Shakespeare’s play Hamlet begins the third act with Hamlet posing one of the more famous questions ever.
To be? Or not to be?
His question comes from turmoil and inner conflict. He’s trying to pick between suicide and murder and in his mind, it comes down to a fairly simple question. Would it be better to exist, or to not exist; to be or not to be.
Unfortunately, many people have taken this question and applied it to their life. They have decided that to be or not to be is “THE” question. It’s not THE question though, it’s Hamlet’s question.
While Hamlet is an absolute classic, and while his speech about “being”, ranks among the greatest of monologues ever, his question is a terrible way to do life.
Quick side note: There are people that daily find themselves truly asking whether or not they should be, or not be and for those people that is THE question. I don’t want to be insensitive or minimize the complexity of that question either. It’s not always an easy answer and you may need help answering it so I’d encourage you to ask for that help. Phone a friend, poll the audience, write an email, but do something. It’s a big question and you want to make sure you answer it right.
If to be or not to be is your question click here for more. If you’ve already answered the question, and you are still reading, then the rest of this post is for you.
If you’ve faced Hamlet’s question and are still with us, you chose rightly. And now it’s time for the follow up question…
Think about how many people you know that get out of bed every day and just “be”.
Hamlet asked them a question and they chose to “be” but that’s the only choice they made. Now they are just “being”, to “be”.
Tell me this doesn’t sound like every Monday at work.
“Hey, how are you doing?
“Well, I’m here”. *Awkward laugh*
“I guess that’s better than the alternative”
But is it?
It seems that we have taken hamlet’s profound question about “being” or “not being” and turned it into a depressing, Monday morning, non-conversation between two people that chose to “be” and that was it.
Once we have decided that we’d like “to be”, we must then answer the question of how we would like to “be”.
Will we be good? Will we be bad? Will we be happy, or sad? Rich or poor? Positive, negative? Encouraging, disappointing? Compassionate, cold? There are oh so many things that we can “be”.
Most people allow their circumstances to dictate how they “be”. If good things happen during the day then they “be” happy. If enough good things happen on enough good days, these people will “be” okay.
Notice that I said okay. I didn’t say they’d “be” super-duper fantastic or that they’d “be” happy and fulfilled beyond their wildest expectations. When we allow our circumstances to dictate our being, the best possible scenario is that we will “be” okay, but what’s more likely is that we won’t.
If we are able to wake up every day and choose between existence and non-existence, don’t you think that it’s at least possible that we can also choose the type of existence?
There are obvious limitations, unless you have a gene, which I don’t anymore. (I spent all 3 of my wishes at Disneyland when I was 9 and it wasn’t even that cool.)
Most of us can’t wake up in the morning and just decide to “be” millionaires. Unless we went to bed as millionaires, the likelihood of us waking up as millionaires is slim-to-none. Life doesn’t work that way. It often takes hard work and determination to change how we “be”.
What we can chose, every morning, is whether we will “be” the same… “be” worse… or “be” better.
We can chose to grab life by the horns and wrestle it the ground while it tries to step on us or we can just “be” stepped on. We can step into the ring and “be” confident and driven or we can “be” intimidated and scared. We can drive through rush hour with a smile on our face and chose today, to “be” better or we can just “be” in traffic until we just “be” at work and then come home and just “be” there until we start it all over tomorrow.
To just be, or to be better… That is the real question.