Sunday, April 20, 2014

Idea Garage Sale: General Thoughts for Spring

So, zombies are a thing lately (I don't know why; it never has made sense to me, but trends don't have to). Where's the zombie Easter story? It's a natural, isn't it - the dead rising and all that?

And why is Easter not more of a story holiday, anyhow? Easter stories don't have nearly the cultural footprint that Christmas ones do; and yet they're similar in a lot of ways. Both are about renewal - the return of the sun at solstice, the coming of spring. Both support huge commercial industries and amazingly tacky, color-coordinated decor, though Easter isn't quite as relentlessly consumerist. (Yet.) Both are Christian holy days onto which are grafted semi-pagan pop cultural icons. Both are huge days for church attendance by people who don't normally go. Both have parallels in other religions. Both are part of the one big overarching holy story, about the cycle of life and death.

The plot has a lot of relevance even when you strip out the Christian symbolism, and it's all very dramatic. Christmas is the beginning, Good Friday is the climax, and Easter is the happy ending.

Beginnings are easy. We all have dozens of beginnings in our file cabinets. Beginnings don't take you anywhere if you don't press on. We need the climax. We want our happy endings.

So where are the stories in which Easter/spring are explicitly tied to, say recovery from grief or catastrophe? Ordinary poor couples with ordinary babies are routinely made to stand in for the holy family in Christmas stories (especially on TV). If we re-enact the birth constantly, why do we not re-enact the death and resurrection? People don't literally come back from the dead, but - people come back from the brink of death, and from symbolic deaths; people work through the stages of grief and come out of mourning; relationships and careers and nations die and are reborn, transformed, every day.

Where's the divorce Easter story?

Where's the attempted suicide returning to the land of the living, slow agonizing step by slow agonizing step, into a hard-won happiness as fragile as an egg or a flower?

Where's the transplant patient coming to terms with the fact that if someone else, someone at least as worthy and loved, had not died, he would not be living to be wheeled into church on Easter morning?

What happens to all those poor TV babies born when their parents get stranded in December - are they well-fed and cared-for in April? Do they grow up groaning under and rebelling against the symbolic weight of their births?

What about the arc of poor Judas, who chose the villain's path, repented, despaired, and didn't stick things out till the happy ending? It has always seemed to me that if we don't parse out Judas's arc, we miss the part most relevant to most people's daily lives.

Christmas is meaningless without Good Friday. Good Friday, without Easter, is too bitter to bear. And the only way to get to Easter is to grit your teeth and get through Good Friday.

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