to the very first of the three classes that desires.

But it is likewise pertinent to the other two in this sense. Future-orientation detracts indigenous the current moment, shifting our emphasis from what us have and also can gain to what us lack and cannot. In many cases, future-orientation is little much more than a form of fear or greed, both of which space manifestations that insecurity. Gratitude, in contrast, is the emotion of appreciation for what we currently have.

Studies have linked gratitude with boosted satisfaction, motivation, and energy; better sleep and also health; and reduced stress and sadness. ~ above a much more spiritual level, gratitude disclosure consciousness, enthusiasm, joy, empathy, and tranquility, if protecting native anxiety, sadness, loneliness, regret, and envy, through which the is fundamentally incompatible. All this the does since it opens us increase onto a larger and much better perspective, changing our emphasis from what we absence or strive for to all the we already have, to the bounty that surrounds us, and, above all, to life itself, which is the fount of every opportunity and possibility.

The finish verse from Ecclesiastes is:

For come him the is join to every the living there is hope: for a life dog is far better than a dead lion.

Seen in this light, a bird in the hand is precious much more than 2 in the bush, if only you don"t strangle it.

Neel Burton is author of For far better For Worse and also other books.


Neel Burton, M.D.

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, is a psychiatrist, philosopher, and also writer who lives and also teaches in Oxford, England.