Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time...
Life is like that for a lot of people today: one day following upon the other, time crawling slowly to an end, no purpose to live for and certainly no purpose to die for. It was like that for me: a string of experiences leading me somewhere I couldn’t see and didn’t really want to go. School was something I was supposed to go through so that I could graduate from it. Graduation was something I needed to do so that I could live my life. And life was supposed to be an adventure. But who wants to set out on an expedition in the wilderness without a map and compass? The idea of living my own life was sort of exciting, but I had no direction, no plan, and, worst of all, no one who was going to go with me on the expedition.
One thing that people do to cope with the insecurity of life is come up with a fantasy. There are all kinds of fantasies that people try to live out. You’ve seen the women in their makeup, the men in their cars. Well, I didn’t even have any direction as to what fantasy to come up with, so I got involved in theatre.
Doing plays allows you to experience other people’s fantasies. And if you are any good at it, people will come and watch you and applaud you. You can even get a kind of identity from speaking all those great words and sensing the satisfaction that other people get out of watching and listening to you.
Some people like watching the plays of Shakespeare. I enjoyed performing them. Now, there are some great words. Even though they are hundreds of years old, they still communicate:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Listen to those words roll off someone’s tongue and right away you get a sense of the futility of life. History is full of yesterdays that once were tomorrows. Even Shakespeare followed a light that led him to dusty death, along with kings and queens and actors and every other kind of famous person that you can think of. But of course people don’t like to think about things like that for very long. I didn’t like to think about it myself. I just liked to let the words roll off my tongue and experience the emotion of it and then take off the costume and the makeup when it was over because, after all, it was only a play.
But once the play was over, then what? My life crept along towards dusty death, and I did no great deeds and spoke no great words of my own. All the people who applauded me the night before had already forgotten my name. They loved me when I stirred up their emotions and stimulated their brains with my borrowed words. They ignored me when they passed me on the street the next day. No matter how great the play or how big the part, what I was doing with my life did not profoundly affect anyone else’s life.
... Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot ...
Mine wasn’t the only life that was a walking shadow. It used to bother me every time I stepped into an elevator or sat in a waiting room or got on a bus or subway. There I would be with other human beings who, I’m sure, had lives like mine, full of experiences of pleasure or pain, but none of us would speak to the others. We would endure the awkward silence for the required span of time, then flee to our comfortable isolation, fiercely pretending all the while that we were totally at ease. The walls between us were invisible and untouchable, but they were stronger than iron and more solid than cement. And as we hurried away, none of us could even remember what the others looked like, if we had dared to look. We were all walking shadows.
In the Bible it talks about those who “go down into silence.” It almost makes you wonder if the writer had ever ridden on a subway. But, of course, he was talking about death. And that is what we faced every time we got into those tight situations with all those strangers. We were confronted with the death that dwelled within us. Maybe we were afraid of rejection. Maybe we were full of negative thoughts about ourselves. Maybe we were just plain empty and too proud to say, “Hey, everybody, I don’t know about you but I don’t have anything to communicate to you even though you’re human beings just like I am and it scares me because I might as well be dead if my life doesn’t mean anything to other people.”
Maybe we sensed that everybody else was just as empty as we were, and if we spoke up no one would have anything to say in response, and then we would be more hopeless than before, and besides we would feel like an idiot because we would look like we were the only ones who had problems.
I once wrote to a teacher of mine who had moved several hundred miles away and in the letter it gushed out of me that I was lonely. He responded in kindness by inviting me to come and visit him. I wound up traveling to his new home and staying with him for several days. We had a great time, but not once did either one of us bring up my lonely condition. He probably didn’t know how to tactfully raise the issue; I was too embarrassed to mention it again; and besides, I wasn’t even able to explain why I felt I was lonely. After all, didn’t I have a family who cared about me and friends whom I associated with? I was ashamed to think that I had given in to a silly emotional feeling and acted like an idiot. My reasoning assured me that I wasn’t really lonely, even though my shame and embarrassment clearly proved that I was alienated — so alienated that I couldn’t even talk about it.
... it is a tale
Told by an idiot,
full of sound and fury,
Without having deep and lasting relationships with others, life has no meaning.
The one thing I really wanted was to have relationships where I could speak what I felt deep within me and others would say, “Yes, I know what you mean. I feel the same way, too.” But I didn’t have them. Far from it. I even began to see an alarming tendency in the people I worked with: when the play was over and the costumes were stored away, they stayed “on stage.” They never stopped performing. It was eerie. Even their everyday conversation seemed to be calculated and pretended. Not only did I not have a deep relationship with them, I had none at all.
And it wasn’t just people I was separated from. I tried to have a relationship with God, too, but I might as well have been talking to the wall. I remembered from my childhood that the way you were supposed to talk to God was to get down on your knees and recite something that someone else wrote, just like a part in a play. So I got down by my bed and said as earnestly as I could, “Our Father, which art in heaven ...” and so on. I can’t remember if I made it through the whole thing. My weak attempt at religious life fizzled out pretty quickly. After all, why recite a script if there’s no audience watching? Oh, God might have been watching, I thought, but the whole thing was so shallow and empty that I was sure I wouldn’t have paid any attention to it if I were God.
Fortunately, I’m not God, and the One who is has much compassion and understanding. Even when I was completely alienated from Him, He was intimately aware of me. My alienation and emptiness were caused by things in me too deep for me to even recognize. But He knew just what they were. He knows how guilt and self concern cause people to be alienated from each other and from Him. He even knows what guilt and alienation feel like.
Our Master Yahshua experienced more guilt than you and I ever will. But it wasn’t his own guilt. He was guiltless, but He took the guilt of the whole human race on Himself, paying the penalty for all our sins in death. He suffered an alienation more profound, more lonely, and more horrible than anything you can imagine. And He did it for our sake, so that we could escape from death and experience His life instead.
I came to see that the futility and emptiness I experienced was because of sin. My loneliness was the evidence that proved I was alienated from my Creator. I dwelled in death, and all that my tomorrows held for me was more of what my yesterdays had been. My fleeting and directionless life was leading me to an everlasting death. When I realized His love for me I gave my life to Him to follow Him.
And now I keep being grateful for the same thing over and over again. Not only am I forgiven for the sin that caused my alienation, not only can I communicate with the God I once felt so distant from, but I am part of a people who daily experience a miracle. Just like the rest of my friends, I am able to actually talk about what is deep inside of me. And more than that, my friends respond, “Yes, I know what you mean.” And if we don’t understand each other, which happens sometimes, we are able to work it out and come to an understanding. Just as loneliness is the evidence of alienation from God, love is the evidence of His presence.
The people I am part of are covenanted to each other, bonded heart to heart. We forget our yesterdays because we have learned how to forgive, and we press on toward our common goal. Our tomorrows are not creeping along, they are racing toward the day that our unity will be maintained so perfectly that we will be ready for our Sovereign Yahshua to return.
You know, it’s incredible to me sometimes how I got out of the futile life I was living and into this life of love. I’m absolutely sure that it didn’t happen because I was searching high and low for it. I really didn’t know what to look for. All that I can understand is that our Master chose me. Somehow He knew I belonged to Him. The only thing I did was prove He was right by responding when I heard about His love. And that’s why I’m writing this. I know there are others who belong to Him. And they will show it by their response.