The Theatre of the Absurd

William Shakespeare wrote (in As You Like it) that “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players”. If that’s true we are the cast of the theatre of the absurd.

The world is full of things that are contrary to reason and common sense, things that just should not be in a universe of order and meaning, things that are hopelessly contradictory, incongruent, incomprehensible, frustrating and just plain ridiculous. But for the love and sovereignty of God, our universe would have slipped into chaos thousands of years ago and we would not be here to talk about it.

One of the reasons I believe that moral laws come from the same source as the physical laws of the universe is that we do ourselves as much harm by breaking one as we do the other. Telling a lie is just as fatal as jumping off a cliff, the only difference is the time gap between the action and the consequence.

God communicated this truth to us in the way he treated our first parents when he kicked them out of the garden. Not only were they to suffer death for their moral failure, they would leave a world of perfect harmony into one of frustration and futility. Thankfully it was not one of chaos. The laws that controlled the universe may have been changed, distorted even, but they were not removed altogether. Humans still had the possibility of finding purpose and meaning, even in their fallen state, if they were prepared to acknowledge God and respect his moral and physical laws.

So, in our world nothing works quite the way it should, but it still works better when we don’t try to live without God. This is the point that Solomon seeks to make in his proverbs. Living according to the wisdom of God will not guarantee a perfect outcome but it will improve your chances of living a better life.

In the absence of perfection we can still find joy and contentment if we live in harmony with the Word of God. We will never achieve exactly what we want in this world but being content with what’s available is far better than pining over what’s not.

Welfare economist John Nash illustrated this beautifully by showing that if every man’s exclusive choice for a wife is a gorgeous blonde, the short supply of gorgeous blondes will leave a lot of men and non-blonde women dissatisfied. However if men ignored gorgeous blondes, and went for nice redheads and brunettes instead, the only ones totally dissatisfied would be the blondes and the overall happiness of the community would be higher. You can sometimes do better when you make do with what you can get rather than hold out for what you can’t.

Jesus said much the same thing when he advised us not to go chasing after the things of this world. Doing this will make you so obsessed that you will not only live in perpetual frustration but you will also blind yourself to the reality of real joy and satisfaction that comes from seeking God’s kingdom and his righteousness.

So do you still want to try for perfection in a world whose fundamental laws are against it, or would you rather find contentment with what God has given you now, in the knowledge that perfection is waiting; just one world away?

Better to be an usher in the playhouse of the Lord than a star in the Theatre of the Absurd.

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