I’m not sure, exactly, what it is about the equine hind quarters that invariably links them to the especial idiocy that brands us the occasional fool, but as Charles Dickens so aptly penned, “the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for.” Ol’ Charles had a penchant for hyperbole — Marley being “dead as a door-nail” was the actual simile, and I’ve just committed an outrageous “DIGRESSION!” but, you know, sometimes literary greats help me make my point (‘and I do have one.’)
Friends, be they the literary (and therefore fictitious) or actual kind, are useful for so many of life’s big and little moments. As this blog continually points out, we simply cannot do without our friends, right? We need them for big and small favors. We need them for laughing and for crying and for letting us vent. We need them to lend us stuff we don’t have. We need them for sharing secrets, recipes, and a bottle of wine. And we especially need friends to keep us from making utter fools of ourselves.
Consider Huck Finn & Tom Sawyer. What would Huck Finn do without Tom Sawyer as a cohort in boyhood adventure?
Consider Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway. Who else recognized Gatsby’s capacity for hope? Who else admired the man for his potential and scorned the superficiality of the East Eggers?
Consider Hamlet & Horatio. Without Horatio, Hamlet would endure the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” entirely alone, and no one to tell his story after…
The thing is, Huck never told Tom that he wasn’t doing it right. Huck lit out for the Territory instead, and left us to ponder the tomfoolery (ha!) of overdone adventure and the hypocrisy of being ‘sivilized.’
Nick Carraway never bothered to point out that Gatsby had anchored his hope to an insubstantial dream. Carraway merely tells us what happened – he doesn’t protect, intervene, or help. GAH!
Even Horatio, who cautioned Hamlet again and again, could only witness the final ‘cracking of a noble heart,’ and the Prince of Norway gets the final word.
You can learn a lot from literary friends. See, Huck knew that Tom Sawyer was making a mess of freeing Jim, and Nick most assuredly knew that Daisy wasn’t worth the the shirt on Gatsby’s back. Did they keep their friends from misadventure? Did they keep their friends from looking the fool? The answer, my friends, is no. No they most assuredly did not.
And that’s the lesson we take from Hamlet, and the words that ought to guide our friendships:
FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS COMMIT HORSE’S ASSERY
Of course, the Bard said if far more eloquently:
What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord,
Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff
That beetles o’er his base into the sea,
And there assume some other horrible form,
Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason
And draw you into madness?
One moment you’re simply a horse’s ass; the next you’re a madman, listening to the words of your father’s ghost. Next thing you know you’re being slain by a poisoned rapier, and your best friend is left telling your story, but the Prince of Norway has bigger political fish to fry than letting you blather on about being and not being.
It always starts with ignoring your friends’ horse’s assery.
And you thought literature couldn’t teach you anything, didn’t you?
Don’t be a — er, you know…