Eyes wide shut and Act III in our lives
by Ken Rolheiser
Jean-Paul Sartre was sitting in a cafe when a waitress approached him: "Can I get you something to drink?"
Sartre replied, "Yes, I'd like a cup of coffee with sugar, but no cream."
The waitress left only to return and say, "I'm sorry, Monsieur Sartre, we are all out of cream -- how about with no milk?"

John Kornfield said: Those who are awake live in a constant state of amazement. Blessed are they who are awake at least some of the time in their lives.

Recently while returning from Calgary by car and driving through the hoodoos at Drumheller I was struck by the stark reality of the scene. I felt alive, awed by the clarity of the view and appreciative of God’s wonderful creation. I can recall other such experiences when I was fully awake to God’s creation.

A character in a T.V. drama said, “I am in my third Act.” This rang a bell for me. The traditional five act play shows rising action to the climax in Act III. The death of Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet illustrates this. Suddenly the comedic action turns tragic. In Hamlet Act III when Polonius is mistakenly killed the unravelling of the plot accelerates.

In our lives we have reached or we will reach Act III. Here we perhaps more clearly face our relationship with God and become more aware of the direction of our eternal story. But we do not need to waste our lives following only the comic mode and the pleasure of least resistance.

Thornton Wilder in Our Town addresses the transience of human life. Time passes too quickly for the characters, and in Act III we see the pitiable human condition where we waste time and miss the deep significance and joy of everyday events.

Emily confesses how life passed her by: “So all that was going on and we never noticed… Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? –every, every minute?”

The Stage Manager replies: “The saints and poets, maybe—they do some.” To which Emily replies: “That’s all human beings are! Just blind people.”

A Rabbi is asked, “When does darkness stop and daylight begin?” After pondering the question he replies, “When you can look on the face of your brother and sister and recognise that they are your brother and sister. That’s when darkness ends and daylight begins.”

In the story of the hare and the tortoise I wondered, “How could the hare possibly lose?” He was distracted from his journey. He missed Act III in his story. Do we live with our eyes wide shut?

In our daily lives we need to be people of faith who face the winter of our lives with the hope of spring. Heaven lasts forever in that eternal spring. The existentialist may see only the daily snow and cold.

Lord, give us the vision to live a happy life! Let us always see that the glass is half full. Let us see the face of our brothers and sisters. Love is the currency of heaven. Give us the vision to see what we are, and to see what we may be.

(539 words)