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 13, 2014

Year 2: Part 2: Post 8: Easter

As I mentioned last post, in 2001 Easter was earlier than it is this year, although the fact that the days of the week fell on different dates makes it difficult to tell when my Easter post should be, exactly. I’m doing it this week, writing as though Easter Sunday were yesterday.

I just got back from my parents’ this morning—I made it back in time for my landscaping shift, though I missed breakfast on campus. I was at my parents’ place, of course, for Easter. I got there Saturday afternoon, went to church with them on Sunday, and had Easter dinner with them. There were no uncles and aunts this time, like there were for Thanksgiving, but my brother and his wife were there, so we were all together. That was good.

And—newsflash—my brother’s wife is pregnant! My bro’s going to be a dad! It’s kind of hard to wrap my head around, but I’m sure they’ll be good parents. And I’ll be an uncle. I imagine that someday I’ll embarrass this kid at Thanksgiving.

But anyway, we did have a good time, all of us together. We had an Easter egg hunt, with freshly dyed chicken eggs, and everything (I didn’t tell them about the other egg hunt I did this spring, though I did show them my wind-up egg. I said it was a prize for my skill as a naturalist in a contest, I just didn’t elaborate). I don’t think we were going to have an egg hunt, I didn’t really expect to have one, but then my Mom asked if “you kids” wanted to have one. This was just before dinner on Saturday, over a tray of dip and carrots. My sister rolled her eyes.

“Mom, we’re not kids anymore,” she said.

“Yeah,” said my brother, “I’m going to have a kid. You’ve done raised us, Mom.” But she sighed nostalgically.

“I know, but you’ll always be my kids. And you so used to love Easter egg hunts!”

So then we had a twenty minute-long discussion about whether we were too old and whether if we did have an egg hunt it would really be Mom doing it for us or us doing it for Mom, or maybe my brother needed one last chance to act like a kid before he becomes a dad, or maybe my sister still is a kid and we should all do it for her, and just because we’re older doesn’t mean she should have to grow up too fast (though she is sixteen already) and on and on and on. Until my sister interrupted.
“Hold on,” she said, “hold on! This is stupid. Let’s quit arguing about whether we should do an egg hunt and why and why not and ages and everything else. Who actually wants to do an egg hunt?”

And we all raised our hands, even my Dad. My sister-in-law walking into the room just then and asked why our hands were all raised, so my sister explained.

“Oh yeah, I’m in,” she said, and took a carrot.

So, on the way back from Church yesterday, we bought eggs and egg dye and we dyed eggs and hand an egg hunt. We actually had two, so everybody, even my parents, got a chance to both hide and seek. And then it was time for dinner. We had a ham from a humanely raised and slaughtered hog (I contacted the same people who provide hogs for campus), and various vegetable sides (some local, some not), and an egg salad because my mother refused to have to deal with forty-eight hard-boiled eggs without our help on at least some of them. And we talked about politics and who is doing what from our church and whether my sister is going to go to junior prom with this guy who asked her even though she’s not really into him, and on and on and on. And nobody asked me about my school or my religious beliefs and we had a great time.

But about church. It didn’t really impress itself upon me this year, the way the little service on campus last year did. Frankly, the congregation seemed kind of emotionally anemic, with everybody trying to sing quieter than his or her neighbor, and there were a lot of empty seats in the pews even on Easter, and the sermon was entirely focused on how great it is that we can live forever on the New Earth and all I kept thinking of was “but I want to live right now on this Earth.”

I couldn’t see the service anthropologically, as someone else’s beliefs, to be understood and respected, the way I did at the Seder the other day, because I am Christian. These are the ideas I was taught to accept. Except I don’t accept them. They just seem wrong to me, all of a sudden. Wrong as in inaccurate. And I don’t really know what to think about that.

So I got back on campus this morning, and I wanted to talk to someone about it. Logically I should talk to Charlie, but he’s not really that good for discussions because he tends to just listen to your statement and then make a pronouncement about it and that’s the end of it. But I couldn’t find anyone else this morning, and anyway I was really busy. We were getting the window boxes ready for planting later, and there are a lot of window boxes. And then it was lunch time and Charlie disappeared somewhere and I wasn’t really sure who I wanted to look for or what I wanted to say. And then I saw Greg in the Dining Hall, so I asked if I could eat with him and talk a few minutes. He is the Spirit Master for the whole school.

“I think I’m having a crisis of faith,” I told him.

“Good,” he told me. “That sounds interesting.” I rolled my eyes and he smiled at me a little. “You know that faith, as such, isn’t really my thing, right?” he told me. “I’m more action-oriented.”

“Yeah, I know.” I think I sighed a bit. “It’s just…I was raised to believe certain things, and now I don’t, and I don’t even know what that means. I mean, I was also raised to belief it’s important to have faith in certain things, it’s important to believe in certain things, so I feel remiss, now, naughty, almost. But I don’t know if that makes any sense. I mean, clearly it doesn’t make sense to believe in something as a matter of faith if it’s not true…” He smiled at me a little and considered a moment.
“Why don’t you think about what faith means?” he suggested. “That might help you resolve when and where faith is appropriate?”

“You mean, like, it’s definition?”

 “Yes, that’s a good place to start.” He considered again. I used to be scared of Greg. He doesn’t smile very often, not with people he doesn’t know well, anyway. He looks kind of severe, and he doesn’t seem friendly. I often see him at breakfast, eating by himself. But I think, now, that maybe he just isn’t outgoing. Anyway, I’ve seen him asleep on the couch with his glasses all askew, and somehow I haven’t found him intimidating after that. There is something relaxing about his presence. He really listens. 

“Faith,” he continued, thoughtfully, “it is considered a virtue. Perhaps it is good to be faithful, quite aside from whether you have something good to have faith in? It is not exactly the same thing as belief, though it is similar. You are Christian, are you not?”

“Methodist,” I confirmed. “Or, at least I was raised that way.”

“Christianity is interesting, in my opinion. Your central figure, Jesus Christ, is not simply a teacher or a role model, but an embodiment of the divine. So your living relationship with the divine must therefore be a relationship with Jesus, as a personality. I can see why whether Jesus is a real, living Person would be a much more pertinent question than whether Shakyamuni was an historical figure.” He meant the Buddha.

“Was he?”

“Shakyamuni? I do not know and do not care. I think he probably was, though his story has clearly been heavily mythologized. Someone did claim to have found his cremains some decades ago. But it doesn’t really matter. Buddhism works, whether the Buddha existed or not. But about Jesus…”

“You are right. We are supposed to love Him, and to feel loved by him,” I said. “And I want to, but lately I’m thinking that a lot of the other things I learned in Sunday school that doesn’t make sense to me, that I just don’t believe. So I’m wondering if even Jesus is real. And I used to love Him so much when I was little, before I got distracted by things. Sometimes I think someone has to be real, if people love Him. Other times, I think maybe humans just made Him up, so we’d have someone to love.”

“Love is a powerful need,” Greg acknowledged. “It seems to me that to love is even more necessary to the soul than being loved. Making up a perfect person to love, someone who could deserve the devotion of which we are capable in a way no fallible human could, is certainly something we humans would do. And it would work, in a strictly psychological sense.  Daniel, I cannot help you. I cannot tell you whether Jesus exists or not, nor what it should mean for you if He does not. I suggest you sit with this, and let the mud settle in your mind. However, if you wish to love with all your heart, if you wish to be devoted, I can suggest a course for you aside from finding a perfect person.”

“What’s that?”

“Love without caring whether those you love are worth it or not.”

[Next Post: Friday, April 18th: Looking Around]

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