At least this was my view until I went to Oberammergau in 2010 to see the Passion Play. My wife works for a travel company which was running a tour there. They had received a couple of last minute cancellations and her boss very kindly offered us the places. I'd first heard about the Passion Play as a teenager when a friend's mother went off to see it. The whole idea of it sounded incredible. The Passion of Christ performed by the people of a small Bavarian village every ten years (with a few breaks for World Wars) since 1664 as a kind of contract with God for saving them from plague. It was an opportunity that couldn't be missed.
I may relate some of the eventful stuff that happened to us during our journey there in another
blog. However, this is about mobile phones and the lesson of humility. The play was not a disappointment. We had the most incredible seats just two rows from the stage (a fact which, if the terrible thing I'm about to relate had actually happened, would have made matters far worse). The performance lasts for over five hours and there is a break in the middle for an evening meal. The weather was changeable that day, but the afternoon was sunny so I'd taken no coat and I'd left my mobile at the hotel. After supper there were some dark clouds about,
so before we walked back to the theatre I went to our room and picked up my rain jacket. The evening was still mild so I didn't put it on.
The thing you should know about Oberammergau is the devotion of the audience who come to see the play. Their visit is almost an act of religious worship in itself, a pilgrimage. I wouldn't describe either my wife or myself as religious types, however we both hold spiritual beliefs, and I have to say, when the actor playing Jesus first rode onto the stage on a donkey amidst a huge crowd of local men, women and children bearing palm leaves I felt a great lump of emotion in my throat. Those childhood Sunday School classes in Wales had left their mark. For some members of the audience it is such a powerful event though, that it is as if the story is unfolding in real time before their very eyes, and at moments they are literally moved to weeping. The emotional content increases of course as Jesus is brutally scourged and then nailed with powerful artifice to the cross. Even an atheist would find it hard to remain untouched by the sheer human drama and suffering of the story.
It was perhaps half an hour from the play's end, and beginning to feel a bit chilly, when I reached for my rain jacket. At first I couldn't make out what the small rectangular shape was in its pocket. In the next instant, as reality dawned on me, I broke out into a cold sweat, felt panic, horror,alarm, palpitations and terror, all at once. I was suddenly Wile E Coyote at the moment when he realises he's just stepped off the cliff edge and it's a heck of a long drop to the base of the canyon. Although I immediately switched the (eek!) live phone off, for the rest of the play I remained in a state of shock. I can only reflect on how lucky I was. A miraculous escape from
everlasting shame. If the phone had gone off during those two hours when I remained totally oblivious to its presence, for one night only, Judas Iscariot would have come in second for the title Most Despised Person in the House.
Anyway, after this you'll appreciate that I don't feel quite the same amount of vitriol and justified
anger when it comes to the odd mobile phone going off in public. Before I give way to shaking my head and tut-tutting I receive an instant flashback to that night in Oberammergau.
Yikes! My blood runs cold even now as I think of it.