Sometimes revelations just kind of quietly sneak up on you, tap you on the shoulder, and then slap you in the face.
Like a couple of weeks ago when I went to Edmonton to see the University of Alberta Law students 2013 show “Charlie and the Law Factory.” As you would expect, this is in the campy student tradition of a bunch of stressed-out student amateurs deciding to play music, sing, dance, act badly, and use a series of puns and jokes (some good, some bad) to string together relatively incoherent scripts involving—as best I could discover—the search for The Reasonable Man.
Now, why anyone would prefer the company of The Reasonable Man to The Unreasonable Man—at least according to George Bernard Shaw’s definition (“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man”)—is beyond me. But these, after all, were wannabe lawyers who over the course of their careers will have to have a solid feel for The Reasonable Man as a legal construct.
As the evening unfolded I was struck by the enthusiasm of the participants (including my daughter-in-law on saxophone). No, enthusiasm is too soft a word. I was overwhelmed by the presence of these dozens of men and women in their early and mid 20s who were just filled with life and joy. They giggled and laughed at their own mis-steps and awkwardness, forged ahead when their false moustaches and wigs fell off and, well, you could just feel that their lives were brimming with enthusiasm for the future and the fulfillment of hopes and dreams.
I felt like I had been cleansed: washed of the cynicism that, like coal dust, can build up over the years and become a crust that softens blows, then dulls pain and, eventually, erases all feeling.
Some cynicism is protective and numbs the hurt from dreams never realized and loves found and lost or never found at all. Some is the ash of injustices suffered and survived (sort of). Others are the remnant scars of personal losses and pains too unbearable to revisit. More comes from the burdens of unpleasant but necessary responsibilities that can hurt like hell and against which we eventually inoculate ourselves emotionally.
The beauty of the students’ joy and the way it revealed the ripeness of promise and excitement about life stood in stark contrast to a friend’s articulation of someone older than us and with whom we had each worked. Aware that this person’s latest business assignment may involve a good deal of unpleasantness, I had commented that I couldn’t understand why someone with such a respected career, with all the money one would need, would take such an obviously unpleasant mission at this point in their career; this stage in life. My friend barely missed a beat and said: “The last video posted on YouTube before the Apocalypse will be of (this person) burning down the barn after the four horses have left it.”
No one dreams of that. Better to feel the pain.