Better Parenting through Literature: Immortality
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
I lied to my students. Actually, I exaggerated. I knew they would have a negative preconditioned response to Shakespeare. It’s natural. It’s a prerequisite for any student in an English class (yes, I know there are some exceptions).
So to overcome this learning hurdle, I lied. And because of that lie I began to wonder – is my lie correct?
You see I told the students that William Shakespeare (assuming you do not believe that he plagiarized his many works) discovered something fascinating. They didn’t believe me. So I leaned in close like I was telling a secret and I repeated the declaration.
Shakespeare discovered something fascinating. Shakespeare discovered immortality.
Of course they looked at me like I was crazy. Did I really just equate Shakespeare with a plot from Indiana Jones?
Sonnet Number 18
I shared Sonnet number 18 with them and had them experience the discovery for themselves. Did they see the secret? How did Shakespeare do it?
We spent some time reading and rereading the Sonnet. We asked questions, translated lines, reevaluated phrases.
And then we discovered the secret in the last two lines:
“So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”
Though it took a while, my students discovered that this poem has been around hundreds of years. And according to those last two lines, as long as men (and women) can read – so long lives the poem and it gives life to whomever was the subject of the poem.
Then I surprised myself with a question. It was meant for the students, but then I realized that I was actually asking myself: “So what is it that you want to build that will last for hundreds of years?”
And I was stumped.
We have options.
Do you build a monument of someone or something you love? Do you build a monument of yourself? Do you build something that will last and be of service to others? Or, do you avoid building anything because you are afraid whatever you choose will not be good enough?
In an honest moment, I will admit that I often lean towards the latter of the statements. And then I begin to think, as a father, that I don’t ever want my children to feel that way.
I think we are meant to build. We are meant to leave an imprint. We are meant to leave something behind. We are meant to cause change – hopefully for the better.
So this is now the new challenge, or maybe it is the old challenge and I am just seeing it in new light. What is it that we will build?
There are so many thoughts and questions that go with this idea. Do we watch others build with envy? Do we watch others build and cheer their efforts? Do we watch others build and be inspired? Intimidated?
In the search for immortality, we have to realize that we not only have the power to enact change, but also to be changed.
So, if we all have the gift of discovering immortality, what can we build together? Maybe THAT is the better question both for us and our kids to ponder.