To Easter and Beyond
We are moving from Passover in one tradition and on from Good Friday to Easter in another. In any and all traditions, we are remaking, with the physical limitations on most of us at current, what it is for something to be a "sacrament," and how to celebrate, and the limits of our ability to inflict our wills upon our circumstances. We can influence, we can catalyze, we are meaningful variables, but it is not finally our show.
If you think about the modern world, and we have plenty of time for once to "think," we have to consider this era we've fashioned, and how its identity is currently being tested.
Death is so terrifying to our "caged selves" (what my mentor of old, Leo Buscaglia, defined our ego as) because we do not feel truly part of this immortal history that was in full flow before we arrived and will continue inexorably on after we pass.
As we better understand this river of history, its eddies and its flows, or at least immerse ourselves in it with greater awareness, as we learn to sing its song, that is the only way we more fully experience the relative "deathlessness" of the reality we are a part of.
We all try to grapple with history in different ways. Through religious fables, and nationalistic narratives, through ideas like communism that suggest we are being economically urged towards revolution. Other squints on history emphasize science and reason, and while everything then seemingly has a blueprint, we may become deadened to enchantment and a sense of spiritual significance. How do we ensure "Godless" doesn't equate to "meaningless?"
Other approaches have us dabbling in philosophy, which provides not so much answers to our questions, but illuminating questions for our answers.
Philosophy when it becomes arid and analytical though, or science when it gets starved of the wonder from whence it sprang, also leaves us cold, dubious and detached, rather than fascinated, engaged and engrossed.
All forms of enlightenment tell us that a sense of loving gratitude is the only real response to the world and living in it, with all its bounty. As Einstein said, "either everything is a miracle, or nothing is."
With no yearning to appreciate the divine, to at least be touched by the everlasting, we may become more prudent, but we become less human. We humans have always sought meaning and significance, it is coded into our genes.
The Greek dialecticians taught us to interrogate and analyze reality. The Greek rhetoricians taught us to embellish and celebrate it.
Perhaps as we emerge from the COVID fog and can flex ourselves outside the prism of this pandemic, we may take on the radical spiritual squint that God and the "world" are not distinct. We "separate" perceptually from the world as we allegedly "grow up," and are ultimately reclaimed by it upon our biologic death. The world though is palpably alive with the very spirit we are expressions of.
Walt Whitman once called the notion of God, and you can apply this to your notion of ultimate reality instead if you prefer, as "the eternal intelligibility of the world itself, now expanded to include the whole of reality." We are speaking about the source for our ongoing quest for meaning.
Whitman's evangel was also about diversity. Democratic expression only matters ultimately beyond a way of keeping order, to promote the unique value of each viewpoint, to honor each of us as vibrantly distinct.
Real citizenship isn't primarily a legal bargain. It's an enchanted exchange, where we proffer love and civility and judgment and trust to each other and humbly submit to what emerges from that interaction, however vexing to our preferences.
We owe each other gratitude and love if we opt to rise to the privilege, the opportunity and the challenge of intelligent, purposeful, caring engagement.
In our temporary physical "captivity" -- though our spirit cannot be leashed, and our heart is as free as we will it -- can we still sense eternity in the present and welcome everything alive in us?
The problem with either the overly sophisticated moral relativism which is one end of the popular continuum, or our cocksure dogmatism which is the other extreme, is that both are confusions. They cannot reflect anything greater back at you than what you bring to them.
If everything is okay, then believing in nothing is okay, except we can't pull it off. Believing in "nothing" is itself a belief. And dogmatism just reflects your own limitations back at you. So all we worship then is our own often inhibited sense of self.
We need instead a larger, more expansive, more possibility-rich framework that teaches us how and when to hold fast and when and where to surrender. A framework nourished by the world's best shared experience, a diverse, welcoming, community creed, so we can reel in love as a "verb" when it seems most elusive.
So let's head into this week-end and week, of commemoration, and worship, of holidays and "holy days," of limitation and liberation (depending on our perspective) and see if we might especially cherish those human commitments that honor our kinship to the larger human family.
Perhaps we can allow ourselves to be summoned to embrace the bigger questions of what it means to be human and alive in these times, to throw ourselves into the leadership required by this moment and whatever comes next, so our lives are worth freeing, and we do not opt to relapse into meager subsistence, rather than the full banquet of engagement that experience is so eagerly and avidly inviting us to.