The Hamlet Dream

For whatever reason I seldom remember my dreams.  One, however, is so vivid and so real that I think of it often.  I am standing on a balcony of a very tall building, maybe 60 or 70 stories high.  Next to me is a large dog with a collar attached to one of those long retractable leashes.  Suddenly the dog leaps over the railing.  Shocked, I glance down and see the leash end preparing to go over the side.

I grab at it just in time and brace myself against the railing.  The dog is now suspended 150 feet above the pavement, twisting and turning.  Slowly I begin to pull him up, but he is heavy and it's slow going.  Glancing over the side to check my progress, I see that the dog is clearly being strangled.  His eyes are bulging and his legs kicking wildly.  Somehow I know he will be dead by the time I get him back to the balcony.

I am thinking that I ought to just let him go.  Hitting the pavement will be a quicker end, but I just keep pulling, hoping against hope that I can save the poor thing.

Over the years I've come to call this "The Hamlet Dream."  After all, Hamlet didn't ask to be the one charged with avenging his father's death and he was under no illusions that doing so would make Denmark a better place.  Even before he meets the ghost, he speaks of the world as an "unweeded garden" full of things rank and gross that possess it merely.

Yet there he is, the one on the balcony holding an absurdly long leash.  And all of his efforts just keep making a bad situation worse.   He gets his girlfriend, her brother, his mother and himself killed for all his efforts.  Denmark gets taken over by a hot-headed thug and the world remains--just as he lamented in Act I--a rank, unweeded garden.

Making it worse while trying to make it better, the end the same no matter how we play it out.  I've been working to revise the general education core curriculum at my institution for almost four years now.  We're in the final phase and  I have to believe we did some useful weeding, but the rank and gross can be such hardy perennials.  I so want this job to be over.  And then, like Lear,  I'll crawl unburdened to the grave. 

Of course that didn't really work so well for  him, did it?

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