When I read this I was intrigued.
“In Australia, the United Kingdom and Germany, some nursing homes build false, imitation bus stops for their patients who are suffering from dementia. Some of these bus stops are even fitted with outdated advertisements and timetables—30 years outdated. The patients will sit at the bus stop waiting for a bus to take them to their imagined destination. After some time the nursing staff comes to escort the clients back to the retirement home.”
Besides being a poignant image of aging and dementia, it struck me as a telling commentary on all our lives—not just the shuffle board set. I sometimes feel that I get up in the morning, put on my suit, drink my coffee and head out to the bus stop. I have the illusion that I am going somewhere, that a bus is surely coming to take me somewhere as beautiful and lush as the travel posters on the wall. Some place nicer than here. Some place I have been before and loved. A place where I was happy, once. And then, at the end of the day, they come get me and take me back to the home.
The commitment we make on Ash Wednesday is to live inside reality. That may sound like a “duh?” comment, except that most of the time we are living in full retreat from reality. We might as well be sitting at an imitation bus stop. The life we seek is a fantasy. Some disappointment with real life (and real people in the actual world) is always what drives us to fantasy. So, since this is a season for “giving things up,” why not give up fantasy? Not all at once (or you and I would curl instantly into the fetal position!), but one little fiction at a time.
You could look at your wife or husband today and see not what you want in your phantasm, but just the woman she is, the man he is. (The whole pornography business is fueled by the failure of a man’s reality. The whole business of affairs is fueled by the failure of a woman’s reality.)You could sit back and see your son for the first time, your daughter as someone you had never met before. Let them walk into your life as the people they actually are, for once. You can do this with your mother. You can do this with your nemesis—anything that is difficult or fractious or mean or depressing. You can do this with your house or your car or your office. You can do it with anything plain and ordinary and dull and boring. (You can do it, that is, with your self).
To do this, all you need is trust. You must believe that reality is all right, is enough, is actually the only thing you’ll ever need. (That is why we have to keep sitting down to pray!) Trust that the place you are actually being led today is better than anywhere the will o’ the wisp carriage may take you from that imitation bus stop.