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Friday 24 July 2009

A Tale Told By An Idiot

"Macbeth" is surely one of Shakespeare's darkest and most timeless plays. A tale of mindless ambition that leads to insanity and despair, the eponymous 'hero' will stop at nothing to achieve his desire for power and, once he has gained a throne, his paranoia increases until he can trust no one, and life becomes nothing but 'a tale told by an idiot.'

Beyond any thinking person's comprehension is that desire for power and yet it goes on and on until much of history truly is a tale told by an idiot - and more, a tale about idiots with titles like president', prime minister, king, fuehrer and epithets like 'the Great'. What thinking person would consider power as the ability to control others or to impose an ideology on the world? What thinking person would stand before crowds gladly receiving adulation as though he were the saviour of humanity or a god, if he were equally aware of his own weakness? ("Aye, there's the rub..." those who avidly seek power over others, often seem to do so to distract from the weakness in themselves. In Macbeth's case, he knew from the beginning that he had nothing but 'vaulting ambition' which would 'o'erleap itself' and come tumbling down, but few of those in power seem so willing to admit their own weakness).

What is it though that makes some people desire to 'strut and fret their hour' upon the world's stage, in the public eye with a semblance of the ability to manipulate others...for what? I recently watched a most illuminating film exposing a great deal of what goes on behind the scenes in world governments and how the boys play out their games behind the shaded windows of limousines and high class hotels and it must give them such a momentary buzz to feel like puppet masters controlling the show...but it's a game, nothing more, a tale told by an idiot. A span of life - 80, 90, 100 years - is so small a time in the overall scheme of things, and if a person were to be controlling something even for a lifetime, that would be for fifty or sixty years at most. And then what? History and eternity. Is it for those few years - less than a century, only one short lifetime - that these people are prepared to sacrifice so many others and their own soul (and I am not speaking of some post-mortem damnation, I am speaking of what it means to be truly alive with a soul in this life!)? If so, is it worth it? "What doth it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul?' Is it worth the constantly looking over your shoulder, wondering if everyone else has a dagger aimed for your back, as you have aimed your daggers at so many others?

Is it for a place in history? Then read Shelley's poem, Ozymandias:

"I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".

And what of eternity? Eternity which, as far as I can see, isn't what happens when we have left this life, but is ever present. It is present in all the everyday acts of kindness, in the ordinary/extraordinary people going about their lives bringing light to others. It is present in those who care for animals and understand that every one of our actions makes an impact on the whole and even our thoughts contribute to or detract from the wellbeing of the rest of humanity and creation. It is present in every leaf, flower, creature...in all. And, sooner or later, the impression we make rebounds on us. What will it matter at that point whether we had our fifteen minutes or fifty years of fame and power? What will it matter on our death bed whether or not we once had everyone twisted around our little finger? What then will power seem, except that tale told by an idiot.

Real power, on the other hand is something witnessed in those who speak gently with creatures, who calm angry dogs, who whisper to horses or badgers, who walk on unimpressed by those who need shaded windows and limousines to give them a sense of themselves...In truth, real power is something that the Macbeths of today cannot begin to understand. If, for one single day, I could control every thought in my head and remain totally unruffled by external events and free of any need for approval or acceptance in any form; if I could not have one single thought that is not loving and real, I would consider myself very powerful and very happy indeed. Until that time, it would be nothing less than sheer stupidity and arrogance to even begin to attempt to impose any kind of control on others.

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