It’s a funny old world


I have always been fond of Horatio.

I mean Hamlet’s friend of course. He is an honest Joe and a long-suffering friend to the neurotic Danish prince. I think we would all rather be Horatio than Hamlet or at least to live in Horatio’s world rather than the frightening universe that haunts his friend. A world where anything can happen – even your worst nightmares.

In Act One Scene Five, Horatio finds out about that Hamlet has been visited by the ghost of his murdered father. We of course, like Horatio, don’t believe in ghosts. If we saw one, we too would echo Horatio’s words:

“Oh day and night, but this is wondrous strange!”

Hamlet replies with words that have always rung around somewhere in my head ever since:

“And therefore as a stranger, give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio
than are dreamed of in your philosophy.”

We live in Horatio’s world – it is, even if it had been never before, a time when we try to air-brush out many of the most unpleasant or confusing aspects of human existence.

Sadly, recently, we have been bumped into a few revelations.

“Oh day and night, but this is wondrous strange!”

We have found out that our politicians are on the fiddle.

We discovered that our leaders lie to us.

It was revealed that footballers have affairs with swimwear models.

Woops…sorry, I think even Horatio knew about that lot.

We have had a few jolts though, seriously.

The biggest car manufacturer in the world has admitted that a lot of its cars have accelerators that jam when you are driving at speed. Now that is wondrous strange. Terrifying in fact. It is one of my recurring nightmares but I for one have always trusted the technologies that make things work even though I don’t understand them. I am not one of those guys that has a quick look round the car before setting off in the morning: “Umm, accelerator seems to be working fine, breaks in full working order too. Should be alright to drive then”.

I am like most of us I reckon. I have learnt to take a lot of things on trust in an environment when scarily and I think increasingly, we are learning that more and more clever people are getting things wrong.

There have been a number of cases recently about euthanesia where undoubtedly fine and caring people have assisted their loved ones to die when they appeared to be in an uncurable and hopeless degenerative state. Our sympathies went out to these people in their undoubtedly brave and heart-wrenching actions.

So it was wondrous indeed today to read about the 29 year old Belgian man who was pronounced to be in a vegetative state (VS) something which most of us have believed to mean as good as dead. This young man suffered a serious brain injury in a car accident and, for five years, had shown no signs of consciousness until some British and Belgian scientists discovered that they could communicate with him by monitoring his brain activity when asked questions in magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRI).

Apparently he was able to answer yes or no to a variety of questions such as “Is your father’s name Alexander?” indicating that he could hear and understand what was being said to him and that it could be possible to communicate with him even though he shows no other signs of consciousness.

“Oh day and night, but this is wondrous strange!”

So much for our simple explanations about the meaning of life. We may yet find out that there are indeed more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy. Maybe, though I am frightened by the idea, life inside your brain even when you are in a vegetative state might well be worth living.

Let’s not jump into cars thinking that they could never race us to our deaths and let’s not assume that all valuable human activity is discernible from the outside. Now that is wondrous strange.

The world is a wonderful place so it is a pity that we all have to sound so sure of ourselves all the time.

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