“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…”
Forgive my assumption, but I’m guessing that a pretty fair number of those of you who are reading this are spinning out the rest of this soliloquy from Macbeth. In it, of course, he is bemoaning the death of his wife and beginning to sense the unraveling of his schemes, the futility of his days, and how, in the end, they have held so little meaning.
My tomorrows, unlike Macbeth’s, don’t “creep in this petty pace from day to day.” To the contrary — they hurtle toward me so fast that I feel like I can’t always process them. They come, and then just as quickly, they go. Things get done, and things get left undone. It’s like a continuous stream passing over me, moving too quickly for me to fully grasp any one moment.
My sole defense against this rushed passing of my days is knowing that some moments will be fixed in memory, and that the sum total of those memories — as disparate as they may be — make up my personal history, and that that history is mine and mine only.
To be honest, it wasn’t so much Shakespeare that got me thinking along these lines, at least not his words alone. It was seeing these words delivered by my teenage son playing the role of Macbeth onstage of the Blackfriar’s Playhouse at the American Shakespeare Center just a few weeks ago.
I’ll not likely ever forget watching him perform. It was a revelation, really. His arms ropy and lean, his broadening shoulders encircled by a costume cape, the way he moved on the stage with the confidence of young Scottish thane, not an awkward, gangly teenager. It was a young man I watched, not so much a boy. Even then — in that very moment — I knew that I would lock this memory away, and preserve against the endless rush of tomorrows.
Perhaps I’ll shelve it alongside another memory, equally vivid: this same child — only seven then — memorizing and reciting this same soliloquy, just as he recited endless facts about jets or construction equipment or the predators of the African plains, or whatever else had captured his rigorous imagination at that moment. That’s the way his mind worked — still does, in fact — and I remember wondering then what would become of him, to what use would he apply his gifts. And just as he retains his same remarkable faculties, so, too, do I retain my endless wonder.
Perhaps the answer lies not in Macbeth. Maybe I should have been looking in The Tempest.
“What’s past is prologue…”