I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.
The Merchant of Venice (III.i.49–61)
I’ve been trying to find a way to cherry pick arguably the most popular quote from The Merchant of Venice and incorporate it into a blog post. Heck, lately I’ve just been attempting to discover the best way to cherry pick the myriad interlaced thoughts within my noggin. Therefore, I suppose I can consider this a double win–but only if I can adequately explain why I’m choosing to cite this particular Shakespeare on this particular day.
I began with this idea awhile ago. In fact, this blog post–well, the title and the quotation–has been under my “drafts” for months. I had a kernel of an idea mixed with some more-than-fleeting thoughts but I couldn’t find the path or direction. Imagine standing in a tee box tasked with hitting into a forest and then being able to locate your ball (I’m not sure why I chose this analogy, as I often can’t find my ball when hitting it into a fairway, but just go along with it, OK?).
Like yourself, I have many opinions, beliefs, thoughts, and ideas that make me different from everyone else. Different from you. Even the closest loved ones don’t agree with me 100% of the time–or perhaps even 50% of the time, nor I with them, so imagine what that rate might be with “the masses.” While some of us are more argumentative than others [LOOKS IN MIRROR], none of us wish to go through our daily lives embattled. So, naturally, we gravitate towards those who are most like-minded as ourselves: our closest family and friends, acquaintances, journalists, publications, celebrities, etc. We take each one of these people, or “resources,” and encapsulate ourselves within their warmth of like mind. This is our cocoon, and to heck with anyone who tries to invade with a different strain of silk.
There is a copious amount of bile being strewn about lately, all brought upon by the unwanted, diverse entanglement of said silk. “Unfriend” me if you think this way, or that. “I don’t want to talk to [you or them].” “I don’t follow them because I don’t agree with them.” When a foreign concept or idea approaches our general vicinity, we feign contagiousness and seek the exit. What have we gained if not for comfort?
Shylock (quoted above) at once recognizes that we are equals, while admitting that he will do worse evil than has been done towards him. What he might possess in understanding, he lacks in humaneness and humility. Shakespeare is ever brilliant because he so eloquently discusses issues that have plagued humanity to this day–over four centuries later. We’d do well to heed his advice. It is not good enough to merely recognize that we are equals without simultaneously possessing both the empathy and modesty to put an end to the ceaseless vitriol that flows between those of unlike mind. After all, an unlike mind does not an unequal mind (or person) make.
Late last year, when a certain election concluded, many stated the need to have “uncomfortable conversations.” I don’t possess any empirical evidence, but they don’t appear to be happening. Unless, of course, we’re to count the snarky replies in a constant game of one-upsmanship with the “other side”–a.k.a. other humans. As you surely know–but perhaps won’t admit, the discourse which is necessary doesn’t occur within y(our) echo chamber(s). We must take our most humble, empathetic selves and become intertwined with yarn of a different thread–as discomforting as it may be–and have the talk(s) we so desperately require.
So, who wants to chat?
Thanks for reading.