Aug 2 2011

#94 “Fair/Foul”

From Samreen

Macbeth paced anxiously in his quarters, stroking his beard with one hand while attempting to smooth his sweaty and furrowed brow with the other. He had left the dinner table, left his guest, his king, unattended. The prospects of the night’s venture weighed heavily upon his mind. Could he go through with the act? He had begun to have doubts. After all, King Duncan had honored him recently; he was also his king and his kinsman, distantly related by blood, but besides this, he was a guest in his own home, and if nothing else, it is the duty of the host to shut the door to the murderer, not become one, himself. He pounded a fist firmly against the table; his resolve had regained its firmness. His strength was renewed but with a new plan: He would not kill the king.

At that moment, the door swung open and a cold breeze entered the room along with the wife of Macbeth. “Why have you left the table?” She hissed. “Do you not know that he hath almost supped?”

“We’ll proceed no further in this business,” Macbeth replied. “He hath honored me of late.”

At this, the countenance of the lady fell. The demon inside took control, and the poisonous words flowed like honey from her lips: “Art thou not a man? Art thou afeard? Did thou not a promise make? I have given suck and know what it is to nurse a child, yet had I sworn you as much you to this, I would pluck my nipple from the mouth of the babe and dash its brains out; this I would do if I had promised.”

Injury. Insult. An attack on his masculinity. He could not stand for it.

“I would do all that becomes a man…” he said, sulking and turning away from her.

“Then screw your courage to the sticking point and we’ll not fail. Look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under it. Then, leave all the rest under my dispatch.”

And with these words, Lady Macbeth convinced her husband to follow through with the murderous plan to take the life of Duncan. As a result, a country was thrown into turmoil, countless lives were lost, and a dark blot formed on the scrolls of the history of the great nation of Scotland.

These lines are obviously not the actual ones from William Shakespeare’s famous play Macbeth, but this brief paraphrase hopefully serves as a reminder of the damage that can be done when we enter into a world of deceiving appearances. The italicized quote above by Lady Macbeth was included in the email from Samreen that accompanied this picture. Samreen also included a few brief ruminations on how appearances can be deceptive and the idea that we cannot always judge a book by its cover. Overall, this is relatively deep material to be associated with a simple wolf picture, but it fits, nonetheless.

In his discussion of this concept, Samreen noted the nonthreatening demeanor of this lupine marvel, but then stated that there was no telling what savagery might lie underneath the animal’s calm exterior.

“Come a little closer”: words that sound sweet but hold so much foreboding. The choice is yours. Keep your distance or take that step forward, but don’t say I didn’t warn you…


May 12 2011

#12 “Carpe Diem: Seize the Day”

From a stranger in Boulder, Colorado

There may be no singular Latin expression that has endured to a greater degree than the famous “Carpe Diem” or “Seize the Day.” What a fantastic notion this is; for in this one phrase lies an obvious but difficult key to happiness. This aphorism encourages us to take advantage of the time that we have on this earth, to indulge our human impulses, and to drink life to the lees; but what I find particularly interesting is that most people tend to accept this slogan as an invitation to live in such a manner that casts off responsibilities, duties, or daily tasks. I’m not sure if this was the original intention of this famous phrase.

To better understand this sentiment, I think it is necessary to examine some of the most famous literature associated with this quote from the English Renaissance. To be fair, a lot of Carpe Diem poems do seem to deal with physical pleasures and indulging our lustful desires. This idea is evident in poems such as “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell and John Donne’s “The Flea.” However, the most famous Carpe Diem poem of all time is arguably “To the Virgins to Make Much of Time” by Robert Herrick. This is the poem in which the speaker encourages the virgins to gather rosebuds “while they may.” One logically assumes that the address of the poems to the “virgins” is meant as an encouragement for them to engage in sexual pleasures. This is undeniably true, but Herrick never actually mentions sex in the poem, nor does he encourage irresponsibility or immorality. In fact, what he specifically encourages the virgins to do is to get married; so while Herrick is encouraging the ladies to enjoy physical pleasures, he is also supporting responsibility.

Progressing further, another famous Carpe Diem poem that seems (at a superficial examination) to encourage a lackadaisical lifestyle is “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love.” I will concede that the speaker in this poem does encourage an existence focused on pleasure; but what is really interesting is that Sir Walter Raleigh actually wrote a response to this poem (“The Nymph’s Reply”) in which he bombasts this unrealistic lifestyle and accuses the shepherd of being deceitful and embracing fanciful notions too freely.

As a final note, let’s not forget that the most famous Renaissance writer of all time was William Shakespeare. It is important to point this out because much of Shakespeare’s work warned against ideas related to self-indulgence. One small example would be the tragedy of Macbeth in which the title character’s self-serving nature leads to his own pitiful downfall.

So, in conclusion, admire this wolf for his romantic sentiment, acknowledge and respect his idealistic outlook. Go ahead and “Seize the Day” if you will, but take care to remember that tomorrow is just around the corner.