We Are Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made Of
Many years ago, I had the privilege of studying for a semester at Oxford University in England. It was one of the most profoundly transformative experiences of my life, and I cherish it to this day.
The "Dreaming Spires" of Oxford hold a special place in my heart because it was there that I began to truly dream of what God might be leading me to do in terms of a life in ministry.
One night that summer, I got the chance to see Shakespeare's The Tempest performed in an amphitheater by the river. It's one of my favorites of the great Bard, and perhaps no other line from that play affects me like Prospero's speech from Act 4, Scene 1:
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made of, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
There is so much here in this speech... The audience is drawn into the play itself for a moment as the "fourth wall" is broken and Prospero suddenly reflects on the ephemeral nature of life, the world, and everything. He even envisions the eventual demise of the theater within which the play is performed (Globe/globe).
And then he says this: "We are such stuff as dreams are made of, and our little life is rounded with a sleep."
I've been thinking about that line today, and this entire speech along with it.
At this moment, I can close my eyes and remember so distinctly what it felt like to be there on the banks of the river in Oxford seeing this line performed. I can smell the smell of flowers from a nearby field, and feel the coolness of the nighttime summer breeze on my face. I can taste the mulled wine I am holding in my hand. It feels like yesterday.
Only it isn't.
There are twenty-three summers between that memory and this moment. And the dreams I dreamed that summer came true in ways that I never would have imagined, and if I could have imagined some of the ways they did, I probably never would have had the courage to live into them.
Time is funny that way. We think we see so clearly what the past was like, and we can sometimes remember it better than it was, and if we are lucky and the moment was perfect, we might remember it just as it was.
But we can't fully imagine what tomorrow may bring, nor do we realize fully how quickly it will arrive and will become today. We are also spared the truth about our journey as we move toward our tomorrows.
It's a hard and beautiful truth that the way forward is sometimes difficult, that our hearts get broken, and we lose things and sometimes the people we love along the way.
We are such stuff as dreams are made of...
What I hold on to most of all is that the dreams I am made of are Divine dreams of a perfectly imperfect person who keeps stumbling after Jesus with a defiantly clingy and somehow holy purpose.
May you hold on to the same hope, and may it fill you with a sense of timelessness, and eternal peace. May you find joy in your journey, trusting in the One who stands outside of your time and mine, seeing us as we will be when our Divine dreams come true at last.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.