My Theater of the Absurd

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Creative Commons Uptown Theater, Youngstown, Ohio” by Bill Eichelberger is licensed under CC By 2.0

“The Kingdom is made up of beings of a deeper darker faith communicating in a midnight rendezvous, what ever they may “rightly pass for” during daylight hours. … Such people dare to let their faith weaken in order to allow a more underlying but unstable faith break through and to admit the appearance of a more elementary hope in a more indelible but indiscernible promise.”      (John Caputo  Hoping Against Hope: Confessions of a Postmodern Christian, page 102)

 In 1942 Albert Camus presented his essay The Myth of Sisyphus – chronicling absurd and ironic human life without purpose. Following conceptually along this same path, the Theater of the Absurd emerged.

In 1945 I experienced my own Theater of the Absurd began with a visit to the Uptown Theater in Youngstown, Ohio. At age 5, my mother had taken me to the Uptown, bought me popcorn, taken me to my seat and spoke those words that would impel my life forward in the absurd quest to fulfill them. “I am going to leave now. I know you will be a responsible little boy and stay in your seat and not get into trouble. I will be back to get you when the movie is over.” And so she left… Or did she?

The movie ended 70 years ago. For this oldest child of an oldest child of an oldest child, the reel of “responsibility” continues to play and re-play in my head. Purpose in life became subservient to the branding iron of responsibility that had been seared upon my being.

What am I to be, if not “responsible?” Does being responsible still mean staying in my assigned seat and not causing trouble? I don’t think so. And yet there is a part of me that harkens back to the refrain, “be responsible.”

What can responsibility mean for this 75+ year old widower, retired Presbyterian minister, ersatz genealogist, curmudgeon wanna-be? My life would suggest that I am probably not going to escape the image of “The Responsible One,” but can I bear that image accompanied by integrity, moving into wholeness, including gentleness, being interdependent and interconnected with others, as a mature citizen of the cosmos?

Being responsible does not have to mean being in charge, in control. Being responsible might just mean being in relationship. Perhaps being responsible leads me:

  • to let my faith weaken

  • to allow a more underlying but unstable faith break through

  • to admit the appearance of a more elementary hope and

  • to engage a more indelible but indiscernible promise
    within myself, with others, and out into the world. 

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