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The lion in the third act

By Michael Moriarty
web posted March 11, 2002

Michael Moriarty

When an old lion risks walking alone, the hyenas show up. Attacked badly enough, the old big cat grows older more quickly. If the aging is surrendered to, a certain amount of inner peace is recaptured. Should the old lion think himself younger, he feels profound anger and frustration. Half of post-traumatic stress is actually post-traumatic rage. I am now making peace with the last third of my life. However, I am an old lion. Please don't forget that.

Lions make enemies. Why? Because they are lions in a day and age of insects, hyenas, jackals, wolves and any other herd-life-form you wish to mention. Individual freedom, the common denominator, as Winston Churchill said, of the English-speaking peoples, defines the human lion. He can, will and must occasionally walk alone. That is your problem. Not his.

He suffers the consequences. His enemies, however, suffer a kind of eternal damnation. They've chosen to live in packs. Peer pressure means more to them than common sense. Therefore, hell will follow their progress. They will lead their peer group into the inferno. Human beings were not meant to be hyenas. They were created to be divine - spiritual lions and lionesses.

In Mapy Ridge - that's my version of Maple Ridge, B.C. - I live amidst a pride of lions, lionesses and lion cubs. I'm home. I am no longer the balding American eagle I was for the last eight years. The assault I endured two months ago could have happened anywhere. I have no reason to fly anymore. Therefore, my self-image is that of a lion. I sit in my trailer like a lion in a cave. I type with the decisiveness of an animal. My voice has become a low rumble and, when necessary, a roar. My pride of lions loves me. I'm their elder. We're a family. Nothing can tear us apart anymore.

I have no idea what the future holds. No one does, really. Many people think they do, and usually what plans they do have are rather meager and thin. God places changes in our lives that deepen us. Life is depth, not longevity. If longevity meant anything, Methuselah would have been the hero of the Bible. As it is, a man who was crucified at 33 years of age dominates the Bible. He was a young lion assaulted by a society of hyenas, hypocrites and liars. His life, however, has proven a comedy. He always has the last laugh. That thought is what gives me endurance. Suffering is only the second act of a comedy. Justice springs up in the third act, and if we're at all sane, we laugh our asses off.

With that said, I'll add a postscript. Life is, was and always will be a jungle. We are as much animal as spiritual. Be not ashamed. Be alert. Pick the animal you want to be. Hopefully, you'll be a North American lion or lioness.

Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe winning actor, best known for his role as Assistant District Attorney Ben Stone on Law and Order.

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