Sunday, December 09, 2007


Please bear with the literary analysis here, but Will S. put this rather well (reading the stuff in parenthesis will provide the condensed version of what the bard is saying):

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
(to exist, or not...)
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
(is it morally right to fight against all odds...)
And by opposing end them?
(even if it means my death...)
To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd.
(This life is full of such troubles, wouldn’t it be better to end it, especially in fighting for what is right?)
To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
(The visions that sleep may bring when we shrug off this body which traps us...)
Must give us pause:
(But, since we don’t know what will come we cling to the troubles we have, the troubles we know...)
there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
(And we just suck it up, all the crap of our lives, the health problems of aging, the trespasses of others against us, the sneer from the wealthy and sophisticated, the arrogance of those who govern but no longer care about those who suffer, the rejection and unfaithfulness of those who swore to love us, the imposition that we be patient to those who are not worthy but believe they are superior...)
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?
(When we could end it all with a sharp knife...)
who would fardels bear,
(who would carry heavy burdens...)
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
(except that we fear that after death...)
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns,
(the foreign land for which we have no maps and no one comes back from...)
puzzles the will
(saps our resolve...)
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
(and we suck all this crap up because we are afraid to step of what we do not know...)
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
(and therefore, we stick with what we are, we are cowards...)
And thus the native hue of resolution
(and our resolve is colored...)
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
(by the shadow of our weak minds...)
And enterprises of great pith and moment
(and our hopes to do great things, do the right thing...)
With this regard their currents turn awry,
(drift away...)
And lose the name of action.
(and we fail.)

Hamlet wasn’t suicidal. Neither am I.

He was torn between to world views. Anger and revenge versus love and forgiveness. Standing up to do the right thing would cost, cost him everything, perhaps his life. His pain was so great he would do almost anything to make it stop, and in fighting against all the resources of the king it might kill him, and wouldn’t that be a good thing too? Except... what is death?

There are all sorts of death. It is the natural result of life... at least life as we know it, based on entropy... in consuming the order created by plants and animals, and sucking a little energy from them before turning them into excrement.

Some deaths are easier to take than others, but most are at least a little hard.

A favorite pet, the loss of a good job, the chilling of a friendship.

Some deaths are not so easy.

Willy’s death was so hard I haven’t recovered yet. It will be fifteen years this Saturday since he died in my care.

His death wasn’t a single event. It was a spiked twisting thing which beat within my chest for over a year. It was a shattering of my identity, losing my fatherhood, losing my dreams of teaching him about science and art and literature.

It was a time of stumbling through days, a walking death of grief which made me a zombie to joy and love and beauty.

I did my best. I maintained straight A’s in college, studying art and literature. I dove into Shakespeare, Toni Morrison, and Philip K. Dick. I learned all I could about architecture, the development of art, the basics of color and design.

But it was all ashes in my mouth. Every bit of news about suffering in the world, every milestone of grief, every reminder of his time in my home, stabbed me, bent me, made me ache to fly to that “undiscover'd country from whose bourn no traveller returns.”

I contemplated suicide that year.

There was the death of hopes and dreams before that which echoed in his death. When we learned that Brenda could not have children there was the death in losing the promise of a family I had always hoped for.

In adopting my current children those dreams we reborn, and then died slowly as we became aware that they couldn’t fulfill my dreams of teaching them about science and art and literature.

I've some current troubles in my life. This isn't the place to go into them. But they feel like a death as well.

This death feels much like the pain of Willy’s death, except I no longer have the luxury of stumbling through my life. I have children who need me. I have a job which requires I pour the best of myself into my charges.

The sadness I feel has taken root and I need healing, spiritual cleansing, to drive it out.

Death is fearful because it is a door into the unknown, and perhaps because the deaths we know have taught us that it is often painful.

Shakespeare grieved over the death of his child, Hamnet, and his writing was steeped in that grief. That is one reason he touches us still.

But death is also the source of life. The energy mined from the life of plants and animals gives us life. Indeed, aside from the source of energy the sun provides plants, all life sucks at the decomposition death brings.

Likewise, there is a death I experience every time I sin. It is the loss of a tiny portion of my soul, of the goodness, the image of God created in me.

The decomposition of those small deaths I fling at the universe, at God, is absorbed by the cross.

I think the only true life I can glean is from the source of energy the son provides.

I am in a dark place today. I suppose I should seek Sonlight.

1 comment:

Phyllis S said...

Hope things are a bit brighter for you today. Please forgive me for not coming around for so long. My thoughts and prayers are with you.