Saturday, April 15, 2006

On Easter: Secular And Holy

Bill wonders about the origin of the whole Easter Bunny mythology. Ahistoricality provides a link with the answer in So Quoted's comments section.

Mark Daniels posts on why Christians should take this Holy-Day personally.

And me?

This has been a hard year, in ways I couldn't have imagined, and didn't, last Easter. This Lenten season and even Holy Week itself, both of which I usually find so inspiring, have been especially tough, not due to any burdensome requirements, but rather to the oddly lukewarm, even somewhat disconnected, place in which I find myself spiritually. That which normally challenges and uplifts me, for whatever reasons, has mostly fallen on, if not deafened, then distracted--even oddly detached--ears.

For the actively religious readers among you, I don't mean to be alarming or worrying: This does not feel like one of those tempestuous times of crisis in faith, which I have experienced a time or two in my life and which I suspect most Christians, if not most believers more generally, have as well, whether they acknowledge it or not. I'm questioning no core belief of my faith, and certainly not the most central reality--for Christians--of all: the sacrifice of Jesus and what that means, not just at Easter, but every day.

But still. And yet. But still.

I'm feeling too still.

This afternoon (/early evening), I spent some time talking to a retired priest, a friend who is also the neighbor of close friend of mine. This was an unplanned and informal chat, not an official one, undertaken on chairs in a backyard, while children ran to and fro and an ever-optimistic, sweetly persistent dog repeatedly dropped a drool-soaked tennis ball at my feet. The conversation was fairly wide-ranging, touching upon topics worldly and other-worldly, secular and religious, profound and prosaic. He and I are from and in very different places, in time and generation and other ways. Yet the thread was common.

(Aside: How interesting that initially I typo'ed both "worldly" and "other-worldly" as "wordly" and "other-wordly" in that last sentence. Telling or not?)

These are dispiriting times. The kind that makes one want to build walls higher, or bunkers deeper and stronger, and hide. Or cocoon. Or burrow like hibernating mammals, escaping cold and winter's fruitlessness through sleep (as opposed to the burrowing of worms, those undervalued creatures, everlastingly committed to improving the soil in which living things can germinate, grow and thrive).

And the phrase that keeps endlessly looping through my mind is:

What then must we do?

(Other than channeling Linda Hunt's character in "The Year of Living Dangerously"; "L" if not "OL".) (Wow, just googled that TYOLD line and found this.)

Are you waiting for some profound insight in--or conclusion to--this meandering, unfocused post? Sorry, that's beyond my abilities, at present. Sometimes navigating the pedestrian, the petty and the personal seems a profound enough task in itself.

One of the things about which I found myself musing aloud during the conversation with my priest-friend this evening was how--quite apart from and even rendering irrelevant our feelings or lack thereof--we often serve, perform and provide specific functions in this world, whether we intend to or not; whether we even know what they are or not; whether we even know that has happened, period, at a specific time or ever. (The converse also holds: What you think was so important and full of impact may turn out to be trivial, if not irrelevant.) I think that's true in purely secular and/or material terms also, wouldn't you agree?

But for the self-professed Christian, this is surely a key concept. While you do whatever you happen to be doing--in struggle or with ease, with passion or in apathy, sparked by a defined purpose or plagued by flailing uncertainty, but in any case imperfectly--God can and will pull the needed threads from you to weave a fabric the full and broad pattern of which you cannot and will never see, because you are bound by time and space and the realities of the human mind and nature.

For those of you who practice other religions, or are agnostic, atheist or whatever: If I were to replace certain key words in that paragraph, would you find truth in it? Are you comfortable with the idea that there is there a unity, a weaving, in life that binds and transcends us all? That the "threads" that most bother you might actually, in some way that you can't imagine, over the long haul turn out to be an incredibly important part of the overall pattern?

Anyway, this is what I've been pondering this week, this week of Holy Week, the Holy Week in this weird year of mine, this Easter Eve, when I'm searching for some sort of Big Enduring Insight Into My Purpose In Life while helping to stuff hundreds of plastic eggs for the big candy hunt that we stage for the kids directly after the main Easter service.

I wish someone would hide my answer in a bright-pink egg that I could blithely scoop up from under a bush tomorrow. But life's not that simple, is it?

Peace be with you.

And also with me.