Translated roughly, this phrase means "What is this to eternity?" or, translated in a more flowery form, "What does this mean in the light of eternity?". It is a phrase I often repeat to myself when things go wrong. It's a little funny, perhaps, but it's useful. I think part of it is that when things go wrong I look at it differently. Traditionally it is used in a religious context, but I'd posit that it's a good philosophy from all perspectives, for a number of simple reasons.
First, a person who looks at everything in the light of a larger picture puts it in perspective. For instance, I may stub my toe on something, but by thinking about something larger the temporary pain in my foot is somewhat replaced by an awareness of life's many bounties and future rewards. Being religious myself, this may have more value due to the fact that I do believe in an eternal paradise, but it also reminds me that one day I will probably have children; either my own with a future wife, those in my future classroom (I am an education major, after all), or both. When I look at things that way, stubbing my toe stops being anything more than a small inconvenience.
I'd like to quickly point out that I don't mean that this mantra should be used as a way of shrugging off failures-while it may help deal with a poor grade on a test or the aftermath of a difficult paper, this is not its primary purpose. I'd like to think that nobody would use this mindset in that way, but I know people who surely would. This does not diminish the impact of things, it just makes them seem easier to handle from a mental perspective, and I'd hope people don't use this mantra as an excuse to fail. Success is, after all, in both short and long term self-benefit.
Second, I think that this philosophy leads to an increased level of contentment. I've heard it said of the happiest nation in the world (at the time it was Finland) on a television interview that the reason they felt they were so happy was "being content with what [they] had". It struck me in the moment as being a little odd and almost too laid back, but as I thought more, it occurred to me that it was very true. Part of living with a mindset on the larger picture is looking at where you stand- and since I'm assuming everyone reading this has access to internet, enough food and water to make it through every day, and clothing, I would like to point out that most people reading this are well above any form of poverty level. Even then, what is technically poor for the world is having an income of about $1.25 at the time of writing. Since that was a while back it may be fair to use a slightly larger number, but that would be pedantry in its truest form.
In short, I guess what I have to say today is "Be happy, things aren't so bad you can't recover.". I recognize that people may be going through very hard times right now, but are they challenges to be surmounted, or great tragedies?