Jesus would be really pissed off about the Easter bunny. Let’s be honest. No matter what you believe – or don’t believe – it’s hard to draw a straight line from crucifixion and resurrection to an egg-laying bunny and gluttonous, chocolate-stuffed children. Especially if you’re the poor bastard on the cross. He’s gotta be pissed.
If Jesus does eventually make good on those rumors about his reunion tour, I have to believe that this particular holiday ritual would leave him wondering if we have retained enough of a grasp on reality (although that might be a relative concept to a water-walking winemaker) over the centuries to still be worth saving. And when I ask people who believe in – or at least observe the rituals of – both of these celebrities-of-symbolism, I’m generally told not to overthink it. Sadly I cannot ever seem to follow that advice…a character trait that I imagine will eventually lead either to my downfall or my enlightenment – most likely to both.
Okay fine. So maybe I’m being just a hare (ahem) obtuse to serve my point here. I do have a basic understanding of the way our medley of world religious beliefs have evolved – and how the Christians rather awkwardly ingested the pagan holidays in order to expand their fan base. I get it. I know the chocolate-dispensing, anatomically impossible bunny is about springtime and fertility, and perhaps inspires a better holiday game for the children than Capture-the-Crucifix or Resurrection Dodgeball (count to 3 and get back up!). But somehow to me the pastel hued absurdity of Jesus and The Bunnyman is just one more reason to pop a few grains of salt along my own long winding road to spiritual enlightenment. Sometimes these things get to be a little much in the name of tradition. (I also have a hard time ignoring the fact that the Jesus I see on the nearest crucifix looks more like a California surfer than a middle-eastern Jew…but hey, maybe his dad was whi…oh right. Nevermind.) Perhaps my faith isn’t blind enough, but it is Cheshire cat curious.
Before I go any further, I need to be clear about something. I don’t have your answers. I never did get a taste for telling other people what’s best for them, what they should do with their lives (or their bodies), or who they should sleep with. I believe that all people are created equal until they prove themselves to be idiots or assholes. I prefer to worship the journey as opposed to a promised (or threatened) destination. And when it comes to the big questions…those related to the meaning behind this great and glorious clusterfuck, I believe there is no substitute for personal discovery – that each person has their own path to lose, find and follow. If you came about your beliefs through a mixture of curiosity, effort, hope, and honest failure then you have my respect. If you read ’em in a book, well, maybe I’m just a little less impressed.
I’m very lucky. I know that. I had a very strong mother who raised me to think for myself. I also had a step-father who thought it was funny to cook rabbit on Easter (after the egg hunt, of course). But I’m well aware that when it comes to spiritual street cred., people don’t tend to care what you’ve accomplished or what you’ve done right. They want to know how much you’ve suffered. After all, the greatest wisdom comes from what we learn from failures and pain (that learning part is important). I know there are many, many people who have suffered far more than I have in this world. I think about how lucky I am every single day, and every single time I look at my hazel-eyed wonder kid.
But it’s true that the most important lessons of my life were borne of pain, the bulk of which is none of your business. I have seen my share of fear, and of death, and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything – every raw, ridiculous and excruciating moment. I believe you have to work through what you fear to understand it (even when that fear feels like rage). I write because I believe that the more we communicate, the more we learn, and real understanding is something you have to work for.
What I believe is pretty simple. It is based on the idea that choices exist in every moment of our lives. That, one step at a time, our lives become the sum total of those choices – we are beings ever-defined by our own actions. I also believe that what divinity that exists in this world is evoked – created even – through positive action. That God, if that’s the term you prefer to use, is a verb. That ‘God’ is, in fact, the energy created by our collective actions, and that it is we who choose whether that energy is positive or negative – vengeful or merciful. At the end of the day, we are responsible for ourselves, and for the world around us.
Along the way I discovered I’m not the only one who came to understand the idea of God as action. Nikos Kazantzakis (author of The Oddessy, Zorba the Greek and The Last Temptation of Christ) touches on the same idea in his book The Saviours of God – where he asserts that at any given moment you can (and should) ‘save God’ through positive action. Simply put, we are what we do, and our actions are both powerful and contagious.
But again, I’m not trying to sell you on what I believe. I’m allergic to soapboxes. I only offer my thoughts as an example – a suggestion that we have a right – a responsibility – to think for ourselves, to form our own opinions, to walk our own path. I am not suggesting that organized religion holds no value – only that it must be put into the context of your own life and experiences. I compare it to being a new mother. All the books in the world on parenting (with all of their conflicting information) can inform you and offer helpful advice, but at the end of the day NONE of those books are about YOUR kid. The same rule applies to religion and spirituality. Your journey is about you and your place in this world, and no one else knows what that is. It’s yours alone to find.
So maybe this year, in the spirit of springtime and mental fertility, if you find yourself feeling that the things you’ve been taught don’t quite fit you, stand up and stretch out. Molt. Look around, make your own path. You’ll find the universe conspires to help those who follow their hearts. I’ve seen that for myself – but don’t take my word for it. I don’t want you to. Just know that no matter what you’ve been told, you are not alone in wanting to understand this world, but you are the only one who can give you your answers.
And, in the meantime, I’ll take my Jesus eggs sunny side-up.