To begin the story at the beginning, read "Part 1: Post 1: Beginning Again," published in January, 2013. To consult a description of the campus, read "Part 1: Post 14: The Greening of Campus," published in March, 2013.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Part 2: Post 11: Easter

[Note; remember that Easter in 2000 was much later in the year than it was in 2013)

I never would have thought I could have forgotten about Easter. I mean, I was raised Christian. I've always known when Easter was. It's like I could smell it,or look out the window and see it.

Of course, you can't actually smell Easter, it's just that usually there's an Easter break, and all the store fill up with baskets of green plastic grass and pastel candy, and public TV schedules a couple of documentaries about Jesus and the Holy Land. Here, I don't watch TV, and we don't have an Easter break. Hardly anyone pays attention to Easter here, it seems; Christianity is very much the minority religion, not disrespected so much as mostly ignored. We don't have classes on Easter, but we don't have classes on Sunday anyway. I was vaguely aware that it was coming up, and I'd planned to go home for it, but then someone mentioned it was tomorrow and I had no time to make arrangements. And anyway, I didn't honestly feel like going anywhere. I'd just gone home the other week, and it felt really weird, though of course I was glad to see everybody. And it isn't like none of us had ever been away from home over Easter before.

So when Ariel asked me if I was coming to the non-denominational Easter service he was co-leading, I told him yes, I was. I was curious, and I didn't want to have to tell my parents I'd ignored Easter altogether.

The service was in the chapel in Chapel Hall, not surprisingly. It wasn't very long or complex, being designed to be as inclusive as possible. There were only maybe fifteen of us there, plus Ariel and another student who is, like him, a preacher. Ollie attended, of course, plus some of the other senior students, but from my year besides me there was only Andy, looking fit and serene. The big surprise was that several faculty were there, since they tend to hide when they aren't working. Sarah was not there--I assume that she and her family went to a Catholic Mass, but Charlie, Allen, Kit, and Joy were all there. Kit is very proudly not Christian, and even seems mildly hostile to Christianity sometimes, so I didn't know why she was there, but there she was, the sunlight from the big chapel windows setting her red hair aglow.

Maybe it was the lovely light, or the once-familiar familiar Scriptural passages and hymns that moved me--I haven't been to church regularly in a few years, my recent experiments with local churches notwithstanding, so the old words reminded me pleasantly of childhood. At the same time, because I haven't heard a lot of these things in a while, I was very aware of hearing them as an adult, differently than I'd ever heard them before. Either way, I was incredibly moved. What struck me finally was not the Easter story itself, which somehow failed to touch me at all, but something else, something I hadn't really noticed before. I couldn't put my finger on it, it was like a light, brighter and clearer than sunlight, pierced everything. I'm not sure I can explain it, now.

After the service was over, I just sat there thinking for a while as the others got up and left. When I finally got up, I found that Kit had waited for me at the door of the auditorium.

"Penny for your thoughts?" she asked, leaning on the doorway.

"I dunno," I told her. "I just don't get the big deal anymore about the tomb being empty. Is that weird?"

"Not to me," she answered, "though I'm probably the wrong person to ask, if you're Christian. I guess your perspective on rebirth depends on your perspective on death. What do you think about death?"

I haven't talked to Kit anywhere near as much as I'd like, and I've never really spoken with her in any depth. I've taken some talks and workshops with her, but we don't know each other well. But something about her, she's just pleasant to be around. That she is beautiful certainly helps. I think I could talk with her about anything. Even when she asked what I thought of death, it didn't sound morbid or frightening, just another part of a lovely spring day.

"I don't know," I told her. "I don't think about it much. doesn't scare me. I think maybe something would be missing if it didn't exist."

"Birth, for one. Movement, time," she suggested, nodding in agreement with me. When we came out of the building and found Charlie, Alan, and a student named Sue, I tried not to be sorry that my private conversation with Kit was over. The day was warm and and cloudy but still bright, though it had rained a little while we were inside and everything was drippy.

"The thing I miss about smoking," Charlie was saying, "is it gave everyone a reason to stand around outside together. You remember that, Allen? I wish all my favorite vices weren't so bad for me."

"I remember when you smoked," Allen said. "I never did. Hi, Kit, Daniel. Do you go by Dan or Daniel?"

"Daniel, mostly," I replied. "If a vice weren't bad for you, would it be a vice?"

"Vice, from Latin, vitium," Allen answered, "means fault or blemish. So, no, technically, I guess a vice does not have to be bad for you, merely an example of you being imperfect, or bad?"

"But we're not speaking Latin!" objected Charlie.

"Then do we have no vices on Easter?" Kit asked, merrily, ignoring him. "Jesus took them away! I imagine him walking off with all of humanity's dents and dings...though what does a dent look like without a thing to dent?"

"You're confusing levels," Charlie told her. "When the esoteric is treated as worldly, both are distorted."

"But I like the world!"Kit replied, hotly, her teasing, almost flirtatious banter suddenly acquiring an edge. "Look at you, sounding like a Christian!"

"I will not tell God where he isn't!" Charlie replied, with a similar edge. Something was happening.

"Touchy, touchy," Allen admonished, smiling but looking a little nervous and glancing at me and Sue. Kit and Charlie both smiled and the tension eased for a moment. Both glanced at us, too, as though remembering we were there.

"It's not that I'm against Jesus," Kit told me, with some slight self-consciousness. "He was a very wise man, and I wish more people really followed his ideas. But I have a problem with the concept of sins being paid for by his sacrifice. Forgiveness inherently includes judgment; you can't tell someone their sins are forgiven without telling them they're a sinner, right? You have to first buy into the guilt and shame trip--unless the sinner is a rich white man. Then the rest of us are supposed to just be meek and wait to inherit the Earth, because Jesus already paid for that guy's sins. It's just too convenient. I mean, what kind of god sends rain to the just and unjust alike?"

"The kind of god that actually sends the rain," Charlie answered.

[Next Post: April 25: The name of the land]

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