Spirit Quest

By The Reverend Hanns F. Skoutajan

Curtain Call

I have always preferred “live theatre”, plays, musicals and operas, to films. As a child, about 7 years of age, when I still lived in Europe, I was frightened by a movie. It was called Storms Over Mount Blanc. The entire action took place in a small hut that served as a weather station high up on the slopes of Europe’s highest mountain. A thin copper wire connected this outpost to civilization down below over which the operator sent messages by Morse code — until, of course, this conduit was severed. That’s all I remember except that half way though the showing I wished that I was anywhere except in the confines of that small theatre.

This frightening experience was intensified by a film I saw a few years later in Glasgow, Scotland.  It was a special civil defence film to prepare the British for the possibility of war and would, in fact, serve them well in the years ahead. The grizzly scenes of bombardment and street fighting had been filmed in the Spanish Civil War (1936 - 39).  We had stopped off in Glasgow on our way to Canada. I could not have been happier to get as far away as possible from what might become a theatre of war. 

We came to Canada and were settled on an abandoned homestead in northern Saskatchewan. Our farm home was a dilapidated log cabin with no electricity or water or toilet facility. Life was entirely different from what we had been accustomed to in a Czech city. Nevertheless even here the horrors of war caught up with us. A lumber camp a few miles north of our farm showed films from time to time. The assembled audience sat outdoors on boards laid across stumps of wood.

The one and only film that I saw was called Hitler, the Beast of Berlin. It contained scenes of torture and brutality by Hitler’s thugs that we had managed to escape by the skin of our teeth. I couldn’t take it and half way through escaped, finding a place behind a pile of logs. While shielded from the visuals I could nevertheless hear the angry rhetoric of the Fuehrer as he harangued the masses at huge rallies.

This last film made me decide against ever subjecting myself  to this type of “entertainment”. 

I preferred stage productions. Of course they could also be pretty dramatic and bloody, take Hamlet for instance, not many left alive when the final curtain comes down. There was however one redeeming feature that differentiated live theatre from the silver screen. It was the Curtain Call.

At the end of the show, after the fat lady had sung her song and the curtain had fallen, it rose once more and the actors who moments earlier had abused and suffered each other came out  onto the apron of the stage.  Holding hands they bowed to the audience. I often noticed that they were still emotionally caught up in the drama they had enacted, but by the second curtain call they were all smiles, holding hands  with their former adversaries, lovers, etc., indeed, the dead had come alive. It left me with a happy feeling that all was forgiven and that they were at peace with one another. They were in fact friends, how reassuring this was to me!

Nothing like this happens in those claustrophobic cells that pass for movie theatres these days where violence and explicit sex is the norm.  I usually return home in deep depression.

Reflecting on these experiences I determined or imagined that life after death must be like that, it would be like a curtain call. After the dramatic  actions of life the actors on this stage, as Shakespeare likened life, would be reconciled. The best in each of us would prevail over our violent and sinful nature in time to take our final bow.

Of course, I have no idea how realistic this is. There is after all no empirical evidence for a life after death or the existence of a god, for that matter. But I believe that empirical or scientific proof is far less important to us than our wishful thinking. Faith is the evidence of things hoped for, as stated in the Biblical letter to the Hebrews. 

We hear a lot about “closure” in cases of crime particularly where there has been a death. Unfortunately this closure is more often like revenge. In my heart real closure seems more like the curtain call when by confession and forgiveness, healthy relations are restored. Was this not the purpose of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa after apartheid and now to be used in Canada in the matter of residential schools?

Hopefully the curtain call might impact how we play our roles in the drama of our lives. Am I wrong to suppose that there is a deep longing for peace in all humankind. Perhaps I am naive.  My advice is: don’t postpone forgiveness to some other life but let the spirit of love touch and heal us in the now that we might happily hold hands with our partners in the curtain call.

I believe that the spirit is a’ movin’.