2020 Essays

Whose Life Is This?

by Dr. Will Tuttle

Imagine you’re an actor, one of the greatest actors of all time. You’re renowned for your ability to completely immerse yourself in the roles you are playing. You’re in such high demand, and you’re so skilled at your craft, that you star in a different dramatic production every six months. You perform your role for four months, then take a two-month break to integrate your experience and get ready for the next production and the new role you’ll be playing. In the past forty years of your distinguished career, you have become and embodied eighty different people.

Because you’ve mastered dramatic arts, you can not only play a wide variety of roles, but you relish it. You immerse yourself into the whole spectrum of humanity, and take on roles of people of every race, every class, every religion, both male and female, young and old, healthy and disabled, and you have learned and been enriched by every role you have played.

In the beginning of your career you were drawn to playing people who were struggling to survive, experiencing war, terror, killing other people, killing animals, famine and thirst, blindness and disability, being trafficked, abused, and enslaved, and fighting for food, shelter, and safety.

Then there were the roles of people infatuated with family life and also with sexuality and romance as you find yourself playing a young wife or husband with children in a variety of cultures, or a prostitute, or a domineering or submissive partner in elder years. Then you were drawn to power, and enacting people of tremendous wealth and status in society, and experiencing their thoughts, feelings, and challenges.

Following this you found yourself drawn to playing people who serve social movements out of love for others, and persevering in a cause to bring healing and awakening to the world. Building on this, there were the roles of people dedicated to music, art, dance, writing, and other creative expressions whose lives were dedicated to bringing beauty and inspiration to other people.

Most recently, you find yourself playing roles that integrate everything you have learned, focusing on spiritual awakening, questioning all the official narratives in society and in your upbringing, and devoting time to immersion in nature, in meditation and silence, in activism on behalf of animals, ecosystems, and abused people, in music, art, movement, and creativity, and in building healthy and fulfilling relationships with your community of friends and family.

Every six months, you die as a particular personality who you have grown to love and understand, and then after a time of contemplation and reflection, you are born into another role as a completely different person who will challenge you in new ways and who you will also grow to love, and through whom you’ll express and see the world.

Eventually perhaps you will play the role of someone who actually becomes aware of you, and who begins to realize that he or she is a character in a dramatic production who is being played by you. And then when this character turns inward and discovers you, he or she will fall in love with you, as you have loved her or him. Tears of joy: liberation and compassion.

The roles have always been temporary; now all the roles you have ever played—every challenge, yearning, insight, grief, triumph, loss, and tender moment—are fulfilled.

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