Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Out Damn Spot!

When I was taking grade 12 English in high school, the latter part of the year was devoted to studying Shakespeare's King Lear. It was like studying Greek to me. And not being of Greek descent, it was rather difficult. In fact, after being a straight A student my entire life to that point, I was very frustrated at not being able to understand the language or the meaning of Shakespeare. The only test I ever flunked was the test on King Lear. And I was the only one in the class to fail it. The teacher did give me props for giving him a "nice bell curve" though.

Turns out my dad wasn't too good at Shakespeare, either. At university he studied engineering, but of course had to take an elective English course as well, which he recalls wasn't his idea of a good time.

When I got to university, conicidentally the same one my father attended, I chose to take sociology rather than English. I had had enough of trying to figure out what authors were alluding to. However, by my third year, I needed more electives to fulfill my degree requirements and I ended up taking a first year English course from a legendary prof, sometimes referred to as Snapper. I was heavily involved with campus radio at the time and he asked me to produce a radio play our class was going to write based on Gulliver's Travels. That was a blast. He also had us divided into groups to come up with a board game based on Beowulf. That was a lot of fun, too.

Strangely enough I ended up taking more English courses, including 20th Century American and British Lit from my own Dr. Phil and a drama seminar from Snapper. Snapper was so-called because of his extremely dry and quick wit. In the drama seminar we studied a number of plays dating from ancient Greek and Roman times to the 19th centruy. I admit I was lost during much of the seminar, just not able to see through to the deeper meaning of most of the plays. I guess I was too linear in my thinking at the time as my abstract thinking has improved with time.

I don't recall which Shakespeare play we looked at in that class, but the same week we were studying it, a Garfield cartoon appeared in the Sunday comics that made it all clear to me. I've done a brief inernet search and can't find the exact strip but the punchline was "Things are not always as they appear to be".

I had a brilliant moment of clarity. Suddenly, Othello, which I had seen at Neptune Theatre in Halifax in Grade 9, King Lear from Grade 12 and now my university Shakespeare play made complete sense. I took the comic strip to Snapper's office and placed it before him. "This is it, isn't it? This is what it's all about!" You'd think I had just won a Nobel Prize or Olympic medal, I was so proud. Snapper read the strip, nodded, and said, "That about sums it up".

Since then I have enjoyed a few Shakespeare plays, live, and movie versions. After watching Mel Gibson's Hamlet, I asked my mother to make me a cape like the one Mel wore in the movie. I wear it a couple of times a year on chilly fall and spring evenings with a huge, gorgeous, Scottish brooch on the shoulder to hold it in place.

Several years ago I was tutoring a friend's younger sister. This girl was extremely bright but was having difficulty in written communication. We were working on her writing skills for her English course in which they were studying Romeo and Juliet. She was able to identify scenes and acts to illustrate points her teacher had made, something I could never have done in a million years. While working with her, I let her in on the secret to Shakespeare.

Remember Three's Company? Every single episode revolved around a misunderstanding of some sort where things were never what they appeared to be.

My dad's father, my grandfather, gave my mother a copy of Shakespeare's complete works. It's a 100 year old, leather-bound book that now sits on my shelf. I rarely open it as I still find the language tedious to read and the internet makes it so much easier to look up a reference.

The whole point of this post, inspired by Linda at Brain Cheese, is that like Shakespeare's plays, MS offers up as its theme "Things are not always as they appear to be". Some of us are walking, talking, biking illusions. We have MS but don't appear to have anything wrong at all. Some of us have mental deficits that have resulted in having to retire from the workforce early. Some of us have physical deficits that belie the mental acuity we have maintained.

Looking at an MRI filled with lesions of the brain, one may conclude a severe disability. Or one lesion may lead to the conclusion of no disability or even symptoms. But we know that presence and number of lesions don't always correspond to disability. And that's why MS is an illusion, a Shakespeare play. We have lesions we want to be rid of, no matter the amount of damage they do. And that's why, like Lady MacBeth, our universal cry is "Out damn spot!"

S.
Picture is the Great Red Spot on Jupiter from www.aerospaceweb.org

3 comments:

Denver Refashionista said...

Nice metaphor. Things are not always as they appear. Now out damn spots.

BRAINCHEESE said...

I had no idea my late night contemplation of belly button lint would become a spring board for YOUR inspired writing! This connects directly with "unintended consequences"...LOL

Linda D. in seattle

Shauna said...

Linda,
Just because you call them rants or navel gazing doesn't mean we can't see the value of your posts or be inspired by them.....Perhaps DR can fashion a class about Shakespeare and MS.

S.