Monday, May 22, 2017

The potent poison quite o'er-crows my spirit

In Act 2 Scene 2 of Hamlet, the Prince Hamlet says this to his ostensible friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern:

"I have of late, (but wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition; that this goodly frame the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o'er hanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire: why, it appeareth no other thing to me, than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours."

I offer and embrace the foregoing, appreciating the irony (i.e., using a sublime source from literature), as a statement of my attitude with respect to life, literature, and more. A bit of autobiography might help explain the foul and pestilent offering.

When I graduated from high school in the early 60s, I went on to college as a history major who looked forward to becoming a high school teacher. Then, when my father died in the summer following my freshman year, I felt abandoned (like Hamlet), and l fell into a melancholy that derailed my future plans. Soon thereafter I received a draft notice (i.e., the U.S. government's selective service wanted me to become a soldier in Vietnam), so I came up with an alternative plan: I enlisted in the Navy. Following four years of the Navy as a cryptologic technician in Norfolk and GITMO, I returned to college again thinking I would become a high school history teacher, but I soon was seduced into a different academic plan: I became a theater major who hoped to someday become a drama teacher in either high school or college. Well, in spite of a B.A. and an M.A. (ABT) in theater, I found myself among the acutely and chronically unemployed. So I returned to the Navy, and I remained there for more than twenty years of service (with shore duty stations in California, Florida, and Iceland, and sea duty on three aircraft carriers in the Pacific). When I finished my naval career, I returned to college because I decided I would become a teacher. First I thought I would become a K-12 special education teacher, but then I set my sights on becoming a university teacher of English composition, literature, and drama. After a few more years as a student (M.A. in English) and a decade as a teacher in university classrooms, I eventually became disillusioned with teaching, literature, and life. My disillusionment, exacerbated by acute and chronic distractions, led to my "retirement" from all labors.

Now, even though I should be enjoying what I thought were going to become my "golden years" and carefree living, problems continue to besiege me, and again but more than ever "I have of late, (but wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth." Moreover, just as Hamlet says at the end of his life, I also have this to say: "The potent poison quite o'er-crows my spirit." Yes, you see, my view of literature and life has been poisoned. I do not understand why.

In any case, I suppose I should apologize for this posting. The tone and substance is not very useful. Perhaps I should take my cue and stage direction from another statement by Hamlet: "The rest is silence." Hmmm.






14 comments:

  1. Your story, Tim, shows that life seldom works out the way we may dream that it will. I don't blame you for identifying with Hamlet as you have. I think it's difficult to keep one's sense of optimism, and determination to keep going, when things turn out so different from what one expected. But I think that's the trick to getting through life. At least it has been for me.

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    1. Margot, indeed, the trick is both elusive ( or it might be illusive). Being mired in the miasma, I need to find a "sense of optimism" in something. 'Tis a puzzle.

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  2. Here's somebody else's thought: “What is your friend: the things you know, or the things you don't know? First of all, there's a lot more things you don't know. And second, the things you don't know is the birthplace of all your new knowledge! So if you make the things you don't know your friend, rather than the things you know, well then you're always on a quest in a sense. You're always looking for new information in the off chance that somebody who doesn't agree with you will tell you something you couldn't have figured out on your own! It's a completely different way of looking at the world. It's the antithesis of opinionated.” ― Jordan B. Peterson

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    1. If you were my child, I would suggest that you look around you and see small things you can improve and do those things. Every day. See how you feel in a week, a month, more. Change your world--it's part of you too--and you change your self and internal climate.

      And I would likely suggest to young man or young woman to try working through the past-present-future self-authoring program at www.selfauthoring.com. I've suggested it to young people, and I think it could help someone at any age.

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    2. Being befriended and spoken to as if I were a confused young man somehow does not offend me but instead warms the cockles of my heart and lights a candle in the darkness. Thank you, Marly.

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    3. Well, I often speak to myself as if I were just starting out. Aren't we always beginning over and over? Aren't we aspiring to transformation throughout life?

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    4. Marly, I am often convinced that I am not a septuagenarian but an adolescent, and each encounter with reality shatters me. Of course, each morning, each awakening challenges realities. Just like the tramps in Waiting for Godot, I guess I must persist in spite of the obvious. Thanks, Marly, for helping me go on while waiting for Godot.

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  3. Interesting bio, Tim... Did you get seasick? I don't know what to make out of life... Mine has been spent waffling about from one thing to another... I've picked up a lot of useless information and read a lot of books-I suspect the latter was done partly to avoid parts life I couldn't deal with... Now, I look back on it and I don't see how I could have been any different to what I was... I just try to smile and ride time with a surfboard of humor, sailing over the rough spots and splashing about in the good ones...

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    1. Mudpuddle, I was prone to motion sickness as a child, and my Navy cruises did not cure me. Samuel Johnson, I think, said that being at sea on a ship was like being in prison with the added danger of drowning. I agree. Life is a lot like being at sea: sickness and death threaten, but the promise of fair winds and following seas keep us afloat. Today I very much appreciate the life preserver sent my way by Marly and Peterson (above). Onward into the gale in spite of high seas and foul winds. Ahoy!

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    2. Good old Sam... I greatly enjoy some his essays, sometimes...

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  4. May I suggest reading "Stand Firm – Resisting the Self-Improvement Craze" by Svend Brinkmann. It's only 129 pages and might put some things in perspective. I can also heartily recommend 'On the Shortness of Life' by Seneca. Gotta love those Stoics!

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    1. CK, the Senaca-Shakespeare-Hamlet connection is perfect! Thanks!

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  5. A very interesting biography. Thanks for sharing

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    1. Thanks for visiting and commenting, Mel.

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