Laertes to Polonius, or, Letter to my older self, for times of trial
Interviewer: What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Prof. Brian Cox for The Guardian
My dear friend,
These days are marked by inconsistencies. It is almost Shakespearean -- the changing weather signifying changing moods. A burst of late-night humidity is for you as it is for morning glories: your heart seethes bright white and gold, if only for a moment.
You are perhaps more annoyed than anything else. It is not easy not knowing who you will be the next day. There is nothing wrong with that. You have lived a dozen lives in as many years; what a great privilege it is to know that you are like the universe -- moment to moment, changing.
Melinda Gates implores us, "Let your heart break. It will change what you do with your optimism." It is all too easy to harden ourselves; it is easy to see it in others. It is difficult to watch ourselves on that descent. Suddenly we have reached the bottom, and Jonathan Safran Foer was right: "You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness."
I beg you: stay soft. Stay in love. Pick yourself up, and let your heart be broken again. Allow yourself that much.
Life is not designed for observation. "How dull it is to pause, to make an end, / To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use! / As tho' to breathe were life!" Said another way: "and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
Remember to delight in inconsistencies, contradictions, and ambiguities. Certainty is for the resigned and hard-headed. Remain open to all genuine experiences of living.
If there is, in fact, one Thing Worth Living For, you will find that it is not yourself. We all borrow time from the stars that bore us. Do good, and make the lives of others better.
Sacrifice takes its toll; you lose track of how much you're losing until it's too late to get it back. Don't worry about that so much, "for what can we bequeath / Save our deposed bodies to the ground?" Better to burn and burn your whole life than to preserve a dying ember.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow as the night the day,
Thou canst not be false to any man.
Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!