And these few precepts in thy memory

And these few precepts in thy memory

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About 415 years ago the great writer William Shakespeare wrote the following passage in his famous play Hamlet. Ever since I first read them these words have stuck in my memory. I wish I could say that I listened to them but I never had, maybe life would have been so much different had I done so.

Hamlet – Act 1, Scene 3

Polonius: Yet here, Laertes? 
And these few precepts in thy memory
Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportion’d thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar:
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledg’d comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel; but being in,
Bear’t that th’ opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are most select and generous, chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all- to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell. My blessing season this in thee

People tell me that history is the past and has no bearing on life today. Maybe if people were to follow the example above, we would live in a much nicer world. History is full of such wonderful pieces of insight, for hundreds of years people have tried to extoll the virtues of good human nature.

Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportion’d thought his act.

How simple can this opening be, and yet carry with it such a brilliant message. Sometimes it is better if we keep what we are thinking to ourselves, especially when we have not yet thought it through. For me, this is often hard. I have a lot of thoughts I like to share, but sometimes what I am thinking does not always make sense. Impulsive action is also another trait I try to hold back from now, it is so easy to just do things without thinking them through. I think this is true of my anxiety and depression, so many thoughts that must not be acted upon, so many things you sometimes want to say but if you did they would be regretted.

Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar

I really do love this line, in essence it is “treat people how you would like to be treated”. I do lapse into the vulgar on occasion, I used to be much worse. I do not just mean the use of foul language but also in what I said. For me life has always been about blending with my surroundings, trouble is I would often over compensate and “cross the line”. I never really developed my own standards, I just borrowed those of who I was with. This becomes awkward in mixed company, like a cartoon camellion on a paisley background. Being vulgar, in thought, speech or action is not pretty. It does make you stand out from the crowd, but only as an idiot. I was an idiot for too long, and changing that perspective in people’s minds takes more time than it did to create it.

Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledg’d comrade.

Friendship, the hardest part of my illness and reconciling my past, has to be my shame at how I have treated people in the past. People who were there for me, who offered me the bond of friendship and I turned my back on them. Looking back I think that my problem was one of geography, I grew up next to a major RAF base. In school kids would come and go, you kind of got used to your friends leaving one day never to return. Quickly you learn to disassociate yourself from the feeling of loss. You then never give yourself to the friendship completely, you find it easy to break the bond. Soon you become accustomed to being alone, people are transient, nothing is consistent. Without friends you soon become at home with isolation, you no longer want to be a “part of the gang”. People consider you unfeeling, aloof, not a team player. If they only knew how much you really craved to be a part of something.

Beware of entrance to a quarrel; but being in,
Bear’t that th’ opposed may beware of thee.

I don’t know where it comes from, maybe a film or book, I don’t know. But in my head when I read this I think “A gentleman never loses an argument, because a true gentleman never argues”. I however, am not a gentleman, I do not have the restraint. How many arguments have I started, how many times have I used a “quarrel” as grounds for venting my frustration. Angry words, even now come too quickly to the lips, you live with self-frustration, and you have to vent. Turn it inwards and you hurt yourself, outwards and you hurt someone else. Nobody sticks around people like me long, I am working hard on this point, but all to often the words are out before the brain has even registered the emotion.

Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.

Listen, don’t talk. Simple enough, but I like the sound of my own voice, I enjoy talking to people, I enjoy hearing their stories and the more I do, the more I find myself holding my own words. In the past I have told more lies than truths, I lived the lies so much that they almost became the truth. For every word spoken to me, I had more of my own. The blend of hating who I was, trying to fit in, be accepted, just led to me always having something to say, even if it was complete rubbish. As for taking criticism, as you will have gathered by now, criticism equalled a personal attack. Anyone who was to criticise me would be, tried, convicted and dually judged accordingly. The trouble with being a mental mess, is that self-preservation becomes limitless, every single emotion was guarded. Once hurt, rejected, dismissed, the pain would feed the fire of self-hate. One more hammer blow to the foundations of self-confidence, the damage done requiring an age to repair.

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are most select and generous, chief in that.

Nothing a depressive likes more than a bit of retail therapy, preferably online. Oh how rich I would be now if only I could control myself. Simple material gratification, instantly. It is as if money is poisoned and must be converted into material possessions instantly. Yet, most of it I do not even need, however I still buy it. Then comes the time when money is required, and the money is all gone. I sit here writing this and wonder why, why chose a piece of literature that so highlights all my imperfections. I guess, for me it is about showing who I want to leave behind. Show why I am desperate to change my life, not only so that I can learn to handle my illness better, but also become a better person.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

Almost a continuation of the above, when the money is gone, you borrow. Having to borrow money from people becomes second nature, but each one is yet another hammer blow. Every penny borrowed just chips away at your self-worth. Before you know it, you would sell anything, just so you do not have to borrow. All those lovely material possessions so eagerly bought, soon are sold for less than they are worth. A poor man may still have pride, unless he is poor due to his own negligence. Flashing the cash may impress, but those impressed soon lose interest when the cash is gone. Similarly being quick to lend money, only works if it is done as a gift not a loan. Nothing causes a loss of faith better than the false promises on an unpaid debt. Trust me, I have done both many times.

This above all- to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

You could say that this last piece is the true inspiration for writing. As you will have gathered from the above, I do not consider myself a nice person. I have lead a life that was a lie, I have broken all the rules, I have come to hate myself. Or rather I did. You see I no longer want to live a lie, I want to be true to myself. Am I delusional? Is it possible to “reinvent” yourself? I hope I can, I no longer want to be the person I associate with Dave. I always hated my name, maybe it is time I learned to like it, and with it myself. I have accepted who I was, but he is no longer. He died on the 18th May 2015, David was born, fragile then and still so but striving each day to make Mr Shakespeare proud, knowing his words were not written in vain.

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