The floors in Groot Hall, second floor are very creaky. So, all this week, I’ve been hearing a quiet bending of the floorboards outside the CommArts suite of offices. Not the heavy step of a professor returning to the office to dump a bag and an armful of books. Not the step of George the custodian, pushing his trash bin and singing out “How are you this morning!” No, it’s the light step of someone checking out callback and roster sheets. I hear whispered congratulations, muted celebrations, and sometimes just a long silence and slow step back down the hall.
Trinity held its theatre auditions this week for an unusually rich season: five one-acts and a main-stage play. The auditions were hugely well attended, and Dr. John and the student directors have been sitting around the long white table under the black box theatre lights, talking into the early hours of these past two mornings about who fits what role.
Our country held another audition this week on Wednesday night when President Obama gave his “jobs speech.” I don’t mean that in the obvious sense that he was auditioning for his hoped-for next term, although that’s almost always a part of the political project. No, I’m suggesting that the President was auditioning a comportment for the country. He was trying out a way of carrying ourselves in the face of the unknown. How we do we describe this bearing? The pundits say he was “feisty.” We might say he was wonkish and ambitious and middle-of-the-road-ish. I think maybe he was what he is in all his best speeches: feistily moderate.
The complexity of this carriage (or its confusion, depending on your ideological leanings) reflects the difficulty of having to respond to something that hasn’t happened yet. Will the job numbers go down in September again? Will there be another major terrorist attack around 9/11? Will Afghan troops hold their own against the Taliban? Will there be a double-dip recession?
We just don’t know; hence the moderateness. We do have to act; hence the feistiness.
You, too, are in tryouts this week as you accustom yourself to new classes, new professors, new books, new suitemates. You walk into the classroom, and it feels like you’re entering stage left into the spotlight—except that you’re not quite sure what play you’re walking into. Is it a tense drama? Is it a farce? Is it a tragedy? Is it a melodrama? How do you posture yourself, especially in the face of all that you do not know about this semester? Quite apart from the question of “What’s my line anyway?” we all have to cross the stage somehow. We all take some complex set of poses: quietly hopeful, darkly funny, wearily persistent, wryly curious.
But as you try out one posture after another, consider the comportment that Eugene Peterson commends in his commentary on Galatians:
There are…times when I am with people who, even while they experience the entrapments that life springs on them, still go their way with a light step and graceful mien. Every time this happens it is a marvel. Together, over a period of years, we experience the detailed rightness of what it means to live as free persons, traveling light.
Whether you’re checking out this year’s roster for the next game or the next one-act or the lunch table in the Caf or whether you’re just trying to figure out how to carry yourself on the sidewalk, remember that the detailed rightness you’re looking for is not just a posture for your own survival. Your comportment communicates. Your bearing bears witness to the encompassing story of God’s life in this world, a great drama performed by free persons who are, at one and the same time, auditioning for a part and assured of a role.
So, good news: the list is up, and not just on Groot Hall 2nd floor. Check it out. You got the role you’ve always wanted.