7 November 2015

Epigram

Inscribed under this blog's title I have always had this epigram:-

"O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count myself a king of infinite 
space, were it not that I have bad dreams." - Hamlet Act II scene ii

But in ten years no visitor has ever commented on it. So I thought that maybe it is nigh time to take the proverbial bull by the horns myself  and reflect on a line from Shakespeare that I first spotted forty years ago

Incidentally, when I watched the excellent 2012  film "Lincoln" starring Daniel Day-Lewis, I was startled to hear Lincoln relating a dream to his wife Mary (pet name Molly). He says:-
"It's nighttime. The ship's moved by some terrible power, at a terrific speed. Though it's imperceptible in the darkness, I have an intuition that we're headed towards a shore. No one else seems to be aboard the vessel. I'm very keenly aware of my aloneness. I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams. I reckon it's the speed that's strange to me. I'm used to going a deliberate pace. I should spare you, Molly. I shouldn't tell you my dreams."

Let's take the first part of the quotation - about living in a confined nutshell and yet seeing oneself as a king of infinite space. To me this suggests a prisoner, a hermit or a monk in a narrow cell, separate from the world. It could also be an Amazonian forest dweller, a Himalayan goatherd or Stephen Hawking. And yet, and yet... the power of the human mind, of memory and imagination could take you far from the nutshell - bursting with ideas and hope and happiness. I certainly think that it is possible to have a rich and fulfilling life even when one's everyday boundaries are very restricted.

The counterpoint to that notion is that it is possible to live an unfulfilled and spiritually impoverished life when one has enjoyed boundless opportunities - far different from the nutshell confines that Hamlet reflected upon. You could get millionaire travellers who despite their privilege and the things they have witnessed have in actuality never really seen anything. George W. Bush springs to mind.

But to the first part of the quotation Shakespeare added the rider, "...were it not that I have bad dreams". In other words, human beings are typically troubled by their guilt, their mistakes and the sensation that we are always living in the shadow of what could have been and perhaps what could still be. No matter how close we get to nirvana, there will be nagging doubts, feelings of restlessness and an underlying dissatisfaction that prevent us from wholly enjoying a transcendental state of being.

11 comments:

  1. Firstly...Daniel Day-Lewis is brilliant in every movie he's in. I will watch the movie just on his name alone. I'm a massive fan!

    I recognised from the beginning you were a nut, Yorkie...it takes one to know one! :)

    We all should break forth from our shells more often than we do...and not have regrets about having done so; but should be eager to do it again and again - if only to witness the reactions of others!

    Regrettably, regrets are a waste of time; but nuts are great!

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    1. Now...where did I leave my nut cracker??

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    2. Gulp! I am hoping you don't find your nut crackers Lee!

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  2. It's a bit early to get my head round this.
    I am sure you are right though.

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    1. Thank you for your bleary-eyed morning agreement Adrian. I guess your camper van is a bit like a nut shell.

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  3. I have read the quote from Hamlet under the blog title - but I had no idea how to interpret it...and I'm still bewildered by the bad dreams interpretation.

    I'll stick to looking at pictures and leave the words to other smarter people.

    Ms Soup

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    Replies
    1. Alphie - you are not a discount store can of creamed tomato you are an exclusive Fortnum and Mason can of luxury Mulligatawny. In other words, more insightful than your comment suggests.

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  4. Its 23.04 and i am off to bed soon ..... Too tired to get my head around this ,.....my frontal lobe has just imploded x

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    Replies
    1. Sweet dreams... rather than "bad dreams"!

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  5. Whatever you say YP.

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    Replies
    1. Hang on - "Whatever..." is meant to be what sulky teenagers say!

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