Have you ever thought about this quote? Like, really thought about it?
I was thinking about that famous quote from Hamlet the other day, and wondering if there might actually be more than meets the eye here.
So you know the quote right? It’s probably the most famous quote in the entire English language “To be, or not to be.”
We often think he’s talking about ending his life. Why wouldn’t he? His uncle killed his father and shacked up with his mother. Talk about awkward.
So, “to be or not to be”, is interpreted as “to live or not to live.”
(And look, no points for guessing, but I’m not a professor of English literature. This is probably a topic well covered in the dusty halls of academia, but I don’t know about any of that. So I’m just going to stick with how it lives in popular culture. Sorry not sorry.)
And so we think he’s asking about whether he wants to keep on living or not.
But look at the full quote:
“To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?
So I was thinking about this the other day and it struck me just what he’s talking about.
To be or not to be… what?
His true self. His real self. The self that is in integrity with his values and what he believes in.
The self that wants to express his anger and avenge his father’s death.
Does he give life to this self? Does he let it live? Does he let it be?
Or does he not. Does he just keep his head down and ‘go with the flow’. Does he just put up with it and ‘suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’?
Because he knows that the alternative – living true to your self – is hard. It’s an almost heroic quest. It demands you to go against the grain and ‘take up arms against a sea of troubles’?
This is the question he is facing. Can he live his truth or not?
And isn’t’ this, at the end of the day, the only question? Isn’t this the fundamental question we all have to face?
Isn’t this the challenge that defines our life?
In some ways it feels like a glitch in the matrix.
Hidden in the most famous quote in the English language – one that is often totally misunderstood in popular culture – is one of the most important questions we have to face as humans.
Can we live our truth or not? Can we rise up and meet the challenges that come with being really authentic, or not?
And somehow, almost like it had been planned, this fundamental question, this rallying cry to live our authentic truth, has completely, covertly, penetrated the collective consciousness.
You couldn’t make it up.
And still, how many of us are really prepared to answer?