Letters From A Devastated Artist (8)

“Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!” – Auntie Mame

Dear Life,

You really suck sometimes. But then again, yesterday, as I experienced the Easter celebration, you seemed less sucky and even somewhat hopeful and vibrant.  To the artist in me, Easter represents an extraordinary banquet of magic, wonder, incarnation, love, family, spring, beauty, Eucharist, friends, music, flowers, warmth, comedy, tragedy, fairy tale, and hope.

My daughter Lauren has a life quote from the movie Auntie Mame:

Auntie Mame: Oh, Agnes! Here you’ve been taking my dictations for weeks and you haven’t gotten the message of my book: live!
Agnes Gooch: Live?
Auntie Mame: Yes! Live! Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!

I must admit that many days of my life I have missed the banquet. Especially the early days. Yesterday, however, I feasted. The celebration of Holy Communion at St. Paul’s was truly life-giving to me. Here is how I describe it in Chapter 11 of  Sex, Lies & Religion, “Through this Holy Communion with God not only do we become one body and one soul, but we are restored to that completeness and love the world has lost. We realize that no one is “worthy” to receive communion, but that life comes to us as a free gift. Schmemann says it beautifully: ‘Adam is again introduced into Paradise, taken out of nothingness and crowned king of creation. Everything is free, nothing is due and yet all is given…There is nothing we can do, yet we become all that God wanted us to be from eternity, when we are Eucharistic.’”

Can life truly be a sacrament? One definition of this marvelous word sacrament is: Something regarded as possessing a sacred character or mysterious significance. Alexander Schmemann in his epic book For the Life of the Worldsays, “Man is what he eats. We are hungry beings and the whole world is our food. Man must eat in order to live; he must take the world into his body and transform it into himself, into flesh and blood. He is indeed that which he eats, and the whole world is presented as one all-embracing banquet table for man. So, please help me answer this penetrating question, was Schmemann quoting Auntie Mame…or at the risk of being totally inaccessible, were they both quoting the German materialistic philosopher Feuerbach who, in turn, was unwittingly quoting the Bible?

Schmemann describes the sacramental life this way: “Lost and confused in the noise, the rush and the frustrations of ‘life,’ man easily accepts the invitation to enter into the inner sanctuary of his soul and to discover there another life, to enjoy a ‘spiritual banquet’ amply supplied with spiritual food. This spiritual food will help him. It will help him restore his peace of mind, to endure the other – the secular – life, to accept its tribulations, to lead a wholesome and more dedicated life, to “keep smiling” in a deep religious way.

While I take exception to two thoughts here, namely that man “easily” accepts the invitation (at least for this man it has never been easy), and secondly, the delineation of the “secular” life, the central idea is LIFE-CHANGING. Life is a banquet!

Unfortunately, I have the double curse of having an “activator” personality and growing up in the current Western mindset that more is better and that much more is much better. So, many days I tend to tragically miss this banquet called life.

However, as I grow older and hopefully wiser, there springs hope that I am beginning to understand the sacramental life. Here is a Facebook/Twitter status exchange from a few evenings ago between myself and a respected friend:

@RandyElrod Fun pre-Spring evening strolling down Main Street w/@spencesmith having intriguing conversations @55 South, McCreary’s Pub, and Vino at Village

@JerryBarnette You are reminding me of some of the stories told by CS Lewis in his book Surprised by Joy. It is a contemplative, sacramental life that you seem to be living and very uncommon in the modern stressed lives most of us live. If this is true, then you are an example of what Richard Foster says:”Far from being evil, the physical is meant to be inhabited by the spiritual.”~Richard Foster, Streams of Living Water

I must confess that tears welled up as I read Jerry’s comment. For you see, in this portion of my life, looking at life through fifty-one year old eyes, while still feeling eighteen inside, I still find myself asking, as does Schmemann, How am I to catch up with the life that has gone astray?

What is this life that I must regain?

What is the ultimate end of all this doing and action?

What is the life of life itself?



25 Responses to “Letters From A Devastated Artist (8)”

  1. yes, much like a modern day CS Lewis. i told Ian i would love to live in Franklin, just to be in proximity to the conversations that you propagate. walking into Merridees was like home after hearing you talk about it for two years. almost like i was visiting the Eagle and Child. thanks for writing these letters.

  2. Thanks, Chuck. Did you know Ian is moving here to Franklin? He will certainly add to the conversation!

  3. Its as though sometimes the merry go round is going by so quickly that while I was intrigued by the beautiful carving of the horses and the patina of his coats of paints, I look up and see the sunset in one quick glance and turn around to hear my children's laughter in another as we pass yet other brief glimpses of life going by, as they are children, then teens, now young adults….At times I wonder what would have happened if I had chosen another horse to ride, or sat in the buggy instead, or perhaps had the ice cream and watched as others rode the ride…but this thing called life is ever changing and the longer I am with her…the more I am overwhelmed by all that she has to offer…and the cruelty as well, of all that I've chosen to waste by not living her with a joyful heart …but ever in awe of her colors and delicious beauty…

  4. What's it that Mr. Magorium says? "Life is an occasion, ride to it." And the word occasion, for me, always is associated with something as abundant as a banquet.

  5. Thanks, Sweetie for the wonderful blog post, mention and for the trackback. But mostly, for getting that magical piece of writing recorded on your blog!

  6. I want to say something intelligent, heart felt or witty but this one left me a bit frustrated with how to express myself after reading this. Here is my attempt. Life is sacred. It's a gift, not one to shove in the corner or re-gift. Living I believe is an act of worship. Often I may get lost in the average part of life. I work in a grey cube, big plastic, dusty plan in the corner, business related papers hang on the wall and big calendar. Sounds like an average day and an average life. However, one can listen to the music of the keyboards and the laughter of coworkers and see that as a blessing and even beautiful. The Bible lay before my monitor and during breaks I can drink deeply of it or come here and other places that feel much like a visit to an art gallery. You never know what gift will be awaiting the senses and the heart at that time. So even dull average can be beautiful if you are open to it and seek it.

  7. I have to admit that your life makes me jealous, Randy. I watch the lives of you and the others on the "campus" and I feel like life has past me by and I can only sit and watch it. It's like I'm at the buffet but have no arms and no mouth. I've been working to see things the way you see them but it's a huge change in the way you live.

    • Jason,

      Mine has been far from a perfect life. Much suffering and as I said in this letter…many days that were wasted. Terribly wasted. So, be encouraged. I still have quite a few years on you!

  8. When we look at life in this world and all of its hardships, we might find it harder to focus on the life that Christ came to bring us. However, through his death and resurrection, Christ forever demolished the wall that separated humans from God. Now we can cleave to God and find the life that is not measured by minutes, hours, days, and years, but by righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit! Now we can have the power to go beyond all the dark and lonely places into the light of the absolute love of God. My prayer is that we all will find the life that is greater than the loss, death, and destruction that have lorded over us. They are losing their place in our world because of the power of God's absolute love.


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