So why remember The Hunger Artist?
The context of Kafka’s essay is a circus with a dramatically (no pun intended) unattended event. Once a main attraction at the circus, the hunger artist was now hardly even noticed.
"You are an unknown" an unfriendly voice reminded me in my freshman year of college. Famous in high school (all we “Rye High” guys and gals were), I was lost in the crowds of the huge university. I was very lonely seeking to find my new way.
The Hunger Artist was increasingly an unknown too.
So the interviewer asks the hunger artist why he stays with what is so unpopular?
The answer he gives has stayed with me from the day I read that essay at Northeastern University in Boston. He replied simply, "There is nothing to eat."
The Hunger Artist was never motivated by appeal, marketability, or charisma. He had a following and lost his following, but his following said more about his following and not about himself.
As for the hunger artist? He was "the same yesterday, today, and forever."
Raise your hand if you enjoy it when you are not noticed, unliked, unpopular or shall we say shunned? Obviously one prefers a following, but at what cost?
I was in a play a long time ago from the “Theater Of The Absurd” by Eugene Ionesco called Rhinoceros. What happens is this, inexplicably, humans are turning into rhinoceros(es). The lead character, however, does not want to change. He wants to remain human. He says basically, "Why"? or “It never was any other way in human history? Why change the nature of our species now?" The point of the author was that people follow other people and their trends, no matter what, and you better fall in line too, or you will be outside "the norm."
I taught Jr. High School one year in 1987. I could write a book called "Everything I ever needed to know about the fragility of humanity I learned in my failings teaching Jr. High School."
Jr. High Schoolers care desperately what others think of them. And ... some, as I used to say, "do not get over Jr. High." I just said it again.
Sitting on some grass and eventually falling asleep in the grassy field in back of the Vineyard Church, my mind went to one other place and time.
"Drove My Chevy To The Levy But The Levy Was Dry.......
Father, Son, and The Holy Ghost Took The Last Train….
For The Coast The Day The Music Died." Do you remember that song?
The Hunger Artist leaves the circus on purpose!
The Hunger Artist is a lot like God in analogy. He has had days where it would appear He had a following. He has had seasons where He was presumed irrelevant as in "God is dead."
Look at the ebb and flow of Jesus’ ministry and His many trends with people "approval." These trends all reveal what humans are about and not what He is about.
God is unaffected by human opinion, yet He is pure Love.
He loves you and me, but is not affected by our trends. We humans are very trendy and much of our appeal to Him is very like the appeal to the Hunger Artist ... seasonal and therefore changeable.
The God crowds today are small yet like the hunger artist, He, the Lord, is not desperate. He does not eat just to eat. If the food is not right, i.e., not heavenly prepared, He prefers to not eat at all. If the crowds are big but the food is not real food, He won’t eat even if His following is feasting.
I was starting to get hungry for "real food and real drink."
I was now getting a perk of encouragement.
I was going to go inside that sanctuary theater and He was going to play me.
“Sermon On The Mount” one more time with God in the 1st person. He playing me.
I was for about the 1200th time in 15 years doing Holy-Wood.
I even had a crowd coming out to "my exhibit."
The Hunger Artist starves because He does not eat. The Lord, as hunger artist, simply does not eat the food of trends about Him or trends that are against Him.
I was motivated, and am motivated, to enjoy less of this world’s food even if it means no following at all.
There is a revival here "on earth as it is in heaven." If the season has a crowd or does not have a crowd, the revival is very present. His Presence!
I for one am signed up for this. I am not leaving, save for the last train for the coast.
This is Holy-Wood - the longest running revival in theatrical history.
Do you hear the whistle? The train is coming for you and the food is very good.
Oven-fresh Bread and oven-fresh forever.