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Life as performance art


By Fr. G. Corwin Stoppel

After politely ignoring Dr. Annis’ invitation for years, the time came to have my eyes checked for the possibility of new glasses.

I made my appointment and we went through the usual testing, from the puff of air to check for glaucoma to looking into a viewfinder and signaling every time I saw a little light flash to make sure I didn’t have a tumor somewhere between my eyeball and brain. His assistant stated the obvious, “There’s nothing in your brain.”

Then we settled down to getting the right lens, not an easy task because I need trifocals. I don’t mind because people think I’m just being agreeable when I nod trying to find the right section of the glasses to see in focus. As a bonus, if someone forgets their glasses and wants to borrow mine, they get three choices— or six if they close one eye and then the other.

We went through different lenses, with Dr. A. asking each time, “Is this better?” I didn’t think much about it at the time because I was being challenged to make the right choice. Those three words, “Is this better?” have stayed with me ever since.

We ask that of ourselves and others constantly. Visual artists do it all the time. Is this color better? Should there be more of a shadow here instead of there? Should the curve on the clay pot or the blown glass be more, or less, pronounced?

Most of us ask “Is it better?” often without really thinking about it. We look at a menu, deciding if one choice is better than the other. We stand in front of our wardrobes trying to work out which clothes to wear. The television remote was invented for those who have a hard time deciding which program they want to watch.

Writers may have the toughest time deciding “Is this better?” To start, we have 400,000-plus words in the English language from which to choose. Add to that the way we can structure each sentence and paragraph, and somehow still tell the story.

Our “own” Saugatuck author Jacqueline Carey is magnificent at it. She prolifically creates sagas that stir our imaginations, yet can strike our brains and hearts in a few short words.

Here are a couple sentences: “A nervous silence loosens tongues” and “Happiness is the highest form of wisdom.” Simple yet profound.

There is nothing easy about creativity, whether it is finding the right curvature of a lens to put on the end of our noses, cooking, gardening, composing or playing music … It’s all art. When we are fully engaged in life, we are all trying to perform to the best of our ability.

We are lucky to live among so many people who are forever asking, “Is this better?”