No Exit

by Gayle D. Erwin

No Exit is the title of a one act play written by the French existentialist, Jean Paul Sartre. He attempts to portray the blankness of life in terms of hell. For Sartre, hell is not a lake of brimstone, a perpetual fire, nor a place where the devil and his torturers forever hound their victims. To Sartre, hell is other people.

There are four characters in the play. The opening scene begins with a valet ushering a man named Garcin into a room. There are three sofas, a mantelpiece and an immovable massive bronze ornament on the mantelpiece. As with other countless rooms in this hell hotel, there are no mirrors, no windows, nothing breakable. A light burns continuously.

Garcin is left alone by the valet and expects torturers with red hot tongs to move in. However, in succession, two women are escorted to the room by the valet. One is named Inez and the other Estelle. With their arrival, the room is considered fully occupied.

Within a matter of hours, the past of all three begins to come out. Garcin was a deserter, untrue and cruel to his wife. Inez was a lesbian, and Estelle murdered her illegitimate baby. These are some of the kinds of individuals who people hell. The recognition begins to slowly dawn upon them that this room is their eternal abode, and Inez says, "We're in hell. And no one else will come here. We'll stay in this room together, the three of US, forever and ever. "

They perceptively recognize that they are to be each others' torturers. Their personalities so strongly conflict, their despisement for each other is so great, their attempt at dominance of each other is so acute, that they at the outset make a pact to keep silent and thus reduce the torture of their hell. The pact is short lived. They cannot possibly refrain from verbally clawing at each other.

Sartre's hell is really a parable of life. The world is the room of the evils of hell and the peoples of the room are the citizens of hell. There is no exit for there are no doors and no windows. The Biblical hell is the one place where every hope is gone and one may not hope for there is no hope. But for Sartre, human life is hopeless.

We got here without being asked, acquired names we did not choose, parents we did not pick, and environments we cannot escape. We may try to get out. We may attempt to forget our desperation through ambition and work, through alcohol or drugs, or by kicking aside the restraint of parents, society, and sex. The harder you try, the closer the walls of your room move in. You try to climb out, over, under or through, but there are no doors and there are no windows.No Exit. That, ladies and gentlemen, is life.

You are the seventh baby born into a "dysfunctional" family and your hole is filthy and the rats eat on you when no other food is available. Your father is absent and your mother is insensitive. There are other babies in your room, and you will grow up in a condemned tenement, an overcrowded street filled with gang and drug activity, attend a school offering a second-rate education, and work odd jobs without security for the rest of your life. No exit for the baby in that crib.

You are a young child in Somalia. The rain has not come. There is no crop to harvest. Your stomach is distended from eating grass and barks of the few remaining trees. There are ten million others just like you. No Exit.

You are a Chinese youth on a rusty boat leaving the only home you have ever known. Your boat is overcrowded and filthy. There is not enough food and diseases run freely through the crowd. You've given your life's savings to be on this boat, and if you make it, you will spend the next 20 years trying to earn enough to pay off the contract you have signed with these hoodlums. No exit.

You are a young U.S. soldier plucked from the comfort of your home and taken to some strangely named place where the last face you look at is aiming down a gun barrel. For both of you, No exit.

You are a 25-year-old junkie who consumes more drugs than food. You are so numbed by needles, weakened by chemicals, and emaciated by hepatitis, that if an overdose doesn't get you, you may drown in your own vomit. You contracted AIDS years ago and the clock is ticking toward your death. No exit.

You are a working man or woman. Every day you put the fifth bolt on the left rim of an electronic instrument. You commute for an hour to get home then drown the monotony by watching five hours of television. You turn the lights out and start all over again except on the next day, the instruments you put the bolts on will be red instead of blue and there will be different programs on TV. No Exit.

You are retired and in your "golden years." The company you poured your life into went bankrupt and the pension funds are gone. Your house is losing value every year, your health is poor and Social Security won't cover your monthly bills. The children you raised don't want to help. No exit.

You are a student not sure whether you are being educated or manipulated by a system that can't seem to make men think right regardless of how many facts are taught or debates are held. No exit.

Count them. Count the billions of men, women, boys and girls. Count the hopeless poverty and sin of their lives. No exit. Bred, born, burned out and then buried. No exit in life. No exit in death. That is the story of this age. In natural thinking, this is the conclusion. No exit.

BUT THE GOSPEL IS NOT ACCORDING TO JEAN PAUL SARTRE. The gospel is not according to the despair of this age. One man entered history, not by accident, but as the only man to ever truly "choose" to be born. That man entered from outside the room, something no one else ever did. He entered with faith, not fear; with hope, not despair. He was a carpenter. And he made a door in the room. He said, "I am the door. If anyone exits after me, he will get out."

Having made the door, he himself went out of the room and "made a way for us to escape from the evil world in which we live." He entered the room. He left the room. He made an exit for us. What a difference from the room of hopelessness to the room of life!

Are you in the room of no exit? There is a door. It will do you no good to stand there and say, "I won't go through the door because there may be others. There may be a Muslim door, Hindu door, a Buddhist door. " It will not do you any good to close your eyes and say, "I do not believe the door exists. " The door is not dependent on your belief. The door is always there.

The point is that you, if you want to get out, must go through the door that is open. Waiting to see if there are any other doors will not get you out now. Nor will it gain you anything if you insist on staying with the people who are still looking for other doors or have their eyes closed.

Go through the exit--Jesus Christ. And once you are out, stay out. Spend your time and devotion following the One who got you out instead of useless debating on whether or not there was another door.

Find the hope and purpose in life that comes from knowing Jesus Christ. You can know this Christ, this door, by talking to Him. Ask Him to forgive your sins and become controller of your life, then accept the fact that He does. He is the way, the truth, the life- THE EXIT.