Shakespeare Story

Thought of the week: Life hereafter

Through the lens of As You Like It, Michelle Terry looks to the future and wonders what life will be like hereafter

5 minute read

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After our daughter was born we were recommended an app that would tell us about all of the developmental leaps she would make in those early hours, days, weeks, months and years. It came with a warning that the leaps were often enormous in the mind and body of the child. They would most likely cry and get angry more than usual, and a gentle reminder to us as parents to have patience and compassion, and if we were feeling frustrated then we could be guaranteed that it was nothing compared to what the baby was feeling.

I remember feeling suspicious and maybe even a little disappointed that human behaviour could be so predictable. And of course repeatedly surprised when I would be chewing my pillow with rage, only to consult the app and lo and behold, the baby was mid ‘leap’.

I was also amazed at the comfort this kind of predictability could bring.

That was the feeling I had this week when a friend sent me an article about the ‘third quarter phenomenon’.

Having felt increasingly more frustrated and impatient and low about the unpredictability of this time – and noticing similar feelings in others – this article offered comfort with its explanation of a developmental stage of isolation known as ‘the third quarter’.

Admittedly it’s a research project where data is collected from studying those cooped up on submarines, space stations, or polar bunkers with a clear end date for their endeavours, but the relevance wasn’t lost on me.

Alongside the devastating, destabilising and disorientating effects of the virus and the impact it is having on individuals lives, we are having to face ourselves and test ourselves in the most extraordinary ways. Now that we have been given a glimpse of the end of lockdown, and now that we start to anticipate the ‘hereafter’, collectively we appear to have hit a predictable and quantifiable stage of lockdown as we start to wonder what’s next?

What does ‘hereafter’ lockdown look like?

How will we tackle those big issues like collective grief, mental wellbeing, climate change, economic inequality and instability, social justice, healthcare….to name but a few? These things impact us all, can no longer be talked about in isolation to each other, and go far beyond party politics.

But it’s so hard to hold these big and seemingly abstract ideas in our heads and our hearts. Ideas about the planet, the human race, our nation, the economy, can quite quickly become vague, intangible and overwhelming.

But what isn’t difficult to hold is the idea that this whole lockdown has been built on: the simple and very tangible idea that the decisions we make and the actions we take as individuals have a huge impact on our own lives, the lives of those nearest and dearest to us and in turn, have a huge impact on the whole of society.

The death toll from the virus is undoubtedly horrific, but could have been so much worse if we hadn’t taken on board why and how we could play our part and the influence that each of us could have on how things evolved. And it turns out that we can influence quite a lot.

In As You Like It Le Beau warns Orlando about the dangers of a volatile, tyrannical, vengeful Duke. But Le Beau still believes that, not only will this dangerous and difficult situation end, but that there is also the possibility of a ‘better world’ on the other side.

So as we look to life beyond, not only do we need to hold onto what matters, but also continue to ask what a ‘better world’ might look like and what part we can play in achieving it.

A ‘better world’ doesn’t naively believe the world is free of all that is ‘bad’, but it does pose the idea that ‘more love and knowledge’ are a possibility. That working from home is a possibility, cleaner air is a possibility, reduced travel is a possibility, gratitude and compassion for strangers is a possibility, online choirs hailing ‘you’ll never walk alone’ are a possibility, simple walks in the park reminding us that there are ‘tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones and good in everything’…there are so many possibilities.

Of course, As You Like is just a fairy tale.

But ever after and ‘hereafter’ have to start somewhere.

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Hereafter, in a better world than this,
I shall desire more love and knowledge of you.

— As You Like It

FINIS.

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK 

Each week during the UK lockdown, our Artistic Director Michelle Terry shares her Thought of the Week.

Using Shakespeare’s language, Michelle reflects on the individual and universal meaning of the words. By giving personal and emotional insight, she uses the quote to relate to, and express, the mood of this uncertain time.

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