“To thine own self be true.” These words penned by William Shakespeare from his play Hamlet, has been for me one of the most profound statements I’ve ever read. Written over four hundred years ago, it is as relevant today as it was then. To be perfectly honest I never read any of his works. I don’t remember how or why I skated around reading his works. In most of the literature classes it was required reading. That might have been the reason I didn’t read it. Growing up in the 60’s that rebel showed up more often than it was probably good for us.
I’m telling you The first time I saw those word, it was like they jumped off the page and like an arrow it shot straight to my heart. OMG in six word he was able to convey the whole meaning of life. I have made it my mantra, finding it challenged often as I have journeyed through life.
The truth be known that might have been the beginning of my love affair with with words. What made him different in his writing? As I continued to read different authors I noticed a similar feeling . I read everything I could find by Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Kurt Vonnegut, Stephen King, to name a few. Each a different style, but each of them very powerful writers.
I had to stop and ask myself, what is it that makes them unique?This is what I came up with. It is said we can be taught to write and this is true. There is a place for academia and the strict discipline of proper grammar. That said any one can memorize the structure of the written word. But this is key, we can be taught to write, but we can’t be taught how to feel. When I came to realize that it changed the whole game for me. Their words don’t come from their heads, their mind, reason, intellect. Their words come from the heart, that inner most intimate, the very core of their being.
If I can use Poe for an example. When I read his writing I feel his pain. It’s raw, uncensored, he is exposed. It’s like I can feel him agonizing over every word. King, Vonnegut, Twain that same quality is present. It is that balance between grammar and emotion. To be able to fashion words in such a way as to express true feeling. I am not there yet but it has given me a goal to strive for.
If I can add one more point here before I shift gears. We as humans are by nature a social being, but I am amazed at how few of us are actually social. I know I have to explain myself here. It is a cycle that repeats itself over and over . I don’t know when it began, but to illustrate I will start with the basic social structure, husband and wife.
You have a man and a woman, your basic unit. Now, society has taught them how they are to act and react. The man can’t go to deep because if he shows his emotions that would be a sign of weakness. The woman who is bundle of emotion tries to share her feeling but the man is too busy or too tired or don’t want to hear it thinks she is just nagging. It isn’t long before the walls go up and the masks come out and they become what they are expected to be. The little wifey who takes care of the house, makes sure dinner is on the table and the man is out making the living.
When this is going on they aren’t in a vacuum. If there are the children they are learning by example. And the learning begins as soon as their eyes are open. They act one way at home one way at school.and with their friends. To have friends and be popular, if you want a boy friend/girl friend.
I think what it is commonly called a defense mechanism. We want to avoid pain, rejection, and we desire to be successful. Hopefully we come to the realization that or at least I can only speak for myself. I am successful only when I acknowledge myself. Jiving up to others expectations didn’t keep their friendships or affections. I learned the hard way and the truth of the matter It hurt more being rejected for what I wasn’t then being rejected for being me. I hope I’ve explained that clear enough.
It’s funny how it works. I got this one friend I have known her for years. She moved to Wisconsin and I am in Arizona. She will cross my mind and it will nag me till I listen to myself and call her. And she will say been thinking to call you . And we will start a conversation right where we left off.
Now, on the other hand there are members in my own immediate family and we don’t even talk. What is my solution . Put down my cell phone for a minute and touch somebody. I truly think our world is at a pivotal point. Some have sold out, The thing is when they get there it is never enough and you need more. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy nice things and money is that tool to be used in our present form of commerce. Money is how we do business. Is money a means to an end? Is this how I gauge success? I would have to say no. It is just a tool and very much a volatile one at that. One day the dollar is up, the next day the bottom of the market falls out. Inflation it doesn’t ever seem to go down always up. I always like using the gas price example. I was one the first of my crowd growing up to buy my own car. I worked as a dishwasher after school, saved my money and paid cash for my 61 Ford Falcon. This was in the early 70’s . instead of gas costs going up we had what they called gas wars and they dropped the price. The lowest I ever remember it being was 19 cents a gallon. What is it up to now almost $4.00. So, how do I gauge success? Definitely not by material gain. If I can breathe life into my words like Shakespeare , or Poe, or Twain and it inspires one person I can claim success.