It’s 2016 and All The World’s A Stage

Shakespeare I have always resisted creating missives for public consumption citing my fear of not having the literary skill to write as glibly as I think I should.  So, since 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s (the writer not the one who made fishing tackle) death I am going to steal his thoughts as spoken by Hamlet and interpreted by James Rado and Gerome Ragni in the musical Hair.

Just as a bitter Hamlhair-image1et relates his disappointment to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern two members of the Hair “Tribe” relate their sense of futility to the audience in the following manner.

What a piece of work is man?

How noble in reason

How infinite in faculties

In form and moving

How express and admirable

In action how like an angel

In apprehension how like a god

The beauty of the world

The paragon of animals

I have of late

But wherefore I know not

Lost all my mirth

This goodly frame

The earth

Seems to me a sterile promontory

This most excellent canopy

The air– look you!

This brave o’erhanging firmament

This majestical roof

Fretted with golden fire

Why it appears no other thing to me

Than a foul and pestilent congregation

Of vapors

Basically, the performers express what wonderful creatures we are – The paragon of animals. They also relate how our world is a pretty neat place of fresh air and sunshine (the combination of sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows is another song). Intermingled, are the characters’ sense that the neat stuff, for them, has become mirthless and their worldview is that of a “foul and pestilent congregation of vapors”. In other words things stink!

Now you might say – “Nice going John! New Year postings are supposed to be uplifting and happy making evoking the promise of the blank slate of thsunshine and lollipopse coming year and the good things it will bring.” Eh. Sometimes my inner Grinch takes over my personality. But Grinch aside, negativity can be transformed into positivity. Granted, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet things don’t end so well. In Act V, poisons and swords pretty much do in most of the cast. But Hair ends with the “Gliddy glup gloopy” happy making of Good Morning Starshine followed by the “Harmony and understanding, Sympathy and trust abounding, No more falsehoods or derisions, Golden living dreams of visions, Mystic crystal revelation, And the mind’s true liberation,” that comprises the song Aquarius. Unlike Hamlet, Hair ends with an invitation to the audience to come on stage and celebrate by joining in the song Let the Sun Shine In.

“And, so what?” You may ask. Well the “So what?” is this… Our IMAlive volunteer responders interact with many people who have lost their sense of mirth. The world, for them, has become that earth of foul, pestilent, crumby, stinky stuff. While many folks, confronting a person feeling so negative would change the conversation to sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows our volunteers listen to and validate the feelings being experienced by the person. The skills they learned in HEART allows them to engage the individual in an empathetic manner that is respectful and nonjudgmental. In doing so, it enables a person, any person to see a real hope that things can change for the better. It is happy making for me to see how our IMAlive volunteers take what they have learned in HEART and create magic. Not the frivolous magic of illusion and Shakespearean dreams but the magic of reality. Yes, the emotional place those who come to us are in is foul and pestilent. For them that is very real. What is also real is they can change how that reality makes them think, feel, and behave and in doing so move beyond that which hurts in a life affirming manner. It is these changes our volunteers help those in crisis negotiate.


Our volunteer responders, help those in need understand that while change is scary they can find understanding and harmony that will allow them to survive that which has happened. While am not exactly a Shakespearian scholar (with him I am more of a Cliff Notes or Classics Illustrated kind of guy) I find it interesting that he uses the positive definition of “apprehension” in What A Piece of Work Is Man. Generally, we attach anxiety or fear that something bad or unpleasant will happen to apprehension. But Shakespeare uses the definition which embraces understanding. Is this not the nature of danger and opportunity crisis represents? As I said before, it is a wonderful thing to see our volunteers help people accept the negative side of apprehension then help them move to the understanding that gives life meaning and fruitfulness. They deserve a collective pat on the back for the peachy keen, neato stuff they do every day. Hey guys… I may not know each of you personally but rest assured that your supervisors, benefactors, and I totally appreciate that which you do. More important is the appreciation of all those you have helped and will help in the future. It may not always be spoken but, trust me, it is there. On their behalf, thank you for you are what Shakespeare said, through Hamlet:

What a piece of work is man

How noble in reason

How infinite in faculties

In form and moving

How express and admirable

In action how like an angel

In apprehension how like a god

The beauty of the world

The paragon of all that is good in our world

So let’s accept that negativity happens in everybody’s life and that when it does there is a group of trained and dedicated IMAlive volunteers prepared to help. It is the skill of our volunteers that allows them to help those who reach out change their world sense from negativity, stench, and pestilence to the world described by Lesley Gore –

Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows,

Everything that’s wonderful is what I feel when we’re together,

Brighter than a lucky penny,

When you’re near the rain cloud disappears, dear,

And I feel so fine just to know that you are mine.

My life is sunshine, lollipops and rainbows,

That’s how this refrain goes, so come on, join in everybody!

Yes! Please join in everybody in appreciating and supporting our volunteers. Thank you all. Be good to yourselves and let the sunshine in!

John Plonski – IMAlive National Director of Training



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