Vol. 85 - No. 2
Feb 2014


The Three Stages (Make That “Stooges”) of Life...

             Many of my Facebook friends have been taking personality tests that indicate what character in a particular TV or movie series they are most like. They report things like: “I am Draco Malfoy” (from Harry Potter)...or ”I am Han Solo” (from Star Wars)...or “I am Penny” (from “The Big Bang Theory”). It’s another way of learning about yourself–discovering what fictional character you most resemble.

             There’s a similar concept involving the Three Stooges. In this case, it’s not so much about personality–it’s about what stage of life you’re in. According to this theory, we all go through a Curley stage, a Moe stage, and a Larry stage.

             The Curley Stage. Curley is silly and immature–so naturally, our childhood and youth is the Curley Stage. We don’t know a lot, we haven’t learned all the right things to do yet...so we bumble around. We make mistakes. We do things that aren’t appropriate. We’re fun to be around, we’re a lot of laughs–but our immaturity is an obstacle. So eventually we grow up and enter...,

             The Moe Stage. Moe is driven, ambitious. He has big plans and big dreams. He’s what used to be called “a real go-getter”. Grass does not grow under his feet. He’s all business. And he is a decisive leader. The fact that ultimately his dreams dissolve into disaster does not dissuade him. Moe is the most mature of the Stooges. And so the mature phase of our lives is the Moe phase. We strive hard to make something of ourselves. We pursue goals and aspirations. We throw ourselves wholeheartedly into our work. We reach for achievement.

But eventually we realize that dreams don’t always come true. And often, however hard we work, our aspirations remain elusive. And finally, after life breaks our hearts a few times, we enter into...

             The Larry Stage. Larry is the most mellow of the Stooges. He has neither Curley’s silly energy nor Moe’s driving ambition. He knows that life is often a disappointment–and he has learned to accept that. He’s comfortable with who he is. He knows that he’s not going to rock the world...and that doesn’t bother him. In our Larry phase, we have absorbed the punishment that life metes out...and in response we’ve become more mellow. Maybe we’ve scaled our ambitions back. We haven’t achieved all our dreams. But what we’ve achieved is a certain repose, a certain tranquility, a certain acceptance of our limitations. To be Larry confers a certain peace.

             I should point out that these stages aren’t always neatly consecutive. You can jump back and forth from one to another. They may even overlap. And just because you’re in your Larry stage doesn’t mean that you can’t still have a little Moe and a little Curley in you (after all, didn’t Jesus tell us to retain our childish innocence throughout our lives?) But in general, the three stages correspond to the movement of a person’s life.

             Where am I in these three stages? Let me tell you a little story: The other day, I looked in my mirror in the morning. My “combover” had poofed out sideways during the night. And on the left side of my face...I looked like Larry! And what did I do? I hightailed it to the barber and had the combover amputated. I’m not quite ready to give up my Moe phase. (Although frankly, with my revised haircut, I look like Curley. Could I be regressing?)

             What intrigues me about this theory of the Three Stooges of Life is how neatly it corresponds to the books of Solomon in the Bible–Song of Songs, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes.

             Song of Songs is a passionate poem about romantic love. Solomon composed this poem in his youth to celebrate his love for a young lady. God is mentioned only once. The poem has no overt religious content (although both the Christian and Jewish traditions see it as a parable of God’s passionate love for His people). It’s full of a youthful energy, a passion, an innocence that recalls Curley. (And if memory serves, Curley was the Stooge with the keenest eye for the ladies, so the Song of Songs fits).

             Proverbs is the work of Solomon’s maturity. He was a king, striving to build his kingdom and to govern his people wisely. So Proverbs is no-nonsense advice on practical matters–on money, on friendship, on many other everyday topics. Proverbs is a good book for the Moe stage. Someone seeking self-improvement and career advice would do well to consult this book. It’s got lots of wisdom for the person in the bustling, busy, ambitious prime of life.

             And finally–Ecclesiastes is considered the work of Solomon’s old age. It begins with some hard-earned, Larry-like wisdom: “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is utterly meaningless!” (Ecclesiastes 1:1). Solomon has come to realize that a lot of the things we chase after in this life are kind of empty. “What does a man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Solomon sees that many of our Moe-like ambitions end up being frustrated. Yet in the midst of all this disenchantment, he finds peace in one simple idea: “Fear God and keep His commandments. For this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:11).

             All of these books of Solomon are profitable for study and meditation–for each one illuminates a stage of human life.

             It’s interesting to note that Jesus never lived past the “Moe” stage. He died in the prime of life. And He achieved His great dream, His great ambition–our salvation. When He cries out “It is finished!”, He’s telling us that the goal of His life has been attained–He has taken away the sins of the world with His blood. Yet even though Jesus never went through a “Larry” stage, His cross helps us through our “Larry” stage. The cross shows us that even when our ambitions fall through, even when life doesn’t work out the way we thought it would, there still is a love that can sustain us and give us joy–the love of God in Jesus Christ the crucified Saviour.

             Really, whatever “Stooge of Life” you are in, He’s the one who will see you through!

             God loves you and so do I!