In a Charles Dickens novel I believe a character said "life is a series of partings and goings" but maybe I have that quote wrong. It sounds true, so I'll assume it's correct until I'm told otherwise. If Dickens didn't say it he should have.
It's human nature to try and find patterns in things. It's wonderful to see how the Fibonacci number sequences reoccurs in nature or how through statistics, knowing the odds and number of bets, you can predict the profits of a casino down to the penny with over 99% certainty. Knowing what the casino will win is good for tax purposes or seeing if the casino runs an honest house but it can't tell you what a single individual will win or lose. It's like the universe has these overarching patterns of order that are made up of little pixels of chaos.
In the grand sweep of things most of us live predictable lives. The probability of almost any event can be calculated and all the individuality can be averaged out to show the big picture. That the very idea behind an actuary table. We're 100% certain of dying but the odds change with age and conditions.
Two people, two bits of chaos in my life were Allen and Bill. Allen was a mystic, he never talked about God but he always talked about questions. And those questions lead to more questions. Allen felt there weren't too many wrong answers -just answers that weren't right for you. You knew you had the right answer when it felt like the right answer.
Bill was from England, which was pretty exotic in the pines of South Jersey. He was also a hard core militant socialist -rude, poetic and well educated. It still amuses me to recall that he smoked Dunhill cigarettes, his one concession to posh living. Then again, complex people usually come with a few contradictions.
I was going to post an old poem written under the influence of both Allen and Bill. The poem was part of a unfinished stage play From Maudy Thursday Till Easter. It has gotten me in trouble because some saw it as blasphemous. It's also been praised. But for now I thought better of it, I'm not in the mood to offend random readers or be provocative just for the sake of being provocative.
The whole Passion Play, the story of the last days of Jesus, is a complex one that comes with its own contradictions. The story endures because somewhere between order and chaos, the profane and the divine, somewhere in a ocean of contradictions we create the narrative we want to believe. We try our best to have our lives reflect the order of the universe at large. Another quote I'm not sure comes from a Prussian General that said something like "war is easy to wage when you're winning". Likewise the fate of the universe is easy to accept when you're on top but what happens even when you're supposedly the Son of God and a long painful and agonizing death awaits you?
Easter has so many interpretations, not only among the devout that celebrate it as a holy day but also among the non believers and people outside the Christian faith. Even if all religion should dissolve away the story of the crucifixion of Jesus would remain as a huge cultural reference and a pillar of art. As one close friend pointed out, " Is crucifixion any more devastating than dying of AIDS? The Crucifixion of Jesus is the symbolic death of every person. That even when God is made flesh, he ends up being no better off than the rest of us." Here too I'm not totally sure I got this quote right. Allen was here right now he would be smiling, he'd probably say don't worry about the details if getting to the truth. He would also say keep asking questions, never stop being curious.
In all the twists and turns of Easter -where the faith demand that it's factually true and purely religious -or where the secular world slowly seeped in with Easter eggs, candy and movies like Ben Hur or The Robe (films that orbit the Gospel but certainly aren't part of it). One more small twist comes to mind. Bill had few personal possessions. One thing he carried with him was a four penny coin of Maudy Money . It was old and very worn, before it got Bill that coin must have passed through many hands.
In idiosyncratic traditions of England, the Royal family would have the mint stamp out special coins to give out to the poor on Maudy Thursday. It was the day that Jesus humbly washed the feet of the poor and at one time the kings of England mimic the ritual. The foot washing no longer happens but handing out a few coins still remains fashionable. These days the handful of poor that receive Maudy Money quickly sell it off to coin collectors, it helps pay for the day to day expenses of living. Since Victorian times the coins have had a much greater collector value over the face value. Bill had a jaundiced view of it, he saved the coin for the day when the world might change and there'll be no kings or paupers.
It's now Easter morning here. I hope you find the experience you're looking for today.