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My husband was scheduled for cataract surgery. “It is a simple procedure,” everyone comments, “endured by many senior citizens. Your vision will be so improved that you will be wishing that you had done it years ago.”
But the veiled eye belongs to Jean and he is scared. He has prayed for healing through a successful technique but is still trying to find the balance between the chaos of concern and the calm that comes with letting the doctor have control. To assist him in this painful process, we decided to go to the movies—not once, but twice in the course of two days!
"Michael Clayton" was the choice for day one. It was ironic that a vision quest permeated the movie. Our eyes were glued to the screen as the action and intrigue intensified. Corporate greed and a corresponding need to do massive damage control caused the chaos that marked Michael Clayton’s life.
As a litigating lawyer who did “janitor” work for an eminent law firm, he cleaned up their messes until he discovered his work brought with it a poisonous quality that could be fatal. It had, in fact, already dealt a mortal blow to his friend, a man who had discovered the malicious lies of a companion firm—lies that had resulted in many deaths.
For a while, it seemed chaos would rule. It appeared evil would hold sway, but the search for justice and the conquest of the realm of truth held firm. The enemy was laid bare. There was no longer a need to “make believe it’s not just madness,” because it was madness—the madness that comes when chaos and control go out of balance.
It is the preeminent vision quest.
Day two brought us to "The Bucket List"—yet another balance between chaos and control. This time it is viewed as the ultimate tightrope walked in the light and shadow of terminal illness. This time corporate greed was not a killer but a catalyst to redemptive choices, to transformative living.
The intensity was equally gripping, but it was not so much the anxiety that comes with waiting to see what is going to happen as it was a deep involvement in the life and evolving friendship of two most unlikely men.
Edward Perryman Cole was a grouchy, opinionated multi–millionaire who had apparently never suffered one day of his life. Carter Chambers was a simple car mechanic who had sacrificed his life ambition in order to meet the needs of his family and provide for them the opportunities that had eluded him.
At the outset, their quest—to see life as it is—was a bitter pill. Individually, the diagnosis of malignancy was difficult to swallow. Denial impelled them to accept the horrors of treatment but it also impelled them to distance themselves from others. They were more comfortable having a personal relationship with intrusive chemicals than they were with intimate encounters with family members and friends. The pain that wracked their bodies was acceptable. The one that attacked their spirits was not.
Within the strange camaraderie that comes when two individuals walk hospital corridors accompanied by twin IV poles, a friendship was born. With the friendship, a bucket list emerged—a wish list of things to enjoy and accomplish before one “kicked the bucket.”
Each man experienced the reality that faced him. Each recognized what he already knew, but had not grasped and integrated. Together they realized they needed to surrender to the void of interdependency. They needed to give themselves time and space to discover who they really were. Within death’s sight and grasp, they chose to view and grab life. So, they initiated a balancing act between chaos and control. They began their journey, their pilgrimage, into sacred space—the place where hearts are open.
This is the land of faith, the subject and object of each human’s vision quest.
Edward Cole had a hard time getting his head around that concept. Carter Chambers knew clearly it is often our heads that get in the way of faith. But, it was faith in each other that illumined the way for both. That faith grew in the face of confrontations and conflict—the stuff of life. It brought unique challenges and opportunities to give and forgive—themselves and those whom they had hurt. The way was not easy but it was essential.
Ultimately, they asked each other questions ancient Egyptians had posed for humanity in past ages. Have you found joy in your life? Has your life brought joy to others? The questions both pricked and plagued them. They also empowered them to enter the profound silence that reigns deep in the heart of our being. This is the place where “all noise falls away and we can hear the sound of the mountain”—the mountain of grace God has given for our use in divine service. Both men learned that we measure ourselves by the people who measure themselves by us. That became the joy of their life and the joy they brought to others.
It is the joy of our life. It is also the joy we bring to others. It is the balance between chaos and control.
Each of the three C’s: Clayton, Cole and Chambers, presents us with a renewed quest for vision. One different from the other, each offers a human similarity. We tell our stories and invite others into them. We discover that we are living streams into which others might dive and swim and find refreshment. We uncover what is truly important in life, what is really meaningful, and how to share both the importance and the meaningfulness. We learn to embark on a vision quest that will end with the knowledge and feeling that life is worthwhile, no matter its hardships and limitations. We discover that we are worthwhile, no matter our limitations.
That’s good news at any time. It is particularly good news when one is anxious about surgery and wondering about its effect on eyesight. It helps to know that we are on a vision quest that demands an open heart, spiritual sight, and can be accomplished in the midst of terror, even if we have only a few months to live—even if our open eyes are filled with tears.
Fran Salone-Pelletier has a master's degree in theology and is the author of Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives [a trilogy of Scriptural meditations], Lead Chaplain at Brunswick Community Hospital, Religious educator, retreat leader and lecturer.