Fetching Benedick’s Toothpicker

Shakespeare had a way with words and I’ve always loved his comedy, Much Ado about Nothing. The comic hero, Benedick, has returned from the wars where he repeatedly demonstrated his gallantry, but he fears meeting his match in the witty Beatrice, who has always scorned and mocked him. Benedick, on being reminded he will soon be seeing her, offers instead a series of anti-Herculean tasks: “I will go on the slightest errand now to the Antipodes that you can devise to send me on. I will fetch you a toothpicker from the furthest inch of Asia . . . rather than hold three words’ conference with this harpy . . .”

Of course, we all know Benedick will in the end succumb to Beatrice’s charms, but Shakespeare leads the pair through a delightful tarantella of miscues, mischief, and misdirection before they admit their love.

That leaves it to me to make good on Benedick’s fanciful quest–along with my own beloved “Beatrice”–to the furthest inch of Asia, where I’ll seek not only that elusive toothpicker, but also fragrant spices and unexpected tastes to tease and delight the palate; new sights and new places, to explore their mysteries and to open the mind to their different charms as I try to grasp at least a hint of their essence; and new people and fresh faces, to connect and share a glance, a smile, and maybe the start of a connection.

Off to fetch that toothpicker . . .