Common Ground: The Kinship of Metaphysicians

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It's a Soap Opera, Folks!

Posted by on in Studies Blogs

Performing artists, familiar with the backstage areas of theatres - where illusions of sumptuous grandeur are exposed as shams of cardboard, canvas and crayola - are apt to imagine with Shakespeare that “All the world's a stage.” Or in movie terms, that life is like “The Truman Show” - a soap opera with hidden cameras. There is more going on behind the scenes than anyone suspects.

 

And really - wouldn't there have to be? When you analyze the plot twists of this existence, they seem as improbable as a creaky piece of theatrical machinery lowering a Roman god to interfere with the action!

 

For as far back as I can remember, I took it for granted that someone was always observing me – that I had an audience: Which makes perfect sense, if this is a soap opera. If nothing else, human beings are always observing each other; so we are, at the same time, both the performers and the audience for other performers. And for the sake of my audience as well as for myself, I am continually reassessing what my Role is supposed to be.

 

Here we are in front of the cameras, and each of us is expected to play a part. What is my part? I don't just mean Leading Man or Character Actor, hero or villain. I mean, Who is this guy deep down inside? When I remember certain teachers and classmates from my youth, I think of whether they were nice guys. If they were, then I remember them fondly and wish they had lived longer. It matters not a damn – to me, at least – what they wound up doing in their profession, or whether they became famous in the world. Were they, or were they not, good people?

 

We have all had the thoughts of murderers, racists and rapists. We have all experienced moments of metaphysical bliss and inspiration. Some of our decisions seem divinely guided. Others turn out to be the worst sorts of train wrecks. Out of this universal mix, who is my character supposed to be?

 

This is not just a theatre game. One's true self - one's character - is compelled to act in certain ways, in order to be one's true self. So it's deeper than whether I'm supposed to be working or retired, a Republican or a Democrat, a man or a woman. More to the point, what will my role mean by the end of the play? How will it advance the story line, and what lasting impression will it leave in the minds of the audience?

 

A karate teacher once told me that his whole lifetime of training was to prepare him for his ultimate battle. “...okay...” I thought, with a shiver up my spine. What does “ultimate battle” mean, if not the one you're not going to survive? When the shit hits the fan and your very existence is on the line, how will you demonstrate your beliefs and values – the things you stood for the most?

 

At the time of this writing, I am fast approaching my 70th birthday. I have performed lots of roles in my lifetime, but I now see that they were all accumulating to form the great and difficult challenge which confronts me now: To offer understanding and compassion to everyone I meet, regardless of whether or not we like each other. It shouldn't matter whether the person before me supports my values or hates them. Either way, I must try to understand where he's coming from, and to feel compassion for his pain. That is my character's present role in life.

 

I've always tried to understand and feel compassion for the people I liked, but never for others. Except once, when I tried to make friends with a sales manager who was riding my ass. It worked for a few days, too. As I got him to talk more and more about his son (whom he loved) and his ex-wife (whom he didn't), it got harder and harder for him to yell at me and berate me for not making the monthly quota. But in my mind this guy stood for all the slimy, dishonest sales practices on the planet, and for all the smarmy salesmen who thought they were being real clever whenever they took advantage of poor people who couldn't afford what they were selling – so I had to give up. I just couldn't go on flattering his ego. I left the job, which was one of the smartest moves I'd ever made.

 

So, I could never truly extend brotherly love to certain kinds of people – the sort who would lie to world governments about a fictional naval encounter, for instance, which was used to justify America's invasion of Viet Nam and caused the deaths of 58,220 young men of my generation. The similar kind who bullied the world (or some of it, anyway) into justifying America's invasion of Iraq to eliminate “Weapons of Mass Destruction” based on nothing more than artists' depictions of how such things might be concealed, since there was no actual proof available that could have convinced anyone. The kind of person who would, for political gain only, take health care benefits away from millions of suffering people who just now finally got them, and would tell people with no money left at the end of each month that they should cover their future medical expenses with Health Savings accounts. But now I am ready – at least I think I am – to try to accept such people as human beings with rational viewpoints that I never thought of, and emotional wounds that deserve as much attention as do my own.

 

If I can't do this, nobody can. And our country has no hope of healing its deep divisions. If I can do it, then maybe a few others will do it, too. And the journey of a thousand miles will have taken its first step.

 

You may think my character is an asshole. That's okay. It wouldn't be a soap opera without conflict.

 

For so many of us struggling through this confusing maze, the ultimate battle will be medical. My mother (a performing artist herself) must have reached a similar decision to mine; for when she was dying of pancreatic cancer, her hospice nurses were amazed at her selflessness. Although in unimaginable pain and fear, with her body wasting away almost before our eyes, she remained kind and gracious. Every day she inquired about her nurses' families, and seemed almost more concerned about their health and energy than her own.

 

If she had been well, everyone would have expected this of her; that was the sort of person she was. But have you ever tried to maintain your humor and generosity when you had a simple cold? It's not easy, my friend. It takes extreme self-discipline. And to accomplish it in the very process of death is a supreme triumph of the human spirit.

 

My ultimate battle will not be against whatever is attacking me, but against the darker aspects of my own nature. If I can keep demonstrating my deepest beliefs and values – the things I stood for the most – right up to the end, others may see that it is possible; it can be done. And perhaps a few of them might aspire to it themselves.

 

That's the original purpose of theatre, after all: to instruct and inspire emulation, at the same time that it entertains.

And that is what makes the difference between a mindless soap opera and an undying work of art.

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A student of esoteric traditions since the age of 16, Ted Czukor (Theo the Green) taught Yoga for 37 years until retiring in 2013. For 26 years he was adjunct faculty for the Maricopa, AZ Community Colleges, teaching Gentle Yoga and Meditation & Wellness. Raised in the Methodist Church but drawn to Rosicrucianism, Hinduism and Buddhist philosophy, he is a devotee of the Goddess in all Her forms. Ted has been a Shakespearean actor, a Masonic ritualist and an Interfaith wedding officiant. He is the author of several books, none of which made any money and two of which are available as .pdf files. He lives with his wife Ravyn-Morgayne in Sun City, Arizona. Their shared dream is to someday relocate to Glastonbury, England. theoczukor@cox.net.

Comments

  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Friday, 09 December 2016

    Bless you.

    You are a work of art.

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Saturday, 10 December 2016

    So sweet of you, Francesca, to give me a promotion in the field.
    I've been called a piece of work before - but this is much better!
    :)

  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Saturday, 10 December 2016

    LOL, I love it!

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