Hamlet: A Meaningful Madness

[ * It’s been many years since I first saw Hamlet, but I went and saw a local performance the other night and comments I overheard got me to thinking that I differ from the viewers who believe Hamlet was really mad. And here are my reasons. ]

 

There are many who believe Hamlet is genuinely mad throughout most of the play. Likewise, there are many who believe Hamlet begins by acting crazy, and then slowly descends into madness as events progress. Thus, I appear to be in the minority, since I don’t believe Hamlet ever loses his mental faculties. It is true that he gets emotional at certain times, but getting emotional and going bonkers are two different things.

I hold to my belief on this issue because of the following: at no time from the beginning of the play until the crazy antics of Hamlet begin does Hamlet show any inclination or weakness to warrant a belief in the alleged madness. Quite the contrary; when Gertrude asks Hamlet why he seems to take a particular stance to something as common as death (pertaining to the alleged long mourning period over his father); Hamlet admits his special inclination toward the particular over common. And Hamlet claims it with a very telling line: “These indeed seem, for they are actions that a man might play, but I have that within which passes show; these but the trappings and the suits of woe” – (1.2.83-86). In other words, prior to Hamlet seeing the ghost of his father, his mindset already dwells on how emotions or true motives can be hidden with pretend actions. And after the King and Queen exit Hamlet laments the situation, and shows his anger over how quickly his mother jumped into his uncle’s bed. Yet, we again see Hamlet’s tendency to hide his true emotions: “It is not, nor it cannot come to good. But break my heart, for I must hold my tongue” – (1.2.157-158). This same mindset is shown when Hamlet is made aware of the ghost by Horatio, Marcellus, and Barnardo, urging them to remain silent: “I pray you all, if you have hitherto concealed this sight, let it be tenable in your silence still” – (1.2.246-248). And immediately following the conversation with his father’s spirit Hamlet again swears them to secrecy. He also warns them not to be alarmed or give it away when they see him acting strange: “how strange or odd some’er I bear myself (As I per chance hereafter shall think meet to put an antic disposition on)” – (1.5.170-172).

Additionally, Hamlet’s character is clearly closer to his dead father (who is portrayed as a competent king, leader, and husband), not like his weaker uncle. That inherited strength, plus years of parental teaching, along with his new found singleness of purpose, and the multi-shown mindset of camouflaging his true motives leads me to conclude Hamlet never lost touch with reality. And since there is not a single dialogue or weak character trait attributed to Hamlet prior to the antics beginning, I see no reason to think Shakespeare had any such intent during the writing.

My honest impression of popular culture

[I have a love of learning, so I continue to take college courses when I can. The following post was originally an assignment for one of those classes.]

 

The class was asked to read the articles “Introduction Songs of the Unseen Road: Myths, Beliefs, and Values in Popular Culture” (Nachbar/Lause), and “Four Morality Tales” (Reich), and then come up with our own impression of popular culture and how it relates to mainstream culture. Sounds simple enough, and I could jot down the usual pat answers and wait for the usual pat grade… but would it be my true impression of popular culture – absolutely not.

I’m old enough to be the father of half the students in this class, and I have a very poor outlook on popular culture. Even when I was young I never cared about the latest fashion trends, or whatever was supposed to be “in” at any particular time. In fact, I see popular culture as a method by which the leaders in various areas of society (government, business, media, religion, etc.) can successfully corral the majority or mainstream society – which are predominantly followers as psychology so readily points out – in order to keep them within their prescribed limits or boundaries. In other words, fashion or trends are simply another person’s opinion of how you should look, act, or believe.

I learned at a very young age not to count on people close to you when it comes to what to believe or how to act. And a short time after that I learned that no government system really cares about the people individually: I just wish I would’ve learned it prior to my injuries in the military.

Therefore, my honest impression of popular culture is that it’s the “fashionable” way to lead the majority or mainstream society around by the proverbial ring in their noses and a hand in their pockets.

Now for the sixty-four dollar question, do I actually practice what I preach? Let’s put it this way, I don’t buy anything because it’s the latest, biggest, or fastest. I have two vehicles, both over twenty years old: a pickup to carry things and a small car for gas mileage. They were bought out of my needs, not trends. I still have a bulky TV set, a video recorder, and a cassette player. They still run great so I continue to use them. My computer is out-dated; I have never owned a cell phone, I-pod, or any other trendy gadgetry just for the trendy value. If I don’t have a practical need for it I don’t waste the money. I vote across party lines, I don’t check what I say with the “political correct” police, and environmentalists can go to hell before I agree that wasting millions of dollars on the mating habit of the cockroach is better spent than feeding starving children in our own country or getting people back to work. And I love the western genre not because of any alleged underlying mythology, but because it suits my taste. Having been a stuntman for years, and performing a lot of westerns, it fits my kind of entertainment need: just like my love of horses and shooting.

How many teenagers have to commit suicide because they were convinced they could never “fit in” with their popular trend following peers before the “popular” kids learn they too are merely puppets following a puppet master? And how many wives have to self-medicate with their substance of choice (Doctor’s choice, not theirs) because they’ve never been able to keep up with, or look like, the “superwoman” down the block (who, unknown to them, is seeing a shrink twice a week)? And how many more men are going to die before their wives, simply because they’ve worked themselves into an early grave trying to support the constantly rising costs of the elusive “American Dream?”

Until there can be a system of checks and balances to ensure those who perpetuate popular culture do so with integrity, than I feel the American culture would be better off without it. The detriment to individuals, families, and communities far outweighs the positives presently. That is my honest impression of popular culture.

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© JW Thomas

Educated persecution

[*This post was inspired by listening to two teachers talking about their so-called superior who literally told them to watch-out for kids showing overt signs of Christianity during this holiday season: as if Christianity was not the reason for the season in the first place.]

 

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. — Luke 18:16

 

Do you recall the news story about the special-needs 8-year-old boy from Taunton, Massachusetts who was sent home after drawing a stick figure of Jesus crucified on the cross?

 

When the story broke all of the facts had not been made available from both sides, and what had come to light naturally showed contradictions between the two parties: the family and the school administration.

 

One thing was certain, the boy was sent home, though the school representative claimed he was not suspended. This appeared to be an official statement playing on semantics. Perhaps there was no “official” suspension, but the child was sent home and not allowed to return until a psychological evaluation had been done. And the boy was out nearly a week prior to being cleared to return after passing the evaluation.

 

Another contradiction surrounded the actual drawing that was released to the press. The boy’s father claimed it was the picture his son drew for a class assignment regarding the upcoming holiday.

 

The school’s representative, however, had apparently made two claims (as reported in the media) regarding the submitted drawing. First, they claimed the drawing is not the same drawing handed in to the teacher; and secondly, they claimed it had not been verified whether it is the actual drawing or not (thereby contradicting themselves).

 

Likewise, the school’s representative claimed there was no class assignment regarding the upcoming holiday. This, as you can imagine, is hard to believe, since every elementary school in America shows interest in most main holidays throughout the school year. And if there was no assignment, as the school representative then claimed, why would the child have turned the drawing into the teacher as stipulated? And why, per the representative’s own admission, would there be any need to verify if the circulating drawing was the original submitted to the teacher?

 

Even the mayor, Charles Crowley, wanted Julie Hackett, the School Superintendent, to apologize to the family. Crowley also ordered the school to pay for the psychological evaluation the child was forced to undergo.

 

Now let’s put this in perspective. Several college-educated adults, beginning with the teacher, take a look at a stick figure drawing by a special-needs 8-year-old, and deem it “appropriate” to oust the youngster from school, and demand the parents submit the child to a psychological examination. Decisions that were made merely because the stick figure drawing represented Jesus on the cross, and had X’s for eyes.

 

The boy’s drawing did not have any weapons or blood drawn on it, just X’s for eyes. That was the alleged basis for considering the young boy to be a “violent risk” in need of psychological evaluation in the collective opinions of these so-called educated adults in positions of leadership within our school system.

 

Sadly, the only thing this incident truly shows is the extent of the humanistic anti-Christian philosophy that permeates the American education system. A belief that has unfortunately spread like an infectious virus throughout this once godly nation: A fact clearly seen within the political, judicial, and financial arenas, along with the mainstream arts and media.

 

However, these actions are nothing new; they are merely repackaged attempts to persecute Christians. Since the beginning of Christianity, two-thousand years ago, there have been continuous hate-filled attempts to stamp it out. These persecutions were expected and foretold in God’s word. Even Jesus warned of the coming persecution:

 

And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endures to the end shall be saved. — Matthew 10:22

 

Prophetic words that have, and still are, coming to pass: a topic that will be touched on more in coming posts.

 

With regard to the above incident, allow me to leave you with more of Christ’s words to ponder:

 

Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receives me: and whosoever shall receive me receives him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great. — Luke 9:48

Comedy use to be a Stand-up profession

Few individuals can become a successful comic with little effort. Comedic timing needs to be honed and routines need to be polished, even by the most talented.  And, while celebrities can afford creative writers, most comics have to come up with their own jokes and present them in a way that distinguishes them from other comics.

You have to admire the dedication needed to be a respected, if not celebrated, comic. And I grew up respecting comics, even if I did not agree with their point of view or the style they chose to present it with.

Comedy has long been a type of litmus test to gauge society’s pros and cons. And the reason it made such an interesting gauge was the fact that there always seemed to be comics more interested in the intangibles than the materialistic. Various notable comics throughout history used words surgically – with a sharp wit and loaded tongue – to unclog the apathetic arteries of Society, or remove the cataracts of a culture blind to a variety of inhumane or unjust acts or conditions.

Sadly, the twenty-first century is shaping up to be some of the darkest days in the long history of comedy. Even the most celebrated comics appear to have had their “stand-up pride” castrated or tubes tied. They now kneel and crawl to the socio-political whims of the fanatical Outrage Circus who deplore freedom of expression (for everyone but themselves).

How can anyone respect the majority of contemporary comics who whine incessantly about the socio-political environment they must now work in when none of them had the fortitude to stand-up and tackle this topic before it got this bad (like their comedic predecessors did against the socio-political challenges in their day). It seems the contemporary comic prefers to “apologize” for every perceived infraction of the ever-changing PC Police. Being comfortable and materialism appear to be today’s prevalent inspiration for comics. They do not want to leave their comfort zones.

Quite a few comics have said they will not perform on college campuses anymore because they do not want to deal with the puppets of the Outrage Circus and Thought Police. Other comics refuse to do routines on specific hot topics. And many of these comics point out personal experience or claim they know comics who were chastised or lost gigs because they apparently crossed some ever-undulating invisible line. And comedy club owners, TV producers, and sponsors get scared of bad publicity.

If comics really wanted to take back freedom of expression as a right, and necessity, of their profession all they have to do is put their money where their mouth is. Promote a national comedy strike. Show every comedy club owner, TV producer, and advertising sponsor that makes their living off of comedic talent that they will lose more by losing the talent than they think they will if they don’t pander to the whims of the Thought Police. After all, the so-called political correct activists maybe loud and obnoxious, but they are actually a small percent of the total populace. And for God’s sake… stop apologizing! Are comics going to start apologizing to hecklers too?

A comedian who will not stand up for himself/herself and the noble profession of comedy against the haters of free speech should not be in such a noble profession: a profession that has the ability to heal through laughter… and to make positive changes.

It is times like this that we, the public, long for the comedic spark that drove the likes of Joan Rivers and Lenny Bruce. Yes, at times they suffered for their craft. But their unapologetic legacy will keep them positively remembered long into the future. Can the same be said of present day comics who easily forego free speech over the whims of the Thought Police?

It is imperative that comics make comedy a “stand-up” profession again. We are already seeing the devastating effects of a global community with too little laughter. Will life be worth living when all laughter is canned? When all comedy needs to be preapproved? Or when it is outlawed altogether so as not to offend anyone who loves wallowing in their perceived victimhood?

There are far too many Orwellian traits creeping into our society. Do we have to lose the stress relieving healing power of laughter too? Tell me, is there one “last comic standing” brave enough to channel the spirit of Joan Rivers or Lenny Bruce and lead comics off their knees to stand-up again?

 

©  JW Thomas 2015

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Considering the mess humans have made out of everything,

this prayer will cause you some overtime.