Thursday, January 17, 2008

Macbeth

I realize I haven't blogged in quite a while and for those who've been forced by my long absence to start reading Harry Potter fan fiction in a vain attempt to fill the void I apologize. I've sort of had an unstated New Year's resolution to start blogging regularly again. I've put it off until now because I wanted to have a clear path ahead of me, so that when I started blogging I could continue to do so regularly from then on out. I think that today is that day, in fact I'm so confident that I'm going to whip out my favorite "bold new direction" quote:

                                     ...that but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all—here,
But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
We'd jump the life to come.


The quote comes from Act 1 of Macbeth at the beginning of Scene 7. Macbeth is trying to talk himself into killing King Duncan, and if you look at any critical discussion of this phrase you'll see a lot of talk about how Macbeth is considering the affect the murder will have in the afterlife. For example a few lines before he wonders if the "assassination could trammel up the consequence" (not only a great image, but Shakespeare also coins the word "assassination" as well, how cool is that?) and he also talks about "the life to come". Now I have no doubt that this is what Shakespeare meant, and that this is the meaning we're supposed to extract, but I've always taken a different meaning from this quote.

Rather than taking "the life to come" to mean the afterlife, for me the quote has always held more power for me if I imagine that "the life to come" just refers to his hope of a new phase of his mortal life. That he hopes the dagger stroke which ends Duncan's life will be the final act of his old life, the old life where is is not the king, and be the instrument of jumping from the shore (i.e. "bank") of his old life to the new life, where he is the king.

I've often felt this way (not the murdering people to claim their throne aspect.) I'm always hoping that my latest goal, or my latest job/project, or my latest idea will be so revolutionary that I will jump from my old busted life to my new glamorous life. But of course it isn't, there's a lot of reasons for that, perhaps the biggest is that I don't have an "old, busted" life, my life is actually pretty good. I have an awesome wife, four amazing kids, enough money so I don't have to worry, great friends, etc. Another reason it doesn't work is because progress is almost always gradual and only rarely cataclysmic.

Still I don't think it's a bad idea to make grand declarations of how you're going to "jump [to] the life to come". Sometimes you're like Sisyphus and you're at the bottom of the hill with a boulder, and you need some kind of motivation to start pushing it up the slope one more time, even though you know that eventually it will slip out of your grasp and roll back to the bottom. And declaring that "This time it's going to be different this time I'm going to lose the weight/finish writing the book/write in my blog every day" is a great way to give yourself the motivation necessary for that first push. And who knows one day you may actually get to the top of the hill, and the only way to do that is to start at the bottom one more time.

Screw your courage to the sticking-place

3 Comments:

Anonymous Ed said...

Almost a month! Glad you're back on the blogging trail, and a happy and prosperous New Year!

9:15 PM  
Blogger Valerie said...

I really enjoyed this blog entry. I found your comparison to be very enlightening. A great way to start of your new goal.

9:43 PM  
Blogger hallamigo said...

So are the other two things you mentioned (lose the weight/finish writing the book) also goals that you are working on? I'd sure like to read that finished book someday.

11:17 PM  

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