Our hearts are restless, looking for connection in the most casual of places: a People magazine in the grocery store line or the trailer of an upcoming movie. In this entertainment saturated culture of ours, we spend hundreds of hours and dollars seeking diversion and amusement from the daily grind of life, searching for a way to fill empty hours, hearts, and minds to distract us from the pressures of everyday life.
I caught myself in this trap a few weekends ago. The “amusement ride” started the moment I boarded the plane for a cross-country trip to my hometown. I quickly closed the book I’d planned to read as I caught up on the latest Oscar winning movies I had missed on the big screen. Each movie (in this case, airplane sized) presented a quest for song, justice, or fame—one that shaped the character and destiny of each actor. It was interesting to ponder in this mini movie marathon what makes each an Oscar award winning feature…the acting, the storyline, the cinematography…or a combination of it all.
Once I landed in my hometown of Seattle, my sister offered tickets to the ballet to an adaption of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is a treat to watch any presentation by one of the top companies in the country, the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Once again, it was interesting to reflect on what comprises an award-winning story, this one set to dance and a narrative by Shakespeare. Its classic themes of love, mischief, meddling and celebration were played out in beautiful choreography by Balanchine, classical orchestration by Mendelssohn, and the details of the costumes and background, set in a forest wonderland. Here story was told by the voice of the violins and the perfect steps of ballerinas. Its enchantment was complete and I exhaled in delight when the lights went up and all the dancers returned for their curtain call.
On the way to the ballet I drove past a sign at the local casino that broadcast: The Isley Brothers—in concert tomorrow night. The Isley Brothers immediately reminded me of two best friends from junior high school, whom I promptly called. Within hours we bought overpriced tickets to hear a band we all listened to during cafeteria dances and after football games 40 years earlier.
We met in the back corner of the casino the next night, laughing that after 40 years of friendship we had gathered in a deli, eating subs and drinking water out of paper cups, about to watch a band whose lead singer is over 70 years old. We reminisced listening to our favorite song, “Fight the Power,” as it blared from the speakers of my friend’s red Camaro. We argued that they would close, not open with that one. It turned out that epic dance jam was the opener, and after a few songs we realized the Grammy Award winning lead singer would not have the strength to fight the power at the end as he leaned against a stool to finish the rest of the show. Even though he was short on stamina, his award-winning lyrics from songs like “Shout” have endured for decades.
Three days of diverse story. Three days of award-winning entertainment. After this last show, I was exhausted.
The next morning, I rose early to sit in my Adirondack chair with my fresh cup of coffee as I overlooked the Puget Sound.
I did not need a ticket to observe the slopes of Mt. Rainier, sculpted over time by ice and glaciers, changing from indigo to purple to pink as sunlight greeted the sky. There was no charge to listen to the soundtrack of seagulls call in the morning as ospreys echoed their call. I had a front row seat to a pas de deux of a pair of great blue herons, their careful steps and fluttering wings rising and falling to the silent rhythm of a mating dance along the shore.
Dawn unfolded as a reminder: this is the story we were created for.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.–Ecclesiastes 3:11
The Oscar winning films, the Balanchine ballet, the Grammy winning artist 30 years past his prime are part of the amusement ride.
But a quiet daybreak over the water is what sets my heart toward eternity.
We were made complete
in the story of creation.
Formed in the imagination of the Creator.
“It is good,” he said when he finished creation.
It is good.
Unfortunately, we follow the lead of the two placed in the middle of the creation story. They were enticed by the one thing that was not good, thinking it would satisfy them. We continue in their pattern, pursuing stories that entice us toward more. We continue to chase the next best thing, chasing after the wind.
The wind is a result of a planet set in motion, spinning on its axis—the first amusement ride.
From the beginning we have been in constant pursuit of the story in which we were created to rest. We try to recreate story in all art forms—including film, dance, music—all the yearning that he originally placed in our hearts: to be accepted, to be loved completely, to seek beauty.
When the ride of life stops and we take the time to see him, face to face in a sunrise or on a mountaintop, feel his breath in the breeze, hear his song of praise in the voice of a birdsong—this is when we are complete.
This is when we sense everything made beautiful in its time.