It is Easter. Or, as my company calls it, Sunday. (I have to admit I stole that joke from Saturday Night Live. During the 1980s, after the Texaco company got in trouble for racial discrimination, they introduced a bit during Weekend Update that resulted in them saying “it is Martin Luther King Day this week. Or, as they refer to it at Texaco, Monday.” I’ve been borrowing that joke for a while now. It’s good to finally own up to it.
(At least, in my hemisphere it is Easter.) (In some parts of the world, it’s already Monday. That’s fairly horrifying.)
Easter, for Christians, is the celebration of Jesus rising from the dead after his crucifixion on the oddly named Good Friday. Among the Easter mysteries I have yet to penetrate is why it keeps flipflopping around the calendar, and just what the heck the bunnies and eggs and plastic grass and jellybeans and chocolate and white shoes and big hats and frilly dresses have to do with anything. Standup comedians have been dining out on the difference between the meaning of the holiday and the symbols of it for generations, and none better than Bill Hicks:
The reason why a crucifixion, surely one of the Top Ten Truly Awful Ways Humans Have Thought Of To Do One Another In, happens on “Good” Friday, is, of course, that the death and resurrection of Jesus is really the reason why there is a Christian religion at all. Although, as Hicks suggests here, you would think the human part of Jesus would have bad memories associated with crosses.
Ever since someone explained to me as a fairly young teen about the mechanics of death by crucifixion(suffocation), it has always kind of creeped me out a little bit. So frankly, if you were planning to crucify me, I would appreciate it if you didn’t. Thanks.
Seriously, while I certainly absorbed the symbolic message at work on Easter, it has still seemed somewhat gruesome, especially when compared with the mass marketing of bunnies and Peeps and all that. I haven’t seen the film “Passion of the Christ” yet, although I certainly plan to. I did read “The Last Temptation of Christ” when the fuss was made about the movie, though, and I also read Norman Mailer’s “The Gospel According to The Son.” That, along with a long term love of Jesus Christ Superstar, has always made me think of Jesus more like a literary character than a Savior sometimes, I suppose.
I think that adds to my squeamishness. The whole thing seems unnecessarily bloody and disturbing. While, if you read the Bible, God is responsible for scores of deaths, Jesus’ death is particularly twisted.
Very smart people, like Cameron Reilly and Richard Dawkins, will of course point out that of course Jesus WAS a literary character, and the authors of scripture used a punishment that was both familiar to them and provided them with a handy symbol in the cross. They will argue, sometimes angrily, of the lack of evidence for a historical Jesus.
(Which reminds me-I am sure I read somewhere that the fish symbol that Christians use to represent their faith supposedly stands for the miracle of the loaves and the fishes, obviously, and it evolved during the time when Christian prisoners in the Roman catacombs, waiting to be executed in the arena, would use it to signal their brotherhood to one another. Does anyone know if that is true?)
How do I feel about it? Do I believe in Jesus and the resurrection and the Trinity? Yes. I have grave difficulties with elements of Christianity, especially as it is represented by those who are its public face. But, in the long, dark, tea time of the soul, (h/t Douglas Adams) I do.
I’m also one of the few people I know who does not like, and has never liked, marshmallow Peeps. Sorry.
Working on Easter, as I usually do and did today, causes me to miss a performance of one of my Top Ten Songs or Musical Pieces, which are, in no particular order:
1.“Bring Him Home”, Les Miserables
2.“Season Of Love”, Rent
3.“Gethesemane (I Only Want To Say)”, Jesus Christ Superstar
4.“Another Suitcase In Another Hall”, Evita
5.“Someone Else’s Story”, Chess
6.“Hallelujah Chorus”, Handel
7.“Ninth Symphony”, Beethoven
8.“Since I’ve Been Loving You”, Led Zeppelin
9.“Summer Highland Falls”, Billy Joel
10.“To Live Is To Die”, Metallica
I did listen to Jesus Christ Superstar today, which I usually try to do on Easter Weekend, but I have managed to miss all of the Masters, which I usually try to see. Oh well. I’m now listening to the Complete Symphonic Les Miserables, which, with its theme of salvation and mercy, is certainly Easter-like in tone. One doesn’t have to exactly stretch one’s literature muscles to see Jesus in Jean Valjean.
You could basically summarize 80% of the conversations I’ve had today at work as follows:
PERSON: “Oh, you’re open!”
ME: “Yes, we are.”
If I’m standing there, and the lights are on, then you really don’t need to say anything at all. Take it as given that we’re open.
Douglas Adams, as usual, has a great passage about humans saying things that don’t need to be said: "One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about human beings was their habit of continually stating and repeating the obvious, as in, "It's a nice day," or "You're very tall," or "Oh dear, you seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot well: are you all right?" At first Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behaviour. If human beings don't keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up. After a few months' consideration and observation, he abandoned this theory in favour of a new one. If they don't keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working. "