Shakespeare had seven stages of life, but I have settled for six acts on one stage...
The First Act – Innocence: You are running free, a child, with images from past lives and guardian angels vivid in your mind; the imagination free, the strong spirit of enquiry to take those earlier experiences to their next stages of evolution, the constant asking of “why not?” and the fear of being sanctioned by elders who keep admonishing you to “behave.”
The Second Act – Rebellion: Past lives forgotten, with this life becoming more important: the pleasures of adulthood, awakened sexuality, the need to hunt and conquer, to rebel against those who keep saying “behave.” You pursue education in the school of academe and experience in the school of life. The first job. Falling in love. Joining activist and protest groups; being dragged away by police at demonstrations and being proud of those badges of honour received. Determined to chart your own way and not repeat the mistakes of the previous generation.
The Third Act – Conformance: The career job. You marry a beautiful spouse, raising a trophy family and joining the establishment, becoming one of those very people who admonished you as a child and asked you to “behave.” You realize that the only way to accumulate wealth is to play along and become Organizational Man. Do not challenge but be politically correct. The system has worked from time immemorial, so why change it? A house in the suburbs, a cottage, and money in the bank is as far as you can see. No more looking in the mirror again.
The Fourth Act – Collapse: Tired inside for having compromised and given in, having the courage to finally look in the mirror and be horrified by whom you see; the phase of nervous breakdown, marriage breakdown, career breakdown, and the first touches of mortality, all which remind you of time running out. Children leave, spouses leave, bosses leave, friends leave, but you are more comfortable with the pieces that you have left, because they belong only to you.
The Fifth Act – Renaissance: You join new protest groups that are more organized and goal oriented. You do work that inspires, write books, share your accumulated mistakes (wisdom) cultivating new intellectual friends. You build relationships that have more longevity but less passion. You hit your stride with deliberate physical exercise, and with medications and diet to keep all systems fired. You calibrate and celebrate your achievements and document them for legacy. You reach out and understand empathy and compassion for the first time.
The Final Act – Curtain Call: Your hands cannot write anymore, your eyes falter and the hearing is suspect. You try to admonish your adult children to let the grandchildren run free. “Don’t repeat my mistakes!” you cry out feebly. You don’t hear them mumble back, “old duffer.” The angels have returned in flashbacks of fading memory; you even recognize dear friends among their ranks, ones who called it quits earlier because they had learned everything they needed to and had released one of those fatal lurking illnesses in everyone’s bodies to end their play. You rise nobly, accounts settled, take a bow to those still in the audience and exit the stage—gracefully, if able.
Ladies and Gentlemen – it is a trial and a privilege to be able to finish all six acts of this play – not many are able to – and to leave the stage with applause from the audience still ringing in your ears.