The Existential Bard

Photo by Ibolya Toldi from Pexels

Do you think we’re all here for a reason? From conception, birth, and through all the years leading to this moment, was it all predestined? There’s a divine plan at play and, just like every good theatrical performance, every character matters. As the saying goes, there are no small parts, only small actors.

Is that morally or physically diminutive? It’s a short joke, isn’t it? I’m 4’10 on a good day so, I’ve heard every wisecrack known to humankind. I’m just waiting for someone to come up with something original. If you have a quip I haven’t heard? Bring it on and have no fear. I will applaud your ingenuity and creativity.

Seriously, I’ll laugh right along with everyone else. If the worst thing you can say about me is, haha, you’re short? Well, I won’t claim to live a virtuous life, but I’m not a complete fuck up. Except, I’ve been trying to cut down on my cursing, and I just failed.

Resist the urge to say, f**k me. Resist it! At least I used starry thingies so, it doesn’t count. I bleeped myself. Which sounds a little…Nope, never you mind what it sounds like. How about we move this along?

Fine, if you want to be a prude.

This theatrical reference is an oldie for sure. I wouldn’t be surprised if Shakespeare said it, and Stanislavski made it famous. Two legends— the Bard and the actor/teacher— combining their might to leave us with these perils of wisdom. 

Or a short joke. 

They’re sitting centre stage in the grandest theatre in the universe, having a chuckle and cracking wise. Oh, to be in the audience for that show!

Pardon me, I’m nerding out and you could be confused. Most people have heard about one of those men, but the second one could sound made up. It’s not! He was a real man whose impact on the world of the performing arts is legendary. Well, amongst theatre nerds like me.

I majored in theatre in college— because that’s a useful degree— and worked several jobs in theatrical productions. I spent time on the stage as an actor and took my fair share of curtain calls. I worked behind those curtains, pulling strings and making sure the spotlight was lit. I built stages and made props. I worked the front of the house, taking coats and showing people to their seats.

And you know what? It didn’t matter what job it was because I loved every second.

It was a very intoxicating environment to work in. The excited buzz from the expectant audience. The nervous energy of the cast and crew. There’s a rush of adrenaline when the call, five minutes to curtain, comes over the radio and everyone runs to their first positions.

Just talking about it makes my body hum, and I kind of miss it. Or, I miss the adrenaline and the explosion of relief, mixed with joy, when the audience comes to their feet in wild applause. When the curtain falls, and we all exhale a collectively held breath. It didn’t matter how many shows we did in a week or how many months it went on. Every night was different, and the excitement never got old.

By the end of the run, we were all exhausted and relieved that we’d pulled it off. A feeling that lasted about an hour after the final curtain, and the theatre had gone dark. We’d all sit together, cast and crew, and celebrate a job well done. We’d laugh, tell our wild stories, and enjoy the fellowship. But when it was time to say goodbye, a sadness would cross our faces, and it was akin to grief. We’d been through so much, and created our own community. Now we had to walk away from the bonds that were forged through blood, sweat, tears, and no small amount of vulnerability.

That was always done with a heavy heart.

It didn’t matter what your job was or where you stood in the pecking order. The person standing in the spotlight would be nothing without someone to turn the light on. The actors could give a masterful performance, but if there wasn’t an audience to see it? It wouldn’t matter. That’s why the ticket agents, ushers, and the coat checker are so vital.

If you took away one element— one person— the house Shakespeare built would crumble and burn. Everyone was needed and crucially important. Everyone had a purpose. At the risk of sounding super cheesy and earning a groan from the peanut gallery, we were a family.

I think it was one of the few times in my life that I’ve found a place to belonged because simply put, I was needed. My presence didn’t just serve a purpose. I wasn’t a worker bee supplementing the hive. I was a part of a community that had come together to create something beautiful, entertaining, and wondrously, joyfully escapist.

Back then, if I asked this question— am I here for a reason— my answer would’ve come swift and easy. I was needed, wanted, and I was a part of something bigger than myself. You know, all those artistic idealisms that sound vaguely pretentious. Something bigger…It’s Twelfth Night, for goodness sakes. You haven’t solved world hunger, cured cancer, or performing open-heart surgery on a fetus.

A little perspective, please.

Fine, it was entertainment, but it served a purpose. All of those monumental life concerns are incredibly heady and emotionally overwhelming. I only have so much brain space so, I need a break. I need a vacation. I need a hug!

Back then, I thought I’d found my reason for being here on this planet, but I’d just found a reason for being there. Those moments were brilliant and precious. I look back on them fondly. I even miss them, but they weren’t meant to last. My destiny pushed me in another direction, and that direction has led me to these aimless wanderings, musings, queries.

So, here I sit, the sounds of thunderous rain behind me, contemplating my place in the world and my existence. To be or not to be? Ah, but that’s the wrong question. It should be: Am I or am I not? Is there a reason I’m here or, is it a coincidence? Was it a case of a sperm colliding with an egg to produce an oopsy?

When it comes to people, though? Are there accidents or mistakes? Or is it divine intervention or a spiritual conception? Something out there seized the opportunity to make sure you and I were brought into the world. We’re needed. We serve a purpose. We’re a part of something greater than ourselves.

Or does science need to develop a more efficient form of birth control?

I’m about to take this in a darker direction for a few minutes. I’ll be talking about a sensitive subject that might be triggering. Right now, it’s causing a panic attack in me for reasons I’m not ready to talk about. But here we go. I’m about to talk about death or, more specifically, the first time I died. If that’s too much, skip four paragraphs, and we’ll be walk on.

It was early in the morning— I don’t think the sun was up yet— and it was a few days before my 16th birthday. I woke up feeling out of place and out of my body. My physical form was being pulled in one direction, and my soul was being pulled in another. I was still attached by a cord, but it was fraying and about to snap.

I called my parents, and they came running. I told them I wasn’t feeling good, and that was it. The cord snapped, and the connection was severed. My body went limp, and I floated off into the darkness. People say you see the light, and maybe that was true for them. It wasn’t my experience. It was dark, but not in a scary way. There was a warmth that I went through me and wrapped around me like strong arms. It pulled me in and held me close.

Then I felt a voice tell me that it would be okay. I just needed a rest, sleep, and I’d wake up soon. And yes, I said felt because the voice wasn’t audible. It took many forms while remaining formless. Which makes no sense, but it was warm, and the only word that describes it is: Love.

I woke up late in the evening in a hospital bed, eating a donut, and I was incredibly confused. What happened? Where was that place with the warmth and love? Why was I back here when there was so much better?

I think I’ve spent every day since asking myself that last question and trying to find a place that could replace it. The theatre came close, but the curtain always fell, and I had to walk away. Just like that black space, I’m always leaving the love and security. I’m constantly questioning my place and my reason for being here.

I know this sounds obscure and morbid, but at this moment, my life is a bit dark, scary. I’m looking for the black space again because it’s the one place that offered me sanctuary. It held me. It made me feel safe. Right now, when things feel wildly uncertain and terrifying, I just want to be held like that again.

But I’m here, listening to the rain, and I need to believe that there’s a reason for all of it. All of the darkness, fear, and uncertainties cannot be pointless. Those things can’t be random. They have to serve a purpose- this week of fear has to mean something- or what’s left?

I have to believe that because I shouldn’t be alive right now. By every metric, all the statistics, no one should’ve been able to revive me that day or any of the other times my heart has stopped. I’ve been clinically dead five times. Any one of those should’ve been my last, but it wasn’t. I’m still here.

Why? There has to be a reason. Or I’m trying to make sense of the senseless because nothing else feels solid. I’m grasping for meaning in a period of meaninglessness. Logically, I can’t discount that possibility.

Do you believe we all have a purpose? That we’re all here for a reason? There are no mistakes when it comes to the creation and preservation of life?

Have you ever considered the odds of your existence? What’s the likelihood of one sperm meeting one egg at that specific moment? They came together and, despite statistical probabilities and all of the risk, you were born. Not only that, with the crazy world we live in, you’ve lived this long and have overcome so much. What are the chances? They’re astronomical.

For that to be a mistake or an accident? Well, my friend, I find that hard to believe. It’s hard to believe that any of us are here without reason or purpose. I don’t know what it is. I’m trying to figure that out, but on my darkest days, it’s a thought that keeps me here.

I shouldn’t be here, but I am. So, that has to mean something. My life has to mean something.


One thought on “The Existential Bard

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  1. Just had another trip into that place I keep sending you pictures from. Not to make you jealous, honest –
    but because, when I see something cool, I keep thinking: “Keri-led would love this!”
    My last night there, I had a major wobble, sent you one of those seriously messed up “where’s my hope gone?” emails.
    Not even with much of an explanation.
    It occurred to me afterwards, once I’d regretted and apologised for the email, that you were one of the few people I could do this with, freely, without needing to explain.
    There are stars who wouldn’t do this – no matter how prettily they shone on those despairing moments.

    (and you can method act, too)


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