Something got me waxing philosophical this week, perhaps the sudden and unexpected death of the mean old Tom turkey who had as much, if not more, claim to this little farm as I do, and as I pondered the meaning of life, my thoughts turned to the roles I had played during my brief stint romping across its stage. That, of course, brought me to the famous thoughts that the Bard of Avon had on the subject. William Shakespeare, best known for writing plays, used his quill at one point to bring forth a famous poem that describes life in terms of being a play. He then inserted that poem into one of his plays as lines of dialogue.
I have been around just a little over sixty-eight years, a very brief encounter with the stage upon which life exists when measured against the grand scheme of things. My minuscule time here has witnessed me playing the role of a son, student, friend, husband, father, and grandfather - as well as a host of roles carried out in the workplace. Life has cast me in motion viewing much of the planet on foot, as well as in cars, on trains, planes, and boats. I have lived in the Ozarks and the Orient, hitchhiked across Moscow, bicycled across the Caribbean, celebrated New Year's at a street party in old Hanoi, been a nocturnal visitor to the White House kitchen, seen five U.S. Presidents and the stuffed remains of V.I. Lenin and Ho Chi Minh, and fed about a million birds. Now I sit at the far edge of the stage, partially hidden by the curtain, peacefully napping but occasionally snapping awake to shout something rude to some bothersome actor who is causing a commotion nearer to center stage.
If life were a book, I would be organizing the footnotes.
But it's not, it's a stage. Jaques said so to Duke Senior in As You Like It: Act II, Scene VII.
All the World's a Stage
by William Shakespeare
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.