...To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream….
- Shakespeare, Hamlet, III,i.
My love for literature was born when I was in third year high school. It was ironic for that was the stage in my life when my self-esteem was at the cellar, when my productivity as a person seemed to be stifled by adolescence. Yet this is not the topic I wish to develop at this moment.
I wish to dwell on that love I have for literature. That year, we were reading selections in English literature. Our teacher introduced to us the epic Beowulf, the Arthurian legends, and later, the works of Shakespeare. A reading of the Sonnets awakened the poet in me. We also sat through an interpretation (more of a rendition for television) of Hamlet.
Days before we watched the production, I read through some of the more famous lines of this Shakespearean tragedy. I had reported on Act 1, Scene 4, one of the ghost scenes. But the famous soliloquy in Act 3, Scene 1 caught my eye and my heart: “To be or not to be: that is the question.” Watching Hamlet made me yearn for one of my life’s dreams—to play the part of the tragic protagonist, Hamlet. Today I turn 36 and I am resigned to the fact that I will never essay that role. (I would have to be content with reciting the lines in my private moments!) But my reflection on this day of my birth touches this Shakespearean play. Shakespeare was about my age when he wrote Hamlet. Nay more, the plays (almost all) that were written after he turned 36 were tragedies: the most elevated of all theatrical forms; theatre at its most serious tone, drama at its best. Perhaps they reflected the stage (no pun intended) that Shakespeare had reached that time, a stage that demanded more attention, when we work on the even more noble things in life. The words from the famous soliloquy may well be the sentiments of the playwright: it is a question
to be or not to be, a question that goes beyond what the character meant, as I take the license to wrench it away from what Shakespeare intended and make it my own. It is a question of really existing, of truly living. To sleep: perchance to dream—this particular birthday of mine, I would like to go even further. It beckons and asks me to continue dreaming, not only for myself but for the people around me—family, school, congregation. Today, I thank God for the gift of life, for the gift of so many people dear to me. I thank him for the many gifts that he continually bestows on me. Year after year, crisis after crisis, I have persevered in his grace. 36 is actually the sum of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. What I am right now is the sum of the many graces God has given me since the beginning, my birth. In joy I look back at all these and then look forward: aye, perchance to dream!