Some time ago, I told a story about an English philosopher, called William, and his trivial, albeit famous words about a stupid old dog.
On a fine late summer afternoon William, a philosopher, sat at his writing desk with a glass of his favourite vintage port. He thought of the vicar’s wife he met at the bakery’s that very morning. She told everyone in the queue at the bakery’s that Toby, her dog, had escaped, again, just like it had a week before. Now William looked out of the window, which was open to allow him to enjoy some fresh air. He saw a dog, loose, exactly like the vicar’s: a Scottish terrier on very, very, very busy legs. So, he wondered, saying aloud: ‘Toby of not Toby?’. He was silent for a few minutes, then repeated: ‘Toby, or not Toby, that’s the question!’.
William’s next-door neighbour overheard him. While she noted the quote, something went terribly wrong. Whether her powers of hearing were limited or rather her writing skills, is still what historians argue about. What happened was that she bent the name ‘Toby’ into ‘to be’; hence the expression ‘To be or not to be, that’s the question’, is supposedly hers.
This could have been the end of the story, an old story, but let's rejuvenate this story as a present for you as you read this and you realise how joy is the key to the fullness of life.
Since the management at our languages and philosophy academy was not exactly well-reputed for their sense of humour, I got three things: the pink slip, a lot of freedom, and the noble notion to make amends. Released from my formal duties, I took the ferry to historic old England, where I went looking for this writer, William Shakespeare.
I had no idea where to look for a spirit among thousands dwelling spirits. This one would be in a distinguished place, and yet, somewhere no-one would look. Not in a castle, overcrowded with other spirits. Neither in a theatre where hunters would haunt him quoting any trivialities truly or falsely attributed to him. So I went into the countryside near Stratford upon Avon, where he used to live and where he died.
This should have made sense, but all I could see were busy roads, busy people, wind and rain, and a sleeping ginger cat on a garden chair under a sun umbrella, now comfortably converted into a rain umbrella. It reminded me of my cats at home, mewing, purring, manipulating for food, and asking for the door man, especially when I am in an online work meeting. I obey without thinking or blinking. Apart from being a cat buttler, I am a university lecturer, or at least I used to be until recently. My past and my present may be somewhat confusing, especially when I doze off, entering the world of shadows. I found myself walking on disused public footpaths, or rather: public rights of way, covered with nettles and brambles, until I stumbled on a tiny cottage with a dilapidated sign 'Tea room'.
It was a tea room indeed. When I entered, I could smell freshly baked scones. At first, nobody appeared. Then I heard a crackly voice.
‘Look and see, I’m dead’, he said. ‘
How did I stumble onto thee’?
Right now, I needed to level with William, or his beyond-final words would be lost forever.
‘Thou art as wise as thou seemst indisposed, through time of thine thou merely dozed’, I ventured, twisting my tongue in an early modern fashion I haven’t been too familiar with. I caught my breath as I felt the hammering heart beat in my head.
‘Thou mayst wonder,
time be bent,
doth thee persist,
beyond thy end,
mought anyone inquire,
invite thee humbly to inspire’.
William picked up his glass of vintage port wine, laughing, trying to take a sip. Too bad, he was insufficiently solid to sustain the liquid. Imagine his ashen tawny coloured spirit in a sound and resound:
‘Perchance, my lord,
it’s not the end,
a new beginning with a friend.
Now, let me be alive once more,
save for this silly port galore’.
After expressing my final ‘gramercies’, I’ve come back once more, like the cat just turning up again in a purrfect timing, in a good spirit, passed the past, present in the present, sharing the art of writing with those who wish to see me beyond my physical appearance.