Foil the Coil

Let’s pretend, for a happy second or two, that all the inhabitants of planet Earth, all 8 billion of them, like myself, are humanists (a politically softer way of saying “atheists” or people who are good-without-God)

No God, no Devil. No demons, no angels. No heaven, no hell. No streets paved with gold for the blessed, no eternal damnation for the dammed. No immortality of the soul. No rewards, no punishments.

Just this life. This mortal coil. This fleeting breath. This earthly pilgrimage. This transient dream. This vale of tears.

And that this life, in its simplest and organic form, birth to death, is a bookend of evolutionary, scientific, natural causes and effects, some related to each other, but most random.

Earth to earth. Ashes to ashes.

Dust to dust.

Pretend that this life, not a hope or wish or dream or dress rehearsal of another life, is all we’ve got. This, is our very own fullness of time.

If all these things were true, would you live a different kind of life, aspire to a different set of values, and enjoy a different kind of freedom?

Regardless, we do seem, to get breadth and step, from and in, this mortal coil…don’t we?

The origin of this popular and poetic phrase, “this mortal coil, can be traced back to the famous play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, written around the year 1602 . The main character, Hamlet, uses it in his soliloquy about whether or not to commit suicide.

He says:

To be, or not to be? That is the question— Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And, by opposing, end them? To die, to sleep— No more—and by a sleep to say we end The heartache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to—’tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished! To die, to sleep. To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub, For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause. There’s the respect That makes calamity of so long life.

The phrase “this mortal coil” is a poetic expression that has come to mean the troubles and sufferings of this life. It is often used to imply that life is a burden or a struggle that one has to endure or escape.

Let’s be perfectly honest here, in this life, this mortal coil, regardless of your theology or ideology, shitty things happen to good people.

And good things happen to shitty people.

It’s just the way life is. It’s not always fair but it’s always life.

There is often no rhyme or reason for the “coil” we each face. Shit happens. To all of us. Everyday. Under all sorts of circumstances.

I spent my, almost, entire adult life, believing and embracing, philosophically and theologically, all the things that I no longer believe in or pledge allegiance to anymore.

But here’s the mysterious thing of all of this, for me, that even though, when we die, and, in my book, the final chapter has been written, life still, yes, even for a humanist like myself, is unconditionally and fully spiritual, sacred and consecrated.

Life is a beautiful mess. Each day upon the good earth is a gift.

Granted, for many, if not most of us, life is a bitch of sorts. But it’s still a beautiful mess.

Life is a radiant gift, a splendid adventure, a sacred flame, a precious opportunity.

For all of you that struggle with life, you are not alone. Be of good cheer. Endure the best you can. Escape is not an option.

Live and breathe like it’s your last day on earth. Enjoy the ride. Buckle up. Hold on.

Be grateful for the “coil” that comes your way.

Didn’t quite mean to be heavy here. Meant to encourage you in your journey, regardless of your detours and roundabouts, along the way.

Foil the coil. Life is a beautiful thing.



Jack Hollingsworth