How to Awake a Sleeping World?

6/20/24

If the world were a stage replete with actors, as Shakespeare proposed, how would one rouse a dull audience? The answer starts, I believe, with the old saw “know your audience.”

The story that is about to unfold is told with that answer in mind.

Let’s imagine the audience comes to watch something dramatic, dark and vengeful. I dress up like the Count of Monte Cristo (not the kind but gullible Edmund Dantes—for that would garner only their pity) and I wave my sword like a mad-man and shout in ire that the world is slipping into an existential malaise.

The crowd applauds as I recoil in disgust.

“Stop! Look within!” I implore just before the final curtain falls, “Search your sin!”

They stand to their feet and echo my spirited script—“Search your sin!”—placing the emphasis on “your” to mean someone other than themselves, and in a collective conscious state of “intensified defiance”[1] pay lip service to “sin,” stripped of its guilt-inducing moral state, meaning nothing more than making a mistake.

Tragically, my role of guided self-introspection fails, although, my performance and success soars.

“Encore!” They cheer. “Encore!”

Inspired to try something new, I change into an outlandish costume, this time—a quirky clown. I grunt with melancholy tones that match my white, downturned lips. I transform into Emmett Kelly replete with hobo haberdashery and a red bulbous nose.

The curtain pulls back.

Pantomiming a life in despair without hope, I pretend to hang myself with my own scarf-like necktie. I fall to the ground as a foreshadowing of what’s to come. The audience roars. A tear trickles down my cheek.

“The audit of the eternal”[2] is real but to my fading friends, “the loss of the self before ultimate reality”[3] occurs so slowly and quietly inside the sparkling walls of the masses that as individuals they hardly recognize the happy clown within.

 

[1] Søren Kierkegaard, The Essential Kierkegaard, eds. Hong and Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, [1978] 1980), 361.

[2] Douglas Groothuis, Philosophy in Seven Sentences (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2016), 141; cf. Parables of Kierkegaard, ed. Thomas C. Oden (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978), 37.

[3] Douglas Groothuis, Philosophy in Seven Sentences (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2016), 141.

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