Worn In and Out: Change from the Insight Out
I came across the word inhabit and was struck by the “habit” in “inhabit.” Yeah, I’ve noticed it before and considered how habit doesn’t just mean “habit” but also means “clothes,” but this particular “inhabit” made me think of a Hamlet quote and how it relates to both “in habit” and “inhabit.” Habits. We INhabit ’em. If they control us, then we are the inHABITed or possessed or worn by ’em. Wear or be worn.
In our warped economy and culture, bad habits profit people who care not a whit about our well-being. We have more temptation (and incessant and loud messages) to be inhabited (“you DESERVE it”)–all the more reason and inspiration to inhabit our lives with what is good and healthy.
(From III, 4)
Hamlet (to his mom, Gertrude:
“Assume a virtue if you have it not./ That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat,/ Of habits devil, is angel yet in this:/ That to the use of actions fair and good He likewise gives a frock or livery/ That aptly is put on. Refrain tonight,/ And that shall lend a kind of easiness/To the next abstinence, the next more easy.”
Here’s a modern translation from Sparknotes: “At least pretend to be virtuous, even if you’re not. Habit is a terrible thing, in that it’s easy to get used to doing evil without feeling bad about it. But it’s also a good thing, in that being good can also become a habit. Say no … tonight, and that will make it easier to say no the next time, and still easier the time after that. Habit can change even one’s natural instincts, and either rein in the devil in us, or kick him out.” (http://nfs.sparknotes.com/hamlet/page_206.html)
Claudius is considering repentance but decides, “That cannot be, since I am still possessed/ Of those effects for which I did the murder:/ My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen./ May one be pardoned and retain th’ offense?” There are several places in Hamlet where words are used as their antonyms. Zum beispiel: “By heaven, I’ll make a ghost of him who lets me!” I, 4. “Let” here means “tries to hinder” or “DISallows.” Claudius is still “possessed” by possessions. In linear and dichotomous thought, “let” just means “allow” and possessions are always owned, never masters. Truth isn’t bound by our dogmatic and arbitrary boundaries.
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become… habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny! What we think we become. ” -Margaret Thatcher. Habits begin with words, with thoughts. Behaviorists assert this process can be done out of order by “faking it ’til you feel it.” Words, thoughts, lead to the faked action. Recognition that a habit or behavior needs modification is a thought. Then behavior is dictated by thought, if not will and enthusiasm.
“Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.” -Hamlet to the Players
Thoughts to words to actions to habit to character to destiny. I should choose my words with more care and time than I spend choosing my clothes. I must fully inhabit my own life.
- Shameless plug part 1: Hamlet at American Players Theatre (exitthebear.wordpress.com)
- Hamlet: A Love Story (newyorker.com)
- Hamlet (alltheworldsmyway.wordpress.com)