William Shakespeare observed,
“ . . . Our bodies are our gardens, to the which our wills are gardeners; so that if we will plant nettles or sow lettuce, set hyssop and weed up thyme, supply it with one gender of herbs or distract it with many, either to have it sterile with idleness, or manured with industry -- why, the power and corrigible authority of this lies in our wills . . .” (William Shakespeare, Othello, I, iii)
How prescient and wise this commentary, though from a villainous character, whose intentions were not healthy – Iago. He planted seeds of jealousy – and Othello reaped a murderous passion. Shakespeare here posits real power deep within the soul of humans – the life force that is different than instinct; the mysterious mechanism that can propel us from or to pain and suffering, or to peace and joy.
When I blow it, the fault isn’t some wrong configuration of the planets or stars, any more than good times come when new astrological age dawns -- like the Age of Aquarius. I may be right where I am because of forces beyond my control; but how I choose to be in these circumstances, is, for today, a function of what I will.
Shakespeare wrote Othello around 1603 – adapting it from earlier works. The times in which he wrote were as uncertain as our own – and in them, he had known sorrow and financial loss: a new king and plenty of treason trials, and colonization of the new world was in its infancy. Soon, a plot to blow up Parliament would be defused, while religious tensions continued. Disease, plague, remained a killer – and an unidentified illness killed Shakespeare’s son. And modern research uncovered some shocking news about the Bard’s finances:
They report the great playwright did not entirely make his living in the theater. He was also a merchant, a moneylender and a tax dodger. In 1598, he was prosecuted for hoarding grain during a famine. (NPR Radio)
Yet, he urges – albeit through the lips of a rogue -- our will can generate gracious productive “gardens” – pleasant and productive people. Or, this same invisible energy can blight a life, making that “garden” uninviting. But, its unseen authority can be set right; corrigible means we can set and reset the driving force of our lives right.
That’s heady stuff to ponder on a day when news of powerful assassins capture headlines in Kauffman Texas – less than 50 miles from me, and North Korea is threatening a nuclear attack of the United States, and our nation’s debt accrues in amounts we be unable to repay.
If the power of my will can change the shape of my "garden" -- what I look like, how I act, and how I influence others, I need to assess – inventory – my gardening goals and supplies, no matter the times. Thinking about this point of view is scary – it undercuts many of the reasons I often recycle for failure in matters small and large in my life. How do I do this – especially at this stage of life? If my body is [as] my garden, some parts show I’ve been not planting so wisely or so well!
And given the news, why bother?
I guess the answer is because with God’s help I can – just for today. Today is a day I ask God to guard and guide me, protecting me from evil, and prompting me to do good while I can. And I ask Him to help all in leadership to know and do right. (Psalm 27 )
THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Unload the gun before fear pulls the trigger.*
Would that Othello had bothered to control his fear, and Iago his treachery!
(*from A New Day --- 365 Meditations for Personal and Spiritual Growth.)
The Bard of Avon