Friday, February 29, 2008


“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy” (HAM, 1.5.166).

Just so, say I to Hamlet. And what Hamlet here calls “philosophy,” I’ll interpret as one’s “conception of reality.” Hamlet tells Horatio that Reality—what ultimately is—exceeds the comprehension of any human consciousness; that what any of us can know as real—is limited and partial and may vary widely from what others call “real.”

For some, “ghosts” are real. For some, “angels” and “devils” are real and “souls” are real and “God” is real. For others, not. Ultimate Reality is larger than anyone’s reality concept can encompass, and we apprehend only that portion of Reality that our reality concept gives us scope to comprehend.

On the other hand, not everything we may take as Real is so:

Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends. (MND, 5.1.4)

Our apprehensions often prove delusional, imaginary; while comprehension reasons rightly, knows what’s Real.

This, then, for Shakespeare, is our predicament: we grasp at straws. There’s more to Reality than we can know, and what we think is Real is often wrong. We wander erroneously in benighted woods amazed, deluded, lost. “Cool reason,” could we use it, shows things truly, but that’s beyond our ken.

What must we do then but be humble, kind and generous, knowing we’re all fools fixated on our own philosophies, obtuse to Truth.