All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
Sometimes it seems so.
Shakespeare, in this soliloquy from "As You Like It," sums up human life and experience in seven stages - from "mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms" through the warrior stage. And then the final stage, as expressed above. "Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."
Most of us, if we take the time to think (how rare has that become?), see truth - a sad, sad truth - in those words.
Ideally, one would think, someone would grow and grow and grow until they became a sage. With wisdom to spare. And to share.
But as sad as the above may be about people -- individuals -- it is sadder yet when applied with equal truth to peoples. To nations. To cultures. To civilizations.
Such as our own. "Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."
Okay, teeth we may yet have. To bite and rip and tear. -Things we seem to do to one-another with greater and great passion.
But eyes? No, not if we refuse to see.
Taste? None. At least if we mean (as Shakespeare did not) "taste" as in good aesthetic judgment or high values.
Yes, "sans everything." Or everything worth holding dear.
When I was still a lad in school, before we got to the study of Shakespeare we spent time studying older civilizations. Greece and Rome in particular. They, we were told, were the forebears of our own. Humanity's shining lights. And Shakespeare, more than any other playwright, understood them. And he thus, we were told, understood us. It was this understanding, as much as the grace of his words, that made studying him so worthwhile.
"How," I wondered as a child, did such great civilizations end? Invading hoards were, I was told, a part of it. But did not Rome have the ability to protect itself? And internal division. Did not the citizens of ancient Greece realize and understand what their own forebears had wrought? How had they allowed even real and honest divisions (much less those contrived) to become so huge -- to so dominate their thoughts - that all that had been built for the the greater good could be forgotten, ignored and left to be laid waste?
Rome. Greece. Our world today. From "mewling and puking child" to what? From the said "warriors" who fought for and saved liberty and what we call "western values" on the beaches of Normandy, to this; to what we have become today? "Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything." In what? One, two or three (depending how one counts) generations?
Yet, this, it seems, is just what has happened.
Hilary Clinton. Donald Trump. The hoards of liberty haters flooding Europe. Hoarding, grasping, raping and pillaging again just as in times past.
What values do such hold and cherish? Any, apart from self-aggrandizement, huge appetite, ignorance and boastful greed?
One denies it though it is apparent for anyone to see. Except those "sans eyes."
The other boasts about it so as, one would think, to again return us to our base "mewling and puking" state. But being "sans taste" we instead give cheers of approval.
And the pillaging and raping in Europe? And in America's own cities by those who are our own? And what of the stifling of learning and free expression on college campuses and in the media/press?
If you sense sadness in the above you are right, for of the things I most value little seem to remain.
Youths, hopefully, will remain more optimistic, than I. Yes, even if having such "hope" is not the same as their being more wise. Hope is, after all, a commodity worth saving.
But for me there are just the words and wisdom of Shakespeare."Oblivion.. sans everything."
That is how the soliloquy ends.