I like to tie together different pieces of literature together at times when the connection is very subtle at best. Here is a collection of wisdom about the existential predicament of humankind, starting with the very creation of itself from the Psalmist David in the Old Testament:
Note here the relevance of the Shakespearean wisdom that I quote so often, “There is a Divinity that doeth shape our ends, rough hew them how we may.” The Psalmist recognized the sentiment of many men and women that life is as if some architect is spinning the web of life in which we are all caught up and, indeed, is spinning the web of our own individual life.
14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:14-16 King James Version (KJV)
Compare with this excerpt from the W. H. Auden poem, “In Sickness and In Health”:
What talent for the makeshift thought/a living corpus out of odds and ends ?/What pedagogic patience taught/Pre-occupied and savage elements/To dance into a segregated charm?/Who showed the whirlwind how to be an arm,/And gardened from the wilderness of space/The sensual properties of one dear face?
And then Shakespeare’s Hamlet, overwhelmed with existential angst, bemoaned his fate with the following:
… that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air—look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire—why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals. And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?
Here three literary greats, indeed one of them “Divinely” great, artfully put into words the mystery of how we came into being and asked the question, “What are we doing here?” And take note of the “quintessence of dust” notion which brings to my mind the biblical admonition that we are but “dust of the earth,” an humble state to which we will return. There is a sense in which we are but dust bunnies, bouncing about this lonely planet for a while. However, therein lies our glory if we but have the courage to look beneath the surface of things, things which can appear grim on occasion.
Here is a list of my blogs. I invite you to check out the other two sometime.