“Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, and a tragedy for the poor.”
Sholem Aleichem, the Russian Jewish intellectual named Solomon Rabinovitz (1859–1916), created many of the most enduring works of modern Yiddish fiction. Among his most memorable stories in the Hollywood movie world, we can count ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ ‘Laughing in the Darkness,’ and ‘get Thee Out.’
Taking a closer look at the above observation we see four different representations of the same thing we call ‘life.’ It is reasonable to expect that the author is referring to human life here and not just any other life form. It is hard to imagine that all types of life experience these four facets in any noticeable fashion.
We know for sure birds, animals, insects, and/or reptiles can neither feel nor express these situations in their lives. We cannot create a distinction among them per the above criteria of wise, fool, rich, or the poor. On the other hand, humans have a dream, a game, a comedy, and/or a tragedy, all encompassed in one life, depending upon our specific situation at a given time, WOW!
It is my understanding the ‘dream’ referred to by Sholem gives the wise a reason to keep their expectations high. Their wisdom prompts them to go on exploring the various nuances of life, the mysteries, the challenges, and intricacies, as well as the countless opportunities. Since times immemorial, outstanding achievers have continued to profess the power of dreams for those that believe in them and go out on a limb to realize the same.
Ralph Nader, the well-known American political activist, author, lecturer, and attorney, explained the power of dreams in such beautiful words:
“A leader has the vision and conviction that a dream can be achieved. He inspires the power and the energy to get it done.”
He is widely known for writing the stories behind many Hollywood movies like ‘All Governments Lie’ (2016,) ‘Killer At Large,’ ‘Paperback Dreams,’ and ‘Fierce Light’ (2008.)
‘A game for the fool,’ may sound a bit far-fetched to some, but in reality, we find the inherent wisdom unfold itself almost everywhere. It is common knowledge every game has two essential components to it viz. a winner and a loser. Those well prepared, experienced and commanding a thorough knowledge of the rules of the game, play it to win. On the other hand, those without sufficient grip on the game, end up as losers. To go into a game without proper planning, preparation, and/or professionalism is definitely a sign of one’s foolishness if anything.
We can also find a reference to fools in the Holy Bible: “A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom.” Obviously, the wise always have a valid reason for whatever they do. Not only that, but they also exercise due caution when presenting their thoughts in the most befitting manner, without inviting much ridicule. It reminds me of yet another slightly funny quote I read somewhere a few years ago. It goes like this: “A foolish man tells a woman to stop talking, but a wise man tells her that her mouth is extremely beautiful when her lips are closed.”
Coming back to the four distinct facets of life, let us pay some attention to an interesting statement from Christopher Fry, the 20th-Century English playwright, and poet, best known for his verse drama ‘The Lady’s Not For Burning.’ He claimed, “Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair.”
We know for a fact, how hard it is for the poor to escape despair at every turn in their lives. The challenges in meeting their everyday obligations leave hardly any room for them to think of any diversions. Given the situation, it becomes abundantly clear for us to understand the logic behind the title quote.
I am sure the intelligent and analytical readers will agree with me that the rich have the necessary resources to find the essential escape from despair more often than not. At the same time, it might also be pertinent to mention that the modern-day rich not only shelter themselves from ‘despair’ but more frequently from the truth as well. Perhaps, it is due to the fast-changing dynamics of relationships, communication, commerce, education, and family values together, making a profound impact on our lives.
We often see a much higher level of stress taking in its grip the young and the intelligent as much as the old, and the infirm. Naturally, various color palettes of life manifest themselves in front of our eyes now, more than ever before.
Finally, let us evaluate the relevance of the final component of the quote where Sholem compares life to “a tragedy for the poor.” Is it just my belief or you, the reader, also find common ground in this belief that the author is entirely on the mark here? How would you depict the life of a poor man saddled with a never-ending load of challenges?
Meeting the basic needs of proper shelter (housing,) food, and clothing is the biggest challenge in the lives of a sizeable human population around the globe. It is hard for them to be thankful for a life that is drastically under-appreciated when compared to the one enjoyed by the pets of the rich and those financially well off.
It is impossible for us, with a reasonably respectful lifestyle to imagine what a terrible life these poor souls live. They have no assurance of their next meal, no protection against the elements, not even enough clothes for a change, and to top it all, they command no respect from anybody. Given such a situation, how would you identify such a life, if not a ‘tragedy?’
In my humble opinion, it is time for us to take a long, hard look at the growing disparity and work diligently in building an environment of mutual respect, cohesiveness, and generosity towards our fellow brethren. We must do our level best to creating channels of open communication, without any geographic, linguistic, religious, and/or socio-economic barriers.
The challenge is open to each one of us whether we accept it and pick up the cudgels to take it on, or we may choose to overlook the same and let humanity die its ignominious death.
No matter what decision we take, the future of generations to follow will rest on it for better or worse.
THANK YOU, DEAR READERS!