Friday, February 8, 2008

No Continuing City

Ephemeral. Fleeting.

All last week was spent with about 50 teens as we worked on a play. On Monday, there was an empty stage, a group of about 16 who barely knew their parts, had no idea where to stand or what the movements were, and a collection of vague ideas as to what we wanted. During the week we built a set, practiced entrances and exits, shouted out lines, sewed costumes, adjusted lights and sound, modified dialogue, sweated the deadline and put together a play. On Friday and Saturday we performed the play before about 450 people.

We laughed, followed a crazy plot line, watched the display of some superb gifts, panicked over mistakes, believed we were in three different parts of Italy, and were exhorted about peace in marriage. And for a while we created an illusion that entertained and instructed.

On Saturday, immediately following final curtain call, we spent two hours and completely disassembled the set, stored the costumes, reset the lights, put away the props and cleaned all the floors. When we walked out of the building Saturday evening we left behind what we started with … an empty stage.

It was fun and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. For a week we worked hard, really hard, and had an absolute blast. But it was as lasting as the morning fog. It all passed swiftly into nothingness. All that remains is a few photos, a couple crinkled playbills and some great memories. Like a rainbow that can never be held on to, it faded from view. The only thing we could take away with us were the oh-so-valuable lessons of cooperative work, patience deliberately exercised, the good company of faithful companions, encouragement that led to excellence and the satisfaction of a job well done.

It is said somewhere that the glory of man is like the flower of grass. In the morning it is beautiful and fresh, and by evening it is dried and falling off the stalk. The illusion of this play and, interestingly enough, the events of life are like that. Like the lone and level sands to which Ozymandias points, our best works as well as our worst, shift and fade with the changing light. They are ephemeral, fleeting. Here we have no continuing city. What we really carry away is the wisdom that comes from having lived and worked with others, having loved our fellows, having encouraged unto excellence, and having gained the satisfaction of tasks well done.

Today’s Influences and Soundtrack:
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias
David Hicks, Norms and Nobility
G. K . Chesterton, The Ball and The Cross
The Cinematics, A Strange Education
Hem, Rabbit Songs
Hem, Funnel Cloud
Vaughan Williams, Norfolk Rhapsody 1 & 2
Beethoven, Egmont Overture