The ‘Blank Paper’ Question
There’s a somewhat well-known moral story commonly referred to as the “blank paper” question. As the story goes, a professor walked into his classroom at a local high school. He made an announcement that the class should prepare for a surprise test. The students all waited anxiously.
After a few moments, the professor passed out the test. It was a single sheet of paper, somewhat a short test for this teacher who was known for his lengthy exams. Once every student had a page from his stack, he asked his students to flip it over and begin. To everyone’s surprise, there were no questions at all on the page, in fact there was nothing at all, not even a place for the students to write tier name or date.
All that was present on the entire sheet was a single, small, black dot near the center of the page. The professor, after seeing the expression on everyone’s face, decided he needed to give them some minor instructions. “I want you to write what you see there. What YOU see on the page I’ve handed to you.” After a few moments, the confused students were all writing what they each thought was the correct answer. “No other work today.” said the teacher. “If you finish before the end of class, just bring your paper up to my desk, and sit quietly while everyone else finishes up”.
So after 45 minutes, at the end of the class, the professor took the pile of the answer papers and started reading each one of them aloud in front of all the students. Each and every one of them, with no exceptions at all, described the black dot. The dots location was on the paper, the exact shape of its irregular circle, its position in the middle of the sheet etc.
After all had been read, the classroom was silent. The professor slowly began to explain, “I am not going to grade on you this. I just wanted to give you something to think about. You all began with the same blank paper. No one wrote about the white part of the paper. Everyone focused on the black dot and the same happens in our lives. We have a white paper to observe and enjoy, but we always focus on the dark spots. Our life is a gift given to us. We always have reasons to celebrate. For example, nature renewing itself every day, our friends around us, the job that provides our livelihood, and the miracles we see every day.”
He continued, “However, we insist on focusing only on the dark spots. For instance, the health issues that bother us, the lack of money, the complicated relationship with a family member, or the disappointment with a friends. Compared to everything we have in our lives, the dark spots are very small. But, they are the ones that pollute our minds. Take your eyes away from the black spots in your life. Enjoy each one of your blessings, each moment that life gives you. Be happy and live a life positively!”
And so the students learned the moral to this story, and the ‘blank paper’ question . As the professor explained, life is a mixed bag of good and bad things. Everyone has positives and negatives along the way. But we must always concentrate greater on the positives for a healthy and happy life. Life goes on no matter what so do not waste your time thinking about the negatives.