Amish Show Tunes – Conclusion

CALEB:  Jacob, wait.  Our brothers have hit upon something delightful for the harvest social.  And the song mentions “the land” – which is always beautiful to the Amish …

JACOB:  Well, you’re the church elder, so okay; I’ll trust your judgment.

CALEB:  Wonderful!  Brothers Abner and Levi will sing this lovely song about the land at the social.

LEVI:  Um, Brother Caleb, we were hoping to please God and the community with two or three show tunes.

(the words “show tunes” make CALEB a little uneasy)

CALEB:  Oh?  Pray, tell us of another of these “show tunes.”

(long pause, then JACOB begins to sing softly)

“The sun’ll come out, tomorrow / So ya gotta hang on ’til tomorrow …”

(ABNER smiles at JACOB, and both sing):  “Come what may! / Tomorrow! Tomorrow! … ”

(LEVI joins in, all three sing):  “I love ya tomorrow! / You’re always a day a way!”

(CALEB raises his hand to stop them)

CALEB:  Wait – this song is Christian because … ??

LEVI:  … because it’s a song about hope …

ABNER:  … and about joy …

JACOB:  … and about love …

(LEVI, ABNER and JACOB sigh together)

CALEB:  All right, two songs then.  I just hope the community likes these “show tunes” as much as you all do. … Hmm …

JACOB:  Brother Caleb?  Does something still trouble thee?

ABNER:  Caleb, thou art good and kind.  Tell us, what is it?

CALEB:  Well, there is one song from my youth … I’m wondering if we might sing it at our social as well …

LEVI:  Brother Caleb, of course we can!  Sing out, brother; show us your soul’s joy …

(CALEB pauses, clears his throat, and sings)

“It’s just a jump to the left …”

(JACOB recognizes the tune, sings)

JACOB:  “And then a step to the ri-i-ight …”

(ABNER, hands on hips, sings)

ABNER:  “With your hands on your hips …”

(LEVI, knees in tight, sings)

LEVI:  “You bring your knees in ti-i-iight …”

(all four, “Rocky Horror” style)

CALEB, JACOB, ABNER and LEVI:  “But it’s the pelvic thru-ust / that really drives you insa-a-a-ane / Let’s do the Time Warp again!”

(As all four sing the refrain again, lights fade to black)

Where Are We Going?

Sometime in the late 90’s, maybe 1998, I was visiting my sister in North Carolina.  On Sunday, we went to Mass at her nearby church.  The congregation was filled with people of all ages, but I especially noticed one young mother trying to persuade her small daughter to keep her voice down during the goings on of the Mass.  The daughter seemed to me to be perhaps four or five years old, and hadn’t really yet grasped the experience of what it meant to be in a public, solemn place.  The child’s voice was not especially loud, conversational, bored, only a little whiny – but of course, in this place, readily noticeable and not exactly the sort of attention mom wanted.

This was the case from the beginning of the service until, after the Gospel but before the homily began, the young mother decided that it was time take her daughter out from the proceedings, perhaps to the “cry room” back in the church vestibule.  As they were making their way out of the pew, and I swear, I will remember this for as long as I live, the little girl looked up at her mother, and through a few choked-back tears, asked in a somewhat cautious voice, “Where are we going?”

My sister and I joked about the matter after Mass (she too had noticed the girl’s lament), about what mom might have whispered back to her as they removed themselves from the congregation.  Of course it was too cruel to suppose that tales of fire, brimstone, and eternal damnation were being told to such a small child – their desired crippling psychological effects are much more likely to take hold once the child reaches the age of reason.

But I digress.  I remember hearing the tone in her voice, not really one of fear, I thought, but something of curiosity, something of the unknown, something – of hope.  Or maybe these are just my own projections upon this particular event.  But I like to remember it as a moment ripe for philosophical reflection and exploration:

Where are we going?  Where are any of us going?  How do we get there?

When Is It Time To Quit?

I want to be loved, I wish someone would love me, I hope someone someday will love me.  But I guess those things are pretty intangible; without a real person in a real time and in a real place, hopes and desires are for indeterminate objects, for imaginary things.  When I’m interested in someone, I want them to love me, which in my case means I want them to treat me like I matter, that I’m important to them, that they care about me.

The therapist says I expect them to do this – even in the face of overwhelming evidence that, at least in this one case, the person I care about is incapable of doing this for me.  I don’t know that I expect them to do this, I thought to myself – I want them to do this, I hope they will see how much I want this and that they will give me this – but to say I expect them to do this doesn’t feel quite right.

For hope springs eternal, right?  In novitiate, in one of my spiritual guidance interviews with the novice masters, one of them told me that I seemed to be someone without hope.  And at that time, I said yes, you’re quite right – I wasn’t very hopeful about anything at that time.  I experienced the majority of my life as though I was invisible, that people either didn’t see or didn’t care about whether I was happy, or sad, or anything else.  I hung on to the master’s comment as if it were a life preserver – its immediate effect was that someone DID see me (even if they didn’t care about me) and that just maybe, as contradictory as it sounds, the way out my hopelessness was to be hopeful.

Doing that on my own was incredibly difficult – antidepressants like Prozac and later selective serotonin reuptake inhibiting prescriptions helped deal with the neurophysiological part of the hurdle.  Slowly but surely, a hopeless person was becoming hopeful in spite of their hopelessness, not unlike an overweight person loses weight in spite of being obese.  There are real physical and psychological barriers that stand in the way of getting better, feeling better.

So, right or wrong, I believe in the power of hope.  In the course of my life, I have hoped that, sooner or later, someone I loved would love me, I would become a teacher, I would become a priest, my mother would love me.  But when do you decide to say, “no, I’ve tried, and it’s just not working”?  When do you realize that you’ve only been fooling yourself, that it’s time to throw in the towel, that it’s time to quit?