A 1979 movie featured Peter Sellers as Chauncey Gardiner who does nothing else but reflect the projections of others including Shirley MacLaine acting out to making love to him as he watches TV on the edge of the bed along with a cast of characters that propels this human thing that only breathes to up-seating the U.S. president. Chauncey became what ever our minds made of him. He did it by doing nothing while the projecting arrows from others pierced him with the personality they wanted him to be. (The last sentence is the only one worth remembering in this blog.)
The film was meant as a TV satire which was accomplished but more importantly points to the arrows that we all point. We are rarely if ever the person others see us to be. The goodness we reject within ourselves is pierced into someone else in the hope that goodness does prevail because it seems to be lax within us. The converse works as well especially in these days when the evil we refuse to acknowledge within ourselves lives within another religion, another person’s color or just that other person over there that I don’t know but I’ll still place a strong opinion upon him or her.
The film is frustrating to watch because you either wish him to wake up or just die because of all the stuff others place upon him. He is just “being there.”
Another twist of this “being there” is the priesthood. I stand before all as the goodness you all lack to acknowledge within yourselves because of some silly reason, somewhere. The priest abuse cases of children has softened this projection but it slowly will revive itself, just watch. Why? Because it is easier to place solutions upon someone else instead of our own supposed weary selves. We project unto others what we deny lives and breathes within us.
I was with someone dying today along with another chaplain. I gave her communion and touched her shoulder. The other chaplain asked if she had stomach pains because she wasn’t eating and was she feeling alright? (I thought doctors and nurses asked those questions but not chaplains.) I remembering when I started as a chaplain asking questions about the quality of food and the type of room as though I was a concierge in a fancy hotel performing a quality assessment survey.
The patient projected unto us to be the gateways to something more than none of us know anything about but hope for. “Wordless” is the best and most difficult challenge for a chaplain. Just try standing in silence for 30 seconds with someone instead of saying, “It’ll be all right,” or “There’s jello tonight for supper, honey!”
Chauncey didn’t act or react, he just received those pierced arrows from unthinking minds and becomes a U.S. president. A wordless chaplain has nothing in his/her arsenal except those uncomfortable and very long 30 seconds, a smile and an accepted perception and projection that something greater is about to occur.