Months ago, when I’d bought season tickets to the American Repertory Theater, “All the Way” had simply been the name of the first play I would be seeing. Beginning in September, however, the greater-Boston buzz re this ART offering and its star, Bryan Cranston, got louder and louder—in fact, local media crowed, the show was completely sold out for its entire run! So, on Friday night, as I took my (excellent, central, a few rows from the stage) seat, I was pretty psyched.
In this heightened state, I took in this live-theater experience as if I’d never seen a play before. What struck me keenly was live-theater’s ephemeralness: this night, this moment, this line, this gesture would, most likely, never happen quite the same way ever again. Which made what I was watching all the more wonderful.
Sunday, in the earliest minutes of quiet worship, a little girl, maybe 3 or 4, seated on her mother’s lap asked,”What do we do with this?” Meaning, maybe, what’s going on, here? Why are all these people not saying anything? And is something expected of me?
In the ensuing silence I played with her question. Treasure the “this” first came to mind. That’s what we can all do with this. Be grateful for the freedom to worship in the manner of Friends without fear or persecution. (Coming home to learn of the suicide bombing of a Christian church in Pakistan has highlighted this preciousness.)
Later in the hour, a young man stood up to speak, referencing “Kundun,” a film about the Dalai Lama he’d seen before but watched again—and found clarifying—during the Syrian air strike threat. Thinking about his ability to see a beloved movie again, I was again struck by ephemeralness and how no two meetings for worship are ever the same. So to that little girl’s earlier question I silently added this answer: Treasure the preciousness of this fleeting, never-to-be-repeated experience.
A huge difference between those two ephemeralnesses (There really has to be a better word!)? Although there were moments when Friday night had been a collective experience, I more powerfully connected with what happened onstage than I did with my fellow theater-goers. On Sunday, I sat in such a way so as to potentially have eye-contact with just about everyone in that room. Sometimes, in the silence, I almost felt as though we even breathed together. And certainly when, as a sort of benediction, a dear friend told all of us how much she needed her community; well!
I’ll never be able to watch a DVD of Bryan Cranston’s performance on Friday night. I’ll never be able to rewind the tape to be reminded of who said what on Sunday—or any Sunday. Poof! Gone.
What I can do, maybe, is to trust that these fleeting experiences have had a shared, collective impact. Just as sharing food connects everyone seated around the same table because the same nutrients and delicious flavors are incorporated, literally, into everyone’s bodies, right?
Maybe, on a cellular level, we’re forever connected when we share the same fleeting and powerful moments, too?