It’s been a week since a decent posting. You might say far longer! There has been much whirling in the imp (so-called) mind and too much, at times, to filter effectively. There have been peeps coming and going off the world stage (my world, your world, local or global) – babies born, deaths of the young and old; there have been ailments and arguments, beginnings and completions.

So in this wee contemplation of what might or might not be on my mind, I remembered Jacques in As You Like It, and his ‘seven ages of man’ speech, which, to save your googling fingers, I’ll paste at the end of the posting.

And I realised that Shakespeare is saying only what I keep citing (ad nauseam; I apologise) from Bill Hicks. For Hicks’s ‘it’s only a ride’, see WS’s “all the world’s a stage/and all the men and women merely players.”

Both wise commentaries (overtly or by implication) draw attention to the various parts we play in our lives; different parts with different people, at different times and in different places. I’m not always aware of the parts I am playing until I catch sight of myself, or perhaps spot behaviour I dislike in someone else and realise I am just as guilty of it. What a foul, gut-curling moment that can be. Not only are you seeing your own weakness, but hey, let’s throw some near-as-damn-it hypocrisy into the mix for good measure.

I had the odd, uncanny experience of watching the baby-toddler-child Imp on ’70s technicolor celluloid recently, which added “am I that person still?” / philosopher’s axe wonderings to the uncanny sensation of watching oneself that you get at any point in time. Am I right in thinking that very few of us truly understand how others perceive us? Are you still surprised when you hear a recording of your voice? Do you look at photos and, more often than not, wince at the terrible non-likeness you see? The camera must have caught you as you are just one per cent of the time, right?

Is it at all different for actors, TV presenters, people who are used to their own image, do you think? Do they alter their perception of how others see them because they join the ranks of Others when they watch themselves? Do they find themselves behaving a tiny bit differently as a result? Is it unhealthy to be so self-conscious? To be so eye-led, in fact, by anything (particularly oneself!), instead of being led by consideration of other things: the planet, your family, the job well done etc etc?

Those questions might, to a degree, answer themselves, but I will push: is there in fact gain to be had from that kid of self-knowing (external, not internal)? Can it make you better at all? Perhaps NLP coaches and assertiveness trainers would say yes?

Basta. Time for some bard.

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

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