Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Choreography of Life

Every day we make decisions: what to eat, who to call, where to go. Quite often, we forget to do things: send an e-mail, bring the movies back (if you haven’t got Netflix or Rogers On Demand!), put the birthday present in the car. We decide and forget and then remember all the time. Choices and postponements and spontaneous actions are all part of a throbbing web of interconnected lives that influence any number of other lives in any number of possible ways.

We all play a part in someone else’s life, often without realizing it. We make minor decisions like pressing the snooze button twice more, taking a different route to work, forgetting the salad dressing when out grocery shopping and then having to go out again. These minor decisions can ultimately have a major effect on our lives. Have you ever run into someone you haven’t seen in a while, when you are out shopping? Perhaps you end up making plans to go out for coffee next week, and you end up having a real heart-to-heart talk. Or maybe through reconnecting with that person, you end up connecting with someone else you haven’t seen in a long time. Do you ever wonder at the fact that if you hadn’t had lots on your mind that certain week, you wouldn’t have forgotten the salad dressing, you wouldn’t have had to go out again to get it, and you may have never crossed paths with that old friend?

{This is the choreography of life.}

I’ve been pondering “the choreography of life” for several months now, and in doing so was reminded of my favourite scene from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): Daisy (Cate Blanchett), a dancer, gets hit by a car as a result of a series of seemingly insignificant events. You can watch this clip on YouTube by clicking here. You should watch this clip, whether you’ve never seen the movie or already have. This little mini-story itself is beautifully choreographed, and it’s a perfect example of what I’m writing about here.

This scene in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button made me realize that there are so many events that occur to us that many other people have inadvertently, unknowingly participated in. There are so many things we do that inadvertently, unknowingly affect other people. Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) narrates this scene, and toward the end, he remarks, “but, life being what it is, a series of intersecting lives and incidents, out of anyone’s control, that taxi did not go by….” Do you ever wonder what you would see if you could zoom out and look at how your life has intersected with others, and how others’ lives have intersected with yours to bring you to where you are and who you are today?

Imagine how mind-boggling God’s perspective is on the world (except that it’s not mind-boggling to God). Imagine knowing how every little circumstance is woven together into delicate, flexible, ribbon-like strands of events that lead up to larger events—the twirls, thrills, spins, jumps, stretches, tiny movements and heartbeats of our lives and how they connect with everyone else’s—like a sometimes beautiful, sometimes tragic ballet.

There are so many positive and beautiful things that happen to us in our lives (such as having a friend who is just what we need, just when we need it). We can marvel at the wonderful choreography at work in life; we can wonder at our Master Choreographer and how He brings things into our lives in perfect time, synchronizing solutions for our needs. We can wonder at the simple occurrences that brought us together with the love of our lives, or the chance meeting with someone who in turn refers us to an employer who offers us our dream job.

I wish I could stop here, but then you would probably ask, “What about all the tragedies in life?” We live in an imperfect world, and we can’t control everything. The same concept of choreography, which is magnificent when referring to happy stories, can also weave seemingly insignificant events into a dark, nightmarish dance number (such as Daisy’s car accident). What do we do then? We wonder why. We blame this person or that event, we blame ourselves and the seemingly unrelated choices we made that day, even though the ultimate circumstance is beyond everyone’s control. We may even blame God. We lie awake going over the event countless times; we feel guilty; we regret the past.

This little blog post is not the forum for a really deep philosophical discussion, so I won’t go into much detail here about the concepts of fate, destiny, God’s will and chaos theory. I just want to share with you the first thought that came into my mind when I was pondering what I would write about the negative side of the choreography of life. We don’t know why so many tragedies happen, but we can be reassured by this Bible verse, which can refer to any negative circumstance we may find ourselves dealing with, however it happened, for whatever reason:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

None of us are immune to negative experiences. But at least we can take comfort in the fact that no matter what happens, how it happens, for whatever reasons (which we may never know or understand) and by whatever methods, God will work all things together for good.

We can also ask for instruction and guidance from our Master Choreographer. He knows how all the movements we make should be executed to achieve a beautiful outcome, and He knows how important timing is, so why not consult him when we aren’t sure ourselves?

When you walk out your door today, think about your role (the role you don’t often realize or may never know you are playing) and how you have participated and are participating in the great dance of life, at times the product of acutely timed choreography, and at other times the product of a series of intersecting events beyond our control. Either way, everything you do has the potential to be significant.

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