All the world's a stage
Gone are the days when most people found solace and happiness in a quiet life. Gone are the days when our forefathers lived and died, leaving behind hardly any trace of their passage on Mother Earth. In the post-modern world, most people want to excel; everyone wants to leave footprints on the sands of time.
No one wants to be left behind. As Bob Marley reminds us, there is "a rat race", a harshly competitive struggle to maintain one's position in life. Indeed, the world is often cruel to those who do not make it.
From early in life, children are taught the principle of "the survival of the fittest". I well remember how, many years ago, a certain gentleman encountered a few of us, high school students, in Roseau, one evening, and was very vocal, emphasising that salient point. He maintained that it was a universal principle of life. It was a law of nature. It was evident in plants, animals and men. For success in life, that principle must be embraced.
No one ought to deny that success in life should be everyone's goal. We are all born to shine. Every fibre in our being leads us in some way to achievement and self-progression. The problem, however resides in the model that we choose.
Most people believe that, to have a sense of achievement, to be successful, one must be a politician, a ballet dancer, an entertainer, an actor, a sportsman, scientist or some distinguished personality. Since these are people who are most in the limelight and attract the attention of the rest of the world, they are thought to be the happiest and most to be emulated.
Most of us do not see things as they really are. We are often blinded by false images of glory. Ah, if only we knew the full story. Some of these people, who appear to dazzle the world and are most happy, are truly dead within. It was this which led Dag HammarskjÖld, former United Nations Secretary General, to state:
How dead can a man be behind a façade of great ability, loyalty and ambition.
History has proven that many of the so-called great ones were merely empty shells and sounding brass. Some of these were like the Wizard of Oz, who, having surrounded himself with an aura of fear and splendour, really lived in a world which was marked by utter loneliness. How pitiable can a man be!
Very insightful was the observation of the poet who wrote these lines:
Honour and fame from no condition rise.
Act well your part: Therein all honour lies.
If we would merely try to do what we do as well as we can, we could achieve greatness. Many there are who would like to be like someone else, if only they had the potential, while they allow many possibilities of self-progression to pass them by.
All life is a gift. No one comes into this world at a serious disadvantage. The Creator blesses everyone with tremendous gifts. Evidently, we all have our limitations. However, limitations are not meant to keep us down but to challenge us. The power of the human spirit is able to overcome every impediment to personal development, provided we chart well our path.
In his book, 'Man's Search for Meaning', Victor E. Frankl states:
Austrian public-opinion pollsters recently reported that those held in highest esteem by most people interviewed are neither the great artists nor the great scientists, neither the great statesmen nor the great sports figures, but those who master a hard lot with their heads held high.
Jerry Long was paralyzed from his neck down after a driving accident which left him a quadriplegic, a few years ago. He was seventeen when the accident occurred. Today Jerry Long is progressing well in life. He uses his mouth stick to type. He "attends" classes in Community College through a special telephone. He spends much time watching television, reading and writing.
Jerry Long says, "I broke my neck; it did not break me....I believe my handicap will only enhance my ability to help others. I know that, without the suffering, the growth that I have achieved would be impossible." Indeed, many people have distinguished themselves by their ability to suffer with patience.
Perhaps one of the most powerful evidences of the ability of the human spirit to overcome limitations in life has been given by Helen Keller. Having lost her vision and her hearing very early in life, she obtained a university degree and, triumphing over all odds, became one of the greatest women of the 20th century.
Whoever we are, we must not see ourselves as persons lost at sea or marooned on a deserted island. We are all children of the Creator called to engage in a huge drama as children of the universe. This is a drama both very challenging and very exciting. Indeed, "All the world's a stage." We are all called to be on stage.