Oh I love Shakespeare! He is one of my best friends, often visiting me in the middle of the night with memories of a finely-coined expression or phrase which plums the depths of my heart. But oh how I loathed him when in high school for he refused to speak plain English and then my teachers so often demanded that I memorize passages from his plays and, even worse, interpret them. The interpretation really frustrated me and even angered me at times making me want to cry out, “It means just what it says. There’s nothing more to say about it, damn it!” My attitude stemmed from the biblical literalism that I lived in at that time, its hermeneutical style being best expressed as, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”
But decades later Shakespeare and his ilk began to penetrate the pristine literal citadel in which I was imprisoned. And what devastation it has brought me! All things felt most certain are now seen as ephemeral and I am often left with doubt and anxiety with despair lingering not far behind. But I would not go back for all the money in the world as life is to be lived not to be escaped from with “well-worn words and ready phrases that build comfortable walls against the wilderness.” (Conrad Aiken)
For, the “devastation” I refer to has merely been the disillusionment I have had to encounter as my pretenses have been shattered and I’ve been left with nothing but naked reality. And, T. S. Eliot was right, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” In the “devastation” I’ve lived in for thirty years plus, structure has evolved but it has been fashioned out of Hope, setting it apart from the specious, fear-based ego contrivance that I was enconced in the first half of my life.
My life now features an openness that I used to avoid with a passion, an openness that Richard Rohr has described as “The Naked Now.” This openness can be described as a Presence which allows me to more fully accept the world as it is with less of a demand that it conform with my preconceptions. I no longer have the comfort of pretending I have no preconceptions.
Franz Kafka said that a literary work must be an ice axe which breaks the sea frozen inside us. That “ice axe” which first came my way in my teens has found me a challenge…and still does…but like any literary work, I’m an unfinished product; and we are all a “literary work,” a tale being told. Yes, perhaps one that often appears is being “told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”