In Shakespearean times, an employee of the company putting on the plays, working in the catwalks above the stage, would sometimes trip and fall 20 feet or so — plop ! — smack into the middle of the play being watched by the audience. If no bones were broken, he would stand up and quickly pretend to be an angel or a god from above, delivering a message or rendering unexpected aid.
This practice mutated into a figure of speech — a “deus ex machina,” or “the god from the machinery” — referring to the person who inserts himself unexpectedly into the time of troubles of another person and renders aid.
Look for the opportunity to be a “deus ex machina” in your life. I’ve known a few. I had a friend in high school named John Lazauskas. His father was an ordinary guy — a little man who raised his little family in a little row home in the Frankford section of Philadelphia.
We all went down to the Frankford and Pratt bus terminal on workday mornings to catch a bus or trolley or the Frankford elevated train to school or our job. Every day, thousands of people saw the homeless Smelly Bag Lady crawling around between nooks, looking for opportunities to beg, pee or sleep.
One day, as hundreds of people were looking on, John Lazauskas’ father astonished the universe, the angels and the demons by bringing the homeless Smelly Bag Lady a wonderful breakfast on a tray, while the rest of us stood puzzled, and numbed by the programming of our age and by our own internal laziness, fear and inertia into watching one of God’s precious children suffer horribly.
Mr. Lazauskas did this day after day, until the homeless Smelly Bag Lady made headlines by being hit and crushed by a bus.
When Mr. Lazauskas did what he did, nonetheless, he permitted the invincible love and power of the almighty creator and destroyer God of the Universe to enter and suffuse his flesh and mind, so that he became God’s most powerful tool on Earth at that place and time, to the astonishment and applause and cheering of the angels, and the astonishment and anger of the demons.
Be one of the good guys. Astonish the universe. Be a deus ex machina.