All the World is a Stage

Jack took a deep breath and stared into the far distance, as if clearly seeing what he was about to speak of. His old eyes sparkled in the firelight.

Alex looked up, catching his mood, and said, “There’s something special about today’s story, isn’t there?”

“You are right,” replied Jack. “It is a special story. It is called The story of the Atmas."

“Is it a story that we know?” asked Helen.

“Oh, yes!” said Jack. “When you hear it, you will realise that you know it already.”

And so Jack began his story... “Far, far away, in a world quite different from this one, there lived a race of higher beings called Atmas. These Atmas were unique in that they didn't have physical bodies. They were made of what looked like light and their world was a vast, golden sky. This sky was far beyond the ordinary sky we see, and they lived in this immense dimension, beyond time and space. Nothing ever changed in their world... There was never any experience of an end to anything and so they lived with a profound sense of security and peace. Their world was constant and complete - a beautiful and permanent reality. They experienced no desires or expectations and so there was nothing to cause disappointment. They were free in every sense of the word - free from loss and therefore free from sorrow. They were totally at peace in their home."

“What did they look like?” asked Billy. 

“Let's say that they looked like stars,” replied Jack. “The Atmas, were also a family of actors. They did not always just stay at home. At regular intervals they would go onto the stage to act in a play and would put together a great performance.The stage was, of course, very different from their home. Whilst their home was timeless and subtle, the stage was solid and physical; it was called E'arth. It had limits of space, and time moved in short and long cycles. Whilst there was total silence in their home, the stage was a place of almost constant noise and chatter. There were all kinds of props appropriate to every scene and they acted on this stage with a special backdrop of mountains, rivers and clouds."

“I think I like their home better than the stage,” commented Alex.

“Both are necessary and enjoyable in their own way,” said Jack… “The stage is the right place for the drama, but not such a nice home.The Atmas wore masks, which they called bodies, and each mask was given a name. Some masks were male and some female, some were black and others white. They played many different roles: there were hero characters, villains, and holy men all had a part to play. As more and more Atmas came from their home to join in the drama, the stage became increasingly crowded. They introduced many by-plots; at one side of the stage you might see an elegant dance while at the other side a war was being fought.They were so creative that every scene was new and fresh, although the play continued for thousands of years.”

“A play that lasts for thousands of years!” exclaimed Billy in awe. “That’s impressive!”

“Absolutely.” said Jack. “Although the number of actors increased beyond seven billion, no two masks were ever the same. It was an ideal play, with the perfect combination of comedy, tragedy, romance, horror, intrigue, violence and dance. There was no separate audience, for the Atmas themselves watched and enjoyed the play, whilst acting in it. On occasions there would be special effects of snow storms, rain or floods. And all along, some would be leaving the stage while others were entering it. The Atmas found every scene in the drama enjoyable. They had no knowledge of sorrow, worry or stress. They all enjoyed the play.”

“Sounds like good fun to me,” said Helen.

“It was.” agreed Jack, “ Until things began to change. You see, these higher beings had one weakness: forgetfulness.” There was an element of regret in Jack’s voice, as he continued. “In time, they gradually forgot about their home and that they were acting in a play. They started to believe that the stage was their world. Believing the play to be real, they began to react to everything that happened in it with a false intensity. Unaware of their true home, they started to feel insecure – like orphans - in the everchanging world of the drama.. Out of panic they would cling to the various props of the stage, but everything they took support from was temporary and unsubstantial and so made them feel even more insecure. Just when they thought they had something to hold on to, it would change and slip away, which, in turn, made them cling to the props with even greater force. They panicked at every change. Forgetting that they were Atmas they now treated each other as if they were their masks. They complained about the script and blamed the creator. Feeling the presence of others on the stage to be a threat, they began to use weapons, in order to try and get their own way by causing each other pain and sorrow. Things got so bad that they even began to destroy the stage; some even planned to destroy it entirely!” exclaimed Jack. 

“This sounds like our story” Billy said quietly.

Jack gave a gentle sigh and continued. “In spite of this madness, they thought they were very clever – so clever, in fact, that they would give each other prizes. There was amongst them a certain Professor Brightspark. He seemed to have the answer to everything. When the confused Atmas asked the question, 'Where did this stage come from?' Professor Brightspark would say, 'I know the answer! Many, many years ago, there was a ‘bang’ and from that ‘bang’ this stage emerged.' All the Atmas were impressed by Brightspark’s brilliance. Another time someone would raise the question 'Where do all these props on the stage came from?' And Brightspark would again pipe up 'I have the answer! The stool evolved into a chair, and then the chair evolved into a table …and thus it continued.' He had a thousand ‘facts’ to support his arguments. From time to time he changed his answers but, in spite of that, Brightspark always got prizes and accolades than anyone else. Others had different answers. One called Holyspark, for example, would say that the whole stage was created by a very powerful Doddspark. But Holyspark won fewer prizes.”

They all laughed. Alex exclaimed, “This is sounding very familiar!”

And Billy chimed in, “Yes, I think I’ve studied Professor Brightspark’s prize winning theories – and written essays on them!”

Jack smiled and continued, “Just as every scene on a stage has an end, so, too, this madness and confusion came to an end. Eventually, the Atmas woke up and remembered that they were acting in a play and that they themselves were from a timeless reality. Having thought that they were orphans, they remembered their home. They realised that the whole experience of the drama was merely an entertainment, - an ‘extra’ experience. They rediscovered their original security and creativity. They remembered the truth that, in Shakespeare’s words;

‘All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.’"

All went quiet for a while, when Jack uttered these familiar words, which now took on a new meaning. After a while, Alex asked simply, “If this is our story, what can we do to wake up?”

“We certainly won't wake up just like that!” commented Helen, deep in thought.

“But how come the stage looks so real and important?” Billy questioned.

Jack smiled enigmatically and said, “Let’s just say we shall know more about that in the next story.”

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