Note: I realize it's been a while since I've posted, but be patient with me. I'm still an unfinished soul. Actually, I've been working on my sequel to The Night Shadow, which will be out in September. It will be another thrilling mystery with Esther Charlemagne and her partner Aiden "Mac" McManus. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I'm enjoying writing it.
I was reading a post from a fellow retiree and they paraphrased a quote saying, "Be true to yourself." That term has been applied over the last century to mean giving yourself license to think of yourself, alone. Like the picture of my crane above, people have used that expression to seek the truth within themselves.
Although, I agree that all of us need to take stock of our lives, we sometimes spend too much time thinking about ourselves. The longing for the introvert to be alone, to regenerate, I can understand being an intractable one myself, but what truly helps us to renew is to have faith in something greater than ourselves, to seek to understand the universe, to dream and wonder about the beauty of our world. Wandering down the corridors of boosting our morale, or finding yourself, can isolate us to the point we never can find the door to that Attaboy! moment, nor can we find the person we seek. But is it that pat on the head what we truly seek, or finding that mirror to understand ourselves? Or do we want to just see ourselves as a worthy human being?
As a person who has been abused, isolated, and wounded, I sought to find an answer to those questions. For years I sought that pat on the head, someone to tell me I was worthy, that what I created was good, and that I was important. I was so busy seeking a salve for my wounds that I never saw how often I received it from my husband, or my father, and my friends. But, still, those words of praise that I did receive didn't seem enough, didn't heal me, or make me feel better, normal, let alone happy. I kept looking into myself, seeking the kernel, the nexus of my universe within my soul.
Was it really that I wasn't being true to myself, or was there something else going on within me, a need that wasn't being met? What I discovered in my journeys to self-actualization is that I'm not small, nor am I big, but I'm an integral part of life, a necessary part. My life has meaning, purpose, and a direction. I know I need quiet, and I can spend that time reading, writing, and praying, sometimes doing absolutely nothing but staring up through the branches of a tree into the sky, but I remember that I'm never alone, that there is something grand about the spark of life itself.
Of course, I believe in God. I'm not spiritual, or a theist, or something on the hem of those skirts. I'm wholeheartedly a Christian, and in particular a Catholic Christian. I am assured of that fact through faith. In those moments when I feel the need to be alone, isolated enough to renew, I remember that we have been given the gift of life, and that wondrous spark can be used to start a bonfire to light the world, or it can be isolated in a dark room. What I mean is that I can spend time thinking about myself and never see into the dark corners because my candle is not capable of lighting up all the corners of my soul, or I can join my light with others and truly see the world, myself, and those around me for who we all are.
The quote they were looking for comes from the great Bard himself, Shakespeare. In Hamlet, Act 1, scene 3, lines 78-82 is a scene between Polonius and his son Laertes.
It goes like this:
"This above all: to thine own self 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!"
What Polonius meant is debated wildly, but it must come from the viewpoint of an Elizabethan if we are ever to know exactly what he meant, what Shakespeare believed in his philosophy. In his own way, the character Polonius tried to do what he thought was right. This he asked of his son, and blessed him with that knowledge. Although, he is viewed as a silly man, sometimes duplicitous, I don't believe he was. I think, like many of us mothers and fathers do, that we try to impart the best to our children and to ourselves, to be faithful to that idea, to tell ourselves the truth, and therefore, not be false to others.
Being true to yourself may be the first step, but that doesn't mean to be introspective only. We are to know that what we believe is the truth and not some lie told to us by those in power or around us. Polonius wanted his son to be a good man, to be a truthful man, and do what was right. Polonius also believed that he was trying to do the right thing. From an Elizabethan point of view, he was looking outward to the world, not inward. He wanted his son to be filled with truth so he wouldn't harm others. There's a huge difference.
The character of Polonius is an integral part of the story of Hamlet, and without him the truth would never come out. We are a lynch pin from which those within our circle pivot. This is what Polonius meant, what Shakespeare meant. The tragedy of the story is that Polonius was the only one seeking the truth. It is why he imparted that valuable blessing to his son. And it was a blessing, but even Laertes didn't learn from what his father said. He sought vengeance, which is not truth.
It was the great lie that murdered everyone in Hamlet; that the king murdered to ascend the throne. Everyone, including Polonius, was fooled by the lies told to bolster that first evil falsehood, but that doesn't negate the truth of Polonius' instruction to Laertes. He sent his son away because he feared for the boy's life, and he sought the truth even knowing how dangerous it was to learn it within the world of lies. And he did find it, at the end of a sword he learned the truth while hiding in the Queen's bedroom.
The lesson from that quote, from Hamlet is to never hide behind a curtain of isolation to learn the truth about ourselves, or about others, but to be open and honest about what we seek. Truth is objective, not subjective. Truth stands alone no matter who looks at it, or who tries to bend it to meet their philosophy. Truth rises above everything and transcends time. The truth about ourselves must be sought outside of us. There is only one place where we can learn the truth of who we truly are; in the eyes of those who love us. And having quiet time is a place to seek peace, so we can be the best we can be. But never confuse the two, for they are as different as night is to day.