February 24, 2010

The whips and scorns of time

To be (right) or not to be (left).

For several years I taught pre-GED classes at Head Start centers in southern West Virginia. I used to delight in torturing my students by bringing in different literary selections, having the class read them out loud, and then discussing them.

Of course, there's no way I could have resisted bringing in the most famous lines in English literature. And since Hamlet is the theme here, there's no way I can resist even now. So here goes:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? 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. 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,
Must give us pause: 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 dispriz'd love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would these fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn away,
And lose the name of action...

Harold Bloom argues that "this is not a meditation seriously contemplating suicide," but rather the prince hesitating on a course likely to lead to his own death. He has been around the Shakespearean block more times than me and may be right, but I'm not persuaded. Hamlet, after all has already brought up suicide in the first act and things have only gotten worse for him since then.

In any case, while El Cabrero is not too given to depression or thoughts of self-immolation (very often, anyhow), when it did cross my mind, I've always found Hamlet's reasoning to be persuasive.

WV ACTION ALERT. If you live in WV and haven't yet contacted Gov. Manchin and your legislators about modernizing our unemployment system and extending benefits to part time workers and people dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault, and other compelling family reasons, please click here and send a message. It's easy and it's fast. As of last night, over 351 emails have been sent (150 yesterday alone). The bills to draw down $22 million in federal money to do this need to move this week so acting now is crucial.

STIMULATED. Reuters has this to say about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act:

The massive stimulus package passed last year to blunt the impact of the worst U.S. recession in 70 years created up to 2.1 million jobs in the last three months of 2009, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday.

The package boosted the economy by up to 3.5 percent and lowered the unemployment rate by up to 2.1 percent during that period, CBO said.

FOOD MILES. Here's another item on local foods.

LET'S GO SQUID HUNTING. Sperm whales may hunt them in packs.

IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING whether chimpanzees can quantify liquids, the answer is yes. Bartenders, beware!



Hollowdweller said...

That's my favorite picture!

El Cabrero said...

Mine too. It kind of fits the Hamlet quote too.