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A Touch of Culture

Poetry, plays, novels, music, they are the cry of the human spirit trying to understand itself and make sense of our world. ~Laura Malone Elliott

It’s been over 30 years since I last went to a play. That play was Godspell , a musical put on by a High School in the neighborhood where I grew up. I went to the play because a good friend of mine had the lead. He later went on to be in a movie, My Bodyguard, in which he played one of the gang of bullies.

I typically don’t attend ‘cultural’ events preferring rock concerts to pretty much any other ‘cultural’ type attraction. I was raised in a family where the arts were enjoyed but not pursued as a past time. However, when asked to attend a play in Chicago with my girlfriend, I figured it was time to try something new.

The play we saw was Freuds’ Last Session, a two man show with the premise of an aging, atheist Sigmund Freud debating a young, Christian Clive Staples Lewis in the time before Lewis wrote his famous books. The debate was on the existence of God and touched on the related topics of love, sex, and the meaning of life. There’s was a spirited debate. I found it interesting that Freud would degenerate into personal attacks during the debate while Lewis kept to reason and logic and to admitting when he simply did not have the answer.

My girlfriend is a trained counselor and is interested in Freud, one of the giant names in Psychology. I, on the other hand, have been a big fan of CS Lewis since I read his books arguing for the existence of God and other works on Christian apologetics. For me, his scariest book is the Screwtape Letters, a conversation between two demons discussing methods to draw people away from God. I find it is scary because I see my own susceptibility to wandering from the path in the plans of the demons, in the schemes of the demons. I also read books by the great atheistic minds of the past century so I was able to ponder the question of God from both perspectives. In the long run, thinkers like CS Lewis won me over.

I was captivated by the play for the story line and for the technique of the actors. The most fascinating aspect for me was that the two actors sustained dialog for a full 80 minutes. The dialog was deep, complex, verbose, and memorized. With just two of them on the stage, there was no one to pick up the slack in the event either stumbled over their lines. I am not smooth of speech so was also fascinated that the two men were able to talk, continually for the full 80 minutes without a stammer, a stutter or speaking at a rate that was unintelligible. The gift they have for speaking is one I have craved my entire life, a gift that has eluded me for almost 50 years.

Perhaps one of the most striking scenes was when Freud and Lewis discussed music. Though he liked music, Freud would not listen to music because it moved him emotionally in a way he could not understand intellectually and, if he could not wrap his mind around this condition intellectually, he simply turned the radio off when music was played to avoid the emotional entanglement. This, for me, was one of the saddest scenes in the play. I love music, love to sway to the rhythms, love to feel moved emotionally by the beats and rhythms. I can never see my life complete without music. It seems so shallow to avoid something so joyous, so sad just because you don’t understand why it strikes a chord in one’s heart.

During the play, I felt genuinely sorry for Freud, sorry he was so stubborn in his ways that he was unable to even entertain the notion of a higher power, unable to conceive that the world holds mystery outside of what can be seen or touched. I felt sorry for Freud because he saw suicide as the answer to his suffering. I felt sorry for Freud because his great intellect blinded him from seeing possibilities beyond the arrogance.

There was a time when I had the mindset of Freud as regards to religion. There was a time when I saw religion as a crutch for the weak of mind. There was a time when I saw organized religion as the enemy of reason. That was a time when I was as unhappy as Freud was portrayed in the play for I was as self centered as Freud was portrayed. Those times, ironically, were before I discovered the works of CS Lewis. Those time were before I delved deep into an intellectual apologetics for Christianity. Those were times before I became a believer in Jesus Christ. Those were times before I became a truly happy person.


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