One of the more amusing stories I have ever read comes from Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle.” My high school teacher Nancy Bumatay (she is now a retired principal of Sinait National High School) was one of my favorite English teachers who taught me how to love reading (and writing), and this story, too.
Washington Irving narrated that Rip Van Winkle literally slept for a long time that the moment he woke up, he saw everything around him very different.
On waking, he found himself on the green knoll where he had first seen the old man of the glen.
He looked around for his gun, but in place of the clean, well-oiled fowling piece he found an old firelock lying by him, the barrel encrusted with rust, the lock falling off, and the stock worm-eaten. Wolf, too, his dog had disappeared. On top of a rock, Rip was brought to a stand. He again called and whistled after his dog; he was only answered by the cawing of a flock of idle crows, sporting high in air about a dry tree that overhung a sunny precipice, and who, secure in their elevation, seemed to look down and scoff at the poor man’s perplexities. What was to be done? The morning was passing away, and Rip felt famished for want of his breakfast so he turned his steps homeward.
As he approached the village he met a number of people, but none whom he knew, which somewhat surprised him, for he had thought himself acquainted with everyone in the country around. Their dress, too, was of a different fashion from that to which he was accustomed. The constant recurrence of this gesture induced Rip, involuntarily, to do the same, when, to his astonishment, he found his beard had grown a foot long!
He had now entered the skirts of the village. A troop of strange children ran at his heels, hooting after him and pointing at his grey beard. The dogs, too, not one of which he recognized for an old acquaintance, barked at him as he passed. The very village was altered; it was larger and more populous. There were rows of houses which he had never seen before, and those which had been his familiar haunts had disappeared. Strange names were over the doors—strange faces at the windows—everything was strange. His mind now misgave him; he began to doubt whether both he and the world around him were not bewitched
It was with some difficulty that he found the way to his own house, which he approached with silent awe, expecting every moment to hear the shrill voice of his wife Dame Van Winkle. He found the house gone to decay—the roof fallen in, the windows shattered, and the doors off the hinges. A half-starved dog that looked like Wolf was skulking about it. Rip called him by name, but the cur snarled, showed his teeth, and passed on. This was an unkind cut indeed. ‘My very dog,’ sighed poor Rip, ‘has forgotten me!’
Of course, Rip Van Winkle is a fiction and an entertaining novel, fellas.
It literally reminds us that time slowly passes by in our lives, and very soon, we will notice the appearance of gray hairs on our head and wrinkles on our foreheads, cheeks and necks. And more, we suddenly wake up to see that everyone in the neighborhood has already progressed, leaving us miserably antiquated behind!
Oh, how time flies!
Canadian singer Paul Anka interprets it:
Good morning yesterday, you wake up and
time has slipped away
And suddenly it’s hard to find, the memories you left behind
Remember, will you remember the times of your life.
In one of our regional training, a speaker by the name of Jun Domingo, a good friend of mine and now a retired DepEd Regional official, made our eyes moist with a powerful presentation culminating in a PowerPoint poem entitled “The Dash.”
I read of a man
who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end.
He noted that
first came the date of her birth
And spoke of the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.
For that dash
represent all the time
That she spent alive on earth
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.
For it matters
not, how much we own
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.
So think about
this long and hard;
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
That can still be rearranged.
If we could just
slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.
And be less
quick to anger
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we never loved before.
If we treat each
other with respect
And more often wear a smile,
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.
So when your
eulogy is being read
With your life’s action rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?
How about you, fellas?
How are you spending your “dash?”