I wanted to write something about Easter yesterday, but I had the migraine from hell, so it got deferred until today. Fortunately it’s still the bank holiday, so I don’t look too out-of-date.
That said, it’s hard to know what to say about Easter. Good Friday’s easy – the Cross is iconic, we know how it works, we can get our heads around the execution of someone who didn’t deserve it. Heart-breaking and frustrating and devastating, yes, but understandable. Good Friday gets a cross, and that becomes symbolic or iconic or commodified. Easter Sunday gets…Chocolate eggs.
Not that I have a problem with chocolate eggs – heck, I’ll eat ’em – but Easter Sunday’s something we need to approach in a symbolic sense, and that makes it harder to approach and internalise. A death is easy to understand, we’ve all seen enough of them, either personally or in the media. A resurrection…How do we approach that? I guess one way to look at it is as a celebration of life; life triumphing over death, eternity triumphing over oblivion. That’s the theme that’s kept coming back to me this Easter – life, and life in all its fullness. Of course, sometimes it’s hard to know what that actually is. There’s a tendancy to look at life in terms of career, or possessions, or groupies, but I think that’s a limited way of looking at it. I mean, look at all those rock casualties – Hendrix choking on his own vomit, Elvis dying on the toilet. C’mon, the whole ‘life fast, die young’ is over-rated, especially if your ultimate fate is for a bunch of paramedics to drag you out of your bathroom. Society celebrates this though, but there’s something dark about the celebration – less about artistic ability, more about creating another rock martyr, another pop culture messiah who’ll never be a threat because the moment they get dangerous they’ll be hounded into the Betty Ford Clinic by fans and tabloids. Life in all its fullness, yeah right. Pete Doherty’s just the latest.
So maybe it’s less about getting everything we can for ourselves, maybe, like Good Friday shows, life’s as much about community and love, watching each others’ back and a sense of spirituality. In the story of the resurrection, there’s a lot of group stuff – lots of running, crying, hugging, poking, “wow!”, “whoa!”, “yay!” and “aarrggghhh!” Little ‘comic relief’ moments where Mary or the disciples mistake Jesus for someone else. If the actual fact of the resurrection is hard to comprehend, then the reactions to it are somewhat simpler – joy, happiness, disbelief, even a little conspiracy theory. The gang are suddenly alive again, spiritually resurrected followed Jesus’s bodily comeback. And okay, it’d be easy to say that yeah, but what happened years later, when the memories were beginning to fade, and they had a few bad days at work, and their beloved dumped them because of all this Jesus-talk. Spirituality is great, but it’s not very concrete is it?
Maybe that’s part of the problem. We’ve created a divide between the physical, the ‘actual’, and the spiritual. Spiritual is the optional extra to the physical, but that’s a false dichotomy. Certainly the story of the resurrection doesn’t allow us to make that distinction – spiritual and physical are a part of the same thing, both a core element of existance. Spirituality is a lot harder to poke, prod and measure in our rationalistic age, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there, doesn’t mean it’s not relelvant, doesn’t mean it’s not REAL. I think that’s a core aspect of the Easter story, uniting the two worlds, the seen and the unseen. Like believing that people are equal and treating them as such in our everyday lives. Like realising that we’re in a global village and sending some money or time to AIDS charities in Africa. Like having a faith and actually acting like it. Unite the two worlds. Life in all its fullness. Happy Easter.